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New Zealand Formation (TAC) Signs WW2

  • Formation signs are also called TAC (for Tactical) signs.
  • They are badges used on buildings and equipment to make identification easy.


  • All photos are thumbnails. Click to enlarge

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NZ Expeditionary Force HQ

1st NZ Division (Home Defence)
2nd NZ Division 3rd NZ Division (also 6th Div)
4th NZ Division 5th NZ Division

6th (also 3rd) NZ Division

4th NZ Armoured Brigade

Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 193945: Problems of 2 NZEF - VEHICLE MARKINGS



Vehicle markings caused little trouble. For the Division the tradition established in the First World War made the choice of a fernleaf inevitable. The first complication, even if only a minor one, arose when the number of non-divisional units became appreciable. It was thought desirable that they should have a separate sign, and for some time they carried a black fernleaf on a white background, the reverse of the divisional sign. However, this was never truly distinctive, for by an optical illusion the eye often saw what it thought it ought to see, and few appreciated that the colours had been reversed. 

When in 1942 Maadi Camp became 6 NZ Division, a separate vehicle sign was necessary and the kiwi was selected; and the opportunity was taken to devise a fresh sign for 2 NZEF units, as opposed to divisional or base ones. A minor competition was held, and on one particular day a number of vehicles were lined up outside Headquarters bearing sample signs such as Mount Cook, a tiki, and a mako shark. In the end we adopted the Southern Cross as it appears on the national flag, i.e., the four stars of the cross in red with a narrow white surround, all on a dark-blue background. 

It was effective, and also distinctive. Its effectiveness was doubled when, in 1943 and later, we came into touch with American troops. Their general officers carried red stars on their cars to mark their rank, ranging from one for a brigadier-general to four for a full general, all the stars in a horizontal line on a light background the system which in fact has been adopted by the British Army. The sight of our four stars arranged in cross form was often too much for American military police, who must have thought that it represented nothing short of Commander-in-Chief The World, from the look of petrified astonishment that appeared on their faces.

In the memorial erected in Maadi village to commemorate the presence of New Zealanders over the years, all three signs appear the fernleaf, the kiwi, and the Southern Cross.



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