Identity discs : Sergeant Michael Coleridge, Army Public Relations Photographer, Headquarters Australian Force, Vietnam
Pair of stainless steel identity discs, one round and the other octagonal. The round disc is engraved on one side with '4410203 Coleridge M. R.C.', and on the other with the wearers blood type. The octagonal disc is covered in black tape to prevent the disc reflecting. The discs are attached to a green cord. Also attached to the cord is a small religious medallion showing an image of Jesus on one side and Mary with the infant Jesus on the other. Both discs were originally covered in the black tape
Identity discs worn by 4410203 Sergeant Michael (Mike) Coleridge who was an Army Public Relations Photographer in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. On one occasion Coleridge, along with a number of other Australian catholic soldiers, attended a mass conducted by Vietnamese priests and an Australian Army padre. Each Australian soldier present was assigned a Vietnamese child to look after. Coleridge noticed that the little girl assigned to him was looking very closely at the 9mm pistol he carried at his hip. He soon realised that she was actually looking at his circular rosary, a gift from a Roman Catholic padre, which was hanging from the pistol's lanyard. Coleridge gave the girl the rosary who was delighted with her gift. She then ran away but came back quickly with a small religious medallion in return. The medallion was too small to attach to the pistol lanyard so Coleridge wore it with his identity discs instead. Coleridge was born in Slovenia and during the Second World War he escaped to Austria with his mother when German troops occupied his hometown. He later immigrated to Australia as an unaccompanied 16-year-old. Over the next few years Coleridge worked in a range of jobs in Sydney and rural New South Wales, before enlisting with the Australian Army in Darwin in 1957 and serving in Malaya with the Royal Australian Artillery. While in Malaya, Coleridge privately made films for the British Army using his own cameras. On his return to Australia in 1963, Coleridge had a reputation for this work and was appointed a Army public relations photographer in 1964. Coleridge went to Vietnam in late 1966 and spent over a year in the country. Like other army public relations photographers, Coleridge operated quite independently, at times having to subsidise his work by acquiring his own film (especially colour films, which the army did not provide) and often making his own way around. Coleridge was at all times remarkably resourceful: he established his own makeshift darkroom at the Australian base at Nui Dat, from where he processed photographs that would come to define the Australian experience of the Vietnam War. In Vietnam he often worked at great personal risk to record parts of the tours of duty of 5 Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR), 6 RAR, and 7 RAR to provide people in Australia with a sense of the physical conditions under which soldiers operated.