Category Archives: Australia

Anzac Day Lapel Pin

On 25th April every year the people of Australia and New Zealand, together with the Cooke Islands, Pitcairn Islands and Tonga commemorate their fallen on Anzac Day. The 25th April 1915 was the day Anzac troops first landed on the Gallipoli peninsular in World War One and a year later it was officially inaugurated as a half day holiday to remember the sacrifices of Anzac troops. From the very start it was designed to be a non-denominational day of remembrance with a two minutes silence in honour of those who would not be returning. This was chosen in preference to prayer as it was open to all of any faith and none.

The Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 30th March 1920 reported:

April 25 is Anzac Day, and is a public holiday by Act of Parliament. It is really a national Australian holiday. A-N-Z-A.C-Australia New .Zealand Army Corp-a name, protected, honored and revered by the English speaking race because of its connection with the greatest military enterprise in the history of the world. Although Australia had previously participated in small wars in Africa, against the Soudanese and the Boers, Gallipoli was really our baptismal under fire. It was here that the wonderful Australian troops astounded the world and earned the respect and admiration of even the Turk. The world dearly loves a fighter and the Anzac stands on a pedestal right out on his own. So far, there has not been any official announcement that Anzac Day is to be honored by any public function in Darwin. It is inconceivable that the day will be allowed to pass without public notice or tribute locally. However, there is still plenty of time, and it is hoped that the patriotic residents of the town (and they are legion, thank God) will be given an opportunity to participate in some suitable function on Anzac Day.

During the 1920s it became established as a day of remembrance on 25th April to be observed across both Australia and New Zealand and money was raised by service chairites by selling commemorative lapel pins. It is one of these we are considering tonight:imageThe pin is simply made and has a design of a large ‘A’ in front of a flaming torch with the words ‘ANZAC DAY’ around the edges:imageLooking at the rear we can see the pin is made of thin stamped metal, with the pin soldered to the rear allowing it to be attached to a jacket lapel or a dress:imageI have been unable to find an exact match to this design of pin, but numerous other variations exist. I suspect it dates from before 1950 and there was perhaps a new design each year to encourage people to buy one annually rather than reusing the same pin every year. It would have been sold in the same way poppies were in the United Kingdom, to show solidarity with those who have lost their lives and to raise money for injured servicemen and their families.


Auscam Cold Weather Vest

In the northern hemisphere we tend to think of Australia as being permanently warm, however there are times when it definitely gets cold. The Australian Army also serves overseas in colder climates so it should not be too surprising that cold weather clothing is available for issue. Tonight we have an example of a padded body warmer or gilet used by the Australian military:imageOfficially this is listed in the military catalogue as ‘Vest, Cold Weather’. This is made in the distinctive ‘Auscam’ camouflage, with the pattern appearing on the front and back of the garment:imageNote the vertical lines of stitching used to hold the interior padding in place. A pair of pockets are fitted to the front of the gilet:imageThe interior is made of a light tan-green nylon fabric, seen here at the arm holes:imageThere is at least one variant of the lining in a much darker shade of green. The gilet has a small standing collar and is secured with a zip up the front of the jacket:imageThis is a genuine Australian issued gilet, complete with a military label with an NSN number and /|\ mark:image

It is interesting that the Australians are still using this ownership mark decades after they split from the UK for procurement of military equipment.  The gilet was manufactured by ‘Walkabout’, a major supplier of clothing to the Australian Army based in Ballarat. The company’s local paper reported on a major contract secured by Walkabout in 2003:

BALLARAT clothing manufacturer Walkabout has landed its biggest contract yet, this week signing an Australian Defence Force deal worth almost $10 million over five years.

The contract will see Walkabout produce a newly-designed laminated wool jacket for the Australian Army that will replace the traditional wool jumper.

Walkabout won the deal ahead of 22 clothing manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand and will produce 35,000 jackets in the first year.

This equates to $3.4 million. The defence force will spend a further $6 million with the company over the following four years.

Walkabout managing director Jack Engwerda said the contract was an enormous boost for the manufacturer and for the local economy.

He said Walkabout would employ 15 extra full-time staff within the next eight weeks as a direct result of the contract, bringing staff numbers to 60.

The factory is also being extended by about 500sqm.

“You feel pretty flattered (to win such a large contract) because of the opportunities you can then give,” Mr Engwerda said.

“It means we are going to inject another $3 million a year into the Ballarat community, provide another 15 people with full-time employment and it guarantees continuity of employment for the people we currently employ.”

The laminate jacket contract has been in the tender process for the past 18 months.

While a number of samples were produced the final choice is a design created jointly by the defence force and Walkabout.

It uses a new fabric developed by the Australian Wool Board which is water resistant, lightweight and burn-proof.

Each jacket is made from a double thickness of the fabric that has been joined together in a process called lamination. They take about 40 minutes to produce and involve input from about 16 employees.

The first batch of jackets is expected to be completed in about eight weeks.

The contract further strengthens Walkabout’s relationship with the defence force that began a decade ago.

About 80 per cent of Walkabout’s work is for the defence force, including sporting apparel, T-shirts, thermal underwear and anti-ballistic vests.

Walkabout also manufactures tracksuits and polo shorts for Victoria Police.

The company began 10 years ago as a manufacturer of T-shirts and simple garments and has advanced to produce the most complex garments available.

As best as I can tell there were five different sizes produced for this particular garment, this one being a medium. This vest would probably have been worn underneath other clothing as an extra layer, however the camouflage means it can be worn over other clothing without making the wearer any more visible.

Australian Mess Tins

In the past we have looked at the post war aluminium mess tins of both the UK and Canada, despite detail differences these designs are very similar and both nations used a deep pan, with a wire handle that folded over the top. Australia however went for a very different design to their post-war mess tins and tonight we have the opportunity to look at a pair of these: imageThese mess tins are pretty hard to find on this side of the world, as indeed is any Australian Army kit, so I was very pleased to be able to add a set to my collection. There are two very notable changes between these tins and the ones we are more familiar with. Firstly the handles are made up of two parts that wrap around the sides of the pan rather than over the top. Secondly the pans themselves are much shallower, being barely more than an inch deep: imageThe two mess tins stack inside each other in the usual way to take up less space: imageThis pair date from February 1972, and the panel on the end has the /|\ mark and the Australian version of an NSN number: imageAustralia is not part of NATO, but uses the same coding system and has been allocated the county code of ‘66’. This particular pair of mess tins have clearly seen service and the name of a previous owner has been scratched into the base of one of the tins: imageThe merits of the Australian mess tin, besides it being lighter due to its smaller size, are that the twin handles make it much easier to pour hot liquids from the mess tin into a cup for instance without the risk of the handle ‘flopping’ and spilling the contents all over you hand. The smaller capacity also makes it quicker to heat up food and water in the tin- the downside is the smaller capacity which means you cannot get as much in them.

Australian F1 SMG Magazine Pouch

In 1963 Australia introduced a new sub machine gun to replace its venerable Owen gun. Like the Owen gun before it this new sub machine gun, known as the F1, had a top mounted magazine, but this time it used the same slightly curved magazines as the British Sterling. To go with these magazines, Australia introduced a new piece of webbing- a pouch with four pockets to hold four separate magazines on the soldier’s belt:imageEach pocket had a metal staple and webbing tab quick release fastener:imageThese opened up to put each magazine into a separate compartment:imageHaving separate top flaps meant that the soldier only had to open one at a time, reducing the risk of him forgetting to fasten the flap correctly and all the magazines dropping out. As is now standard with pouches, metal eyelets are fitted to the base of each pocket to allow water to drain away:imageOn the back a pair of cotton webbing loops are sewn to provide a pair of belt loops to secure the pouch onto the belt:imageThe inside of the pouch has ink stamped details with a manufacturer’s name, date of 1972 and an NSN number:imageAlthough this set of pouches did see some service with the Australians in Vietnam, they were never popular as a standard ammunition pouch could hold six magazines and took up a lot less room on the belt of a standard web set. Most of these pouches are found, like this one, in mint condition and see to have been unissued. As any Australian webbing is hard to find in the UK I have been very pleased to add this to my very small collection of post war Antipodean equipment.

WW1 Australian Officer Postcard

If any single event can be said to have helped forge the Australian nation it was the First World War. From its experiences at Gallipoli to the Western Front, the ANZACs helped create a unique identity for the country and a sense that to be Australian was different to being English. The Australian military forces grew rapidly and officers were drawn increasingly from members of the fledgling nation rather than using the British. Tonight we have a delightful photograph, that turned up on the market a month or so back, that depicts an Australian Army officer and his wife:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001Sadly someone has coated the photograph with varnish at some point which has resulted in the unfortunate brown shade of the print now. On a happier note though we have the name of the officer recorded on the rear in pencil. He is a Mr A W Marler of Penrith, New South Wales. He is dressed in the standard officer’s service dress of the time:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-7With the shirt and tie expected of his position:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-4He wears a brown leather Sam Brown belt:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-5And his rank of lieutenant is clearly visible from the two ‘pips’ on his shoulders:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-3His cap has the large ‘rising sun’ cap badge of the Australian military:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copyThe same badge is repeated in smaller sizes on his collar dogs:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-2I think this photograph was probably taken towards the end of the war as not only is his rank on his shoulders rather than his sleeves, but his wife is wearing a less formal dress associated with the later period than the more formal Edwardian clothes more often seen at the start of the Great War:skmbt_c36416092011340_0001-copy-6I have tried to find out some more information on Lieutenant Marler, but so far I have drawn a blank. If any readers can help fill in details of his life and service please get in contact as it would be nice to add a little detail to the picture. Australian Officers had a reputation for being far more relaxed with their men than their British counterparts, as related in this anecdote:

London 1918. An English Major, red in the face with anger approaches an Aussie Major in the street. “I say” he asks “are those chaps over there yours?” The Australian has a look and replies “Yair, looks like it”. “Well” says the Pom “they just called me a silly old bastard. What are you going to do about it?” Well, you’re not are you?” asks Aus. “Of course not” fumes the Pride of England. “Well, run over there and tell ’em that they’re bloody liars” answered the Digger officer.

Royal Australian Navy Auscam Shirt

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Australian military undertook a number of tests to find a new camouflage pattern that would suit troops operating in mainland Australia. The resultant pattern used five colours, with blotches of orange-brown, mid-brown, leaf-green and very dark-green overlaid on a greenish sand background. The splotches were in a distinctive shape, known colloquially as ‘hearts and bunnies’ and the camouflage pattern, officially designated ‘Disruptive Pattern Camouflage’ has become known as ‘Auscam’. I must confess that this has to be one of my favourite camouflage patterns so I was very pleased to be able to add an issue shirt to the collection:imageThe shirt is secured up the front by a set of buttons hidden beneath a fly:imageTwo angled breast pockets are fitted, one on each side of the chest:imageThese are again secured by a pair of hidden buttons:imageThe slanted pockets replaced an earlier design of this uniform that had straight pockets and was produced for a short period after the introduction of the camouflage pattern. A third pocket for pencils is sewn to the sleeve:imageShoulder straps are fitted:imageThese came with a lovely pair of Royal Australian Navy rank slides for an Able Seaman:imageInterestingly this particular rank design is one that is home-grown in the country, rather than being adopted form the British military like the other ranks insignia in the RAN.

Each cuff of the jacket has a tab and three buttons allowing the sleeve to be tightened to suit different conditions and preferences:imageThe inside of the jacket has a worn manufacturer’s label indicating that the garment was made in Victoria in 1994:imageThese uniforms could be seen in use by all arms of the Australian military when in ground based roles, but was obviously most commonly worn by the army:800px-DPM-DPC

Australian Military Pass

Quite how an Australian military ID card turned up in West Yorkshire is something of a mystery, but tonight’s object did. This pass is made of buff card and was issued sometime after April 1968 when this batch of cards was reprinted:SKMBT_C36416080415191_0001 - CopySadly the officer who filled this out has appalling handwriting, so beyond knowing it was issued to 1202801 Recruit Jackson it is hard to make out much detail. A stamp detailing out of bounds areas is visible at the top of the card. The inside of the card has space to record a soldier’s leave and the instructions printed on the left indicate that he served on a base in Wagga Australia:SKMBT_C36416080415190_0001There are two major bases in the area one RAAF and an Army base Blamey Barracks at the Kapooka Military Area. The site that was to become ARTC was established on a property on the southern slopes of the Pomingalarna Reserve in 1942 as a direct result of defence needs during World War II. As a part of the Royal Australian Engineers Centre thousands of engineers were trained in basic soldiering skills as well as engineering duties. In addition 47,000 regular soldiers also trained at the barracks from 1942 to 1945. The location was also the camp for members of the Australian Women’s Army Service who acted as orderlies, drivers and hospital staff during that period of time.

Following the Second World War the barracks became the 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1RTB) which was established in November 1951 with Lieutenant Colonel V.E. Dowdy appointed as the first Commanding Officer. During 1952 and 1953, 1RTB was joined by 2nd Recruit Training Battalion in temporary buildings on the ridge south of the main camp.

The RAAF also had a base in the area and the following histroy of RAAF Base Wagga comes from the Australian Air Force’s website:

RAAF Base Wagga has been an integral part of the local Wagga Wagga community since 1940. RAAF Wagga delivers technical and non-technical initial employment and postgraduate training that is fundamental to the delivery of military air and space power in support of national objectives.

RAAF Wagga supports two key headquarters of Wings from Air Force Training Group; RAAF College and Ground Training Wing; along with four major training units; No 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU), School of Postgraduate Studies (SPS), RAAF School of Technical Training (RAAFSTT), and the RAAF School of Administration and Logistics Training (RAAFSALT).

Combat Support Group units also provide support to the base. No 31 Squadron is responsible for the military coordination of RAAF Base Wagga and provides combat support to operations and training activities for Australian Defence Force units operating from RAAF Base Wagga. Wagga Health Centre along with No 1 Expeditionary Health Squadron detachment provide high quality health services to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, as well as providing emergency response and first aid to the civil and defence community of the Riverina region if required. Their primary role is to support training and direct health support to the four major training units on RAAF Wagga.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s RAAF Base Wagga, in NSW’s Riverina region, is referred to as the ‘Home of the Airman’ due to the presence of Air Force recruit and trade training schools.

Returning to the leave card, we can see further space on the rear for more leave requests:SKMBT_C36416080415191_0001The soldier who was issued this card would have kept it on his person at all times in case he needed to present it to those in authority and it was used to allow him access to and from the military base.