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Category: Colour patches

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Left & right handed colour patches

The tradition has always been to portray the left hand patch in illustrations where only a single patch is shown. The problem of 'handedness' in AIF colour patches must have arisen early in the First World War. While the issues did not concern the First, Second, Third or Fourth Infantry Divisions at all, and while the Fifth and the (stillborn) Sixth Infantry Divisions needed only to turn one patch upside down to produce a matching pair, other units, most significantly Artillery and Light Horse, required further consideration. 
  • The artillery tradition (not always adhered to) is that red (the colour of the flash of the gun) should always precede blue (the colour of the smoke from the gun). 

In the case of Light Horse Regiments, the leading and lower colour on any shoulder should be the Brigade Colour (i.e. white for 1 ALH Brigade). In order for the brigade colour to lead on both sleeves, the two patches must be mirror images of each other. 

  • The crux of the matter is that, in 1st AIF colour patches, 
    • the Brigade colour should always be the leading & lower of the two, and 
    • in the case of vertical patches, the rear of the two, 
      • no matter which sleeve they are worn upon.

Thus it will be seen that any patch in which the colours are separated by a line which deviates from the horizontal will present an issue of 'handedness'. In the case of a vertical division, the problem can be easily solved by turning one patch upside down, but a diagonal division must require the production of two entirely separate colour patches.  Appendix 4 of 'To Benghazi', the first volume of the Second World War Official History, contains some interesting notes on the problems which were experienced in this context during that conflict.

The material on this section of the site is drawn from "Distinguishing Colour Patches of the Australian Military Forces 1915-1951" by Keith Glyde. ISBN 0-6460-36640-8  


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces