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Category: Colour patches

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Instructions relating to the circumstances under which the colour patch was worn, and its correct method of wear, are contained in the following general authorities: First Australian Division Standing Orders 1915 (Provisional) and 1917; Standing Orders for Clothing Part 111, 1922 and 1925; Standing Orders for Dress, 1931 and 1935; Standing Orders AIF, 1940; GRO 491/1942; GRO 761/1943; GRO 60/1945; MBI 14/1946; MBI 29/1946,

Instructions relating to specific aspects of wear, scales of issue, etc, are indicated in the text pertaining to each appendix.

One further appendix relates to the various types of Signal units in existence following the reorganization of that Corps in April 1942 and mid 1943, and their allocation to various formations for the purpose of issue of colour patches.

Wear on the Uniform

(1) When worn on the sleeve to be one inch below the shoulder seam; if a miniature patch was worn in addition, it was to be 1/2 inch below the shoulder seam, with the top of the unit colour patch to be 1/2 inch below the base of the miniature. Colour patches were to be worn by all ranks on both arms (see exception below, and BCOF), and were to present exactly the same appearance on both arms when viewed from the front. For this purpose therefore, patches which were affected by either shape, eg. 11th Aust. Division, or where the dividing line between the colours departed from the horizontal, eg. RAA 1st Aust. Division, were supplied in opposing pairs.

All colour patches depicted in the colour plates accompanying this book are left arm variants unless otherwise stated. Two exceptions to this ruling have been noted: the patch of the 3rd (Army) Brigade, AFA, 1918-1919, was worn with the red dot at 3 o'clock, regardless of the arm worn on, (AIFO 1059/1918.) while the patch of the 1st Aust. Parachute Battalion was worn on the left arm only, whether in full size or miniature.

(2) When worn on the hat band or puggaree the colour patch was placed centrally on either the left or right hand side as authorised, with the base of the patch in coincidence with the bottom of the hat band or puggaree.

(3) When worn on the beret, a left arm patch was to be attached to the left hand side of the beret with the base of the patch in coincidence with the top of the leather band, and the front of the patch in line with the front of the left ear.

The colour patch had a vital function in battlefield identification, Lt-Gen. Monash writing that it was a most important aid to actual battle operations and that organization both before and during battle, and reorganization after battle were greatly facilitated by its use.
(See footnote 3) It was worn during operations during the Great War, and in the Middle East during the Second World War for this purpose. The Army Colour Patch Register notes however that colour patches do not appear to have been worn in action after the Middle East campaigns, while the 1986 Army Dress Committee submission on the reintroduction of unit colour patches is more emphatic, stating that they were not subsequently worn in operational areas due to the emphasis on security and personal camouflage. 

Although there is some evidence to support the current Army attitude that this was official, the actual truth of the matter seems to lie in between, and probably depended as much on individual choice as upon the directives of formation or unit commanders. A Routine Order Part One dated 29.11.1944 of the 2/3rd Aust. Field Regiment, involved in the Aitape-Wewak campaign during 1944-1945, states for instance that colour patches were not to be worn by personnel moving east of Yakamul, 25 miles to the east of Aitape. It is evident however from photographs in this unit's recently published history that this order was disobeyed by a considerable number of its personnel. 

Personal camouflage was obviously not a consideration, as the same RO allows the wearing of puggarees without patches. The Thunder of the Guns, p.573.  On the other hand, a member of the 2/3rd Aust. Commando Squadron records in this unit's history that after their initial landing at Balikpapan in 1945 they were told to remove steel helmets and wear slouch hats with puggarees and unit colour patches.  Nothing is Forever, R. Garland, p.339.

Photographic evidence in both official and unit histories does show widespread use of colour patches in forward areas by all arms during actual operations in SWPA, and they were most certainly worn in base areas. The use of unit colour patches in forward areas during the Borneo operations was in fact extensive enough to assume the existence of an official direction supporting the matter.

Australian Imperial Force, 1915-1920;

Jacket, Service Dress: As (1), no miniature colour patches being worn during this period. In mid 1919 when it became necessary to allot a second colour patch to units still operating in Belgium and France, comprising members drawn from disbanding units of the AIF, the new colour patch was worn I inch below the full size patch of the member's original unit. (SO AASC (MT) Memo No. 303, 7.6.1919. AWM 25, item 89/16.) 

Greatcoat: Worn as (1).

Head-dress: The only recorded authority for wear on any form of head-dress is 4th Aust. Infantry Brigade Order No. 134, dated 31.3.1915, which directed that the unit colour patch was to be worn on the left hand side of the helmet puggaree, hat band or cap band. Although this order was cancelled on 9.4.1915 without being put into effect, there is evidence that other units, particularly those serving with British formations, did wear their patches in this manner on helmets and felt hats. These noted to date have included the Camel Battalions, 1st Aust. Wireless Signal Squadron, and elements of 1st Aust. Divisional Artillery. The CO of 1st Aust. General Hospital, when referring to the first colour patch approved for his unit, stated that it was originally approved for wear on the summer helmet. (Memo dated 26.6.1916, AWM 25, item 89/16.)

Steel helmets: No official direction relating to the painting of unit patches on steel helmets has been located although the practice certainly existed. The history of the Victorian Scottish Regiment records that by mid September 1917 the 5th Battalion had recently painted their colour patches on their helmets, (Esprit De Corps, Speed, p-90.) and examples of similar use by the 4th Divisional Artillery have also been noted.

Australian Army Nursing Service, 1915-1919

Norfolk Coat, Grey: As (1) by all ranks of the AANS.

Hat, Grey, Felt: No instructions have yet been located, however personnel attached to 2nd Aust. CCS have been noted wearing the colour patch on the left hand side of the chocolate hat band.

Note: Colour patches were not worn on the indoor uniform by members of the AANS.

Permanent Military Forces, 1921-1942

Jacket, S.D., Officers: As (1) by all officers and Warrant Officers Class I of the PMF.

Frocks, Serge, Officers: As (1) from March 1935 when worn as service dress.

Jacket, P.F., Cloth, Khaki: As (1) by all other ranks of the Permanent Forces.

Jacket, Drill, Khaki, P.F.: As (1) by all ranks of the Permanent Forces. These were required to be attached by clips so they could be readily removed for washing of the garment. Following complaints that the breaking of clips would eventually lead to colour patches on cotton garments presenting a slovenly appearance, the Military Board advised on 17.7.1923 that there was no objection to the discontinuance of this practice. (Mil. Board Memo No. 1836 1, of 17.7.1923, and Memo No's 28988 to 28992, 7.11.1923. AA(Vic): MP 742/1, item 87/1/37.) Although approval for the wear on cotton garments was not actually cancelled at that stage, there is no evidence that it continued, even in areas where khaki drill was the only clothing item worn. It would certainly have ceased by 1933 with the introduction of brass shoulder titles for the PMF.

Greatcoat, M.S. or D.S.: As in (1) by all ranks up to and including Staff Sergeant, with the exception of non-commissioned officers of the Aust. Survey Corps (P).

Note: Colour patches were not worn on the full dress jacket or on protective clothing. Woollen clothing, service dress and greatcoats were withdrawn from personnel prior to them proceeding to a tropical station, thus colour patches were not worn by personnel at Darwin, Thursday Island, and Port Moresby.

Citizen Military Forces, 1921-1942;

Jacket, Service Dress: As (1) by all officers and men of the CMF from 1921 to 1930, and 1940 to 1942.

Jacket, Service Dress, Officers: As (1) from 1930 to 1940 by officers of Light Horse (including Armoured Car Regiments), Infantry (excluding Scottish Regiments), and the Army Legal Department, and between 1930 and 1934 by officers of all other Arms.

Jacket, S.D., Officers, Scottish Pattern: As (1) from 1930 by officers of Scottish Regiments.

Frocks, Serge, Officers: As (1) from August 1934, when worn as service dress, by all officers of the RAA(M), RAE(M), Corps of Signals, Tank Corps, AASC(M), AAMC(M), AAOC(M) and AAVC(M).

Jacket, Militia: As (1) by all other ranks of the Militia from 1930.

Greatcoats, M.S. or D.S: No issue was made for greatcoats, however they are known to have been worn unofficially on this item of dress by individual personnel of the CMF.

Note: Colour patches were not to be worn by Area Officers during the period 1921 until 1926, although this ruling did not affect miniature colour patches where individuals were entitled to these.

Garrison Battalions & personnel called up for Full Time Duty, 1940-1942;

Other ' than tropical areas -
MBI 0. 17/1940, 29.2.1940.

Jacket, Service Dress: As (1).

Greatcoat, D.S.: As (1). Tropical areas

Hat Band: As (2), worn on the left hand side of the hat in areas where shirts and shorts were worn. AAO 62/1941, 30.4.1941, Arndt to SO Dress 1935 (Serial No. 19). The first authority located for wear on the left of the hat band or helmet puggaree was AHQ(DOS) Memo 85517, 27.12.1940.

Note: Colour patches were not to be worn on the Jacket, Drill, Khaki, P.F., or the Jacket, Drill, Khaki, S.D., Officers, which were issued to Militia personnel on full time duty in tropical stations.

Senior Cadets, 1921-1942;

Caps, S.D. : Worn superimposed on the left hand side of the cap band until 1926 by Captains and Lieutenants of Cadets, and Cadet Lieutenants and 2nd Lieutenants.

Hat, Khaki, Felt : Worn on the left hand side of the hat, above the band, by Captains and Lieutenants of Cadets, and Senior Cadet other ranks. Ceased being worn in this manner in 1926.

Hat, Khaki, Cotton: Worn on the left side above the band by Senior Cadets in their first year of training. On 1.7.1923 athletic kit, including the cotton hat, ceased to be issued, personnel being supplied with military uniform in their first year of training.

Jacket, S.D.: As (1) from 1926 by all ranks of Senior Cadet detachments affiliated with units of the Citizen Forces. In June 1924 a 'Q' conference held at AHQ proposed that senior cadets be issued two colour patches for wear as per the CMF on the jacket. MBI Q.94/1924, 18.10.1924, regarding a conference held on 2.6.1924 for informal discussion on matters affecting 'Q' Branch, including clothing. This proposal was rejected at that stage, then subsequently approved by AAO 696/1926, 11.12.1926. Amendment to SO Clothing Pt 111, 1925 (Serial No. 19).

Second Australian Imperial Force, 1939-1942;

Jacket, S.D.: As (1). Miniature colour patches were not worn at this point.

Note: colour patches were not to be worn on the Jacket, Khaki Drill, 0fficers.
AIF Order (ME) No. 296/1941, 11.4.1941.

Greatcoat, D.S.: As (1). AIF Order (ME) No. 210/1941, 21.2.1941, although original authority was apparently AIFO No. 38, dated 19.6.1940, promulgated by authority of HQ 1st Aust. Corps. (Ref. Army Colour Patch Register, Para. 615). This order appears to have actually been published in Australia, and there is photographic evidence that such use commenced here before the end of June 1940. Surprisingly reference to greatcoats does not appear in Standing Orders, AlF, 1940, notified in AAO's on 3 1st December 1940.)

Blouse, Battle Dress, British Pattern: No particular authority has been located in regard to the issue of this pattern of clothing before 1942, however the 2/3rd Aust. Independent Company, and possibly other similar units, was issued with British 1938 type battledress blouse and trousers in late 1941. Colour patches were worn on both sleeves as per (1).

Hat, Khaki, Felt: As (2), on the right hand side of the hat band or puggaree. AIF Order (ME) No. 20, 20.7.1940. AIF Order (ME) No. 739/1941 directed that Puggarees, Khaki, Cotton, would be issued to members of the AIF in lieu of Bands, Hat, Khaki. Members of the 2/2nd Aust. Anti-Aircraft Battery serving in Darwin between July and December 1940 are noted to have been wearing their colour patch on the left hand side of the hat band, and on the left hand side of the puggaree of officers privately purchased Wolseley pattern helmets, from as early as November 1940. No authority for this has been located prior to the end of December 1940  

Shirts: Colour patches were not approved for wear on shirts, the primary reason being that no satisfactory method of washing that retained the integrity of the colours had been devised. There are cases known of unofficial use, the 2/3rd Aust. Machine Gun Battalion, late 1940, being the best known example.

Steel helmets: There is photographic evidence that colour patches were painted on steel helmets, however this is believed to have been on an individual basis, and no official reference has been located. The history of the 2/13th Aust. Infantry Battalion records that by the end of October 1941, prior to the unit leaving Tobruk, the battalion colour patch was sewn onto the hessian covering of the steel helmet. Benghazi to Borneo: p. 125.

Women's Services, 1940-1949;

Jacket, Cloth, VAD: As (1). Progressively replaced by the Jacket, Khaki, Women's, from October 1942.

Jacket, Cloth, Grey, AANS: As (1).

Jacket, Khaki, Women's: As (1).

Blouse, Working, M.T.: As (1), although no authority has been located to date. AWAS personnel allotted to the RAA(AA) in Tasmania L of C Area are noted to have worn patches on this form of dress during 1943-1944.

Hat, Khaki, Fur, Women's: Worn on the bow on the right hand side of the hat ribbon.

Hat, Khaki, Fur, Men's: As (2) from 1945 only, on the right hand side of the puggaree when this head-dress was issued for wear in hot or tropical areas. Auth: Amendment to GRO 60/1945 published in GRO's dated 6.4.1945, the original GRO having specifically prohibited the wearing of patches on this type of dress by female personnel of the AMF.

Note: Colour patches were not worn on the Hat, Grey, AANS, or the Hat, Fur, Navy Blue, VAD.

Greatcoats: Worn as (1) on Greatcoats, Blue, VAD; Grey, AANS; and Khaki, Women's. No colour patches were to be worn at all in summer dress by members of the AANS. GO 23/1944, 31.3.1944, Amendment to SO Dress, 1935 (Serial No. 30).

Australian Military Forces (other than Women's Services), 1942-1949;

Jacket, S.D.: As (1).

Jacket, VDC: As (1).

Greatcoat, M.S. or D.S.: As (1).

Hat, Khaki, Fur, Men's: As (2), on the right hand side of the hat band or puggaree. GO 34/1942, 31.7.1942, Amdt to SO Dress, 1935 (Serial No's 25 and 26). On 27.11.1942, GRO 613/1942 advised that stocks of puggarees would no longer be held for issue in lieu of hat bands, and that puggarees which became unserviceable would be replaced by Bands, Hat, Khaki. In April 1944 a decision was made to supply repatriated Australian prisoners-of-war in the United Kingdom with puggarees, although it was stated that hat bands were still on issue in Australia.

Beret, Wool, Khaki or Black: As (3). GO 24/1943, 28.2.1943, Amdt to SO Dress 1935 (Serial No. 27). Use had initially commenced in the 1st Aust. Armoured Division in June 1942, under authority of the divisional commander, Major General H.C.H. Robertson. Ref. HQ 1st Aust. Amid Div. Memo No. 4790 of 2.7.1942. First official authority was LHQ (AG) Memo No. 106422 of 14.9.1942. AA(Vic): MP 508/1, item 36/756/124. Black berets were retained initially only by personnel of 2nd AIF Divisional Cavalry Regiments. These were extended to all units of the Australian Armoured Corps in March 1945. Australian Armour, Hopkins, p. 157.

Beret, Drill, W.D., Green or Khaki: Colour patches were not approved for wear on this item however instances have been noted of units wearing their patch on the green drill beret on Bougainville during 1944/1945.

Note: There is no evidence that the unit colour patch was officially worn on the Beret, Wool, Dull Cherry, issued to the 1st Aust. Parachute Battalion, however such a beret, complete with colour patch, was recently (1998) put up for sale.

Blouse, Battle Dress, British Pattern: Authorised for issue to personnel of armoured fort-nations in lieu of Jackets, S.D. vide GRO 475/1942, although no general issue occurred and authority for, such was withdrawn by GRO 717/1942. Stocks already issued were withdrawn from use on 30.11.1943. Battle dress was later approved for issue to personnel of parachute units as working dress only by GRO 422/1944. There appears to be no evidence of a photographic or official nature to suggest that colour patches were worn on battle dress by personnel of armoured formations who were in possession of it.

Athletics singlets: Although no official reference has yet been encountered it was common practice for unit sports teams to wear their unit colour patch superimposed on the front of the singlet.

Australian Component, B.C.O.F., 1946-1951;

HQ BCOF Memo AQ 133 dated l4th Feb. 1946. AA(Vic.) MP 742/1, item 36/l/326.

Jacket, S.D.: Worn on the left arm only, by all personnel not on the establishment of HQ BCOF or HQ British Commonwealth Base. The miniature colour patch, if worn, was to be placed 1/2 inch below the embroidered title 'AUSTRALIA', the full size colour patch to be 1/2 inch below the title I AUSTRALIA' or -the miniature patch as applicable. Miniature colour patches could be worn on the left arm by personnel of HQ BCOF or HQ BCOF Base. Badges, woven, 'British Commonwealth Forces' were to be worn on the right arm by all personnel. The badge, woven, 'HQ British Commonwealth Base BCOF' was to be worn on the left arm by all personnel of this headquarters in lieu of a unit colour patch. Cases have been noted of a unit colour patch being worn on the left arm below this badge. The embroidered title LXVII of the 67th Aust. Infantry Battalion was worn at the sleeve heads of the jacket in lieu of the embroidered title 'AUSTRALIA'.

Note: Two other badges were also worn on the left arm in lieu of colour patches by Australian personnel attached to the American Military Government teams in the BCOF area; the first of these being the patch of the U.S. 8th Army, worn from 1947, and which was subsequently replaced by a circular patch of red with a dark blue or black border, bearing the stylised letters 'AMG' in the centre. 

(As You Were 1948, p. 15 1, and correspondence with Major Kel Weir, formerly of BCOF Signals. Despite a search of a number of reference sources, including the American Military Patch Guide by J. L. Pete Morgan and Ted A. Thurman (MOA Press, Fountain Inn, South Carolina, 1997), it has not yet been possible to locate any additional information or examples relating to the patch of the American Military Government in Japan. A total of eleven teams were deployed in the BCOF area of responsibility, to each of which from June 1947 were attached three Australian personnel.)

Jacket, C.P., Officers: As for Jacket, S.D. above.

Jacket, Officers, K.D.: As for Jacket, S.D. above.

Jacket, Safari: As for Jacket, S.D. above.

Shirt, Military, Khaki: Titles, AUSTRALIA, woven, summer, no colour patches. The title LXYII was also worn at the sleeve head of the shirt by the 67th Aust. Infantry Battalion.

Greatcoat, D.S.: As for Jacket, S.D. above.

Hat, Khaki, Fur, Men's: Worn as (2) on the right hand side of the puggaree by all personnel not on the establishment of HQ BCOF or HQ BritCom Base BCOF. Personnel on the establishments of these headquarters were directed to wear the badge, woven, 'British Commonwealth Forces' or 'HQ British Commonwealth Base BCOF' as appropriate, on the puggaree. A former member of the Force has advised however that there is no particular evidence that these badges were worn on the puggaree; in 1947 personnel serving with HQ BCOF on Iwo Jima continued to wear their own unit or Corps patch on the hat, while some units attached to HQ BritCom Base during the 1947-1952 period wore their Corps patch on the puggaree, notwithstanding that they also wore the HQ BritCom Base patch on the left sleeve.

Note: No reference is made to the use of colour patches on berets, wool, black, by personnel of BCOF (Australian Component), although an armoured car squadron formed part of this force.

Australian Victory March Contingent (AMF Component), 1946;

Jacket, S.D.: Miniature colour patches only were worn by the personnel of this contingent, 1/2 inch below the title, embroidered, 'AUSTRALIA', with the badge, woven, 'Australian Victory Contingent' 1/2 inch below the base of the miniature patch.

Greatcoat, D.S.: As for the Jacket, S.D.

Note: Colour patches or woven badges were not worn on puggarees by the members of this contingent.

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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