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Category: Colour patches

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How the Linked Units used colour patches.

The policy related to the wearing of colour patches by members of linked light horse regiments and infantry battalions is ill-defined, and differed according to three distinct periods.

The reduction in the number of active cavalry and infantry units of the Citizen Forces actually began on 31.12.1925, with the disbandment of the 50th Battalion,
( Amendment to Tables of Composition, Organization and Distribution of the Australian Military Forces, 1925-26, promulgated as AAO 580/1925, 5.12.1925; AAO 109/1926, Training Areas Changes in Designations and Localities, abolishing Areas 50A and 50B w.e.f the 1. 1. 1926.) drawn from Port Pirie and Broken Hill in the 4th Military District, and was followed on 30.6.1926 by the disbandment of the 16th Battalion, ( AAO 329/1926, 19.6.1926.) another remote country unit drawn from Kalgoorlie and Boulder in 5th Military District. In both cases no attempt was made to perpetuate their lineage other than to continue publishing the unit designation and battle honours in the Army List. It was not until January 1930 that the designations of these two battalions were linked with those of metropolitan battalions in their respective military districts.

On 30.6.1929, a further five battalions and two light horse regiments were disbanded.
( 7th, 21st, 33rd, 41st and 54th Battalions, 19th and 21st Light Horse Regiments. AAO 353/1929. The training centres occupied by these units were closed, and personnel drawn from the recruiting areas of these units ceased to be liable for compulsory military service under Part XII of the Defence Act. In order to perpetuate the lineage of these units, their designation was immediately linked with that of a neighbouring battalion or light horse regiment. In a few cases, including those of the 16th and 50th Battalions, the issue of colour patches of the disbanded units was suspended, all linked units continuing to wear the patch of the active component of the link.

Following the reorganization of the Citizen Forces onto a voluntary basis in November 1929 it became necessary to further reduce the number of active units of the AMF. This was accomplished on 1.7.1930 by linking four light horse regiments to form two, and eighteen infantry battalions to form nine.
AAO 351/1930,2.8.1930.)  In each case the new linked units covered all, or part of , the recruiting areas occupied by both former units. For example the 25th Battalion was located at Toowoomba, Queensland; the 49th Battalion at Kelvin Grove, with detachments at Sherwood and Ipswich.

Following reorganization as the 25th/49th Battalion on 1.7.1930 the composition was battalion headquarters and two companies at Kelvin Grove, with a detachment at Ipswich, and two companies at Toowoomba. In August 1930, the Military Board directed that personnel of these linked units would continue to wear the colour patches and regimental badges of the unit in which they were serving immediately prior to the linking of that unit. ( ibid, Para. 2.) New members enlisted into the linked battalion were issued colour patches dependent on the former unit area from which they were recruited, the Minister for Defence stating in March 1939 that the normal procedure was for the same colour patch to be issued at a training centre after the linking as before. Secretary, Military Board, Memo No. 8802, dated 22.3.1939. AA(Vic): CRS B1535, item 716/2/470. Thus, to use the previous example of the 25th/49th Battalion, those companies drawn from Toowoomba, 'B' and 'E'(MG), continued to be issued the former 25th Battalion patch, while the Brisbane based element, BHQ, 'A' and 'D'(MG) Companies, was issued the 49th Battalion patch.

Therefore battalions and regiments linked after 30.6.1930 continued to wear, with certain exceptions, the colour patches of both former units, while units linked before this date wore only the colour patch of the active unit of the link. In all cases linked units carried the Colours or Guidons of both former units, AHQ placing a greater priority on this than the display of both unit colour patches, although this was not always appreciated, particularly by former AEF unit associations which were disturbed that their battalion colour patch was no longer on issue.

The exceptions to the normal procedure during the 1930 to 1942 period generally occurred as a result of changes to existing recruiting area boundaries, the establishment of new recruiting areas, or in one case, the transfer of a unit's designation to a different Military District. Ibis often resulted in the closure of training centres occupied by one portion of a linked unit, or their transfer to another battalion. The affect of changes to recruiting area boundaries are best exemplified by the l5th Battalion, which was linked with the 9th Battalion as the 9th/15th Battalion in 1930. 

Following a reorganization of 11th Mixed Brigade in late 1934, this link was dissolved and the l5th Battalion was linked with the 26th Battalion as the 15th/26th Battalion. In this case no former l5th Battalion training centres were transferred to the new battalion. Former members of the l5th Battalion who transferred to the 15th/26th Battalion retained their l5th Battalion colour patches, however all new personnel enlisted into the 15th/26th Battalion after its formation were issued the colour patch of the 26th Battalion. In May 1939 the Military Board advised that this was the common procedure followed throughout the AMF for all linked battalions.( ibid, Secretary, Military Board, Memo No. 16452, dated 22.5.1939. HQ 11th Mixed Brigade advised the Military Board on 15.12.1938 that, with the exception of a few officers, there were no longer any former 15th Battalion personnel serving with the 15th/26th Battalion.)

An example of the procedure followed on the establishment of a new recruiting area is provided by the 33rd/41st Battalion. On 1.1.1934 the 33rd Battalion was re-established in the Tamworth area of NSW and linked with the 41st Battalion to form the 33rd/41st Battalion. Both these battalions had been disbanded as part of the 1929 reorganization. The 33rd Battalion was considered to be the active component of the link and therefore only their colour patch was issued to personnel of this battalion. The only unit affected by the transfer to another military district of its designation was the 50th Battalion, disbanded at the end of 1925. Its designation was transferred to 6th Military District in late 1936 and linked with that of the 12th Battalion to form the 12th/50th Battalion. This battalion retained its original 12th Battalion colour patch, and the patch of the 50th Battalion was in fact never issued after its initial disbandment.

A number of other units were affected by circumstances similar to those of the 15th/26th and 33rd/41st Battalions, although a perusal of the Army Lists and Organization and Location of Units, Australian Military Forces, for this period suggests that most linked units continued to recruit from the former areas of both units. Where changes have been noted they are registered with the details of that colour patch in Part II of this book. Following the commencement of full scale mobilization of the Citizen Forces in late 1941, all linked light horse regiments and all but three linked infantry battalions were unlinked. The exceptions comprised the 12th/50th, 23rd/21st and 57th/60th Battalions, the two former wearing only one patch, the latter, two patches.

By mid 1942 the manpower shortage facing the Services and the munitions industry forced a reduction in the number of infantry battalions on the Order of Battle of the AMF. In September 1942 seven battalions were disbanded, followed by an eighth in October.
( 32nd, 33rd, 45th, 46th, 48th, 52nd and 59th in September, 53rd in October. The latter was actually serving on operations in New Guinea at that point, the remainder being in Australia.) In each case the designation of the affected battalion was linked with that of an active battalion raised from the same state or territorial area, however only those personnel required to complete the War Establishment of the active battalion were transferred from the disbanded unit. ( in at least one case, the 48th Battalion, no members were transferred to the 10th/48th Battalion, although it had originally been intended to transfer fifteen officers from the 48th Battalion to maintain a semblance of the link.) The remainder served as reinforcements for existing units, or in most cases formed new ones of the RAA(AA). Such is the case of the 48th Aust. Infantry Battalion, one company of which was transferred to the 19th Aust. Machine Gun Battalion, the remainder, some seven hundred all ranks, formed the 108th Aust. Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RAA.

It would appear that official policy at this point, although no specific authority has been located, was that the linked battalions would wear only one colour patch, that of the active component of the link. An internal AWM memo dated 25.2.1951
( From the Director, AWM, presumably J. Treloar, recounting a conversation with a Mr Mathews who was writing the history of the 58di/59th Battalion, in regard to the colour patch worn by this battalion after its linking. He also refers to a statement by Mr Mathews that he could recall an order relating to the wearing of one colour patch by linked battalions appearing in 1943 or 1944. This memo is held in the AWM colour patch file card register.) provides a statement that the colour patch worn by the 58th/59th Aust. Infantry Battalion was that of the 58th Battalion, although former members of the 59th Battalion continued to wear their original colour patches for a considerable period after the linking. 

The historian of the 52nd Battalion records that the members of this unit who marched into the 37th/52nd Aust. Infantry Battalion were immediately ordered to replace their colour patches with those of the 37th Battalion. ( The Gippsland Regiment, Blair, p.203.) It is at this point also that the 57th/60th Aust. Infantry Battalion Association states that the 60th Battalion colour patch ceased to be worn ( Telephone conversation with the Association Secretary, Mr George Phillips, on 30.5.1996.32) and the 14th/32nd Aust. Infantry Battalion Association have advised that the colour patch worn immediately following linking was that of the 14th Battalion. Telephone conversation with the Association Secretary, Mr Alban Howells, on 30.5.1996.) Photographic evidence shows that an identical policy was followed by the 13th/33rd and 29th/46th Aust. Infantry Battalions. While such a move was foreshadowed by the statement of the Secretary of the Military Board in May 1939, it was possibly also a deliberate policy by LHQ to ensure the assimilation of members of the disbanded battalion into the linked battalion.

A further five linked battalions were formed prior to the end of the Second World War, although it became general policy from mid 1943 to simply disband battalions as they were no longer required without any attempt to maintain their lineage. Two of these linked battalions, the 20th/34th and 41st/2nd, formed in December 1943, appear to have adhered to the policy outlined in the previous paragraph, wearing the patches of the 20th and 2nd Battalions respectively. 

A different course was undertaken by the 3 1st/51 st Aust. Infantry Battalion, formed in April 1943. Personnel on the strength of either of the two original battalions prior to amalgamation continued to wear their original colour patches; reinforcements drawn from within the territorial areas of the two battalions, Townsville and Cairns, respectively, were allotted the colour patch of the appropriate battalion, while reinforcements drawn from outside these territorial areas were allotted the patches of the two original units on an equal basis. This was apparently official policy originating from within LHQ as a result of a request for direction in the matter by HQ First Aust. Army in August 1943.( HQ 1 st Aust. Army Memo A368/30, dated 6.8.1943; LHQ(MGO) Memo No. 148749 of 31.8.1943 in reply. Actual procedure was outlined by the Adjutant of the 3 1st/51 st Aust. Inf. Bn in an order dated 24.9.1943, appended to a Bn War Diary entry of the same date. Extract of same is held in the AWM colour patch file card register.

In March 1943 the 3rd Aust. Infantry Battalion, which had absorbed survivors and reinforcements of the 2nd/22nd Aust. Infantry Battalion, was redesignated the 3rd/22nd Aust. Infantry Battalion. It is understood that the members of both battalions retained their original colour patches in this case, particularly as the former was a CMF battalion and the latter an AIF unit.

The final battalion was the 12th/40th, formed in May 1945 by the linking of the 12th/50th and 40th Aust. Infantry Battalions. This unit retained the colour patches of both former battalions, possibly as a result of the political attention created following the decision to disband one of the only two completely Tasmanian raised battalions still on the Order of Battle, neither of which had served outside Australia at that stage. A former member of the battalion was more blunt in his assessment of the reasoning behind the retention of both colour patches, stating that the 12th/50th Battalion had been raised predominantly from northern Tasmania, the 40th Battalion from the south, and any attempt to force one part of the battalion to relinquish their colour patch and wear that of the other component of the battalion would have led to a riot.

Very little use was made by arms and services other than infantry and light horse to perpetuate the designations of units by linking. In two of the three cases known, the 21st/22nd Aust. Field Regiment RAA, and the 3rd/14th Aust. Field Ambulance AAMC, the colour patch worn was that allotted to the RAA and AAMC of the formations to which they were allotted. ( 3rd Aust. Armoured Division and 3rd Aust. Division respectively.) The final case is the 1st/54th Aust. Anti-Aircraft Company RAE, which was formed from the 1st AASL Cadre RAE(P) and the 54th AA Company RAE(M) and served under this title in the Northern Territory from August 1940 to early 1943. Personnel of this unit continued to wear the colour patch of the RAE(P) or the RAE(M)(AASL) according to the enlistment status of each member.

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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