King Charles’ New Insignia Delayed Over Bizarre Spying Fears

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

LONDON—British soldiers are still wearing cap badges from the era of the late Queen Elizabeth II because of fears that the Chinese manufacturers might bug new King Charles-branded badges.

A report in the Financial Times said that British authorities have pressed pause on the delivery of the new insignias, designed to be worn on soldiers’ berets, over fears that some of the components manufactured in China could have been fitted with tiny tracking devices.

The security concerns explain the riddle of why British army regiments are still wearing assorted cap badges from Elizabeth’s reign almost two years after Charles acceded the throne.

The FT said that concerns the tiny trinkets might double as GPS trackers were raised after it emerged that the Yorkshire-based company which makes the badges, Wyedean Weaving, sources some of its manufacturing capacity from factories in China.

“There is a fear that tracking devices or a GPS transmitter could be embedded in the cap badges,” a senior U.K. defence official told the paper, “The result is a delay in the introduction of the cap badges as the U.K. does not have the capacity to manufacture them as quickly or as cheaply.”

The badges are of varying designs and made of embroidered cloth or metal and bear the monarch’s initials and chosen emblems.

Susannah Walbank, Wyedean’s systems director, told the FT: “China is part of our supply chains, we have been there for 15 years, have long-standing relationships, and there has never been any concern.”

Tobias Ellwood, a U.K. lawmaker who has headed up the British parliament’s defense committee, said similar concerns had affected the production of ceremonial coins intended for visiting dignitaries. The coins were ultimately made in the U.K. despite costing five times as much as they would have if they had been made in China.

One western security official told the paper that security meant that “of course” the cap badges should be made in Britain.

But another said that there was little risk as the badges “were so small, that no bug would have much battery life or be able to emit a signal over distance.”

A third official told the outlet that relations with China were “going to get weirder before they get clearer.”

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