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Category: Flags

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The Boxing Kangaroo: an Australian icon becomes a flag

Agra, India, c. 1943-04. A sign featuring a boxing kangaroo wearing a slouch hat is painted on the nose of a RAF Consolidated Liberator B-24 bomber aircraft flown by a RAAF crew. The paint used in this example of nose art was of a very light (desert) variety. (Donor R. Lichty) Frayed grey and yellow coloured remnant of a nylon boxing kangaroo flag. Manufacturer's label reads, 'APPROVED ORIGINAL DESIGN AMERICA'S CUP CHALLENGE 1983 LTD.'. Used by members of the Australian Army involved in mine clearance in Afghanistan with UNMCTT
Keevil, England. 1944-09. Informal portrait of an aircrew of No. 196 Squadron RAF, seated on their Stirling IV aircraft (20-Z). The squadron was with the Allied Expeditionary Air Force towing Horsa gliders and dropping paratroops at this time. Note the nose art of a boxing kangaroo and the inscription `It's in the bag' and the tally of eighteen bombs (each one representing a successful raid) behind the kangaroo's tail. (Donor C. King) Lincolnshire, England. 1944-12-06. "N" for Nuts, a Lancaster bomber aircraft of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Station Waddington, which has completed ninety four operations. 

The white bombs represent daylight raids. Its insignia shows the boxing kangaroo, with a joey in pouch, "zamming" Adolph Hitler.

Battambang, Cambodia, 1993-06.

 282019 Major Mark H. Sedsman, a member of the Army Aviation Corps and Commanding Officer of the Australian Contingent Aviation Group, United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), standing next to one of the Group's Sikorsky S70A-9 Black Hawk helicopters.

 Major Sedsman is about to board the aircraft for an operational sortie to Stung Treng east of the Mekong River, passing over the Angkor Wat temple complex near Siem Reap. He is wearing the standard dress and is carrying the standard equipment for flying missions. These include a fire-resistant flying suit, protective body armour made of ceramic plate, a 5.56mm Steyr AUG rifle and a 9mm Browning self-loading pistol (not in view). He is also wearing a blue United Nations (UN) cap. Mounted in the doorway of the helicopter is a MAG58 7.62mm machine gun which was manned by the aircraft's loadmaster. The helicopter is painted in the white of the UN, while its door bears an icon of a boxing kangaroo, a distinguishing feature that became well known to the soldiers of many nationalities who travelled in the aircraft. (Donor M. Sedsman). AWM PO1837.002
Welcome home banner prepared for Lieutenant Commander Paul Moggach, RAN, flight commander and senior pilot of HMAS Kanimbla's embarked Westland Sea King helicopter during the war on Iraq, 2003. 

The helicopter, N16-118, callsign 'Shark 07', flew a record 162.5 operational hours during March 2003, carrying 200 000 pounds of stores and 326 passengers as well as conducting two medical evacuations. 

'Shark 07' was the first RAN aircraft to land in Iraq following the commencement of hostilities. 

The amphibious transport HMAS Kanimbla (LPA-51) was acquired by the Royal Australian Navy from the US Navy in 1994 for use as a helicopter support and sea training vessel. During 2003, while participating in Maritime Interception Operations in the Persian Gulf and in the war on Iraq, Kanimbla served as command and control platform for the Australian Task Group. Coalition boarding operations were coordinated from Kanimbla. At one point the ship hosted boarding teams and inflatable boats from three different countries, and a total of 88 sea mines were intercepted.

Boxing Kangaroo Flag

[Boxing kangaroo flag]
  • The Boxing Kangaroo flag was designed by an Air Force Warrant Officer. He based his idea on the design he saw on a travelling boxing show which had kangaroos boxing with men. 
  • During 1941 the boxing kangaroos were stencilled on Australian Wirraway fighters based in Singapore.


[Boxing Kangaroo flag with southern cross]
  • Variation with Southern Cross.
The Boxing Kangaroo has long been accepted as a symbol of Australia, certainly by the Australians if not the rest of the world. The design is attributed, by official RAAF history, to Warrant Officer Gus Bluett and is based on recorded, including film archives, 19th century travelling side-show entertainment, when the sport of boxing contests between men and kangaroos were a reality. More details about how this subject evolved over years can be found on Bigger better beards.

It was in 1941 during World War II that the design first found national acceptance when RAAF pilots based at Sembawang Station in Singapore, forming 21 Squadron, had a stencilled boxing kangaroo painted on the side of their Wirraway fighter planes, by aircraftman David Marfleet, to identify themselves to the Japanese as Australian and not British.

The flag became famous to younger Australians when Australia II won the America's Cup in yachting in 1983. The Boxing Kangaroo was used by the owner of the team, Alan Bond, as the flag on the yacht entering and leaving harbor. The Australian Olympic Commission (AOC) purchased the rights to the Boxing Kangaroo for the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, for 13 million dollars, and it was popular with pin traders.

Details of the Kangaroo

  • Above: Eastern grey

  • Left: Red kangaroo & joey

Kangaroos are the largest of the marsupials. Like other large macropods (macropod means big foot) their hind limbs are very large, much bigger than the forelimbs which are short and lightly built. The tail is long and muscular. 

There are six main species of kangaroos: Common, Black and Antilopine Wallaroos, Eastern and Western Grey kangaroo and the Red kangaroo. 

The Red Kangaroo, the largest of all kangaroos, can weigh up to 90kg and grow to 1.8 metres high (some reach over 2m when in a fighting stance).

At full speed they have been known to cover a distance of 8m effortlessly in one leap. They spend a large part of the day lying in the shade and are most active in early morning and late evening (after sunset).

Description Kangaroos have narrow hands with forward focussing eyes. This provides a wide field of vision. Large and erect ears rotate separately listening constantly to their surroundings. Both sexes have slender chests with the male developing very muscular biceps and forearms. Forepaws are hand like and used for fighting, grooming and holding food.

Powerful hind limbs and large feet enable the kangaroo to bound at great speeds across open ground. Their long muscular tail moves up and down like a pump handle to counter balance the body. While grazing or slowly bipedal walking, the tail is used as a fifth limb to support the body while the hind legs are swung forward together. When grooming the tail is used as a prop and may be the only limb touching the ground when fighting.

The fourth toe is highly developed with a strong nail. The second and third toes are fused together except for the claws. These toes are called syndactylous and are used for grooming.

Breeding Kangaroos breed throughout the year. Newly born young, known as joeys, weigh less than 1 gram and make their way into the pouch unassisted by their mother. The pouch contains four mammary glands, of which two at a time are functional, and the joey will remain in the pouch until it is 5 – 9 months old. The female will mate again after giving birth but the embryo doesn’t develop until the first joey leaves the pouch. The joey emerges permanently from about 10 months and then stays with its mother, continuing to suckle by placing its head in her pouch until it is 12 – 18 months old.

Diet Kangaroos are grazers of low nutritional, high fibre grasses. The forestomach houses micro-organisms which assist in the digestion of a diet high in cellulose. Kangaroos need little water except in drought. They obtain most of their moisture from dew covered grass and leaves as well as moisture from green grasses and plants.

Habitat Kangaroos can be found to occupy areas right across the continent. Certain species prefer certain areas:

Reds: Widespread, semi-arid plains of the interior.

Greys: Inhabit forested country feeding on the open grasslands of Eastern Australia to South Western Australia.

Wallaroos: Widespread from grasslands to coastal forests and on hilly escarpments where ledges and caves provide shelter.

Threats Man, dingoes, goannas, pythons, eagles, feral and domestic dogs and foxes are predators of kangaroos. Kangaroos also get into trouble from motor vehicle collisions, shootings, animal attacks, fence entanglement and being orphaned.

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