|The earliest instance of the wearing of a distinctive mark signifying service on Gallipoli is credited by Dr
C.E.W. Bean to personnel of the 2nd Australian Division. He records that the first known suggestion of the letter 'A' was made by Brigadier-General J. Gellibrand, commanding the 7th Aust. Infantry Brigade, to Lieutenant-General A.J. Godley, GOC 11 ANZAC Corps, in early
1916.(Bean Volume VI p5)
General Birdwood, when approached on the matter, was unwilling to provide any official direction in regard to such a distinction, however he advised on 19.8.1916 that there was no objection to regimental arrangements being made for those who had landed on the Peninsular in April 1915, had taken part in the fighting in early August, or were present at the evacuation, providing that all eligible personnel of the unit wore an identical
mark. (AWM 25, item 89/15)
The question of just what constituted eligibility proved difficult to define in the absence of any official ruling on the subject, and it is evident that even some senior officers who were wearing it prior to mid 1917 had little knowledge of the circumstances of its approval.
The idea was wholeheartedly embraced by the GOC 3rd Aust. Division,
Major General J. Monash, who after consultation with his unit commanders, some of whom were opposed to the granting of a special distinction, directed on 25.8.1916 that a copper oxidised
'A', 3/4 inch in height, would be worn on the colour patch by all eligible personnel in the division.
No information relating to the granting of this distinction was communicated to Australia, and its appearance on the shoulders of returned officers and men in early 1917 created some confusion. In reply to queries from various military district headquarters as to whether its wear had been approved for Home Service or not, AHQ was forced to advise that it had not been authorised in Australia, prompting HQ 3rd Military District to direct that the practice was to
cease. (AIF 3rd Military District Routine Orders, No. 26, Para. 6, 21.3.1917. AA(Vic): MP 742/1, item 87/1/37.)
Its use continued for the time being in other districts, while AHQ made urgent enquiries with AIF Administrative Headquarters for the authority and conditions of wear. On 16th May 1917 HQ AIF advised that General Birdwood had granted permission for divisional commanders to authorise the wearing of the distinction by personnel who had taken part on the Gallipoli Peninsular in either the landing or operations during April 1915, during early August 1915, or the
evacuation. ( Cablegram dated 16.5.1917 from the Commandant, AIF Headquarters, London. AA(Vic): MP 742/1, item 87/1/37.)
There was opposition from the Military Board to the wearing of any such distinction, the Adjutant-General maintaining that the privilege was open to abuse, and that equally gallant service had been displayed by Australian troops in France, for which no distinction had been awarded. The Quartermaster-General held similar views, which it might be added were also held by senior officers actually serving abroad with the AIF, however he felt that the withdrawal of the distinction from those already wearing it would engender considerable bitterness, and recommended that it continue to be worn for the time being. The fact that 3rd Military District had directed the wearing of this badge to cease did in fact lead to several misleading statements being made in a leading newspaper of the day to the effect that it had been prohibited throughout Australia. The Military Board proposed that all personnel who
served at Gallipoli be eligible for this badge, and following concurrence by General Birdwood, an amendment to Orders for AIF, Para. 61, published as Military Order No. 354 of 18.8.1917, and later as AIF Order No. 937 of 6.11.1917, established eligibility for wear, stating;
- "Members of the Australian Imperial Force who served on Gallipoli will be entitled to wear over their unit Colour Patches on both sleeves of the Service Dress Jacket and Greatcoat, the letter 'A' as an indication that the wearer had taken part in the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsular."
In January 1918, HQ AIF sought to extend the classification of eligibility to include members of units serving on transports and hospital ships off Gallipoli, and on the various islands off the coast of Turkey which were being used as part of the base for the Dardenelles campaign. The Military Board agreed, but believed in that case that eligibility should also be extended to personnel of line of communication units in Egypt, including the hospital staffs, for their service. Despite the opposition of the CGS, approval for further extension in the classification of eligible personnel resulted in another amendment to Orders for AIF, published as Military Order No. 20, 19.1.1918, which stated;
- "Members of the Australian Imperial Force who served on Gallipoli or the Islands of Lemnos, Imbros or Tenedos, or who have served on transports or hospital ships at or off Gallipoli or the Islands above named or in AIF lines of communication units in Egypt, will be entitled to wear over their unit Colour Patches, on both sleeves of their Service Dress Jacket or Greatcoat, the letter 'A' as an indication that the wearer had taken part in the Gallipoli operations."
Due to an error in decoding of the cable notifying HQ AIF of the Military Board decision in relation to the extension of eligibility, "..in Egypt" was corrupted to read "...from Egypt", and as such appeared as AIF Order No. 1084, dated 25.1.1918. Despite an instruction by AHQ in April 1918 to amend AIF Order 1084, General Birdwood was successful in gaining permission to allow it to stand as promulgated while the classification of line of communication units was defined. It was in fact never amended, thus for the remainder of the war two separate instructions stood, one of which restricted its wear to personnel serving outside Egypt in relation to the Gallipoli campaign, while another extended its use to almost every L of C unit serving in Egypt at the time with the exception of remount units. There is little wonder that an attempt was made to allow this distinction to die a natural death in the postwar period.
The letter 'A' was initially supplied at public expense vide AIFO 937. Its size was approved as I inch high by AIF Order No. 994, 30.11.1917, then was modified by AIF Order No. 1012 of 11.12.1917 to state that it was to be 3/4 inch high, and of brass. In practice examples range in size from 1/2 inch to I inch and appear in a variety of materials other than brass. Curiously the official history makes no reference to brass, referring instead to "...an 'A' embroidered in gold
(Bean, Volume VI, p.5.) a point also made in the history of the 5th
Battalion. ( Esprit de Corps: The History of the Victorian Scottish Regiment and the 5th Infantry Battalion, Speed (ed.), p.90
" ..... and those men who had served on Gallipoli had a golden 'A' for Anzac
embroidered on their shoulder patches.")
It is believed that the 'A' embroidered in gold bullion wire was the result of private purchase,
either by individuals or on a unit basis. Examples in gold silk thread and hand woven brass
wire also exist however brass letters are the most common of the examples noted to date.
No subsequent reference to this emblem appears in Standing Orders for Dress, Part 111, 1922 although it continued to be worn by both serving and reserve personnel who were entitled to it. The first surviving query in relation to it was by HQ
11 th (Mixed) Brigade in June 1923, to which the Military Board advised that it was desired that wearing of the brass letter 'A' be
discontinued. (MB Memo No. 18361, 17.7.1923. AA(Vic): MP 742/1, item 87/l/37. Advice to all remaining military districts was undertaken vide MB memos No's 28988 to 28992 inclusive, dated 7.11.1923.)
Remaining military districts were informed of this policy on 7th November, 1923, and AAO 549/1925, dated 21.11.1925, directed that the wearing of badges, other than those authorized in Standing Orders for Clothing Part III, was to cease immediately. A further enquiry in relation to
the subject by 2nd District Base in April 1926 was advised that the wearing of the 'A' had been
discontinued. ( ibid: AHQ (D of E&OS) memo No. 6855, dated 27.4.1926.)
The matter remained dormant for several years, then in early 1933 Major-General Blamey, then GOC 3rd Division, advised that members of his formation who were still wearing the 'A' had resented an instruction to remove it, stating that they would rather leave the army than comply, particularly as the 'A' was still worn by former members of the AIF on the reserve or retired lists with permission to wear uniform on appropriate occasions. On 31.5.1933 the Military Board decided that the wearing of this distinction by personnel who were entitled to it would not be prohibited; on 14.6.1933 HQ 3rd Division was advised that an amendment to Standing Orders for Dress 1931 was being prepared to allow of the wearing of a brass 'A' on the miniature colour patch by those so entitled, and that its promulgation could be
anticipated. ( AHQ(DOS) Memo No. 5773, 14.6.1933. AA(Vic): MP 742/1, item 87/1/37. The amendment in question was to page 48, para. 269, and read; "A brass letter 'A' 1/2 inch high may be
worn over the half size colour patch by ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served on Gallipoli, or in A.I.F. Lines of Communication in Egypt during the Gallipoli
For reasons unknown this amendment was never notified, and no further mention of the subject was made in Standing Orders for Dress, 1935.
It is not until the outbreak of the Second World War and the return to active service of many former servicemen that further reference to this badge has been located. A HQ Western Command RO Part 1, No. F3, dated 7.5.1941, recognises that some personnel were wearing a brass 'A' on their colour patches and directs that the practice was to cease. While acknowledging that the 'A' was an authorised symbol, it states that its use was discontinued on the introduction of the 1914/1915 Star. This would appear to be the official statement on the subject, repeated by the Secretary, Department of the Army, in October 1941 in response to further queries, although it was erroneously stated that approval for the distinction had been withdrawn in 1917, and that no useful purpose would be gained by the reintroduction of the 'A' as the 1914/1915 Star was sufficiently
distinctive. ( ibid: Memo No. 81723, Secretary, Department of the Army, dated 29.10.1941, and 10497 of 27.1.1942 from the same Office on behalf of the Minister for the Army.)
No mention of the item was made in War Scales of Clothing and Necessaries, and GRO 245/1943 specifically directed that no badges other than those authorized by these scales were to be worn.
Following further enquiries in 1943 an exhaustive examination of the subject was undertaken by the DAG who refuted the view that approval for its wear had been withdrawn, or that the 1914/1915 Star was sufficient to distinguish personnel with specific service on Gallipoli. His report stated that in practice the wearing of the device had been discontinued by all but a few of those personnel so entitled, and that an instruction as to whether the 'A' was to be worn or not was desirable. The C-in-C was approached for a decision and on 10. 11. 1943 he approved of the wearing of this distinction by personnel who were entitled to it. GRO 815/1943, dated 17.12.1943, directed that eligible personnel could wear a brass letter 'A' under the terms of Military Order No. 20 of January 1918. This was to be worn on the miniature colour patch of the wearer's original AIF unit of the Great War, or, if this was not worn, on the full size colour patch of the wearer's present unit. Purchase and supply of the item was to be at private expense.
The final reference to this badge was GRO 310/1945, 7.12.1945, which was a repeat of GRO 815/1943. No mention appears in "Post War Dress for the Army", promulgated in 1948, nor in subsequent clothing instructions, it being assumed that the demise of colour patches also coincided with the age related discharge of most personnel who were eligible for the distinction anyway.