Last week, in Part 1 of my review of the Army Museum of Western Australia, I showed some of the exhibits from the Tradtions, Pre-1914, World War One, Prisoner of War and World War 2 Galleries. This second part focuses on the Post 1945 Galleries and the Guns & Vehicles section which includes the larger exhibits not displayed in the main exhibition building.
Click on the photographs to enlarge the images and read the caption information which provides more detail about what is shown in the photographs.
The POST-1945 gallery examines the Army’s involvement from the Occupation of Japan, through the Korean, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam conflicts up to contemporary operations in the Middle East. Also included are exhibits related to the various humanitarian and United Nations deployments as well as uniforms from the locally based Citizen Military Force (reservist) units.
Australian Army Sergeant in the 65th Infantry Battalion serving with the BCOF forces in Japan c1947. Photo: Julian Tennant
Babysan was a comic created by American artist Bill Hume while he was stationed in Japan in the 1950s. The comic depicts American sailors interacting with a pin-up style Japanese woman named Babysan. The title comes from the word “baby” an affectionate term Americans use and “san” which is an honorary term used by the Japanese. It translates literally to Miss Baby. The comic became incredibly popular with United States service members in Japan by mixing good humor with culture, language, and sex. Photo: Julian Tennant
British Commonwealth Occupation Force shoulder patches worn by Australian troops during the occupation of Japan. Photo: Julian Tennant
Korea c1952. Australian soldier wearing the distinctive Rising Sun cap badge on the peak of his US issue cap. Photo: Julian Tennant
Malayan Communist (CT) peak cap. These caps were not standard issue and rarely seen. Photo: Julian Tennant
After covering the occupation of Japan, Korean War and Malayan emergency of the 1950’s the galleries then turn their attention to the army units based in Western Australia.
Australian Special Air Service Regiment soldier in summer dress, circa 1980. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cabinet display featuring the Officer’s Service Dress Winter tunic worn by Major Doug French of the Royal Australian Regiment, 5th Military District presentation plaque and Australian Army insignia. Photo: Julian Tennant
3 Troop, A Squadron, 10 Light Horse Regiment soldier wearing a Tank Suit. Behind him is an original 10th Light Horse recruiting board c1976. Photo: Julian Tennant
Hat Khaki Fur Felt (better known as a “slouch hat”) worn by Major General Ken Taylor AO when Honorary Colonel of the Pilbra Regiment. Photo: Julian Tennant
Insignia detail of St Patricks College Cadet Unit c1965. Photo: Julian Tennant
Army Cadet Corps insignia worn in Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
The galleries then turn their attention to the 1960’s with it’s Vietnam War displays which feature some interesting items related to members of the Perth based Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in Vietnam. SASR, which was first raised as a Company based at the coastal suburb of Swanbourne. The unit first deployed on operations to Borneo prior to its service in Vietnam and this is the one gap that I noticed in the displays. However, I’m not sure if this is an omission on the part of the museum or just me missing something as I tried to take in everything on display.
Zippo lighter given to Sgt. Kim Pember of 2 SAS Squadron (Australian Special Air Service Regiment) after the squadron completed its second tour in Vietnam. Photo: Julian Tennant
Special Air Service Regiment beret belonging to Ian ‘Bagzar’ Stiles who served with 3 SAS Squadron (Australian Special Air Service Regiment) during both of their tours of Vietnam and then went on to serve with the Rhodesian SAS. Note the British made anodised beret badge and distinctive fawn coloured headband which was used on the SASR berets of the period. Photo: Julian Tennant
Vietnam gun pit diorama in the Post 1945 gallery at the Army Museum of Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Vietnam mortar crew diorama in the Post 1945 gallery at the Army Museum of Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
The POST 1945 Gallery then transitions to more recent operations including humanitarian support operations, United Nations deployments and Australia’s commitments to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Australian ‘digger’ wearing the uniform and equipment of the INTERFET deployment to East-Timor, 1999. Photo: Julian Tennant
United Nations Transitional Authority Cambodia (UNTAC) Mine Clearance Training Unit patch and English/Khmer phrase book from the UN deployment to Cambodia in the early 1990s. Photo: Julian Tennant
Items belonging to Major General Ian Gordon whilst commanding the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNSTO) in 2009. Also included is the beret and badge worn whilst he was a Lieutenant Colonel in Commando of UN Operation CEDILLA 1991 in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Special Forces Survival Kit and ‘Most Wanted’ playing/identification cards from the invasion of Iraq 2003. Photo: Julian Tennant
Military Police sergeant in Iraq. Photo: Julian Tennant
The final section is referred to as GUNS AND VEHICLES and is spread around the main parade-ground plus the other covered locations external to the main building. The exhibits featured in this section range from heavy mortar’s and artillery pieces to armoured cars, tanks and other vehicles. Of particular interest in this section is the Australian Special Forces Amphibian Mk3 Commando Kayak which replaced the German made Klepper Aerius II in 1988. I was also surprised to see one of the Mercedes Unimogs that had been converted by SASR as a support vehicle for use in Afghanistan and I suspect that this may be the only one in a public collection in Australia.
2 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun manufactured by the GMH factory at Woodville in South Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Leopard AS1 Main Battle Tank at the Army Museum of Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Tanks and AFV’s at the front of the main building of the Army Museum of Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
25 pounder gun and Centurion tank in the background at the Army Museum of Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
25 pounder casket carriage used for formal state funerals. Photo: Julian Tennant
M113A1 MRV (Medium Reconnaissance Vehicle) which coupled the turret from the Scorpion FV101 light tank with the M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carrier for use as a fire support vehicle for Cavalry units. Between 1979 and 1996 a total of 45 M113A1 MRVs served in the Australian Army. Photo: Julian Tennant
This is a well laid out and interesting museum, with clear descriptions of the exhibits, supported by a staff of volunteers including many ex-servicemen who are happy to chat to visitors. Being largely volunteer run, the opening hours are a little restricted, being from 10:30 until 15:00 (last entries 13:00) from Wednesday to Sunday. There is no on-site parking for visitors, but it is not too difficult to find parking in the surrounding streets. If you’re relying on public transport, several buses leaving from the Fremantle train station pass close by or it’s an easy 20-minute walk from the station. An important point for visitors to note is that all adult visitors must be able to show appropriate photo identification (passport, drivers’ licence etc) prior to entry.
The Army Museum of Western Australia
Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160
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Located a short walk from Buckingham Palace, The Guards Museum contains information and artifacts relating to the five regiments of Foot Guards namely the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards.
Officers beret of the Guards Independent Parachute Company.
Guards Independent Parachute Company.
Uniforms and other artifacts related to the foot guards regiments during their deployments in the latter half of the 20th century.
Guards desert disruptive pattern uniform worn during deployments to the Middle East.
Tactical Recognition Flashes of the Brigade of Guards.
Ferret Scout car used by the Guards Independent Parachute Company.
This is a great little museum full of uniforms, medals, insignia and booty from their origins right through to current operational deployments. As a collector with an interest in airborne and special forces insignia, I was particularly impressed by the number of items related to G Squadron of 22SAS Regiment and the Guards Independent Parachute Company including a Burnous cloak worn by a guardsmen serving with the SAS during the first Gulf War. The exhibits are well laid out with good descriptions, but photographs are usually not permitted. If you would like to do a personalised ‘walk and talk’ with one of the staff, you can do so for an extra £10 per person on top of the current £8 entry fee (discounted for pensioners, students, serving and ex-military personnel).
Brown Burnous and green Shemag worn by a member of G (Guards) Squadron 22 SAS Regiment during the Gulf War in 1991.
No. 2 Dress tunic of Field Marshal The Lord Guthrie of Graggy Bank. Note the ERII cypher indicating the Field Marshal is an ADC to the Queen and the SAS ‘moth’ para wings on the upper right arm. Photo: Julian Tennant
Co-located just outside the museum, near the Birdcage Walk gate is the Guards shop known as The Guards Toy Soldier Centre, which is managed by MKL Models and features a range of toy soldiers from manufacturers such as William Britain plus Brigade of Guards related souvenirs such as mugs, blazer badges, spoons etc. The model figures are displayed in a range of dioramas as well the usual display cabinets and even just a trip to the shop is worthwhile in itself.
Extremely rare Coldstream Guards Other Ranks Shako worn only from 1829 until 1831 when the bearskin cap was first introduced to the Regiment.
Jacket worn by Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington KG, two days before the Battle of Waterloo.
The Guards Museum Wellington Barracks. Photo: Julian Tennant
Entrance to The Guards Museum.
Co-located just outside the museum is The Guards Toy Soldier Centre which serves as a museum shop as well as selling an impressive range of model and toy soldiers.
The Guards Museum Wellington Barracks Birdcage Walk London SW1E 6HQ United Kingdom
Australia’s special forces trace their history back to World War 2, with the operations conducted by the Independent Commando companies, Navy Beach Commando, the Services Reconnaissance Department SRD (Z Special Unit) and the Allied Intelligence Bureau (M Special Unit). Post war, the skills and traditions were maintained by the commando companies which later evolved into 1 Commando Regiment and then in 1957 by the raising of a Special Air Service Company which became the Special Air Service Regiment in 1964. 2 Commando Regiment evolved out of the re-tasking of the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, to take on the commando role becoming 4 RAR (Cdo) in 1997 and then 2 Commando Regiment in 2009.
Command and control for Australian special operations units was initially maintained by the Directorate Special Action Forces – Army (DSAF) which was formed in 1979 and underwent several changes, becoming Headquarters Special Forces (1990), Headquarters Special Operations (1997) and in 2003 Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Commanded by a Major General, SOCOM also brings other special operations support units under its control, namely the Special Operations Logistic Squadron (SOLS), Special Operations Engineer Regiment (SOER), Special Operations Training and Education Centre (SOTEC) and Parachute Training School (PTS).
In keeping with the requirements of special forces operations, the activities of many of Australia’s special operations units have, largely, been kept out of the public domain despite a gruelling tempo of operational commitments that has barely let up since the INTERFET deployment to East Timor in 1999. Public interest in the units has grown markedly and this temporary exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra provides a rare insight into the activities of the Australian special forces in recent years.
Developed in partnership with SOCOM, this exhibition features items held behind closed doors in the Special Air Service Historical Collection, Commando Regiment collection and other sources as well as some artifacts from the AWM’s collections. The displays provide some historical insights into the development of the units along with uniforms, equipment and artifacts related to its various roles, tasks and operations with an emphasis recent operational deployments.
It had been several years since I was last able to visit the AWM, so I recently took advantage of an opportunity to visit Canberra and spend a few solid days checking out this exhibition and the other displays. As previously mentioned, From the Shadows draws on objects held in the unit collections and not available for public viewing. There are over 600 artifacts on display and I was surprised to find that many of the SF related items that are held in the AWM collection such as SAS trooper Don Barnby’s uniform from Vietnam or objects relating to Z Special Unit’s operations against the Japanese, remained in their respective exhibition areas which further helps to contextualise these units roles in the conflicts represented.
The photos that I have included here are just a taste of what is on offer in the From the Shadows exhibition and I’ll leave my other photos from the AWM collection for another post. From the Shadows runs until the 8th of September 2018. If you can make the trip to Canberra to check it out, I strongly recommend that you do, it is an excellent exhibition. More details about the exhibition can be found at the Australian War Memorial website. The ABC also did a piece about it when the exhibition first opened in 2017 and it is worth taking a look at. You can find a link to their article here.
‘From the Shadows: Australia’s Special Forces – The Operators’ video that was featured in the gallery during the exhibition
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
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.
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.
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’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.
These Australian SAS parachutist wings are amongst the most prized in my collection for a couple of reasons. Apart from their scarcity, they were given to me by Andy Russell who was serving in the SAS at the time and on 16 February 2002 unfortunately became the first Australian to be killed in Afghanistan, when the LRPV vehicle he was travelling in struck a mine. He left behind his wife Kylie and Leisa, his two-week-old daughter whom he had never met. Lest we forget!
Andy gave me the wings in late 1998 not long after he returned from a deployment to Kuwait as part of a US led coalition known as Operation DESERT THUNDER. Contrary to popular myth, this was the first operational deployment by an Australian Special Air Service Regiment unit to the region. No Australian SAS troops had taken part in the first Gulf War although some of the Navy clearance divers of CDT4 who conducted important operations in and around the coast of Kuwait during that conflict had served as sailors in the water operations element of the SAS counter terrorist squadron prior to 1994. In the aftermath of the war, the United Nations sent UN Special Commission inspection teams to Iraq to monitor their weapons program and check for evidence of WMD’s. Two SAS signallers from 152 Signal Squadron, corporal’s Mal V. and Mark S. formed part of one of these teams in 1993 but that was the extent of the Australian SAS involvement with Iraq and the region up until that point.
Then, in late 1997 Iraq began to deny entry to these teams and in response, a coalition led by the USA formed with the initial intention of mounting air strikes to enforce compliance. In February 1998, the Australian Government announced that it had responded to a request from the USA to participate in the coalition. Part of that response included elements of 1 SAS Squadron (A and B troops along with their integrated 1 Sig troop from 152). The squadron was bolstered by the attachment of a troop from the NZ SAS, which formed D troop. This ANZAC SAS force set up camp at a large Kuwaiti air base known as Ali Al Salem.
The squadron’s roll was primarily to undertake combat search and rescue missions (CSAR) into Iraq to rescue downed aircrew and other coalition personnel. A secondary mission was to undertake tactical surveillance and response operations on the Kuwait- Iraq border and a third role was to provide a quick response force (QRF) capability to respond to small scale Iraqi raids. Familiarisation and preparatory training began immediately but two weeks after arriving, the UN struck a deal with Saddam Hussein and the planned air strikes were put on hold. The operation was renamed Operation DESERT SPRING and preparations continued until May when the squadron was reduced to a troop and then returned to Australia in early June.
At the time, Andy Russell was serving in A troop, which was 1 Squadron’s air operations / freefall troop. Whilst deployed to Kuwait, the troop had 20 sets of these ‘desertised’ SAS wings made up by a US army tailor. The wings were never meant to be worn, nor would they ever be permitted to do so. They were sold/distributed within the troop as a memento of the deployment and like many of the sub unit patches so often seen, inject cash into the troop ‘goffa fund’ which was used to buy soft drinks, beer etc for troop functions.
With only twenty examples made, it is definitely one of the rarest Australian SAS badges, but for me, they are even more special having come from a friend who was doing what he loved best, but taken before his time.