2/7th Battalion souvenir pennant : Captain R W Saunders

Place Oceania: Australia
Accession Number RELAWM32920
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Flag
Physical description Alloy, Brass, Silk, Wool felt
Maker Unknown
Place made Australia
Date made c. 1939 - 1945
Conflict Korea, 1950-1953
Second World War, 1939-1945

Triangular red wool felt souvenir pennant with dark brown felt reinforcing strip and two pairs of ties attached to the fly. Printed in yellow is a Rising Sun badge over '2/7 AUS. INF. BN.' over the battalion colour patch (brown over red), over 'CEDE NULLIS'. Printed adjacent to this design are the following battle honours: 'PALESTINE / EGYPT / AFRICA / GREECE / CRETE / SYRIA / CEYLON / NEW GUINEA'. Pinned to the pennant are the following badges: US artillery insignia of pair of crossed barrels; US Army captain's insignia badge; US Army Signals Corps collar badge; 'AUSTRALIA' shoulder title; Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry hat badge; pair of United States Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations, one very faded; 6th Australian Infantry Regiment collar badge; unidentified Chinese medal; USAAF Pilot's cap badge.

History / Summary

Reg Saunders was born in 1920, in Purnum, Victoria, near the Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve. He came from a long line of soldiers. Both his father and his uncle served in the First World War. His uncle, Reg Rawlings, for whom he was named, received a Military Medal for action at Morlancourt Ridge, France. Rawlings was killed in action at Vauvillers, in 1918.

In the Second World War, Reg Saunders and his brother Harry both served in the Army. Harry was killed in action in New Guinea whilst serving with the 2/14th Battalion. Reg saw action in North Africa at Benghazi, in Greece, and 12 months behind the lines on Crete. After returning to Australia, he saw service on the Kokoda Trail was shot in the knee but returned to the 2/7th Infantry Battalion after his recovery. He was the first Indigenous Australian to be commissioned as an officer into the Australian Army, in 1945.

In Korea, he served as Officer Commanding, C Company, 3 RAR, leading his company through fierce fighting, including the battle at Kapyong in April 1951 for which the battalion was awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation. After having fought the battle for Hill 317, Reg finally left Korea in October 1952, and resigned from the regular army in 1954. He was the first Aboriginal serviceman to command a rifle company, and was respected and popular with his men. His biographer and friend, Harry Gordon, an Australian journalist in Korea, wrote of him: 'He was accepted unreservedly by the men who served with him because false values do not flourish among front-line soldiers.' This banner was a proud memento of his service in both wars, displaying the battle honours of the 2/7 Battalion, and pinned with badges from his time in Korea, including the US Presidential Unit Citation and significant American insignia.