In June 1916, a conference of state-based returned soldiers associations recommended the formation of The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA). The RSSILA was founded by returning soldiers from the First World War with the aim of continuing to provide the camaraderie, concern, and mateship shown among Australian troops while they were at war. Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria were the founding states, with New South Wales admitted to the League the following year, and Western Australia in 1918. In 1927, the Australian Capital Territory formed a branch and was admitted.
The badge design
The League’s badge represents a readiness at all times to render service to Queen and country and to former comrades. It can’t be purchased and may only be worn by those who have served their country. The shield design is symbolic of the protection provided to those who wear it. Within the badge, red represents the blood ties of war that exist between comrades; white stands for the purity of the motives in joining the league – to render service without personal gain or ambition; and blue indicates a willingness to serve a comrade anywhere under the blue sky. The wattle represents Australia, with the leek, the rose, the thistle and the shamrock standing for Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.
The evolution of the badge
Over the years, the badge has changed as the League has evolved. From 1915 to 1919, there were badges for state-based associations, but in 1916 a national badge appeared and gradually replaced these. By 1919 the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League badge had been widely accepted, and remained in use until 1941.