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Category: Colour patches

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Explanation of terms used in this site

Australian Military Forces (AMF): A generic term covering the Permanent Military Forces, the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Imperial Force.
Permanent Military Forces (PMF or Permanent Forces):
  • Restricted in peacetime to administrative and instructional staffs, which included the 
    • Staff Corps, 
    • Instructional Corps, 
    • Survey, 
    • Army Service Corps, 
    • Medical, 
    • Veterinary and Ordnance Corps, 
    • Artillery and Fortress Engineers. 

Restricted to service within Australia and its Territories. It was redesignated the Australian Regular Army in 1947 and restrictions were lifted

Citizen Military Forces (CMF or Citizen Forces):
  • Comprised of the 
    • voluntary Militia, 
    • Volunteer Defence Corps, 
    • Military Reserve Forces (including Rifle Clubs) and 
    • Universal Service Personnel (personnel compulsorily enlisted under Parts IV or XII of the Defence Act). 

Restricted to service within Australia and its Mandated Territories. Reformed in 1948 as the Citizen Military Forces, was redesignated the Australian Army Reserve in 1975 and is currently the General Reserve.

Australian Imperial Force (AIF or 2nd AIF): Formed from personnel volunteering to serve outside the limits of the Commonwealth of Australia during wartime. 

The Defence Act 1903-1941 defines the AIF as part of the Permanent Military Forces. The force was enlisted for the duration of the war and for any further period proclaimed as necessary by the Governor-General.

The prefix 2/: Initially allotted in 1939 to all units raised as part of the 2nd AIF for which a corresponding numbered unit of the CMF already existed, i.e. 2/1st Aust. Infantry Battalion, 2/4th Aust. Army Field Workshops, etc. 

It was not originally used by 2nd AIF units such as general hospitals, anti-tank and anti-aircraft regiments, etc, for which corresponding types of CMF units did not then exist. It was not used by formation headquarters, headquarters units, sub-units, or units which did not have a numerical designation. (GRO G.54/1942, 29.5.1942.) In May 1942, following the return of the majority of the units of 1st Aust. Corps to Australia, LHQ directed that all 2nd AIF units were to use the prefix 2/ as part of their designation.  

This was not as a result of any confusion in numbering between CMF and AIF units, where this occurred the former had long since been redesignated by renumbering from '100' onwards, but was presumably to allow all 2nd AIF units to be designated alike. This direction was modified in October 1942 to restrict the use of the prefix to units raised as part of the 2nd AIF prior to March 1st, 1942, or which had been formed from the reorganization or disbandment of a 2nd AIF unit raised prior to this date. ( The practice has been followed in this book of referring to all units with the prefix 2/ where they later became known as such.

Aust. The abbreviation 'Aust.' was brought into the designations of all Australian units vide GRO G.54/1942. It has been used throughout this book in the designations of all units existing during either the First or Second World Wars regardless of when they were formed or if they served overseas or not.
Auth. (Authority): Has been used in the context of this book to describe any order, memo, instruction, or amendment to any of these, originating within AHQ, LHQ, HQ AIF or a formation headquarters, which provides an approval for a colour patch, or directs that such approval may be anticipated.
Ref (Reference): Used in the context of this book to describe any official reference, not being an authority, to a colour patch, or any reference in a unit or corps history, or any information provided by a unit or corps association or museum. 

References include extracts from correspondence registration booklets, MGO Branch Line Drawings, colour charts in the Official War Histories, the Australian War Memorial colour patch file card register, and Distinguishing Colour Patches A.M.F-A.I.F Units.

Example: Where it has not been possible to provide an authority or reference to a colour patch, the location of an example held in a public or official collection, generally that of the Australian War Memorial, is given. Unacknowledged colour patches are held in my personal collection.
Colour patch (patch): The term used throughout this book for simplicity although a number of other official terms have existed. During the Great War these included: Distinctive Colour Patches, Colour Badges, Distinguishing Badges, Shoulder Patches, Regimental Colour Patches, Regimental Colour Badges, and Distinguishing Regimental Badges. 

The official term used in orders from late 1916 to 1920, and again during the Second World War, was Distinguishing Colour Patches. Ordnance terms were Badges, Ann, Distinguishing, changed by MO 507/1920 to Badges, Regimental Colour. This had become Badges, Patches, Regimental Colour, by the end of World War Two.

General notes: (1) Order of precedence of Corps is shown as per Staff and Regimental Lists of the AIF, 1918, and the Army List and AMR 68 (1) thereafter.

(2) Measurements, terms, unit or Corps designations, etc, are contemporary to the period and no attempt has been made to include conversion tables or explanations.

(3) Diagrams in the colour plates are depicted on a scale of 2/3 full size, except for miniatures and certain woven badges which are depicted full size.

(4) Colours have been selected to match as closely as possible the shades of actual examples, however the need to ensure adequate colour separation for photographing the plates for the printing process, and the inconsistency between the approved colours and actual samples, means that those used do not necessarily match the Pantone Colour Matching System codes quoted in the Army Colour Patch Register, Annex C and D to Section 5 of Part 1, some of which proved to be too dark. 

Those codes had been allotted to samples of colour patch material provided to the Director, AWM, by the Director of General Stores and Clothing in 1946, and which are now held by the Curator of Military Heraldry, AWM.

(5) Units of arms such as artillery, AASC, etc, forming part of a formation, are listed individually under their respective formation during 1914 to 1919, however it has proved impossible to individually list those units of the 1939 to 1949 period due to the constantly changing operational groupings, and therefore only types of units are generally indicated where a generic colour patch was worn during this period.

Special note:
  • Throughout the colour plates, colour patches are shown with grey backgrounds/borders only under the following circumstances;
    • (a) Where units were originally raised as part of the Second AIF prior to 1.3.1942, under the provisions of GRO 482/1942 and GRO 3/1945.
    • (b) Where an accepted authority or reference shows a colour patch with a grey background.
    • (c) Where no authority or reference can be located, and the only examples sighted have a grey background.
  • Information relating to the circumstances of the grey background/border can be found in Appendix VIII.


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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