The badge of the Royal Australian Regiment
In early 1949, the Director of Infantry, Brigadier I.R. Campbell CBE, DSO wrote to the Battalions of the Regiment asking for suggestions for a Regimental Badge. Several designs were submitted and the one eventually accepted was that submitted by 1 RAR then serving at Ingleburn, NSW. In the early stages of the preparation of a design, it was intended to be the badge of the First Battalion only, but subsequently it was decided that battalions of the Regiment would wear the one badge.
On the 10th of March 1949, it was announced that,
“His Majesty, King George the Sixth had been graciously pleased to give his approval to the title “Royal” being appended to the title of the Australian Regiment”.
In the final form, the badge was the combination of many suggestions put forward by several persons. Those involved in 1 RAR’s design were Lieutenant Colonel J.L.A. Kelly DSO, Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Major T.E. Archer, Major K.B. Thomas MC and Sergeant E.J. O’Sullivan, the Intelligence Sergeant. The Intelligence Section of the Battalion prepared sketches and assisted in the design.
In deciding upon the various heraldic devices for inclusion in the motif of the badge, an early intention was to incorporate the identification signs of the AIF Divisions that contributed personnel to 34 Australian Infantry Brigade for the occupation forces in Japan. This proved impracticable because the Sixth Division had a kangaroo, the Seventh Division, a kookaburra and the Ninth Division, a platypus; all surmounting a boomerang. At this stage it became quite clear that the badge was to become a Regimental Badge and not a Battalion Badge so it was decided to adopt an animal typically Australian but different somewhat from those of the Division signs. A kangaroo was selected and the heraldic posture of the beast was to be standing (the Sixth Division kangaroo was leaping) to prevent a direct connection with a division tactical sign.
The devices in the Royal Australian Regiment badge motif have significant meaning.
The kangaroo is uniquely Australian fauna and universally accepted as an Australian symbol. The original sketch showed the kangaroo with its forepaws relaxed but on the badge its forepaws are outstretched. This occurred because the diecaster could not achieve proper definition with the paws hanging.
The boomerang is closely associated with our Aboriginal people and was also related to the tactical signs of the Second AIF from which 34 Australian Infantry Brigade was formed.
The Wattle Wreath.
The wattle wreath is a symbolic Australian flora in bloom and a variation of the laurel wreath, which is part of many British and Australian badges.
The Crossed Rifles.
The crossed rifles signify the personal weapon of the Infantryman. The rifles are the type that were used at the time of the formation of the Regiment, ie: “Rifle, .303 inch, Short Magazine, Lee Enfield, (SMLE) Number 1, Mark 3.”
The Royal Crown was included because the regiment bears the title, “Royal”.
A motto for the Regiment was also called for and desirably it had to be original, short and in English. “Duty First” seemed appropriate and was selected because, “The unhesitating and unquestioning performance of his duty is the fundamental requirement of a soldier.” Those who selected the motto have said, “It is a good motto for anybody” and they could not then, or now, think of a better motto for the Royal Australian Regiment.
Incorporated in the badge of the Regiment is a great deal of significance and tradition. It is fundamentally Australian, and includes the symbol of the Infantry soldier. Thus, with the motto of Duty First, it symbolises the spirit and the task of an Australian Infantry Regiment comprised of Australian Infantrymen.
The Regimental Badge was reproduced on Christmas cards in 1949 but was not issued as a hat badge until early 1954 when the new badges, replacing the AIF Badge, were issued to 2 RAR in Korea. The Regimental Badge has been worn ever since.
In June 1950, 3 RAR, then serving in Japan, had four large badges cast out of spent brass shell cases by members of the Assault Pioneer Platoon .One badge was sent to each of the three Battalions in the Regiment; 1 RAR, 2 RAR, 3 RAR and one was sent to 1 Infantry Brigade Headquarters.
When 1 Infantry Brigade was disbanded at Holsworthy in 1960 to form Headquarters 1st Division at Moore Park, the badge was handed over to 2 RAR, the Battalion resident at Holsworthy, for safekeeping. On the formation of 4 RAR at Woodside SA in February 1964, this badge was transferred to that unit.
With further expansion of the Regiment in 1965, newly formed battalions, investigated the possibility of having similar badges cast. At this early date it was not financially practical and the new battalions temporarily displayed a smaller version of the Regimental Badge with a dull finish. Later, the remaining battalions of the Regiment acquired large crests.
5/7 RAR displays two crests; those belonging to 5 RAR and 7 RAR. The crest of 5 RAR was presented to the Battalion by the 2/5 Infantry Battalion Association in November 1967 and the crest of 7 RAR was presented by the 2/7 Infantry Battalion Association on 3 September 1966.
The crest displayed by 6 RAR was partially cast using spent artillery and small arms cases fired during the Battle of Long Tan, South Vietnam on 18 August 1968. The crest was cast at the Stuart Copper Refinery, Townsville in 1968.
The crest of 8 RAR was presented by 4 RAR on the occasion of 8 RAR’s first birthday on 8 August 1967. This crest was cast from spent shell cases fired by V Battery, Royal Artillery and Dragon Battery, Royal Artillery in support of 4 RAR operations in Sarawak, Borneo from April 1966 to September 1966.
The crest of 9 RAR was cast by the Naval Dockyard Foundry, Serabawang, Singapore in 1970 using the 1 RAR crest less the crown, as a diecast. The King’s Crown was then replaced with the Queen’s Crown.
Researched from the Infantry Centre Library Archives by WO2 R.W. Jones MM and transcribed from “The Field”, December 1986.
4 RAR Associations of Australia express our thanks for this contribution.
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