18th August 2020

South Australian Police

Shierlaw & Co Adelaide 1902-1920


I have received some great information from John White, retired SAPOL  and member of the South Australian Police Historical Society:

“Other than the buttons used on the 1854 Garibaldi jacket, SAPOL uniform tunic buttons have remained the same design (except for the change from a King’s to Queen’s Crown in 1974) since their introduction in the 1840’s and up until the present time. Only two sizes of buttons have been used, they are, large and small. Generally, the small buttons were used on the Mounted Police and Junior Constable/Cadet tunics and the large on the foot police and general duty uniforms.

Unlike other police forces in Australia that had specific ‘police’ designed uniform buttons, South Australia Police only used a generic ‘SA’ button which was also adopted by other South Australian government agencies, such as the then SA Gaols and Prisons Department (later renamed SA Correctional Services).”

When I queried the use of the Kings Crown until 1974, there was an amusing reason …

The use of the Monarch’s crown in SA is an interesting one.  In 1951 then Police Commissioner Ivor Green designed a new police cap badge to replace the then existing Brunswick style SA Police cap badge.  The new badge featured the State’s piping shrike bird emblem and a King’s Crown.  The badge featured the  King’s Crown in anticipation of the Royal visit to Adelaide by  King George the 6th in 1953.  The new badge was issued in 1951 to all police officers.  Unfortunately the King died in 1952 and was replaced by Her Majesty QEII.  The problem for SAPOL was that a considerable amount of money had been spent on the new badge with the King’s Crown and SAPOL was not in a financial position to issue a replacement badge with the correct Queen’s Crown.  It did not seem to worry SAPOL or the State Government that we were using the wrong crown and in the ensuring years the Piping Shrike badge with the King’s Crown continued to be manufactured and remained in use along with the King’s Crown uniform police buttons.  It was not until Commissioner Harold Salisbury from the UK was appointed Commissioner of Police in 1974 that it was pointed out to him that we were using the wrong crown.  It was then decided from that time onwards that any new batch of cap badges and buttons manufactured were to feature the Queen’s Crown.  As a result from 1974 all new recruits were issued with the Queen’s Crown cap badge and buttons, however, the King’s Crown badges already on issue to members were not withdrawn and remained in use along with the Queen’s crown version until both badges were withdrawn in 1998 and replaced by the current cap badge.

Interestingly, for sentimental reasons the King’s Crown piping shrike cap badge and buttons were much preferred and treasured by SA Police officers.  Today the KC piping shrike cap badge is a much sought after collectors item as opposed to the same cap badge featuring the Queen’s Crown.   An interesting quirk in SAPOL history.”


The Museum run by SAPHS looks fascinating. When we plague ridden Victorians are once again allowed to cross the border, I intend to visit.

“Uniforms for the Times – Badges & Uniforms of the South Australia Police 1838-2010” by John White published 2010.


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