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Whatís on your hat?

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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Mei 2010 19:02    Onderwerp: Whatís on your hat? Reageer met quote

Whatís on your hat?
By Phil Blackwell

How many of us take much notice of that small coloured piece of material worn on the right hand side of slouch hats?

Have you ever wondered why the army wear colour patches?

Well, hopefully the following may help to answer some of your questions.

Colour patches first appeared during the South African War (1899-1902), when a number of British units began to add small patches of tartan or cloth in the colours of their regiment to their uniforms. These generally adorned the puggarees of pith helmets and were recognised as a point of identification with the various regiments and units.[1]

In the Australian Army, colour patches had their origin in the 1914-1918 war, in coloured flags staked in unit lines to make units easier to find in large camps. A simple system of shapes was adopted and proved so helpful that soldiers were ordered to wear miniatures of their unit flags on each sleeve. In the case of an infantry soldier, the shape of his patch identified his division. If his patch was divided horizontally, the lower colour was that of his brigade and the upper colour that of his battalion. If divided vertically, the rearmost colour was his brigade and the foremost his battalion.

With modifications, this system continued during World War II. The modifications were made to cater for the greater number of shapes and more intricate patterns that were necessary to identify the increased number of

units in the Australian Army. Colour patches of the original expeditionary force of the 1939-45 war, the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions, followed those of the first four divisions of the expeditionary force of the 1914-18 war, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions, which had been adopted for the militia divisions between the wars. To distinguish the 1939-45 Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), unit colours were imposed on a grey background of the divisional shape. However, early in the 1939-45 war, the divisions were reduced from four infantry brigades to three, and the brigades from four infantry battalions to three each, which meant that the World War I sequence of battalions within brigades and divisions was lost.

This added to the difficulties of Ďpatch readingí.

The wearing of colour patches of various shapes and sizes by members of the Australian Army lasted from 1915 to 1949. The wearing of the unit colour patch was discontinued between 1949 and 1987 in favour of the shoulder titles then worn by the British and Canadian armies.[2]

Colour patches were not unique to the Australian Army. They were used in various forms by the British Army and by other Commonwealth forces. The Canadian Expeditionary Force, in particular, had an extensive scheme which rivalled the AIF system for simplicity and coordination between formations.[3]

To hinder enemy intelligence-gathering, the Department of Defence directed in 1915 that distribution of colour patch code lists be severely restricted. Despite this, details were widely circulated, and many units even produced Christmas cards bearing their colour patch, to be sent to relatives at home. Removal of unit colour patches by troops in combat zones was not considered to be justified in either World War I or World War II, as they were essential both during battle and in post-battle reorganisation.[4]

After the Middle East campaigns, and subsequent to World War II, patches were not worn in operational areas due to the emphasis on security and personal concealment.[5]

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