EDITORIAL: Australian Chief of Army’s directive re use of ‘death’ symbols

In early April 2018, the Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell, a former Australian SAS officer, released a memo requesting that the RSM of Army incorporate an instruction into the Army Dress Manual that banned the use of emblems that incorporated “death” symbols or iconography. These include Punisher skull or pirate Jolly Roger symbols both of which feature in the range of emblems and patches used by sub-units within the Australian Special Operations community… and no doubt are also features of various other Australian Army sub-unit logos.
angus campbell minute
As can be expected there has been a backlash and ridicule from various interested parties. Many cite the unique task that society assigns to the military, the creep of political correctness and the role unit emblems play in fostering a sense of identity with its associated importance in team cohesion/bonding.
Personally, I agree with these arguments and am in favour of maintaining the existing traditions through the symbols that have already been adopted by the various sub-units.
However… and despite being an insignia collector with a particular interest in Australian Special Operations units, I have long held the belief that widespread use of troop, platoon, company and squadron patches within the Australian Special Operations community has gone too far and may not be a good thing for OpSec reasons.
The days of these logos being confined to beer stubby holders and PT shirts sold ‘in-house’ to raise funds for unit ‘pissups’ seems long gone… Back then, most people outside of the units had no idea who the sub-unit symbols represented and they were rarely, if ever seen in the public domain. So, maybe this directive will have some positive spin-offs, making the activities of our operators less visible through the identification of units through their patches and bring them back into the shadows where they belong.
From a collectors perspective, I wonder what effect the ruling will have? The Australian Army insignia collector market is already saturated with fakes and fantasy items. Since the early 2000’s collector/dealers have been capitalising on the wants of Australian collectors manufacturing ‘local made’ copies of known insignia plus, not infrequently, completely making shit up to sell to an eager and unsuspecting market. Will this move curtail their activities? Maybe… or maybe it is already too late and the genie is out of the bottle…. maybe it will just lead to new batches of ‘rare unofficial’ patches for units that have no knowledge of these patches existence and collectors who have few points of reference to determine what is real and what is bullshit. Time will tell I guess.
fantasy miltrader Aussie CDO fakes

FAKE/FANTASY Australian Special Operations unit insignia made to fool unsuspecting collectors. Not sure what drugs the manufacturer has been taking to come up with these designs, but they are figments of his imagination. Unfortunately, some collectors continue to be fooled by this bullshit.

Directory of US Army Museums

World War II CG-4A Glider Exhibit at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

CG-4A Glider Exhibit at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

If you’re living in, or planning a trip to, the USA you should bookmark this link (also shown below). Compiled by the US Army Center of Military History, which is responsible for recording the history of the US Army, it is a state by state listing of all the US Army museums in the country.


The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience. Perth 29 November – 11 December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is a traveling exhibition that mainly tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War, but also has some additional information about the Australian armed forces involvement in subsequent operations. The latter is restricted to information panels, videos and here in Perth, a Bushmaster provided by one of the local Army Reserve units, the 10th Light Horse.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. 10 Light Horse Regiment Bushmaster and the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club rowboat which was used in by the club as part of the centenary commemoration at Gallipoli on Anzac day in 2015.

The bulk of the displays follow a chronological timeline spanning the period just before the outbreak of World War 1 until armistice in 1918, with visitors using an audio guide, which provides contextual information to supplement the items on display.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

As can be expected with a traveling exhibition aimed at a general audience, the bulk of the stuff being presented consists of photographs, ephemera and didactic information panels along with (mostly) smaller items that are easy to transport and display. The exhibits are well displayed though and visitors pass through trench-like passageways as they move from one section to the next.  For Western Australian leg of the tour most of the items originate from the Australian War Memorial collection but also include artifacts from the Army Museum of Western Australia as each stage of the tour includes a local ‘flavour’ curating stories from the area visited.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian uniform from the Dardanelles campaign

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Turkish soldier’s uniform from the Dardanelles campaign.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Entry is free, although bookings have to be made prior to visiting and entry is controlled to ensure that all attendees have an audio guide. The audio is quite good providing context and automatically updating to reflect where ever the visitor is standing at any given point during their visit. It also provides for an option to have additional information about certain exhibits sent via email should something be of interest.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian Flying Corps pilot in the Middle East. Most of the mannequin displays feature reproduction uniforms, which is understandable given the nature of the exhibition and display. Unfortunately this particular jacket features a really bad reproduction of the AFC pilot’s wing which is also sold as a souvenir in the AWM and RAAF Museum shops.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Brass grave plaque and portrait of the Red Baron’s only Australian victim. Second Lieutenant Jack Hay was flying an outdated FE8 pusher biplane with No. 40 Squadron, RFC when he encountered Baron Von Richthofen’s squadron on 23 January 1917. Hay’s aircraft burst into flames and rather than burn, Hay jumped to his death. His mates made this plaque for his grave.

Overall, whilst I was slightly disappointed by the lack of post WW1 display items, it was quite an enjoyable visit and I think that I will drop by again for another look before the show moves to its next location.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. German 170mm Minenwerfer trench mortar.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Ouch!

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Anti-conscription badge from the 1916 and 1917 conscription referendums. Australians rejected the notion of conscription and the AIF remained an all volunteer fighting force.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Reproduction of a British MkIV ‘Male’ tank.

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is on display at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre until 11 December 2016.

Touring dates and visitor information for the exhibition can be found at http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/events/spirit-anzac-centenary-experience

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance galleries


1 Commando Regiment beret belonging to Private Greg Sher, KIA during a rocket attack in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan 04 January 2009.

I’ve just returned from a weekend trip to Melbourne and on Sunday afternoon, just before heading to the airport I found that I had a couple of hours to kill whilst ‘she who must be obeyed’ spent some time with her sister. I was at Flinders street station so decided to take a walk down St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Remembrance. The walk takes about 10 to 15 minutes and is quite a pleasant stroll, but in retrospect I should have taken the 5 minute tram ride (‘Stop 19 – Shrine of Remembrance’) as it would have given me more time to explore the new Galleries of Remembrance which were still under development last time I visited, back in mid 2014. But, it was a spur of the moment decision and whilst I regret not having more time to look at the exhibits it gave me a taster for my next visit.

The Eternal Flame near the footsteps of Victoria's Shrine of Remembrance.

The Eternal Flame near the footsteps of Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Built in 1934, the Shrine is the Victorian state war memorial. It was built to help a grieving Victorian community which lost 19,000 of it’s 114,000 enlistees killed in the First World War. They were buried in distant graves at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could share their individual and collective grief for the lives that they had lost. Designed by architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, both World War 1 veterans, it is located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road and was opened on the 11th of November 1934.
The Galleries of Remembrance were opened to the public on 11 November 2014. It utilizes 1600 square meters in a cathedral-like chamber beneath the Shrine and exhibits over 800 items illustrating the Australian experience of war from the 1850’s until the present day. Because of the time limitations I had, I did not go into the Shrine itself this time, but instead opted to check out these displays. Unfortunately the picture quality isn’t the greatest as they were just snapped on my iphone, but they will give you an idea of what is on the display.

Ballarat Rangers Helmet c.1880 in the Pre-Federation Gallery.

Ballarat Rangers Helmet c.1880 in the Pre-Federation Gallery. This helmet is a rare example of the type worn with the distinctive green uniform of the Ballarat Rangers. Formed on 26th July 1858, the unit was originally known as the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Regiment but changed its name a month later.

Gallipoli landing lifeboat in the First World War Gallery.

Gallipoli landing lifeboat in the First World War Gallery. Lifeboat No. 5 landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 at around 4.10 am. The lifeboat carried men of the 12th Battalion, the 3rd Field Ambulance and the 3rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters


Australian Flying Corps pilot’s brevet with officers pips and farriers trade badge in the AFC and 4th Light Horse display in the First World War Gallery.

WW1 Aviators helmet, goggles and jacket in the First World War G

WW1 Aviators helmet, goggles and jacket in the First World War Gallery.

Australian uniform as worn on the Western Front circa 1917.

Australian uniform as worn on the Western Front circa 1917.

First Word War Gallery display.

First Word War Gallery display.

Italian, German and French uniforms in the Second World War Gall

Italian, German and French uniforms in the Second World War Gallery

Australian Kokoda / New Guinea display in the Second World War G

Australian Kokoda / New Guinea display in the Second World War Gallery.


Shirt worn by Alf Argent (3RAR) as part of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade, Malaya c. 1960.


Viet Cong embroidered propaganda pendant of Ho Chi Minh in the “1966 The year that changed the world” temporary exhibition.

'Khats' by George Gittoes (March 1993)

‘Khats’ by George Gittoes (March 1993). Australian artist George Gittoes spent time in Somalia with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). He accompanied soldiers from 1RAR on night patrols in Baidoa and was fascinated by their electronic night vision goggles. He observed that; “People through their goggles lose their humanity… it is like playing a virtual reality game…” Meanwhile a local man experiences his own state of altered reality by chewing the stimulant plant, khat.


Plaque from Rwanda c. 1995 presented to WO2 Robert Burgess (UNAMIR II) and UNTAC (Cambodia) patches collected by Private David Jess in 1993.

Australian patches related to Iraq 2003 - 2008.

Australian patches related to the Iraq deployments 2003 – 2008.

Afghanistan & Iraq gallery.

Afghanistan & Iraq gallery.


Disruptive Pattern Desert Uniform (DPDU) shirt worn by Sgt Ricky Morris whilst serving as an engineer in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

The Shrine of Remembrance is located on Birdwood Avenue and St Kilda Road, 1.3km from Flinders Street Railway Station. It can be reached by a nice 10 minute walk or by any St Kilda road south bound tram except route number 1. Disembark at tram stop 19 or the Domain Road interchange. If you are using the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle bus, disembark at Stop 13.

Admission is free and it is open from 10:00 until 17:00 (last entry 16:30) everyday except Good Friday and Christmas Day.  For more information visit the Shrine of Remembrance website here.


Tirailleurs Tonkinois (Lintap) circa 1885.

No.16 Tirailleurs Tonkinois (Lintap) circa 1885
This photograph, showing indigenous Indochinese infantrymen is number 16 in a series that was taken by one Dr Hocquard who was a medical officer stationed in French Indochina in the late 19th century. It was first published in Paris in 1886 as part of a series of works in “Le Tonkin, Vues Photographiques Prises Par Mr le Dr Hocquard, Médecin-Major” which was edited by Henri Cremnitz.

It is a Woodburytype (French: Photoglyptie) print which is a photo-mechanical process developed by Walter B. Woodbury in 1864. The process produces continuous tone images in slight relief. A chromated gelatin film is exposed under a photographic negative, which hardens in proportion to the amount of light. This is then developed in hot water to soften and remove all the unexposed gelatin, then dried. The remaining relief is pressed into a sheet of lead using a press that exerts 5000 psi resulting in an intaglio plate which is used as a mold and is filled with pigmented gelatin. The gelatin layer is then pressed onto a paper support.

The series of images that comprise “Le Tonkin, Vues Photographiques Prises Par Mr le Dr Hocquard, Médecin-Major” is held by the French national military museum, the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.


Lest We Forget. Sgt Matthew ‘Locky’ Locke MG, SASR KIA Afghanistan 25 Oct 2007

Sgt Matthew ‘Locky’ Locke MG, Australian Special Air Service Regiment. Killed in Action whilst on patrol as part of Operation Spin Gear in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan 25 October 2007.  Lest We Forget.

Matthew Locke MG SASR KIA 25 oct 2007-1

Sergeant Matthew Locke enlisted into the Australian Regular Army on the 11 June, 1991. After he completed his Recruit Training at Kapooka, he was allocated to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and commenced his Initial Employment Training at Singleton, New South Wales on the 10 September 1991. At the completion of his Initial Employment Training, Matthew was posted to the 5th/7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

Matthew had a flair for Infantry training and whilst at the 5th/7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, he completed Driver Courses, Basic Mortar Course, promotion courses and became a Small Arms Coach.

It was obvious that Matthew wanted to be challenged as a soldier so in November 1997, Matthew successfully completed the Special Air Service Selection Course. Over the next two years, Matthew completed another 15 specialist courses ranging from patrolling, demolitions, diving, parachuting, and medical. Matthew was posted to the 3rd Special Air Service Squadron.
Sergeant Locke was awarded the Medal for Gallantry, the Australian Active Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the United Nations Medal with the United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor Ribbon, the Iraq Clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal, the International Coalition Against Terrorism Clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal, the Infantry Combat Badge and the Returned from Active Service Badge.

During Sergeant Locke’s service in the Australian Army he deployed on the following Operations:
a. OPERATION TANAGER (East Timor) – 2001;
b. OPERATION SLIPPER (Afghanistan) – 2002, 2004, 2006 & 2007; and
c. OPERATION CATALYST (Iraq) – 2004, 2005, 2007.

Medal for Gallantry:
Sergeant Locke was awarded the Medal for Gallantry in December 2006. The medal citation read:

For gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances as the second-in-command of a Special Air Service Regiment patrol in the Special Forces Task Group whilst deployed on Operation Slipper, Afghanistan, in 2006.

During the conduct of an operation, a patrol, with Sergeant Locke as second-in-command, were tasked with establishing an Observation Post in extremely rugged terrain over looking an Anti-Coalition Militia sanctuary. After an arduous 10 hour foot-infiltration up the side of the mountain, the patrol was called into action to support elements of the Combined Task Force Special Forces patrol that were in contact with the Anti-Coalition Militia in the valley floor to their north. After the engagement, Sergeant Locke’s patrol remained in their location and was the only coalition ground element with visibility of the target area.

During the course of the next day the patrol continued to coordinate offensive air support against identified Anti-Coalition Militia positions in order to further disrupt and degrade the enemy’s morale.

During the afternoon, the Observation Post became the focus of the Anti-Coalition Militia who made repeated attempts by day and night to overrun and surround the position. In one such incident the Anti-Coalition Militia attempted to outflank the Observation Post and Sergeant Locke without regard for his own personal safety, led a two-man team to locate and successfully neutralise the Anti-Coalition Militia in order to regain the initiative and protect his patrol from being overrun.

This particular incident was followed by another Anti-Coalition Militia attempt to manoeuvre to attack the patrol Observation Post from another flank. Sergeant Locke, again with little regard for his personal safety, adopted a fire position that was exposed on high ground which dominated the planned Anti-Coalition Militia assault. Whilst deliberately exposing himself to intense rifle and machine gun fire from the Anti-Coalition Militia, he again neutralised the lead assaulting elements whilst suppressing other Militia until the arrival of offensive air support. Whilst still under sustained fire, Sergeant Locke then directed indirect fire to effectively neutralise another Anti-Coalition Militia advance on his patrol’s position. The courageous and gallant actions of Sergeant Locke were instrumental in regaining the initiative from the Anti-Coalition Militia and allowing the successful exfiltration of the patrol on foot prior to first light the next day.

Sergeant Locke’s actions of gallantry whilst under enemy fire in extremely hazardous circumstances, displayed courage of the highest order and is in keeping with the finest traditions of Special Operations Command-Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

The Winged Boot

SAAF cap badge & winged boot award

SAAF cap badge and Winged Boot award

A little while back 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.

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.


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Information for the Vietnam war historian

French troops crossing delta country in outdated US tanks during campaign against Viet Minh. 1950
Photographer: Howard Sochurek for LIFE magazine.

I’ll add this to the links list, but for anybody interested in the conflict in Indochina, the Vietnam War Resource site is probably the best online source for information covering all aspects of the war.


So, what’s this all about?

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with armies and military history. My parents recall that I was marching around the house as soon as I could walk and there was never any problem with finding suitable birthday or Christmas presents… toy soldiers, toy guns or books about anything military related.


Early recognition for my collecting addiction. When I was eleven, I received this award for my collection of military badges

I started collecting militaria whilst still in primary school and this hobby has continued until the present day, although ironically it slowed somewhat during the time that I spent in the Australian Regular Army, when I was more interested in collecting the phone numbers of females of questionable virtue than acquiring the accoutrements associated with my day to day ‘work’.  After a decade of ‘playing soldiers’ full time I decided to go back to being a ‘weekend warrior’, go study and eventually get a ‘real’ job. Still haven’t fount that ‘real’ job yet…I’ve done security, worked as a nightclub bouncer and also in a sex shop. I’ve been a private-investigator, photojournalist, commercial photographer and most recently as lecturer in the media department of a highly respected tertiary institution but still no ‘proper’ job as such.  But getting out of the army did make me go back to collecting with a passion.

combat equipment jump with 2 SAS Sqn and 19 USSF

Circa 1994. In a Herc en-route to the DZ during a combined jump with colleagues from the US 19th SF Group.

From an early age my focus has been on unconventional warfare units, airborne, commandos and Special Forces. Growing up in South Africa during the 70’s I became fascinated by the famed ‘Parabats’, Recces as well as the Selous Scouts and SAS. Around 1977 my parents, who always indulged my whims, took me to a militaria dealer who owned a shop called Don’s Coins & Medals in Tulbagh Square near the Cape Town foreshore. With my saved pocket money I was able to secure my first set of parachutist’s wings, an Israeli master parachutist badge attributed to a Lt Col Dan Shomron of the IDF. About a year or so later, dad brought a copy of Bragg & Turners first book, “Parachute Badges & Insignia of the World” from the library. I loved that book, I made him photocopy every page of the illustrations and I was hooked. My collecting now had a distinct focus.

anzac elite the airborne and special forces insignia of australia and new zealand

ANZAC ELITE: The Airborne & Special Forces Insignia of Australia & New Zealand, which I co-authored with Cliff Lord

Three and a half decades later, collecting parachutist wings and special forces insignia is still my primary interest and I’ve been fortunate enough to earn my own and also serve in some of the units that I collect… Which has proven to be useful, particularly in this internet age where crooks and conmen reproduce and create fantasy insignia on an almost weekly basis in an attempt to make collectors part with their hard earned cash. It kinda helps to have the contacts in the units to verify some of the bullshit claims, but also gives me access to some interesting and unique items for my own collection.


Being ‘attacked’ by a leviathan of the deep whilst wreck diving in Hawaii. 2010

I also travel quite a lot and when I’m on the road I always try to seek out bits & pieces for my own collection as well as visit any places of military interest… battlefields, museums, dealers and flea markets. Which is kind of what this blog is about…my trip reports, insights and rants (not always sober, I warn you) about collecting militaria or things military related. Unless otherwise stated, the content and opinions are my own. I retain the copyright on all my photographs and text, if you would like to use any of the content you see here, please ensure that you contact me before you do so that I can provide the appropriate usage license… otherwise the shit-rain will come down.