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20th September 2020

“Coat of Arms” buttons.

Collectors are curious creatures, wanting to know where, when and what their treasures are  made of? When it comes to uniform buttons, we also want to know who wore them? Therefore buttons with just  a coat of arms, or just a cypher or crown are a bit annoying, a bit vague. To say they are government buttons or official buttons to me is like saying you have bought a new car. Well, what kind of car? If there is another clue, like the Olympic rings, then you know it came from the Australian Olympic team of 1996 (I’d like one of those!)

One such button I bought was described by the seller as associated with the Hobart Government House. Perhaps other such houses around the country used these.

Stokes & Sons Melb


Another example was for the black and white naval style Customs uniform from 1954-1975. This button went on the tunic and overcoat and are made of a hard black plastic. See









Carol has shared a few others. Who knows whose uniforms they graced?

Stokes Vic ans Stokes Melbourne Australia

History of Coat of Arms in Australia

 Initially, the British Coat of Arms was used for official purposes.

Sir Isaac Isaccs was our 9th Governor General, and the first Australian born one. In the National Library of Australia is his ceremonial uniform made by William Chorley of Sydney, including a fine hat sporting a British Coat of Arms button:

However, an “Advance Australia Coat of Arms” was designed even before there was an Australian nation. Although unofficial, it was widely used, even as the basis of official designs.

Australian Horse (NSW) 1897-1903: Australian War Memorial collection. Backmark Hobson & Sons.

However, being unofficial, it was varied: the emu and kangaroo changed sides, supported the shield or not, and at times looked towards or away from the shield. The shield was surmounted by the Rising Sun. The rising sun was symbolic of the new country rising within the British Empire.

State Library NSW, Mitchell Library. possibly 1821. The artist is unknown.

Trade token.





Golden casket presented to HRH the Duke of York at Federation, 1901.

Post Federation, the first Coat of arms was granted in 1908. The emu had it’s foot up to support the shield, and the words ‘Advance Australia’ appeared on the scroll under the shield.

Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 20th August 1908 page 2. It shows the red cross of St George and the 5 stars of the Southern Cross.

Despite the design change in 1912, the old version appeared on coins until 1936, excepting the sixpence until 1963!

The current coat of arms, called the Commonwealth Coat of Arms dates from 1912.

Sydney Morning Herald, 28th September 1910 page 6. The shield now contains the 6 state badges. The supporters now stand on branches of wattle rather than on grass. The scroll contain s ‘Australia’ rather than ‘Advance Australia’.

Despite all this, as explained in the change over of usage of arms was gradual, as until 1986, the Australian States remained colonies of the UK!

Despite being erected in 1927, the Royal Coat of Arms appears on the old Parliment House as the dominant one.


















19th September 2020

New uniform buttons:

Merchant Navy buttons from Stokes.

White metal: Stokes & Sons. Gilt: Stokes & Sons Melb







Kitchener Sydney


Sydney Harbour Trust:

no backmark









This was a New South Wales government authority from November 1901 until 1936. It had many responsibilties including regulated movement of vessels, handling of cargo, preservation and improvement of the port,removal of wrecks, dredging, licencing piers, maintainace of swimming baths,  wharfage,fire fighting, and saftey. Its scope included all forshores, lighthouses and tugs within the harbour.

After 1936 these duties were taken over by the Maritime Services Board. See


Scouting button variation:

A. J. Parkes Brisbane


West Australian Government Tramways:

Stokes & Sons Melbourne.



17th September 2020

More Steamship buttons

According to Wikipedia (, coastal shipping  was a very important form of transport in the United Kingdom in the pre-railway era. From 1815, steamships began sailing between Liverpool and Glasgow, and from 1823 companies started to form. At first these were for coastal shipping, then to the Continent, and then to North America. The age of steam shipping lines had begun!

The webpage  claims steamships  started work in Australian waters in 1831, with the first shipping company started by Captain William Howard Smith in 1851. Dozens of shipping companies were soon plying the coastlines and rivers. From the 1870s intercolonial and international shipping would develop. The use of sailing ship in trade petered out in the 1920s, but steam shipping continued for decades until overtaken by diesel  post WW2, although some steam turbine-driven were still built in the 1970s. Rivalry between shipping lines could be fierce, with price cutting and even underhand tactics employed. During the wars ships were requisitioned , with some captured or sunk.

Check out the Australian National Maritime Museum’s online collections for artifacts from shipping companies.


Adelaide Steamship Co:









Huddart Parker Ltd:

Stokes & Sons Melb

From the Maritime Museum.

Started in Geelong in 1876 by James Huddart, Thomas J. Parker, and others as Huddart, Parker & Co. P/L. It moved to Melbourne in 1890.

Leader (Melbourne), 1st January 1901 page 79.

It traded the main intercolonial routes as well as to New Zealand with fierce rivalry occurring with other shipping lines.  It became a public company in 1911. The firm was taken over in 1961 by Bitumen and Oil Refineries Australia Ltd.


Eastern & Australian Steam Ship Co (E & A)














Originally established in 1873 as the Eastern & Australian Mail Steamship Co. to carry mail between Australia and Asia. When the mail contract was not renewed in 1880, a new company was formed; the Eastern & Australian Steamship Co. Ltd. It was taken over by P&O chairman Lord Inchape in 1918 but continued to run its passenger/cargo liners separately until 1946 when the shares were owned by several P&O subsidiaries. In 1966 it became part of P&O.

State Library NSW photo collection of Sydney Harbour 1865-1930 File number: FL12037136 File title: 45. [E. & A.S.S. Co. Wharf, Circular Quay]

Union Steam Ship Co:

The Brisbane Courier, 30th August 1930 page 9.


Formed in Dunedin in 1875 by James Mills from the Harbour Steam company of his deceased  boss. With a growing fleet of  modern ships, and by taking over smaller concerns, the firm grew. By 1877 it started trading between New Zealand and Australia, and by further acquisitions, including the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Co., came to dominate the trans-Tasman and Bass Strait trade. It extended to Pacific, transpacific, Asian routes and to Britain. In 1917 Mills sold the line to P&O. This turned out very well for P&O as they secretly over many years, pulled profits out of the firm to prop up less profitable parts of its business.

In 1971 P&O sold Union off to a consortium including  Thomas Nationwide Transport (TNT). Its services were reduced to concentrate on Tasman trade, reducing the company’s scope, then competition would further reduce profitability. Sadly, the once extensive and profitable firm ceased trading in 2000, after 125 years.


Australian Steamships Line:


The Australian Steamship line was managed by Howard Smith Ltd, (see ) from around January 1913-1938 to cruise Australian coastal waters.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 3rd May 1913 page 15.





16th September 2020

Carol has sent me a nice selection of steamship buttons including one with a new tailor’s name. More will be shared tomorrow.

Australasian United Steam Navigation Company: 1889-1961








See the uniform page:


H. F. Axon, Brisbane

Herbert Fisher Axon came to Australia as a young man in 1885. From around 1888 he traded as a hatter, mercer and hosier at 156 Queen Street, Brisbane, moving in 1892 to larger premises. His shop was the first to have lighted windows in Brisbane, which is sweet as his son, Sir Albert Edwin Axon became a prominent electrical engineer involved in setting up Queensland’s State Electricity Commission in 1936.

Brisbane Courier, 26th February 1892 page 2.

From 1892 he served as the the secretary of the Brisbane Gymnasium, where amateur boxing was conducted, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Sydney. Maybe it was this link with sailing that saw him supply shipping buttons, or possibly uniforms.  In 1933 he retired, with his remaining stock being sold by Allan & Stark. He died in April 1942, aged 82 years.




15th September 2020

New Finds:

Bottom: 1967-72



Dating Woolworths buttons

Unlike G. J. Coles who stuck to Embassy branding of their buttons, Woolworths had multiple brands; Hi-Style, Moonglow, Boilproof, Kiddietone, Spares, Woolworths and Grandway. Why so many?

Recently I discussed dating cards of Embassy buttons. To recap: On 14th February 1966 our currency changed from imperial to decimal. From that time until 1st August 1967 there was a “dual currency”  transitional period. You may notice old goods with dual prices printed. You may also have the same buttons carded with pre, dual and post dual pricing allowing you to date to early 1960s, 1966-7, and post August 1967.

Feb 1966-Oct 1967, and post August 1967.


From the printing on the back of the cards, I think the ‘spares’ were Woolies’ earliest branded buttons. They were supplied by General Plastics. This would be some time between 1951 and 1954. There is no mention of the Federal Council of Dry Cleaners.










From around 1954 you had the following brands: The endorsement of the drycleaners is now added.

Some of these brands would also appear been 1954-57 with ‘Woolworths’ name added.

The cards without ‘Woolworths’ on them are older.

As with Coles, from around 1957 the cards changed to the shape of Beutron with the added yarn, and stayed like that until around 1972. I suspect the pink ‘Moonglow’ cards date from around 1957-1960, then the new triangle logo appears (see below).

The Spare cards below together show the transitioning of those cards from pre-1954 to post 1957.


In 1958 Woolworths opened the first supermarket. From April 1960 the triangle surrounding the letter W and the Southern Cross was first used as Woolworths new logo. This was printed on the cards of buttons. from 1960-1965 these cards were coloured blue. For some reason, they switched to both yellow and white cards during 1966-67.

Australian Women’s Weekly, 25th April 1962 page 40. Hats and white gloves to visit the supermarket. Very nice.


Around 1968 they cards changed again, with the new brand now  Sew’N’Save.

1969 advert.


The next change of logo did not occur until late 1972, when the Big W Chevron was introduced.


Australian Women’s Weekly, 29th November 1972 page 85.

Prices on the older cards range from 20 – 75 cents. On the newer, plainer card they range from 50cents to $1:05.

The most recent label used on Woolworth cards of buttons was Grandway. Although this brand was sold in Woolies from 1969, the prices on the cards, 85 cents to $1.25, indicate these cards date later than on the previous cards, perhaps from the 1980s.


14th September 2020

Part 3.

Just a small example of the disregard for women’s war work, from a man:

The Argus (Melbourne), 25th October 1940 page 10.

You must remember that women were not allowed to enlist until 1941, when severe manpower shortages made it necessary. Before that, and for those unable to enlist, the volunteer organisations provided an outlet for their desire to do something for the war effort. The multitude of uniforms that resulted could have been avoided if Australia had done as the USA did, and designed a uniform for civilian defence work from the outset.

The Argus (Melbourne), 19th July 1941 page 1 weekend magazine.

Australian Women’s  Land Army

Girls were supplied with  khaki clothes including shirts, bib-and-brace overalls, woollen pullover, working boots, ankle and long socks, gum boots, stockings, short and long gloves, mackintosh, street frock and a pair of street shoes!

State Library Victoria: 1940 # 1713826

State Library SA #B 59957

Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS)

The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) was authorised in August 1941.

The Sun (Sydney), 21st February 1942 page 3.

State Library SA : AWAS 1942.

Commonwealth Peace Officers

 Commonwealth Peace Officers.

See also entry for Commonwealth Peace Officers in the Uniform pages.















This lady was in charge of peace officers working at  South Australian munition factories. The uniform consisted of a tailored navy blue coat frock with chromium buttons on the blouse and pockets, a felt hat with a sliver and blue enamel peace officer’s badge, and “sturdy black walking shoes”.

Women’s Signalling Corps (WESC)

The Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed in April 1941 and disbanded at the end of the war. The first to be recruited were volunteers from the Women’s Signalling Corps (WESC).

The Sydney Morning Herald, 26th March 1940 page 6. The uniforms were green dungarees at this stage.

Australian War Memorial. 1941. Members of WRANS, still in their WESC uniforms.

Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF)

The Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) was formed in March 1941, with volunteers joining from the WESC and WATC (see prior posts). It would be replaced by the WRAAF.

Border Watch (Mt Gambier), 29th June 1954. New uniforms for WRAAF members. The home dress uniform on the left, the one piece cotton biscuit coloured dress for tropical wear on the right.


13th September 2020

War Workers Uniforms, part 2

Catholic United Services Australia (C.U.S.A.)

They provided canteen service, including Christmas dinner, for service men and women. They wrote letters for soldiers, provided necessities, and ran dances.

The Daily telegraph (Sydney), 20th March 1941. Two CUSA members hang a US flag in a hall”

Junior Naval Auxillary

Established in April 1940 to teach girls seamanship, morse, and semaphore.

The Daily Telegraph (Brisbane), 19th January 1941 page 4.

National Emergency Women Ambulance Drivers

In Women’s National Emergency Legion (WNEL) was established in Brisbane in 1938. Their uniform was similar to that of the British Territorial Auxiliaries.

Miss Ronda Kinninmont, of the National Emergency Women Ambulance Drivers. Of navy blue drill, the uniform has squared pockets trimmed with brass buttons, and a matching visor-cap demonstrates how it may be worn with the back flap lowered for wet weather protection. An N.E.S. badge is pinned to the cap. Black driving gloves with a plain gauntlet are worn. In addition, black dugarees were required.

Randwick National Emergency Services (N.E.S.) Aids

The NES was formed in February 1939 to provide air raid wardens.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), 2nd January 1942 page 6.


Red Cross Executive

Red Cross  Volunteer Aid Detachment (V.A.)

Women’s All Services Canteen

The Women’s All Services Canteen (WASC) operated a free 24 hour canteen at Central Railway Station, Sydney between 1940 and 1945, where service personnel could get a meal at any time.

Members wore yellow canteen uniforms, earning themselves the nickname “canaries”. The officers wore olive-green military type uniforms.

Women’s Emergency Signallers’ Corps

They also wore black ties and gloves and green dungarees for camp.


Australian War Memorial. 1939 portrait of WESC member.


12th September 2020

Researching uniform buttons, it became apparent that there were a multitude of women’s war organisations during WW2. This possibly resulted in duplication of services and less efficiency. As the federal government and military did not initially support women being trained to serve in the armed forces these organisations were not taken seriously by the general public. However, they highlighted women’s fervent desire to contribute, to somehow help ‘the boys’. They had to pay for their own uniforms, with an average cost of over 3 pounds.

An article in The Sun (Sydney) on page 1 of the women’s section, 9th March 1941, focused on the uniforms for ‘War Workers’, as two parades were to be held for them. Unless indicated, the pictures below are from that article.

Note that “overalls” for women were a style of shirt-dresses, not pants with bibs and braces.

Part 1

Anzac Buffet Women’s Auxiliary


Australian Women’s Flying Club

Formed in 1938. The uniform consisted of blue dungarees, or a tunic.

Australian War Memorial image p01857.005

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 28th July 1940 page 2.

Girl Guide Movement

Sunshine Coast Libraries. Girl Guides in 1941.

National Defence League Transport Unit

The Sun (Sydney(, 8th September 1940 page 21.Members of the VAL transport unit. They learnt map reading, mechanics, morse signalling, first aid and military transport drill.

St John Ambulance Brigade V. A. Detachment

Women’s Australian National Services (WANS)







11th September 2020

New Uniform Buttons

Army Medical Staff Corps

Hobson & Sons Lexington St. London W. According to Cossum c.1855.

This button, with Queen Victoria’s cypher and crown, is from the British Army. The Medical Staff Corps was first raised in 1855, only to be renamed Army Hospital Corps in 1857 then re-re named the Medical Staff Corps in 1884. Until 1870 the various British troops in Australian were cared for by regimental surgeons and colonial surgeons. The first regular Australian Army surgeon was Dr W. J. Bedford, appointed in 1871. The above button, if it was worn in Australia, would date 1855-1870.

The Port Macquarie Museum has a fine example of Royal Army Medical Staff c.1830. The buttons have a William IV cypher but a similar design. See


George V NSW Tranways in nice condition:

Stokes & Sons Melbourne


AMF button:

This has no makers mark, and a different type of shank. I like the swished Arnhem Land, and the very pointy Cape York. For other examples, see the military uniforms page.