The Winged Boot

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to get hold of a couple of badges that an Australian soldier brought back on a ‘badge belt’ which he had put together whilst serving in the Western Desert campaign during World War 2. The two badges are a South African Air Force cap badge and a rare sand-cast ‘Winged Boot’ badge, which I believe is  related to the SAAF badge.

SAAF cap badge & winged boot award
SAAF cap badge and Winged Boot award. Collection: Julian Tennant

The ‘Winged Boot’ award was an official award, presented by the Late Arrivals Club which originated amongst members of the South African Air Force members of the RAF Western Desert Group in June 1941. The award was presented to servicemen whose aircraft had crashed or been shot down behind enemy lines and had to walk back to the Allied forces. The badge was sand cast and included varying amounts of silver content. This particular badge appears to me, to be mainly brass, but it’s provenance makes it undoubtedly original.

Winged boot RAF 38 Sqn Pilot at Shallufa Eygpt early 1942
RAF pilot from No. 38 Squadron wearing a “Winged Boot” award whilst stationed at Shallufa, Egypt, in early 1942.

The award badge was presented along with a certificate, which contained the motto, “It is never too late to come back” was to be worn on the pleat of the left pocket, just below the flap.   Whilst predominantly a commonwealth award, it was also adopted by some US servicemen (utilising a bullion variation of the design), primarily in the European and CBI theatres.

Late Arrivals Club Certificate – Image courtesy of Alex Bateman

There is also a short news clip about the Late Arrivals Club showing both the badge and certificate which can also be seen on the Pathe News site.


The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum – HCMC, Vietnam

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Entry to the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum and statue commemorating the communist People’s Liberation Forces Victory of April 30 1975. Photo: Julian Tennant

The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum (Bảo tàng Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh) is a military museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, that recounts the final months of the Vietnam War, culminating in the communist’s  victory over the South Vietnamese in April 1975.

The North Vietnamese 1975 Spring Offensive was initially envisioned as a two-stage strategy that would take two years to complete. However, an early victory at Phouc Long (Route 14) on 6 January caused the communists to speed up their offensive. The People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) then launched “Campaign 275”, also known as the Central Highlands Campaign, which climaxed in March with the capture of  Buon Ma Thuot cutting South Vietnam in two. Surprised by the rapid collapse of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces, the communists then turned their attention north, commencing the Hue-Danang Campaign, securing the isolated coastal regions by April 3.

Refugees during the last days of the Vietnam War
Refugees clogging the roads as they flee towards Saigon during the last days of the Vietnam War. Photo: Hiroji Kubota

Most of the South Vietnamese army  had been routed, but with the communist forces closing in on Saigon, the ARVN made a spirited last stand at the Battle of Xuan Loc, 60km northeast of the capital. Xuan Loc, a vital logistical hub for the South Vietnamese, sat at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 20. They believed that if they could hold there, the situation could be stabilised,  their units re-grouped and the country saved from defeat. However, despite the heroic efforts of the ARVN’s 18th Infantry Division, Xuan Loc fell and by 21 April the road to Saigon was open.  The PAVN victory at Xuan Loc, allowed the communist forces to encircle Saigon, moving 100,000 troops into positions around the city by April 27.

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An ARVN Soldier hangs on to his wounded comrade as they both stay flat on the pavement of the Newport Bridge during a Communist attack on April 28, 1975. Photo: Hugh Van Es Bettmann/Corbis

Despite fierce resistance from troops of the 12th ARVN Airborne Battalion at the Newport Bridge (Cầu Tân Cảng) and from the 81st Ranger Group at Tan Son Nhut, the situation for the South Vietnamese Government had became untenable. At 10:24, on 30 April, South Vietnam’s President Minh announced an unconditional surrender to his troops. Shortly after, at 10:30 after hearing Minh’s orders, the paratroopers at the Newport Bridge stood down allowing the PAVN to cross and at 11:30 PAVN forces entered Tan Son Nhut Air Base after the Rangers also laid down their arms. Around noon, PAVN tanks crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace. Later that afternoon, President Minh publicly announced that the South Vietnamese Government had been dissolved at all levels. The Vietnam War was over.

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PAVN armour entering the grounds of the Independence Palace, in Saigon on April 30, 1975. Photograph: Francoise De Mulder

The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum commemorates this successful 1975 offensive by the communists and was established in July 1987. It is housed in a two-story building (that once was the former Republic of Vietnam’s National Defence College) in District 1 close to the Vietnam History Museum and a few blocks away from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

The museum is divided into outdoor and indoor display areas, with the outdoor area displaying vehicles, artillery pieces and aircraft related to the campaign including the F5E fighter flown by Nguyen Thanh Trung when he defected from the South Vietnamese Air Force and bombed the Presidential Palace on 8th of April 1975. It also features T54 tank No. 848 of the 203rd Brigade, which was one of the tanks that entered the grounds of the Palace on the 30th of April. Other outdoor exhibits include an M113 APC captured in January during the Phuoc Long Campaign and then subsequently used by the 7th Division for the remainder of the conflict, plus the usual assortment of artillery pieces, wrecked ARVN aircraft and equipment.

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T54 tank No. 848 of the 203rd Brigade, which was used to enter the grounds of the Presidential Palace on the 30th of April. Photo: Julian Tennant

Entering the museum building brings visitors into the Ho Chi Minh Campaign rooms. Here, visitors are shown a large ‘mud map’ model giving an overview of the offensive plus other exhibits relating to the final stages of the war such as the official Ho Chi Minh Campaign diary. This is followed by rooms detailing each stage of the offensive, beginning with the Battle for Phuoc Loc (Route 14) and followed by the Tay Nguyen Campaign ( Campaign 275) and the battle for the Central Highlands which resulted in the destruction of ARVN forces in the II Corps zone. The focus then shifts to the Hue-Danang Campaign which isolated then defeated the South Vietnamese troops in I Corps.

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The Ho Chi Minh Campaign exhibition room. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Chinese Type 63 (renamed the H12 by the Vietnamese) 107mm rocket launcher that was used in the attack on Ban Me Thuot on 10 March 1975. Photo: Julian Tennant

The second floor has two main rooms. The first deals with the South Vietnamese high command and ARVN forces including insignia, medals, records and documentation captured from the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. Other exhibits related to the campaign and activities of the Viet Cong local forces are also shown in the upstairs areas whilst the final room is dedicated to the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Headquarters and leadership group. This includes some unusual collections including several sets of spectacles used by various communist leaders and an old extendable car aerial which is described as the “Swagger-stick of General Tran Van Tra”.

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Captured ARVN officer’s personal files. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Captured Air Force F-5 Vietnam novelty patch and an unconfirmed (by me) black panther patch. I think it may be a 1st ARVN Division Strike Company (also known as Hac Bao, Black Panthers) patch variation, but am not 100% certain of this identification. Photo: Julian Tennant
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People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) cameraman with a Bolex H 16 SBM 16mm movie camera. Photo: Julian Tennant

Overall, the museum is well laid out with an interesting selection of exhibits that are accompanied by English language descriptions. However, the victors write the history books and as can be expected, the museum gives a very warped perspective that reflects the communist rhetoric. This is evident in both the language used, with the usual “imperialist puppet troop” type descriptions and also how the artifacts appear. The ARVN and South Vietnamese exhibits always seem to be broken (such as the scrap metal wrecks outside), run-down or looking rather aged and disheveled when compared to the PAVN artifacts which are kept fresh and look almost new. The museum is definitely worth visiting because of the material being displayed, but don’t rely on it giving an accurate representation of the conflict from an even remotely unbiased perspective.

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Officer of the Vietnam People’s Ground Forces (Lục quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) on duty at the museum. His insignia identifies him as a Senior Lieutenant (Đại úy) from the Corps of Engineers. Photo: Julian Tennant

Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum (Bảo tàng Chiến dịch Hồ Chí Minh)
2 Le Duan Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam

Phone: +84 (0)336 578 946

Website (Vietnamese language): Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum

Open: Monday – Friday 07:30 – 11:00 and 13:30 – 16:30
Note that the museum is frequently closed without notice.

Entrance Fee: Free


Iraq – Task Group Taji – ANZAC Day 2016 Patch


An Australian helmet featuring the Taji ANZAC Day Iraq 2016 patch at the dawn service held at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. 25 April 2016. Picture by Cpl Jake Sims (ADF)


On 25 April 2016, Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel deployed to Iraq with Task Group Taji commemorated the Task Group’s first Anzac Day at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. The dawn service marked the 100th anniversary since the first Anzac Day service in 1916. To commemorate the day, a special one-off patch was produced by a Sydney based company for the troops serving with Task Group Taji.

Task Group Taji ANZAC Day 2016 patch
ANZAC Day Iraq 2016 patch produced for  the first ANZAC Day commemoration service at the Taji Military Complex in Iraq.
Australian Army soldier Private Andrew Lawrence from Task Group Taji commemorates Anzac Day at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. The ANZAC Day Iraq 2016 patch can be seen on the helmet and the issue Task Group Taji patch is visible on his right shoulder. Picture by Cpl Jake Sims (ADF)

Personnel from Australia and New Zealand based at the Taji Military Complex in Iraq were part of the broader international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission training members of the Iraqi security forces. The training included weapon handling, building clearances and obstacle breaching techniques; as well as training in the Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for squad through to company-level operations to use in their fight against Daesh/ISIS.

Task Group Taji’s BPC contribution is part of Australia’s broader Defence contribution to Iraq, codenamed Operation OKRA, which included a Special Operations Task Group and an Air Task Group.

In June 2020 the task group concluded its mission in Iraq after five years on operations, training and assisting the Iraq Security Forces (ISF). The Australian and New Zealand combined task force contributed to the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, training more than 47,000 Iraqi troops through 10 periods of instruction.


Task Group Taji 2016 patch
General issue, Australian manufactured, Task Group Taji patch worn by Australian & New Zealand personnel serving with the Task Group as part of the mission designated Operation OKRA by the Australian Defence Force.

Event: 5 March 2022 – Australian War Memorial Technology Centre Open Day

Coming up this weekend is the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre – Big Things in Store 2022 open day.

Big Things in Store is the Australian War Memorial’s  Treloar Technology Centre’s bi-annual open day. It presents a  are opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s largest collections of military relics, including aircraft, rockets, tanks and artillery.  The collection spans centuries, including artillery pieces dating from the mid-1870s, as well as artifacts from the twentieth century and more recent conflicts.

The next open day is on Saturday 5 March from 9 am (last session entry at 2.45 pm)

All visitors (including minors) will require a free 2 hour timed ticket to enter the event and visitors are required to comply with all COVID Safe requirements. This may include requirements to wear face masks, maintaining physical distancing from others, and check-in using the Check IN CBR app

To book a ticket for the 5 March 2022 open day go to this link

Australian War Memorial Treloar Technology Centre
6 – 10 Callan Street
Mitchell, ACT 2911


Phone: +61 (02) 6243 4211


A Japanese Navy Shinyo suicide motorboat on show at the AWM – 5 March 2022

One of the items held in the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre is an Imperial Japanese Navy Shinyo (‘Ocean Shaker’ or “Sea Quaker) suicide boat. It is believed to be one of only two extant examples of a complete Shinyo and it can be viewed by members of the public during the bi-annual Big Things in Store 2022 open day which is occurring on the 5th of March (see below for more information).

shinyo treloar technology AWM

The development of these boats began in 1943 but was given a boost in March 1944 when the Imperial Japanese Army’s Warship Research Institute at Himeji, near Kobe, was directed to devote considerable effort to the development of “special (attack) boats”. A month later the Imperial Japanese Navy issued a similar directive. The Army developed the Maru-ni boat and the Navy created the Shinyo which is the type held in the AWM collection.

By the summer of 1944 both the Army and Navy were beginning to deploy suicide boat squadrons, consisting of volunteer ‘pilots’ who were told that their duties were to be ‘special’, i.e. suicidal. By November 1944, some 650 pilots and 2,500 support personnel were available for the Navy’s Shinyo squadrons alone, with Shinyo Squadrons 1–5 sent to Chichijima and Hahajima in the Bonin Islands, while Squadrons 6–13, with a total strength of 300 boats were sent to Corregidor in the Philippines. Others, including the Army boats were deployed to Okinawa and smaller numbers to Korea, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but the vast majority were kept along the shores of Japan.

Each Navy squadron consisted of 40 -50 plywood hulled Shinyo that carried a 300kg TNT explosive charge rigged to explode on impact when the crushing of the boat’s bows although on later boats a trigger was added in the cockpit which could also be used to detonate the charge. The boats could achieve a top speed of 20 knots per hour and travel for 31/2  hours at that speed.

shinyo blueprint

The boat crew consisted of a single pilot although one boat in every squadron was crewed by two men, the squadron commander and his pilot. It was intended that in a mass sortie, the commander would bring up the rear, observing the attack and if possible give covering fire from a swivel mounted Type 93 heavy machine gun. Once his men had driven their strike home, the commander would then order his own pilot to attack, detonating the explosive in his own boat in the process. Planners expected about 10% of the craft to hit their targets, but in the face of defensive fire, the results were much lower with only twenty-one allied vessels falling victim to their attacks with the largest being the USS Hutchins, a 2,000 ton destroyer which was damaged on 27th April 1945

The Shinyo in the Australian War Memorial collection was recovered by HMAS Deloraine at Sandakan Harbour, British North Borneo, in October 1945. It was one of six that were discovered in an immediate state of operational readiness complete with fuel tanks filled and ready to be deployed.

This launch was used by sailors from HMAS Deloraine for joy rides and as a ski boat on Sandakan Harbour. It returned to Australia with the Deloraine in late 1945 and was presented to the Australian War Memorial. You can learn more about the Shinyo on the AWM’s Collected Podcast Episode 18: Shinyo, available here.

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. September 1945. Able Seaman (AB) Les Coad of Ballarat, Vic; AB Ian Cox of South Yarra, Vic, and AB Kevin Sorrenson of Coorparoo, Qld, all RAN and members of the crew of HMAS Napier, inspecting a Japanese suicide launch (boat) surrendered in the Yokosuka Naval Base.  AWM Accession Number: 019161

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. September 1945. Australian naval ratings from HMAS Napier inspecting a Japanese Shinyo suicide launch and a midget submarine alongside each other in the Yokosuka Naval Base. They are, (on launch) Able Seaman (AB) Kevin Sorrenson of Coorparoo, Qld; AB Led Coad of Ballarat, Vic, AB Ian Cox of South Yarra, Vic, and (on submarine) Petty Officer Alan Mole of Mitcham, SA; AB Myer White of Prahran, Vic, and AB Max Dillon of Sygnet, Tas. Note the face painted on the bows of the launch. This is the insignia of the Japanese suicide squadron at the base. Australian War Memorial Accession Number: 019162

AWM Treloar Technology Centre – Big Things in Store 2022

AWM German WW1 Artillery Collection copy

Big Things in Store is the Australian War Memorial’s  Treloar Technology Centre’s bi-annual open day. It presents a  are opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s largest collections of military relics, including aircraft, rockets, tanks and artillery.  The collection spans centuries, including artillery pieces dating from the mid-1870s, as well as artefacts from the twentieth century and more recent conflicts.

The next even is on Saturday 5 March from 9 am (last session entry at 2.45 pm)

All visitors (including minors) will require a free 2 hour timed ticket to enter the event and visitors are required to comply with all COVID Safe requirements. This may include requirements to wear face masks, maintaining physical distancing from others, and check-in using the Check IN CBR app

To book a ticket for the 5 March 2022 open day go to this link

Australian War Memorial Treloar Technology Centre
6 – 10 Callan Street
Mitchell, ACT 2911


Phone: +61 (02) 6243 4211


Museum: Recollections of War – Albany, Western Australia

Recollections of War is a military museum run by John & Kathryn Shapland near Albany in Western Australia. The museum exhibits their personal collection and presents a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary men, women and children during times of conflict.

The port city of Albany, which sits 418km (260mi) southeast of Perth has played an important part in Australia’s military heritage and the region has many related sites for visitors to explore, including Recollections of War, a private museum that should be on the itinerary of anybody with an interest in military history.

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The museum, which is located about half an hour’s drive along the South Coast Highway outside of Albany on the way to Denmark, features the collection of Kathryn and John Shapland, whose hobby rapidly expanded into a custom built exhibition building featuring six display rooms with space also dedicated to a library, research area and theatre.

It continues to grow and there are also more extensions in the planning stage, the latest being a WWI aviation gallery to house a replica Fokker D VIII that has been donated to the museum by a pilot from nearby Manjimup. This will be complemented by items belonging to Sir Keith Smith and other early aviator artifacts and having viewed some of the Australian Flying Corps pieces that Kathryn and John have, I am eagerly awaiting its completion.

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The replica Fokker D VIII that has recently been donated to the Recollections of War museum. Photo: Kathryn Shapland

Visiting the museum, it is astonishing to realise that the Shaplands only started collecting militaria in 2009 after John, who is originally from Sussex, returned to England on a holiday with his eldest daughter. Whilst there, he visited an air-show at Duxford and returned home with some souvenirs including a limited edition aviator signed print by noted artist Robert Taylor.

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It was the acquisition of autographed aviator prints such as Robert Taylor’s “Eagles out of the sun” (top) that started the Shapland’s collecting journey. Photo: Julian Tennant

Back in Albany, he recruited wife Kathryn, who had been a collector of stamps, coins and other items since she was young, to help him find more items on-line. One of the early pieces Kathryn found was a Corgi die-cast model signed by Billy Drake, a Battle of France pilot. The seller turned out to be an engineer restoring warbirds at North Weald airfield and mentioned that there was a Hurricane muster there in October and that John should return to the UK to attend. He did, meeting the veteran pilots and aircrew, examining the aircraft and museums.

The result was that their collection rapidly outgrew a couple of display cabinets and a few prints in the house. John, who in addition to running their cattle farm was a builder and cabinet maker converted his workshop into a custom made exhibition space for the WWII aviation collection. Kathryn recalls,

‘We started with the WWII aviation room and the first library as that was John’s main interest at the time. As visitors started to come, it became apparent that we were lacking in other areas and so we expanded to cover the main three military services and eventually the auxiliary services too. Similarly, John’s interest was WWII and we started getting veterans from more recent wars. In addition, we were coming up to the ANZAC centenary, so decided WWI artifacts and stories needed to be added. We now go from the Boer War to the present day.

I have a very broad focus and far too many things appeal to me. I suppose at the heart of it all there must be a story about the people that used or produced the items. John has a good general knowledge about military history and the hardware used (but) my interest is in social rather than military history. I love the research side of things.’

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This is one of a couple of First World War US Army groups that are held in the collection. These items belonged to James William Walston who served with the US 5th Infantry Division during the Great War. Photo: Julian Tennant
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First World War period US Army ‘doughboys’ toy soldiers made by the German firm of Elastolin and sold in the USA prior to America’s entry into the war in 1917. Photo: Julian Tennant
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A soldier’s friend. The “Camp Pocket Candlestick” is a small tin containing a candle and box of matches that was given to Commonwealth troops during WW1. It allowed them to read or write letters whilst in the trenches with the lid of the tin offering some cover to limit the glow from the lit flame of the candle. Photo: Julian Tennant

The collection now features thousands of meticulously researched items recording the war experiences of both the military personnel and civilian populations from the Anglo-Boer War onward. But rather than emphasise the battles or weapons, the focus is centered around the histories of ordinary people living through the war and the layout does not follow a chronological sequence. Items are grouped together to help broaden understanding and give additional context to individual pieces, which makes it all the more fascinating to explore. John describes the museum as a ‘treasure hunt’ which is an apt description.

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A couple of sweetheart badges including a nice painted acrylic Netherlands East Indies (KNIL) Air Force Pilot – Observer flight qualification wing. Photo: Julian Tennant
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A magnificent hand-made aluminium ‘sweetheart’ badge made in 1916 by George King from Kent, who was serving as a 1st class air mechanic in the Royal Naval Air Service at the time. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Medal group, locally made dagger and photograph belonging to a member of V Force, an intelligence gathering and screening force for the British 14th Army in the India/Burma area of operations. Photo: Julian Tennant

Kathryn spends much of her time researching and scouring the internet for suitable items, but many pieces have also been donated by visitors and locals who recognise the important role that Recollections of War plays in maintaining our knowledge of conflicts.  

In the aftermath of both world wars, the southern region of Western Australia became home for many ex-service personnel who took advantage of the Soldier Settlement and Group Settlement schemes which were respectively aimed at getting returned servicemen into some form of gainful work and aimed at both increasing the population of W.A. as well as increasing primary (especially dairy) production. In subsequent years the local veteran community has continued to grow and includes former service personnel from more recent wars and several nations.

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Detail from a group of items belonging to Alexander George Jerrat who served with the Palestine Police. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Helmet worn by Peter Geoffrey Larard during his Vietnam service as a pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force. Peter Larard flew Sabre’s with No. 79 Sqn whilst stationed at Ubon in Thailand from 9 September 1965 until 4 November 1965 and then served with the RAAF element of the HQ Australian Forces Vietnam from 26 November 1968 until 26 November 1969. Photo: Julian Tennant


As a result, the museum displays several donated items which would otherwise be unlikely to be shown to the public as they fit outside the curatorial focus of institutional collections or the RSL. One such display is the collection of over 300 toy soldiers that were scratch-built by Reg Copeman, an Englishman who had served with the Royal Artillery during the Korean War, then 22 Special Air Service Regiment in the Malayan Emergency and Aden prior to his discharge as a WO2 in 1968. Reg then worked for WatchGuard International  the private military contracting company which had been formed by SAS founder Colonel David Stirling and John ‘Jock’ Woodhouse in 1965. This took Reg to Zambia and Sierra Leone before he moved to Australia in 1973 and finally settled in the nearby town of Denmark in the 1990’s.

Reg’s soldiers are all hand-made and each took around 50 days to complete. There was no set pattern to which soldier would be made next, sometimes basing his decisions on the book he was reading at the time. Reg was keen to keep the collection together and now in his 90’s he decided to donate the entire collection along with his reference material to Recollections of War where it is displayed in a custom made display cabinet.  

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Some of the 315 model figures that were scratch-built by 90 year old Reg Copeman, a Royal Artillery and 22 Special Air Service Regiment veteran who now lives in south western WA. Photo: Julian Tennant.

John’s own family connection is also included in the displays. His father, private Alan James ‘Jim’ Shapland enlisted in the Sussex Regiment during World War II and later volunteered for the Airborne Forces, joining the 22nd Independent Parachute Company which acted as the pathfinders for 6th Airborne Division. However, Jim was injured in mid-May 1944 during a training jump for D-Day and was hospitalised. As a result, he did not return to the unit and subsequently served with the Seaforth Highlanders for the remainder of the war.

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A group belonging to John Shapland’s father, private Alan James ‘Jim’ Shapland who qualified as a military parachutist on Course 80 which ran at RAF Ringway from 30 August to 9 September 1943. The course instructors’ notes record that Alan had a cheerful disposition and was a good performer. Jim then joined 2 Platoon of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, but  was hospitalised in mid-May 1944 after carrying out a training jump for D-Day. He did not return to the unit and subsequently served with the Seaforth Highlanders. Photo: Julian Tennant

As can be expected from a collection that focuses on the personal histories of the participants and witnesses it also contains dozens of documents, letters, keepsakes and personal photograph albums reflecting the experiences of people from all sides, which can be viewed by visitors. One of the albums that I found particularly interesting belonged to a German sailor who served as a signaller on minesweeper’s during WWII. In addition to photographs and recording service details, the album also includes his Kriegsmarine and trade insignia plus the award certificate documentation which accompanied his Minesweeper War Badge. His group also includes an extensive hand annotated notebook, complete with diagrams but unfortunately, not being fluent in German, I could not make much sense of what I was viewing.

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Notebook and photo album from a German sailor (signals specialist) who served on a minesweeper carrying out anti-submarine operations. In addition to these badges, the photo album also contained several photographs of his time at see and the original certificate for his Kriegsmarine Minesweeper War Badge. Photo: Julian Tennant


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A deceased Japanese soldier’s haramaki (belly band belt). The blood stained belt has a small pocket on the reverse side which held the photographs of loved ones and notes (shown). Also included is a photo of the original owner after he had been killed during the fighting in New Guinea in September 1943. Photo: Julian Tennant

Many of these albums and documents are not immediately on display, but like all collectors, the Shapland’s are keen to share their collection with visitors, which is why they encourage visits by appointment only rather than having fixed visiting hours. It allows them to create a more intimate and personalised experience. When I spoke to Kathryn prior to my visit, she asked what my interests were and when I arrived, she had gathered some of their Australian Flying Corps pieces for me to view. As I wandered through the exhibition rooms, if I found something of interest John and Kathryn would answer my questions and were more than happy to pull things out of the cabinets to let me see specific details.

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RAN commemorative port, bronze ‘Naked Army’ statuettes and Special Air Service Regiment beret. The SASR beret belonged to 54159 John Murray Robinson who, as a sergeant, completed both of 3 SAS Squadron’s tours of Vietnam in 1966-67 and 1969-70. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Vietnam in-country made 1 Troop, A Squadron, 3 Cavalry Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps patch attached to a lightweight flying suit which was worn around the base area at Nui Dat. Photo: Julian Tennant
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Mid 1980’s period 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment brassard featuring the distinctive 3RAR parachutist wing. Photo: Julian Tennant

Whilst Recollections of War is listed as a museum, I would describe my experience as being more like visiting another collector, discussing the objects and comparing ‘notes’. Kathryn agrees and goes on to say

‘I would love for more authors, researchers and students to visit and make use of our libraries and other archives. I can’t see the point in having all this stuff if it can’t be shared with like-minded or interested people.’

As a result, if you’re a collector or somebody with specific interest areas, you may find that you spend more time at Recollections of War than you anticipate. My primary area of interest is airborne and special operations insignia and I had expected to be at the museum for two to three hours, but I ended up staying over four and then returned the following day for another couple of hours to examine more of their collection… and I still wonder what else I may have missed. So, my advice is to plan accordingly, when arranging a visit let Kathryn know what your interests may be and allow yourself time to take it all in.

Albany is great long-weekend destination being a pleasant four hour drive from Perth and home to several military related attractions for the interested visitor. The city of Albany is also home to the Princess Royal Fortress which opened in 1893 and was Australia’s first federal fortress. Later, during the First World War, the town was the last port of call for the ships carrying the ANZAC troops departing Australia. The fort’s gun batteries and port were also active during the Second World War, particularly at the point in time when the Japanese were on Australia’s doorstep and Albany, along with the port of Fremantle were seen as providing safe refuge, beyond the reach of Japanese aircraft. Albany then became home to three USN submarines along with tender craft and crews. The military history of the region is preserved and presented in a series of military museums and displays including the National Anzac Centre at the fortress site. These are all in close proximity, opening at 09:00 and can be adequately covered in a few hours allowing enough time to visit Recollections of War in the afternoon or following day.  

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Recollections of War
Halcyon Park
51253 South Coast Highway
Albany WA 6330

Phone: +61 (0)8 9845 2083    /    0447 765 511     /    0428 981 976



Opening hours: By appointment – Call to arrange a time.

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The entrance to the Recollections of War Museum at 51253 South Coast Highway, which is about half an hour’s drive out of Albany on the way to the town of Denmark. Photos: Julian Tennant

The Mysterious Vietnam War Mary Poppins Platoon HAHO Parachutist Badge

61037528_2418529928198396_3156671602440011776_nMary Poppins Platoon Combat Qualification Gold Wing with the ARVN Jump Status Indicator for comparison. Collection: Julian Tennant

This “Mary Poppins Platoon Combat Qualification” parachutist badge (left) is one of the more interesting unofficial/novelty airborne badges in my collection.

Two variations of the badge are known to exist. A silver badge, described as the ‘basic’ wing and a second type with a point at the apex of the umbrella plus a gold wing which is referred to as the MPP Combat Qualification Gold Wing. As can be seen in the picture it’s design draws heavily on the ARVN Jump Status Indicator insignia which was worn by members Vietnamese Airborne personnel who were on jump status. The umbrella canopy may reference the pocket badge worn by the French Indochina period 1st Indochinese Parachute Company (1er Compagnie Indochinoise Parachutiste – 1 CIP) or it may be a reference to the…

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An unidentified French Indochina or 1950’s period Airborne unit badge.

ARVN unidentified Airborne SSI 2-2The unidentified French Indochina period French or Vietnamese Airborne unit badge which  formerly belonged to a Nung soldier who fought in both the first and second Indochina Wars. Collection: Julian Tennant

This is an unusual and as yet unidentified early Vietnamese Airborne patch that I have in my collection. It is the actual badge shown on page 81 of Harry Pugh’s book Insignia of the Republic of Vietnam Army Airborne Division, where it is described as an Unknown Airborne Insignia obtained in Saigon in 1967.

When I bought the badge from Harry, he elaborated a little further in an accompanying note regarding its provenance.

“When I was in Vietnam, 67 & 68, the chief of my Nung Security was an older Nung, “Song”. He had served with the French during the French Indochina war but I never asked him which unit. After the war he served with the Nung…

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The ‘Desert Diablos’ – DoS Air Wing Afghanistan Patches

I went down a bit of a rabbit-hole for this week’s post which features my small collection of U.S. Department of State Air Wing patches that a mate brought back for me from one of his tours in Afghanistan. I thought that it would be a quick write-up until I started gathering some contextual information and before I knew it, I was downloading all sorts of declassified audits and other reports regarding their activities in Afghanistan. The reason I wanted to keep it short was to allow time to restructure my site to include additional pages featuring parts of my collection and also my TRADE insignia. Unfortunately that did not happen and I accidentally changed the overall site theme to this one (which I am not sure I like) and cannot revert to the previous layout.  So, I may delay the next post whilst I figure things out and try to make sense of it all. If you want to be kept up to date for the new content, please bookmark or FOLLOW the page.


DOS Air Wing Afghanistan juleswings

The United States Department of State (DOS), also referred to as the State Department, was established in 1789 as the first administrative arm of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government and is the American equivalent of the ministry of foreign affairs in other nations. Its primary duties are advising the U.S. president, administering diplomatic missions, negotiating international treaties and agreements, and representing the U.S. at the United Nations.

In 1978, the US Congress created the Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM) as an agency reporting to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, with a general mission of developing policies and programs to combat international narcotics and crime. With the growing influx of cocaine into the US in the 1980’s the South and Central American regions were its initial focus. This included using a crop duster aircraft to eradicate illicit crops in Mexico. A separate Air Wing (DoS Air Wing) was established in 1986 as use of aviation assets grew in the war on drugs. Continue reading “The ‘Desert Diablos’ – DoS Air Wing Afghanistan Patches”

Birdwood Military Museum – Geraldton, Western Australia

The Birdwood Military Museum, Geraldton, Western Australia.

Birdwood Military Museum Geraldton-01

One of the earliest known purpose-built Returned and Services League (RSL) halls in Western Australia is also home to one of the state’s regional military museums.

Continue reading “Birdwood Military Museum – Geraldton, Western Australia”

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