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Australia's famous Rising Sun badge Page 4



Text in blue reproduced from "The Australian Army Slouch Hat & Rising Sun Badge" by Rick Grebert ISBN 0 909458 23 5. Inserts in red by Webmaster. Photos from various sources.

The most popular theory relating to the origin of the Rising Sun badge, involves the Trophy of Arms.

THE ORIGINAL RISING SUN TROPHY The original concept of the Trophy of Arms belongs to Major Joseph Maria Gordon, of the South Australian Permanent Artillery. In 1893 he was appointed the first Commanding Officer of the newly constructed Fort Glanville in Adelaide. He named the trophy - Australian Rising Sun.

Major Gordon's inspiration for the design of the trophy is believed to have come from the edged weapons radiating from a circle on a badge worn by the New South Wales Corps. The badge was an 1800 British universal pattern Shako Plate.

Insert 1. The badge worn by the New South Wales Corps did not have any edged weapons on it. See right.

The draftsman who drew the plan for Major Gordon's Trophy of Arms was Mr. Frank Bartels, a well known black and white artist from Adelaide. Mr. Bartels died in 1895. 

The Trophy of Arms consisted of a red semi-circular board on which w as placed a large brass crown. The crown was protected by an alternating arrangement of seven cut and thrust sword bayonets and six Martini-Henry  rifle triangular socket bayonets.

Insert 2. Other experts claim that the sword bayonets were actually from Alexander Henry rifles. Details.

Major Gordon asked Commander William Creswell," who was in command of HMCS Protector," if the Trophy of Arms could be constructed on board HMCS Protector by 'Magic', if all the materials were provided. Magic was the nickname given to the shipwright rating on HMCS Protector. As the name implied, Magic could produce something out of nothing. However, Magic was sick at the time and the Trophy was constructed by another rating who was not a shipwright. Commander Creswell was not pleased with the result. Major Gordon accepted the Trophy and never accepted the offer that it could be redone by Magic.

Major Gordon displayed the Trophy of Arms on an easel in his quarters at Fort Glanville in South Australia. He took the Trophy with him on recruiting tours of South Australia. He often told audiences that he had called the Trophy, 'Australian Rising Sun', as a reply to the Japanese Rising Sun Flag, because he considered Japan to be a future danger to Australia.

Insert 3. That is a bit of a stretch. Japan was an ally at that time and the "Rising Sun" was a very popular symbol throughout the new world. The "Rising Sun" had already been used on several earlier Australian Colonial badges.

In 1899 following his promotion Colonel Gordon was involved in the Boer War in South Africa as a Special Service Officer. He was appointed Staff Officer for Oversea Colonials. He served as Deputy Adjutant General to the First Mounted Infantry Brigade, commanded by Major General E.T.H. Hutton. Colonel Gordon accompanied General Hutton on several operations during the Boer War. The two men had met In NSW when General Hutton was re-organising the NSW Military Forces as Commandant between 1893-1896.

After the Federation of the Australian States on 1st January, 1901, the first Australian Commonwealth Government appointed Major General  Hutton to be Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces from 26th December, 1901. His task was to organise the Military Forces of the six States of Australia into one Commonwealth Force. General Hutton arrived in Melbourne on 29th January 1902, to take up his new appointment.

Following General Hutton's arrival, Colonel Gordon presented his Trophy of Arms (Australian Rising Sun) to General Hutton, together with the drawing by Mr. Bartels.

Major General Hutton was pleased with the gift. He was made aware of the history of the Trophy, including its construction aboard HMCS Protector in Adelaide and he had it mounted above the door of his office in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, where he was re-organising Australia's Military Forces. The Trophy remained there until 1904, when General Hutton returned to England.

BOER WAR, 1899-1902

Australian Boer War Contingents from individual Australian Colonies had been sailing to South Africa for more than twelve months before Federation in 1901. In March 1901, two months after Federation, the Executive Council of the Federation took control of the Defence Departments from the various States." They decided to continue sending Contingents Of Mounted Rifles to the War, with each Battalion consisting of Squadrons from the different States.

Eight Battalions of 'Australian Commonwealth Horse' were raised in 1902 for service In South Africa. The first four were initially named 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions 'Australian Commonwealth'," but in April 1902 they were re-named 'Australian Commonwealth Horse."

Directions to raise the 5th Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse were given in April, 1902. The eight Battalions of ACH were disbanded in 1902 as each Battalion returned from South Africa.

General Hutton decided that the Commonwealth Contingents should have a special badge. Most of the design suggestions from his Staff Officers featured Australian flora and fauna. However, General Hutton wanted a badge with a martial theme; he suggested 'something like the Trophy of Arms that was displayed above his office door. A Melbourne die-sinker was asked to submit designs based on General Hutton's Trophy of Arms.

The following letter was sent by the Deputy-Adjutant-General, Colonel John Hoad (see left) to General Hutton, who was in Sydney at the time preparing for the despatch of the Commonwealth troops to South Africa. 

General Hutton arrived at Redfern Station, Sydney, on 5th February 1902. The date of the letter was 6th February 1902:

"Dear General,

Sketches of badges enclosed for your consideration. I think they should be half the size".

(The first and second sketches became the hat and collar badges of the first pattern, Australian Commonwealth (Horse). 

The third sketch was the Advance Australian Coat-of-Arms in place of the crown; otherwise identical to the design of the first and second sketch).

In reply, Hutton sent Hoad a telegram, dated 7th February 1902 which read:

Re badges;  designs one & two approved. Please carry out in bronze or dark metal 

Sir Edward Hutton.

<<Telegram from General Hutton to Colonel John Hoad  11 February 1902.

The following is a minute, presumably from Colonel Hoad, dated 8th February. 1902

Saw Deputy Controller of stores and arranged for badges to be made about half the size. The whole of the badges to be done in 4 days. [Presumably to be ready for the departure of Second Battalion AC(H) on 12th February, 1902].

The first Commonwealth Contingent to sail for South Africa was the Second Battalion Australian Commonwealth (Horse), which embarked at Melbourne on 12th February 1902.

 These few surviving 'documents' indicate:

I .General Hutton approved the badge design for the Australian Commonwealth (Horse).

2.The badges would have been ready by 12th or 13th February,1902; five or six days before the First Battalion, Australian Commonwealth (Horse), embarked at Sydney for South Africa.

The First Battalion, Australian Commonwealth (Horse), included a Squadron from Queensland, which left Brisbane on 26th January, 1902 to travel by train to join the New South Wales Squadron in Sydney embarking for South Africa on l8th February 1902. The First Battalion also included a Squadron from Tasmania, which embarked at Hobart on I 6th February 1902.

It is believed that the badges would be sent to South Africa on a later ship, if they were not ready before the First Contingent set sail.

It has been suggested that the badges were issued before the Queensland Squadron left Brisbane on 26th January 1902. As this was twelve days before the badges were approved, the badges could not have been those approved by General Hutton. However. there is no evidence to prove that the badges were issued before the Queensland Squadron left Brisbane. In fact, there is no known evidence to indicate when or where the badges were issued.


The first Rising Sun badge design (see left) is by no means a mirror image of the Trophy of Arms on which it is thought to be designed.

Insert 4. But it comes close to being a mirror image of part of the badge worn by the Victorian Cadet Force circa 1890 (See left) and the 2nd version is reasonably close to part of the badge worn by the Queensland Scottish Regiment in 1885 (See below)
  • This 6th NSW Infantry Regiment badge (1896 to 1903) is another example of a Rising Sun being used in an Australian badge well before Hutton is supposed to have "chosen" the badge of the Australian Commonwealth Horse in 1902. 


  • Remember that Hutton was Commandant of NSW Forces 1893/96 so he would have been there when this badge was designed.

The absence of any documents from the period leaves a great deal to the imagination regarding the symbolism behind the design. I suggest the following as possible influences on the die-sinkers design ideas for the first badge in 1902.

I. The seven star points of the badge represent the seven cut and thrust sword bayonets on the Trophy of Arms, which was named Australian Rising Sun by Major Gordon.

2. In 1901, a nationwide competition was held to design a National Flag for Australia. The winning entry is almost identical to the present Australian Flag, the only difference being that in 1902, the Federation Star, in the third quarter of the flag (lower left quarter), only had six points representing the six States of Australia. 

Australian Blue Ensign 1903 Australian Blue Ensign 1908 Australian Red Ensign 1908

From 1908 the Federation Star was given a seventh point which represented the Territories administered by the Commonwealth Parliament. The seven pointed star on the badge may have been to symbolise the Federation Star (6 pointed) on the Nation's new flag; the extra point to represent the seven cut and thrust sword bayonets on the Trophy of Arms. 

Insert 5. It is also easily argued that 7 major and 6 minor rays (total 13 above vertical) is a practical number of points (1 facing straight up with 3 on either side and with a minor ray in all the gaps) and that the Federation Star did not have 7 points until 4 years AFTER this badge became obsolete.
  • This is the Coat of Arms of New York USA adopted in 1778 (10 years before Australia was settled). The "Rising Sun" has the same number of points (13) above the vertical as the 2nd and subsequent versions of the Australian 'Rising Sun" badge.
  • This indicates that the number of points is not unusual nor unique to Australia.
  • The badge of the Westminster Regiment of Canada which also uses a Rising Sun with 13 points above the vertical again indicates that a total of 24 points is visually appealing for a "full sun" and therefore  13 above the vertical is universally accepted as the 'correct' number.

As the approval for the Australian Blue & Red Ensigns were not gazetted until February 1903 it is not likely that the design had a major bearing on a military badge designed in 1902.

The lines radiating from the centre of the base of the semi-circular first badge design presumably represent the rays of the sun in keeping with the title given to the Trophy of Arms Australian Rising Sun. 

Insert 6. It is also true to say that ALL the sword and cut  & thrust bayonets were originally representing the rays of the sun so ALL the points were to represent the same thing on the badge.

A heraldic wreath forms the base of the badge on which sits the crown. A crown also sits on the base of the Trophy of Arms. The word AUSTRALIA forms a semicircle over the crown.

Insert 7. The AWM refers to the "heraldic wreath" as a barley twist scroll.

The collar badge for this first pattern Rising Sun was identical to the hat badge only smaller.

Insert 8. It was NEARLY identical. Note the difference in the positioning of the word "Australia". (see below)
1st pattern hat badge 1st pattern collar dogs


The second RISING SUN badge design which was also manufactured in 1902 is a closer representation of the Trophy of Arms. Six short points separate the seven longer points representing the thirteen bayonets on the Trophy of Arms. The word AUSTRALIA was changed to AUSTRALIAN and a scroll at the base of the badge contains the words COMMONWEALTH HORSE.

The collar badge for this second pattern Rising Sun was voided, i.e. the metal around the word AUSTRALIA was cut away. It is very similar to the hat badge design. A heraldic wreath replaces the scroll at the base of the badge and the word AUSTRALIA replaces AUSTRALIAN around the crown.

 2nd pattern hat badge (1902) 2nd pattern collar badge (1902)


The most common reason given for the change from the 1st pattern badge to the 2nd pattern badge in 1902, is that the first pattern badge was not popular. There is no evidence to support this reason. A more plausible reason for the change of badge, would be the change of name in April 1902, from 'Australian Commonwealth' to 'Australian Commonwealth Horse'.
Insert 9. It can also be argued that the first badge was produced in a rush and did not accurately indicate the Unit name. Therefore, when time allowed a better option was chosen. The word "Australia" indicated a whole country and in the absence of any other insignia was misleading. The words "Australian Commonwealth Horse" were much more precise and military.

It can be further argued that the second version much more closely resembled the original concept and therefore version 1 was seen by the people at the time as a stop gap measure created in haste and with the intention of replacing it as soon as time and money permitted.

  • The emblem of the US 41st Division "The Jungleers" who fought alongside Aussies in PNG during WW2.
  • Note the 13 points above vertical on the Rising Sun.

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