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.
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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.

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REFERENCE BOOK: Metal Uniform Embellishments of the Australian Army – Post 53 (‘QE II series’) – Volumes 1 & 2

butler cocoran badge book vol1and2

Metal Uniform Embellishments of the Australian Army – Post 53 (‘QE II series’) volumes 1 & 2 by Mark Corcoran and Arthur Butler

A4 size softcover, ring spiral binding on both books, 312 and 236 pages respectively

Published by CharlieBravoBooks, Brisbane (2017)

ISBN: 9780994199355 and 9780994199348

Arthur Butler and Mark Corcoran’s two volume set catalogue the metal insignia used by the Australian Army from 1953 until the present day. Volume 1 covers all Corps and school insignia and volume 2 deals with specific units and regiments.

Both are well laid out, dealing with manufacturers, notes on evaluating individual specimens as well as full colour photographs that include full size obverse and reverse images as well as close up details of key features when appropriate.

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The insignia are broken down into three distinct ‘generations’, including the: gilt brass and white metal badges used between 1953 to 1964; the anodized aluminium ‘Staybright’ badges that were introduced from 1964; and the more recent ‘Briteshine’ insignia adopted from 1997 onward.

The colour photographs are complimented by detailed text, which includes information regarding distinguishing characteristics, dimensions, weight makers marks and attachment details.

butler cocoran badge book vol2 SOLS

Additional notes such as details of key events that influenced the evolution or use of the insignia are also included, as is a very useful chapter which provides detailed information about the numerous fakes, reproductions and ‘Regi shop’ private purchase items.

butler cocoran badge book evaluation

Overall, the authors, who are both collectors, have done an outstanding job of researching and presenting a reference with the collector in mind. In addition to the two volumes, their website provides additional information, such as video links outlining casting techniques used in the manufacture of badges and discussion about specific insignia.

I suggest that you bookmark their page and if you are an Australian or British Commonwealth insignia collector, these two books are an absolute must for your reference library.

 

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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Australian ANZAC Day Iraq 2016 patch

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Close up of 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. This year’s Anzac day marks 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.

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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) 

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.

Personnel from Australia and New Zealand based at the Taji Military Complex in Iraq are part of the broader international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission training members of the Iraqi security forces. The training includes 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.

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.

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

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Australian Army soldier Private Andrew Lawrence from Task Group Taji commemorates Anzac Day at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. 25 April 2016.  Picture by Cpl Jake Sims (ADF)

REFERENCE BOOK: NEW ZEALAND ARMY DISTINGUISHING PATCHES 1911-1991. Volumes One and Two by Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord

New Zealand Army Distinguishing Patches 1911-1991

NEW ZEALAND ARMY DISTINGUISHING PATCHES 1911-1991. Volumes One and Two
Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord
ISBN0473032902
Published by: Malcolm Thomas and Cliff Lord, Wellington, 1995.
Softback. 176 + 148 pages respectively.

 
These two invaluable reference books were published in 1995 and are long out of print, but if you can find copies, definitely add them to your reference library. The two volumes present descriptions and photographs of the uniform and insignia of various branches of the Army including Nurses and Women’s Auxiliary service, UN peacekeepers, Pacific Island forces, Home Guard, School cadets etc.

Part One concentrates on the development of the New Zealand Army and shows the various formations and their distinguishing patches. Included are chapters on the military forces of Fiji and Tonga during the Second World War and also wartime auxiliary organisations such as the New Zealand Red Cross.

Part Two shows the badges and insignia that were worn by the New Zealand Army at the time of writing (1991) including the different Orders of Dress, unit distinctions and insignia of the New Zealand Cadet Corps.

The Australian Army in action in Vietnam 1966

This is a 25 minute documentary made by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit in 1966 shortly after the Australian Task Force established itself in Phuoc Thuy province and before the anti-war movement took hold. The film shows combined operations with US troops in War Zone D, hearts and minds and general life in-country. Its purpose was to give the public back in Australia an understanding of what the war was like and how the Australian diggers went about their day to day activities. Government propaganda of the time, but worth watching nonetheless.
Directed by John Abbott and made available for public viewing by the National Film And Sound Archive.