Thursday 31 July 2014 by Dianne Rutherford. 11 comments
Collection, Military Heraldry and Technology, First World War uniforms, badges

  • This is one of a series of blogs about First World War uniforms and covers the basic aspects of badges seen on Australian Imperial Force uniforms. It does not cover unofficial unit badges, or qualification or proficiency badges. These may be covered at a later date.

    RC10118 Lance Corporal Albany Varney, 12th Light Horse Regiment, showing location of badges on his uniform

    RISING SUN BADGE, 'AUSTRALIA' & UNIT TITLES

    Australia, unlike most other Commonwealth countries, did not adopt metal regimental badges during the First World War. All units were issued with the Australian Army General Service Badge, better known as the ‘The Rising Sun’ badge. The badge was already in use before the war, this version having been approved in 1904, but became so widely known during the First World War and into the Second, that it is now almost always identified with the First and Second AIF. After the Second World War, a new version of the Rising Sun badge was approved in 1949.

    Light Horse Rising Sun hat badge, with a slide on the reverse instead of lugs. Light Horse Rising Sun hat badge, with a slide on the reverse instead of lugs. REL29538

    Rising Sun hat badge with lugs on the reverse. Rising Sun hat badge with lugs on the reverse. REL30388

    Lugs and split pin on the reverse of a Rising Sun badge. The lugs went through the fabric of the uniform and the pin held the badge in place. If the soldier did not have a pin, sometimes matches were used instead.

     

    An exception was made regarding the wearing of the General Service Badge by Australians overseas for some members of the artillery: ‘In the case of personnel of the 1st and 2nd Australian Siege Batteries and Artillery personnel serving with HQ 36 (Aust) Heavy Artillery Group and reinforcements thereto , the hat, cap and collar badge will be the ‘RAA’ scroll in oxidised copper in lieu of the Commonwealth badge.’ These men were regular soldiers of the Royal Australian Artillery first sent from Australia in mid July 1915.

    All ranks wore an 'AUSTRALIA' title at the base of their shoulder straps.

    'AUSTRALIA' shoulder title. 'AUSTRALIA' shoulder title. REL33982

     

    As the AIF did not use regimental badges, distinctive insignia on uniforms was required to identify the wearer’s unit. In September 1914 it was announced that oxidised copper letters and numerals would be issued for wear on the collars of officer’s tunics and on the shoulder straps of other ranks.

    REL43933 25th Battalion unit titles.

     

    Collar from an officer's uniform showing the unit titles for the 16th Battalion. Collar from an officer's uniform showing the unit titles for the 16th Battalion. RELAWM07839.012

    Engineer's unit title. Engineer's unit title. REL31916

    Australian Flying Corps unit title. Australian Flying Corps unit title. REL29481

    COLOUR PATCHES

    In March 1915 a new scheme of unit identification was devised to replace the wearing of unit titles. This consisted of cloth colour patches on the upper arms of a soldier’s tunic. The shape and colour of the patches indicated the wearer’s unit and when the AIF was doubled in 1916, the colour patches of the new units reflected those of the parent units:

    10th Battalion colour patch. 10th Battalion colour patch. RELAWM07941.083

    50th Battalion colour patch. The 50th Battalion was created in 1916 during the doubling of the AIF and was the daughter battalion of the 10th Battalion. Its colour patch uses the same colours as the 10th Battalion but a different shape, due to being part of a different brigade. 50th Battalion colour patch. The 50th Battalion was created in 1916 during the doubling of the AIF and was the daughter battalion of the 10th Battalion. Its colour patch uses the same colours as the 10th Battalion but a different shape, due to being part of a different brigade. RELAWM13307.116

    3rd Battalion colour patch. 3rd Battalion colour patch. RELAWM13307.066

    55th battalion colour patch. The 55th Battalion was created in 1916 during the doubling of the AIF and was the daughter battalion of the 3rd Battalion. Its colour patch is the same as the 3rd Battalion but worn vertically. 55th battalion colour patch. The 55th Battalion was created in 1916 during the doubling of the AIF and was the daughter battalion of the 3rd Battalion. Its colour patch is the same as the 3rd Battalion but worn vertically. RELAWM13307.120

     

    The colour patch had its origin in the system of flags used to mark tent lines and unit areas during the early months of the war. The colour patches were first issued to the infantry in March 1915. Interestingly, many units were still wearing their metal unit titles when they landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. In some instances this was due to insufficient patches being available, in other instances some men wore both the colour patch and the unit title. It is not unusual to see photographs of soldier taken late in the war, still wearing their metal unit titles.

    1918 photograph of Trooper Victor Povey, 6th Light Horse Regiment, wearing both his unit titles and colour patch (photograph courtesy of author)

     

    RANK INSIGNIA

    The AIF also wore badges of rank on their uniform. Officers wore their rank on their shoulders whilst Warrant Officers and NCOs wore theirs on the sleeve of their right arm. Staff officers had red gorget patches, called ‘red tabs’, on their collars and a red hat band on the peaked cap.

    Corporal rank chevrons. Corporal rank chevrons. REL30390

    Uniform with Sergeant's chevrons on the upper right arm. Uniform with Sergeant's chevrons on the upper right arm. REL28771

    Officer's tunic with Lieutenant rank insignia (two 'pips') on the shoulder strap. Officer's tunic with Lieutenant rank insignia (two 'pips') on the shoulder strap. REL/09917

    A Brigadier Genera'ls uniform with rank insignia on shoulder straps (crossed sword and baton) and embroidered red gorgets ('tabs') on the collar. A Brigadier Genera'ls uniform with rank insignia on shoulder straps (crossed sword and baton) and embroidered red gorgets ('tabs') on the collar. RELAWM05449.001

    WOUND BADGES

    In March 1916, AIF Orders announced that the only badges to be worn by Australians were hat and collar badges, unit colour patches, badges of rank and the curved metal titles ‘AUSTRALIA’ on the shoulder straps. Some months later approval was given for another badge; the wound stripe. This was a strip of narrow gold Russia braid, two inches in length, worn perpendicularly on the left sleeve of the jacket to mark each occasion a soldier was wounded badly enough to be evacuated from the front line.

    REL38980 Three wound stripes

     

    GOOD CONDUCT STRIPES.

    In January 1917 approval was given for long service and good conduct stripes by AIF Warrant Officers, NCOs and men. This consisted of a single khaki inverted chevron worn on the lower left arm for each year of service meeting certain requirements of good conduct.

    Detail from RC10118 - Good Conduct Stripes

     

    ANZAC ‘A’ BADGE

    Also in 1917 it was announced that Gallipoli veterans would be entitled to wear a brass letter ‘A’ for Anzac, on their unit colour patches. It is understood that this idea was first suggested by General Gellibrand to General Godley early in 1916, and the badges first appeared later that year. The idea was well received by Anzac veterans who were proud to wear this token of honour they had achieved for the AIF in the 1915 campaign. In January 1918 the right to wear it was extended to service "on the islands of Lemnos, Imbros, and Tenedos, on the transports or hospital ships at or off Gallipoli or these islands or in the AIF line of communications units from Egypt".

    6th Light Horse colour patch with Anzac 'A' badge. 6th Light Horse colour patch with Anzac 'A' badge. REL22612

     

    OVERSEAS SERVICE CHEVRONS

    In January 1918 the AIF also approved the wearing of the overseas service chevrons which had been adopted by the British Army. These were embroidered or woven inverted chevrons worn above the cuff on the right arm. Due to a shortage of supply, some men had chevrons privately made. For each year of war service a blue chevron was awarded and those men who had embarked in 1914 received a red chevron to indicate that year’s service.

    REL41498 Overseas service chevrons.

     

    Uniform with a red (indicating 1914 service) and four blue (indicating 1915-1918 service) overseas service chevrons. Uniform with a red (indicating 1914 service) and four blue (indicating 1915-1918 service) overseas service chevrons. REL31830.002

     

    ‘ANZAC LEAVE’ ROSETTES

    In September 1918, the first of the 1914 enlistees embarked for Australia for 6 months of ‘Anzac Leave’. They were issued with the Anzac rosettes to wear on their uniform so that they would not be accused of shirking their duty, although few appear to have worn them as the war ended not long after they returned home. These were worn on both upper arms, beneath the colour patch.

    Anzac Leave rosette. Anzac Leave rosette. REL30570

    Tunic with Anzac Leave rosettes. Tunic with Anzac Leave rosettes. REL/07680

     

    For further reading see:

    The official history  of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 : Volume III the AIF in France 1916 / by CEW Bean

    Distinguishing colour [patches of the Australian Military Forces 1915-1951 A reference Guide / by Keith Glyde 1999

    Colour patch register 1915-1949 / Department of Defence 1992

    Australian Army badges : cloth insignia of the Army in Australia, 1860-1993 / by JK Cosum 1997

    Australian Army badges a collector’s reference guide: Part one 1930-1942 / by JK Cosum 1994

    Australian Army badges a collector’s reference guide: Part two 1900-1930 / by JK Cosum 1994

    Hat badges of the Australian Army 1903-1930 / by Alfred N Festberg 1981

    The Australian Army slouch hat and rising sun badge / by Rick Grebert 2002

    Lawrance Ordnance website

     

Comments

kim fawkes

  • REL28771 showed a soldier's tunic with what appears to be a cannon wheel on the right sleeve above the stripes. Does this cannon wheel imply the soldier was in an artillery unit? Are his buttons plaited leather with the 'soccer ball' type image on the front, or copper? I have seen the latter more commonly on WW2 jackets for other ranks and officers, cheers Kim

Dianne Rutherford says:

  • Hi Kim, yes the soldier served with an artillery unit as indicated by the artillery badge you mention and his colour patch - http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL28771/ has information about the tunic and his service. The buttons are leather - some similar ones are online at http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RELAWM00382.012/. Cheers Dianne

david eastman

  • i have a badge which is similar in size as the coloured square ones as used in ww1, the colour is red white and blue. i am sure a distant relative was given by a digger at Gallipoli as i found it in his hat box along with an anzac metal badge with a letter stating that his unit ( royal marine light infantry ) relieved the australians shortly after the 35th. any help please, regards david

david eastman

  • also the letter i have, which was written from the Gallipoli trenches on a type writer ( he was an officer ) mentions the diggers in great esteem, again regards david

Keith Dudley

  • Photograph 09917 appears to show either a Light Horse or Artillery colour patch. Is the flaming bomb badge on the right sleeve the Light Trench Mortar Battery type? If yes, the tunic is very intriguing as I had thought the LTMB badge was worn by infantry units. Can you enlighten me please.

Maris Bruzgulis

  • I wonder if brigades had colours? "Mrs Jobson placed a lovely wreath on the board, with the brigade colours attached (green and gold). It was the gift of the relatives of Corporal Cloke's comrades in No. 2 section, 9th Machine Gun Company, who are still fighting in France." (The Cumberland and Fruitgrowers Advocate, Saturday 13 July 1918.)

Matthew

  • In regard to your (REL29538) "Light Horse" slider, General Service badge. This term is a misnomer for the British made version of the GSB, coined by unscrupulous dealers for a higher profit margin. These badges were issued to all units of the AIF, not just LH.

Harry

  • Why was the 1st Australian Light Horse colours Blue and White? was it because a school?

Roy Landis

  • I have a brass letter 'A' similar to the ANZAC 'A' badge [REL22612]. The height of the ANZAC 'A' letter was to be 'three-quarters of an inch', but the example I have is seven-eights of an inch high. Is it possible that my example is a letter made using regimental funds before the items were supplied by Ordnance to eligible Gallipoli veterans? Since it came into my possession in Queensland, is it possibly a brass letter from a Queensland Defence Corps uniform?

Seamus Neeson

  • Quite interesting with some items I did not know existed. Thanks.

Helen

  • My Grandfather served in the 25th Battalion AIF, and their colours were Black Over Blue. He had a gold service ring with those colours on it, and I have seen the coat with the colours on the sleeve. There is a book by the same name about the battalion if anyone is interested in reading it. Black over blue : the 25th Battalion, AIF at war, 1915-1918 / Bob Doneley. It's well worth reading.

Add new comment