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Category: Badges

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RAAF Badge History and RAAF Roundel history

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The original Pilot's Wings for Australian flyers was the AMF (Australian Military Forces) type. Note the absence of a crown. This is the 1916 version. 

An earlier (1915) version had a crown and was approved but records proving it was issued are hard to find. At that stage the flyers wore the Army General Service Badge, the famous Rising Sun.

For AFC badges
  • After WW2 the was for a short time a Citizen's Air Force. This was their colour patch.


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History of the  badge of the

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Per Ardua Ad Astra (Through hard work to the stars)


It might be interesting to note that the history of the General Badge of the RAAF goes back to 1912, when a motto was selected for the Royal Flying Corps, that same motto now used by the RAAF (and RAF). The story relating to that selection began when a Royal Flying Corps officer, Lieutenant J S Yule suggested three mottoes to his Commanding Officer, Colonel F Sykes, those being ‘Sic Ictur Ad Astra, 'Ad Astra Per Ardua' and 'Per Ardua Ad Astra, the latter being from Rider Haggard's novel 'The People of the Mist'. Per Ardua Ad Astra was selected and approved on the 15th March 1913. The motto carried on with the inception of the RAF and remains with it today.

In 1929 the RAAF decided to adopt a motto and two Latin language experts were consulted to prepare possible ideas. Dr Wallace of the University of Sydney proposed 'Usque Ad Astra' and Wirtus Spernit Humurn, both were rejected. Professor Cowling of the Melbourne University suggested several some of which were ‘Per Labores Ad Caelum 'Xeleritate Et Audacia', 'Animo Ad Alta Et Alis' and 'Volare, Valere Et Vincere'. He added to his submission 'In my opinion there is only one motto which is worthy of the RAAF, and that is the motto which has been adopted after consideration by the young and growing Air Forces of Canada and New Zealand namely 'Per Ardua Ad Astra'. '


A design for a complete badge was not thought of until 1937 when the newly appointed Chester Herald, John Heaton‑Armstrong was commissioned to prepare a design for the RAAF. He based his proposal on that of the current General Badge of the Royal Air Force but would 'make the RAAF bird more like an eagle, of the wedge-tailed variety'. He also planned to vary the design namely by placing the words ‘Royal Australian Air Force’ on the collar and a separate motto strip (or scroll) at the base of the badge containing the words 'Per Ardua Ad Astra'. 

The Chester Herald requested photographs of a wedge-tailed eagle so that his artists could capture its pose in the correct manner. An RAAF photographer was sent to the Melbourne Zoo in order to fulfill the Herald's request. At the same time he arranged for photographs of the wedge tailed eagle at the London Zoo. With a conglomeration of the photos, none were satisfactory and as a last resort, Mr. Campbell of the Bird Club of Victoria was consulted suggestions and from all of this a badge was finally designed.

Heaton-Armstrong's first design arrived in early 1938 and in October of that year it was returned for alterations. The RAAF required  the outer circle to be made wider and the background colour of the inner circle to be pale blue (similar to that of the Canadian Air Force). After receipt of the amended proposal (as per the latter instructions) the RAAF once again requested changes to the colouring. Those changes were that the outer circle be RAAF blue with the words 'Royal Australian Air Force' in gold and the inner circle return to white, the correspondence being dispatched in late October.

In January of the next year the badge was submitted to King George V1 and approved.


It would appear that the Chester Herald was not satisfied with the wedge tailed eagle in the badge right from the first drawings. On the 26th January 1943 a cypher message was received by RAAF HQ Melbourne requesting the return of the original General Badge with reference to the way the eagle was drawn. Due to the fact that the alterations could have created a propaganda problem details were not immediately disclosed. Inspection of the original badge reveals that the eagle has been repainted especially the tall feathers, talons, beak and head. The wing feathers also received some upgrading. The early eagle was often humorously referred to as an albatross or parrot.


During research, an unidentified design turned up with no direct supportive information. Two possible references were located, one contained within a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Defence to the Official Secretary (Air Liaison) London, dated April 1936 the subject being unit badges in general. Paragraph 4 sub-paragraph ii refers and reads 'Enclosed herewith is a suggested badge for the Royal Australian Air Force. It will be observed that this is similar to that of the Royal Air Force, and permission to adopt the general design and motto was given by the Air Council. There are, however, two main differences 

a). the eagle is of the wedge-tailed variety, a bird found in Australia, 

b). a scroll, with the words "Royal Australian Air Force" has been added. 

The board would welcome any criticisms and suggestions which the Chester Herald may have to make on this'. In the above, a.' seems somewhat confusing as the eagle in the unidentified design is the RAF version but the remaining details are significant to the design. A possible change may have been effected to alter the eagle.

The other reference was a letter written in May 1941 (2 years after the official Australian wedge-tailed eagle badge was approved) from Joan Kingsley Strack to Squadron Leader J Tart, Public Relations Officer, RAA17HQ Melbourne. This letter was found attached to the same file as the original sketch of the unidentified design though some fifty folios apart with no connecting references. It was noticed that the letter and the sketch were on the same sized paper of similar grade and both were in black ink. J Kingsley Strack wrote thanking Squadron Leader Tart for 'making necessary enquiries' about the 'little sketch' but was 'terribly sorry all the same that it could not be used'. Apart from these references there are no other details on the history of this unidentified design.


During a CAS meeting in August 1978 a comment was passed relating to the General Badge and in particular the attitude of flight of the eagle. A minute was written from that meeting with a recommendation that the current badge be altered to reflect the eagle in 'flying attitude' and not heraldic display. It would appear that there was no further action taken towards alterations of the badge.

details supplied by RAAF Museum

RAAF Roundel The Royal Australian Air Force Roundel
The current version of the RAAF Roundel was formally adopted on 2 July 1956. The Roundel exists of a white inner circle with a red kangaroo in motion surrounded by a royal blue circle. The kangaroo always faces left, except when used on aircraft or vehicles, when the kangaroo should always face the front.

When the Royal Australian Air Force was formed on 31 March 1921 it adopted the existing red, white and blue Roundel of the Royal Air Force to identify its aircraft.


However during World War II the inner red circle was removed when an 11 Squadron Catalina was mistaken for a Japanese aircraft by a US Navy Wildcat in the Pacific Theatre.

After the war, a range of options were proposed including the Southern Cross, a boomerang, a sprig of wattle and the red kangaroo in motion. Because of the kangaroo, the RAAF Roundel is readily recognised worldwide as the Australian Air Force and has been displayed with pride ever since.

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