Service dress jacket : Sergeant A O Anderson, 21 Battalion AIF

Accession Number RELAWM05571.003
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Brass, Ferrous metal, Wool twill
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Other ranks' pattern khaki wool twill service dress tunic with stand and fall collar. The collar is fastened by two ferrous metal hooks and eyes. Khaki wool shoulder straps are secured to the tunic with a small 'AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES' button. Although there are no badges on the shoulder straps, markings on the fabric indicate that 'AUSTRALIA' titles had been fitted. There is a pleated patch pocket on each breast, with pointed flaps secured by a single button. Below the waist is a pair of larger expanding patch pockets, which also have pointed button flaps. The integral self fabric belt at the waist is finished without a buckle. There is a central pleat gathering into the integral belt.

The straight cuffs are fastened by a single button, and the sleeves each have a diamond shaped black over red wool flannel colour patch (of 21 Battalion AIF) sewn on below the shoulder. There are woven cotton sergeant's rank chevrons on the upper right sleeve and two brass wound stripes on the lower left sleeve. All buttons on the jacket are brass Australian Military Forces pattern and are secured to the tunic by split rings. Those on the cuffs are missing, although the split rings are still present, attached to the broken button shanks. There are no general service (Rising Sun) collar badges or shoulder titles, but holes and fading in the fabric show where they were originally fitted. There is no internal field dressing pocket fitted inside the skirt of the tunic. The remains of a paper manufacturer's label can be seen inside the proper left skirt.

History / Summary

Alfred Oliver Anderson was born in Victoria on 1 August 1897. He was working in Melbourne as a blacksmith when he enlisted in the AIF on 13 October 1915, shortly after his eighteenth birthday. Anderson had previously served in the Senior Cadets at Shepparton for three years. At the time of his enlistment he measured just under 5 foot 5 inches and weighed less that eight and a half stone. Anderson was initially destined for the 'Miners Corps' but in December 1915 was re-assigned to the 9th reinforcements of 21st Battalion and allocated the service number 3756. He sailed from Melbourne on 8 February 1916 aboard HMAT A69 Warilda, joining 21st Battalion in France on 4 June 1916.

Anderson was slightly wounded at Mouquet Farm on 24 August 1916, but was treated in the field. He was promoted to corporal two days later. On 7 November 1916, Anderson was wounded in the left leg at Flers and was evacuated to hospital in England. After treatment and further training he rejoined 21st Battalion in May 1917 and was promoted to sergeant on 14 September. Anderson was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in action and superb courage and coolness at Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium, on 4 October, and again on 9 October. During the closing stages of the Second Battle of Passchendaele, on 11 November 1917, he was again wounded in the left leg and evacuated to England. He rejoined his battalion in April 1918, equipped with a new uniform and webbing, and subsequently fought at the Second Battle of Villers Bretonneux; at the capture of the village of Frise, near Proyart; at Mont St Quentin; and at Montbrehain, on 5 October 1918, the final battle undertaken by the AIF during the First World War. On 13 October, 21st Battalion was disbanded and its surviving members, including Anderson, transferred to 24th Battalion.

In October 1918, Sergeant Anderson surrendered all of his uniform and equipment, with the exception of his rifle, apparently at the behest of the Australian War Records Section. Under Charles Bean's direction two other complete uniforms had been collected earlier. They were displayed from 1923 until 1982 in their entirety on figures known as 'The Raider' and 'Out of the Mud'. Although elements of Anderson's uniform were displayed for an even longer period, used to complete a number of other figures, their significance as relics of the final battle undertaken by the AIF seems to have been overlooked, and they were not shown together in their own right. Sergeant Anderson returned to Australia in July 1919. His final medical examination, to determine his fitness after his leg injuries, recorded that he had continued growing during the war, and was now 5 foot 8 inches tall.

Anderson served in the militia between the wars and enlisted again in the Second World War, serving as a staff sergeant in Land Headquarters Signals. He first served with the Citizens Military Force with the service number V8025, and later enlisted on 21 July 1942 into the Second AIF with the service number VX85973. He was discharged on 11 April 1944.