Ski Jacket : Major R W Savage, Australian Corps Ski School, Syria

Accession Number RELAWM31302.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Cotton drill
Location Main Bld: World War 2 Gallery: Gallery 1 - Mediterranean: Lebanon-Syria
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1941
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Discoloured white cotton ski over-shirt with long sleeves and a hood. The shirt is made with a yoke across the back and chest and opens only at the neck. There is a drawstring channel around the waist, although the string is missing, and a cotton loop is sewn into both the front and back of the hem. An angled flap on either shoulder is secured with two white buttons and four ventilation eyelets are sewn under the arms. The shirt has a deep 'v' neck with a squared bottom. This is filled with the front of the hood. The hood is made from four pieces, this front section, two sides and a centre back panel. When worn up, the front of the hood forms a circle for the face with a slight peak. There is a drawstring threaded around this circle for tightening around the face.

History / Summary

The Australian Corps Ski School was established in the Lebanese mountains of Syria at the end of 1941. The intention was to train Australian troops serving on garrison duty in that country to serve as ski troops, giving them greater mobility in the otherwise almost impassable conditions of the Syrian winter. The school was placed under the command of NX34963 Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Robert Watkin Savage, a signals officer who was also an accomplished skier and bush walker. A staff of ten, including some of Australia's best skiers, as well as foreigners such as British Olympic competitor Major James Riddell, were brought together to provide expert tuition. Two courses, each of about 50 students, were trained, approximately half being judged competent at the end of their course. The entry of Japan into the war, and changing priorities in North Africa, meant that the Australian ski experiment was short lived. After only three months, the school was closed, and its staff returned to their units. Uniform worn by staff and pupils was sourced locally within Syria, and comprised white canvas trousers and pullover jacket, which were worn over the normal Australian woollen service dress. A white cotton peaked cap and mittens were also supplied. Clothing was waterproofed using a copper sulphate solution which gave the white clothing a characteristic pale blue-green tint.