Fabric patch worn in action at Pozieres : Private F H Ireland, 3 Battalion, AIF

Accession Number RELAWM07976
Collection type Heraldry
Title Fabric patch worn in action at Pozieres : Private F H Ireland, 3 Battalion, AIF
Object types Heraldry
Maker Unknown

Rectangular piece of pink cotton fabric. The fabric, which is faded and stained (with what appears in one area to be blood) has been marked with the words '23/7/16 Pozeres [sic] Charge WHAT WE HAD ON OUR BACKS'.

History / Summary

Pink cotton fabric rectangles such as this are described by Official Historian C E W Bean as being 'sewn on the tunics between the shoulder blades', as 'a distinguishing mark for the 1st Australian Division'. The patches were attached before the Division's first attack on the village of Pozieres, on the night of 22-23 July 1916, and were intended to provide artillery or aircraft observers with a visible confirmation of the position of the attacking troops. It would appear from the largely unfaded reverse of the patch that the original colour was always a shade of pink, rather than red. This example was worn during the attack by 4041 Private Francis Harold Ireland, who apparently later sent it home as a souvenir. Ireland was born at Cumberland, NSW, in February 1887, and worked as a labourer at Alexandria before enlisting in the AIF in October 1915. Leaving behind a wife and three children, he embarked with the 12th Reinforcements to 3 Infantry Battalion on 30 December 1915, and after training in Egypt, reached France with his unit in March the following year. He survived the savage fighting at Pozieres, but was killed in action at Flers on 3 November. Originally reported as being buried 2 1/2 miles South South West of Bapaume, his grave was later lost, and he is now commemorated on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial.