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.

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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.

s-l1600-1

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.

 

Australian Army Dress Manual: Chapter 4 – Badges & Emblems

Army Dress manual chapt_4_badges_and_emblems

Sample page from the Army Dress Manual: Chapter 4 – Badges & Emblems.

 

The Australian Army Dress Manual is available as a pdf download, online from the Army website. Chapter 4 – Badges & Emblems details the insignia worn by members of the army along with instructions for placement and regulations re use. You can access a copy of the dress manual from the hyperlink above or follow the link below.

https://www.army.gov.au/sites/g/files/net1846/f/army_dress_manual_201712_chapt_4_badges_and_emblems.pdf

Congo Mercenary 10 Commando patch

Congo Mercenary 10 Commando (Commando Kansimba) patch type 2

Congo Mercenary 10 Commando (Commando Kansimba) patch type 2 (Julian Tennant collection)

This is a recent addition to my collection. It is an original shoulder patch used by the mercenaries of 10 Commando who were under the command of Colonel Jean Schramme in the 1960’s. This version is known as the 2nd pattern of the patch and is distinguished from the earlier type by only having the outline of Lake Tanganyika in blue, whilst the first version had the entire lake in blue silk. Both of the original patches were made using the precise, machine embroidered, silk-bevo style of construction as seen in this example.  Collectors should note that there are numerous fakes of this badge, many of which originate from the same fakers who make all the ARVN and US Vietnam war patches that can be found on ebay and at the War Surplus market at Dan Sinh. If you are interested in the mercenary insignia used in the Congo during the 1960’s, I would recommend that you try to find a copy of the late Gerard Lagaune’s excellent privately published reference, Histoire et insignes des parachutistes et des commandos de Pays des Grand Lacs.

Histoire et insignes des parachutistes et des commandos de Pays

Histoire et insignes des parachutistes et des commandos de Pays des Grand Lacs by the late Gerard Lagaune. The text is in French and it is privately published so it may be difficult to find now that he has passed away, but it is an excellent reference detailing the parachutist and commando insignia from thHe countries surrounding the ‘great lake’ Tanganyika in Africa. Included are full colour photographs of the various mercenary unit insignia worn in the Congo during the 1960’s.

10 Commando formed part of the 5th Mechanised Brigade, which was raised on the 1st of November 1964. The brigade was controlled by approximately 60 Belgian officers and had around 350 mercenaries of various nationalities under its command.  Number 10 Commando was led by Belgian mercenary, Jean Schramme. “Black Jack” Schramme was a teenager when he went to the Congo to run the family plantation, located to the north-east of Stanleyville and it should be noted that despite often being seen wearing the beret of the 2nd Belgian Commando Battalion (and contrary to some of the information he presented in his biography), there is no evidence that he had ever qualified as a commando or served in the Belgian Commando Battalion prior to his mercenary activities.

In the troubles that followed independence in 1961, Schramme fled to Uganda and then moved to Katanga where he took part in the fighting, forming a group recruited from local tribes near the Kansimba region which he referred to as the “Leopard Group”.  After that period of fighting ended in 1963 he moved across the border into Angola before returning in 1964 with his now named 10 Commando which operated out of Fizi-Baraka to the East of the province of Maniema and not too far from a plantation that he had once controlled.

Jean Schramme's somewhat embellished biography, "Le Bataillon Le

Jean Schramme’s biography, “Le Bataillon Leopard”. On the cover he is shown wearing the beret of the Belgian 2nd Commando Battalion and 10 Commando patch on his shoulder. The first pattern machine made silk-bevo patch with the full blue Lake Tanganyika is also shown, albeit in B&W.

In 1967, 10 Commando was part of the revolt against the government of Colonel Mobuto Sese Seko who had become president two years previously. In early August, Schramme’s 10 Commando captured the border town of Bukavu, holding it for 7 weeks despite repeated attempts by the government ANC forces to recapture the town. On October 29, 1967 the ANC forces finally recaptured Bukavu and the soldiers of 10 Commando fled towards Rwanda crossing the border on the 13th of November 1967, where they were disarmed, ending the existence of this colourful mercenary unit.

REFERENCE BOOK: US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Present by Gary Perkowski

US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Pre

US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Present by Gary Perkowski

Hardcover Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″
416 pages featuring 4,144 color and b/w photos
ISBN13: 9780764352553
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Released in May 2017, Gary Perkowski latest book, US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Present, covers the history, training, and operations of United States Army Special Forces, including new, previously  unpublished photos and information regarding the insignia that were designed and worn by the men of the United States Army Special Forces.

The book is extremely detailed with concise information about the lineage, development, structure and training of the USSF before going into chapters on each specific Special Forces Groups (SFG). The SFG’s are further broken down and include extensive photographs featuring insignia, plaques, challenge coins, training/appreciation certificates, and other documents as well as photographs of the teams and men wearing the insignia.

The author, Gary Perkowski has been a militaria collector and historian for thirty years. The past twenty years has been spent researching United States Army Special Forces and this is his second book on the subject of United States Army Special Forces insignia.

US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Present builds upon his earlier collaboration along with Harry Pugh and the late Len Whistler, U.S. Special Forces Group Insignia (Post 1975) which was published in 2004 and also the other important references covering USSF insignia, notably Ian Sutherland’s Special Forces of the United States Army, 1952-1982  and Harry Pugh’s 1993 book, US Special Forces Shoulder and Pocket Insignia (Elite Insignia Guide 3).

US Army Special Forces Team History and Insignia 1975 to the Pre

 

REFERENCE BOOK: Commandos et Forces Suppletives Indochine 1945 – 1954 by Jacques Sicard

COMMANDOS ET FORCES SUPPLETIVES INDOCHINE 1945-1954

Commandos et Forces Suppletives Indochine 1945 – 1954 by Jacques Sicard with assistance from M. Duflot and F. Pitel.

Softcover: 54 pages.
Published by Symboles & Traditions (Paris)
ISBN: None

COMMANDOS ET FORCES SUPPLETIVES INDOCHINE 1945-1954

Commandos et Forces Suppletives Indochine 1945 – 1954 is one of the excellent series of insignia reference books published by the French Symboles & Traditions Association based in Paris.

This volume covers the insignia used by French commando units as well as the locally raised Indochinese commando and auxiliary partisan/irregular forces. The 54 pages includes 30 full colour plates featuring the unit badges along with brief descriptions outlining a brief historical overview of the unit and specific information relating to their insignia including manufacturers and variations. Like the other S&T books the text is in French but that should not dissuade any collector of Vietnam and French Indochina period special operations insignia from adding this valuable reference to their bookshelf.

COMMANDOS ET FORCES SUPPLETIVES INDOCHINE 1945-1954

REFERENCE BOOK: Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923-1989 by Philippe Bartlett

Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923-1989 by Philippe Bartle

Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923-1989 by Philippe Bartlett

Hardcover: 63 pages
Publisher: P. Bartlett; 1st edition (1989)
Language: English & French
ISBN 2-950 4247

Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923-1989 by Philippe Bartle

Published in 1989, Philippe Bartlett’s Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923 -1989  is a useful reference for collectors of French insignia. It lists 429 badges, in full color along with information about manufacturer and an estimate of rarity. It also provides some information on how to date French badges by their makers marks which is particularly useful as many of the badges continued to be used for many years whilst others were re-struck later by the manufacturers for veterans groups and the like.

Badges of the French Foreign Legion 1923-1989 by Philippe Bartle

The book was released shortly before Tibor Szecsko’s monumental work on the same topic, Le grand livre des insignes de la Légion Étrangère but whilst Szecsko’s book has more historical information about the various insignia, for non-French speakers such as myself, the Bartlett book’s descriptive text which is in both French and English is a distinct advantage and makes it an invaluable reference in the library sitting comfortably alongside the Szecsko and Colonel Duronsoy’s books on the subject.