The last pattern pre-war collar branch badges for enlisted men and commanders of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (Raboche-Krestjanskaya Krasnaya Armiya, RKKA) were introduced by the Order of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR Kliment Voroshilov No.33 dated March 10, 1936. Those badges replaced Model 1924 trade and unit emblems that were worn according to the Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR No.807 dated June 20, 1924. It should be noted that although being the core combat arm, Infantry, as well as Cavalry, were not granted with their own branch badges. As a result, infantrymen, riflemen and troopers were initially issued with blank collar patches. This circumstance is thought to be an ironic echo of pre-1917 traditions that took root in the Russian Imperial army. Thus, only smaller technical combat arms of the former Tsarist army were issued with distinctive branch insignia. Special branch badges for Infantry were not introduced until summer 1940, but were worn for a very short period of time.
In spite of availability in the Russian militaria market and presence on numerous period portraits of the RKKA soldiers and commanders, information on introduction of the badge in question is extremely fragmentary and remains a controversial issue even today. Thus, exact date an emblem was introduced as well as number of the Order or any other founding document are not known yet to the local collectors community. However, it can be argued that the badge had been introduced not later than July 1940, as its first known images appeared as illustrations to the Order of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR No.226 “On Introduction of Distinctive Insignia for Middle-level and Senior Commanding and Political Personnel of the Red Army” dated July 26, 1940. In a week and a half wearing of the badge was extended to the personnel of the troops of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Narodnyj Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, NKVD) according to the Order of the NKVD No.642 dated August 05, 1940. It should, however, be recalled that those two Orders haven’t introduced the badge itself, but authorized its wearing on collar tabs.
Emblem for infantrymen had a shape of the white enameled round shooting target with two concentric rings and large black enameled bull’s eye. Two crossed rifles with fixed bayonets pointing upwards were superimposed on the target. Badge was fixed to collar tab either by two long flat prongs or short screw (and small round nut) soldered to its reverse.
After a decisive turning point in World War II, famous Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense of the USSR No.25 “On Introduction of New Rank Insignia and Changes in Uniform of the Red Army” was issued on January 15, 1943. After shoulder straps were introduced, collar tabs with branch insignia were abolished but badges for infantrymen hadn’t sunk into oblivion and found themselves moved from collars to shoulders.
Thus, Order of the NKVD No.126 “On Introduction of New Rank Insignia and Changes in Uniform of Personnel and Troops of the NKVD” dated February 18, 1943 issued in accordance with the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On Introduction of New Rank Insignia for Personnel and Troops of the NKVD” of February 09, 1943, authorized wearing of shoulder boards with cornflower blue edging and spaces for the NKVD personnel and with green edging and spaces for the border troops personnel. According to the Order No.126, the badge in question was worn by personnel of infantry (rifle) units of the NKVD Internal Troops and non-cavalry units of the NKVD Border Troops (p.47, Image 22). The main purpose of wearing of those ten emblems, including the one in question, was to provide immediate distinction between military personnel of NKVD Troops and NKVD law enforcement staff. The latter wore no emblems on their shoulder boards.
According to the Order No.126 dated February 18, 1943 (pp.10-11, Footnote 1 to Table 1), General Commissar of State Security, Commissars of State Security, middle-level and senior-level officers of State Security as well as generals of NKVD Troops wore no emblems on their shoulder boards. Other commanding officers, NCOs and lower ranks had corresponding metal emblems fixed to their shoulder boards and straps. Badges worn on shoulder boards made of gold braid were silvered, while those worn on shoulder boards of silver braid were gilt. Traditionally, exception was made for veterinary service personnel who wore their emblems, (the bowl of Hygieia, i.e., a chalice with a snake twined around its stem and poised above it) made of silvered metal.
Emblem was attached to shoulder boards of NKVD Troops personnel (including Border Troops) 10 mm below the button pointing bayonets upwards.
No information concerning abolition of branch badges has been found yet, but judging from the photographic evidence they were ordered to be removed not later than 1952.