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Category: Colour patches

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Miniature Colour Patches & Combination Patches

This shows how the miniature patch was worn above the patch of the soldier's current unit. This is a combination of a Australian Flying Corps patch with the wearer's original Artillery patch in miniature overlaid on it.
In 1919, HQ AIF directed that personnel posted from their units in the field were to continue to wear their old unit colour patch. This however led to difficulty in identification within units still in an operational role which had been formed or substantially reinforced by personnel from a variety of disbanding units. 

This was overcome by the use of a second colour patch common to all members of the unit which was worn one inch below the patch of the wearer's original unit. The first use of a miniature colour patch to denote previous service with another AIF unit appears to have commenced in the immediate post First World War period amongst returned men, who wore a half size patch of their original AIF unit superimposed on the full size patch of their most recent AIF unit prior to demobilisation.

 No. 11 possibly falls into this category, while a photograph recently sighted by the author shows a member of the 5th Aust. Light Horse Regiment circa 1919 with a miniature colour patch of the 21st Battalion superimposed centrally on the 5th Light Horse patch, and a brass 'A' superimposed upon this. 

There is anecdotal and physical evidence that other combinations in this fashion have existed.

The use of miniature colour patches by serving personnel, originally denoting that the wearer had served overseas as part of the Australian Imperial Force, was introduced in 1921, Military Orders No. 206/1921 and 495/1921 providing the authorities for the Citizen Forces and Permanent Forces respectively. Miniature colour patches were to be half the dimensions of the full size patch and were to be worn 1/2 inch below the sleeve head or nationality title, and above the full size colour patch of the wearer's present unit. Only the miniature colour patch of one of the wearer's previous units could be worn at any one time. Miniature colour patches were provided at private expense.

In May 1931 the Military Board gave approval for former members of the British Army and other Commonwealth forces, now serving in the Citizen Forces of the AMF, to wear a miniature patch of their former unit of the British, or any other Dominion, Army above the patch of their current Citizen Forces unit. (AA(Vic): CRS B 1535, item 716/2/285; AHQ(DOS) Memo No.6062, 25.5.193 1.)

Standing Orders for Dress, 1935, Paragraph 294, stated the following:

  • "A member of the Australian Military Forces who served on active service during the war of 1914-1918, may wear, above the regimental colour patch, a half size colour patch of the last unit of the A.I.F. (or other Force of the Empire) in which he so served."

In May 1941, orders relating to the organization and administration of the RSL Volunteer Defence Corps directed that personnel were to insert a miniature distinguishing colour patch of their original AIF unit between the two lines of lettering on the khaki armband issued to the personnel of this Corps. (MBI A.53, 15.5.194 1. "R.S.L. Volunteer Defence Corps".)

The use of miniature colour patches by suitably eligible personnel of the 2nd AIF was not considered desirable by the Military Board and it was not until August 1941 that action was taken to allow the use of miniature colour patches by members of this force. (AHQ Memo No. 57312, dated 8.8.194 1; Arndt to SO Dress 1935, Serial 2 1, promulgated by AAO 116/1941, 31.8.1941; and GRO 36/1942, 22.5.1942. In die-case of SO Dress 1935, para. 294 was modified by the deletion of "...during the war of 1914-1918..", and the insertion of the word 61overseas" in its place.)

At that stage it was restricted to personnel who had served with AIF units overseas, or who had been posted overseas as reinforcements. This policy created considerable bitterness amongst former personnel who had been honourably discharged from the 2nd AIF prior to proceeding overseas, and who were now serving on full time duty with CMF units. The case of these men was taken up by the Demobilised Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Association of Australia, who strongly lobbied the Minister for the Army for a reconsideration of the matter. The decision was revised in October 1942 to allow members of CMF units who had previously served with the 2nd AIF to wear a miniature colour patch of their former AIF unit, regardless of whether they had served overseas or not. A similar provision applied to a member of an AIF unit who transferred to another AIF unit. (GRO A.491/1942, 23.10.1942.)

Members of the CMF who had served overseas with a CMF unit were not initially allowed to wear a miniature colour patch of that unit if they transferred to another unit, even if they had subsequently volunteered for the AIR A similar restriction was placed on AIF personnel who had served overseas with a CMF unit, and had not previously served with an AIF unit. They were only entitled to a miniature colour patch if, prior to their transfer from it, their CMF unit had been reclassified (AIF). (LHQ(AG) Memo No. 116696, dated 13.7.1943. AA(Vic): MP 742/ 1, item 61/13/108.)

The position in relation to the wearing of miniature colour patches was not clearly outlined until February 1945. Paragraphs 7 and 8, GRO 60/1945, setting out principles of wear in regard to miniature colour patches, are briefly summarised below;

  • 7. (i) A member of the AIF was entitled to wear the miniature colour patch of any previous AIF unit (if any) in which he had served, or, of any unit with which he had served overseas.

    (ii) A member of the CMF who had served overseas was entitled to wear the miniature colour patch of any unit with which he had served overseas.

    (iii) A member entitled to wear the miniature colour patch of an AIF unit of the Great War was permitted to do so.

    8. A member who changed his colour patch to a standard Arm of Service design introduced during 1945 because his unit had transferred to another formation was entitled to wear a miniature of the previous colour patch approved for his unit if

    (i) he was a member of the AIF; or,

    (ii) he had served overseas with the unit if the unit was CMF.

Miniature colour patches were not supplied at public expense, and instructions stipulated that full size colour patches were not to be cut down to make miniatures. It would appear that most miniature colour patches were made in bulk by private contractors, although CCF supplied examples also exist.

Upon the formation of the Citizen Military Forces in 1948 many former AIF personnel continued to wear the miniature colour patch of their wartime unit on the sleeves of the service dress jacket. This practice only ceased upon the issue of battledress and embroidered Corps and regimental titles.

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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