Table of Contents
Early Post Federation
There was a period of reorganisation that took several years. The new Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (ACMF) was not formally recognised until 2 years after Federation. Even then it took a period of years before full amalgamation occurred. Some Queensland units continued to wear State insignia until 1910.
For a good history of this transition period, see https://researchcentre.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/sp311_making_breaking_of_post-federation_australian_army-craig_stockings.pdf
Western Australian Highlanders
This unit was proposed in Perth during 1901 but took until 1903 to be established. It was allied to the 79th (Queen’s Own) Cameron Highlanders, and wore the uniform of that regiment. It is not clear when it was disbanded, but it was still in existence in 1915. A new Cameron Highlanders of WA was raised in 1936.
Australian Army Nursing Service
The AANS was set up in 1903 as an amalgamation of prior colonial units as part of the Australian Army Medical Service. It was a reserve unit of nurses who would volunteer for service during periods of conflict, and saw active duty in both World Wars. It was given the Royal prefix in 1948, and became part of the regular army in 1949. It reached corps status in 1951.
The nurses did not get their own designed uniform button until 1954.
Australian Commonwealth Military Forces: 1903-1916
The Department of Defence took over control of the Commonwealth’s military forces on 1st March 1901, soon after Federation. Under Major General Sir E.T.H. Hutton, the new Commonwealth Military Forces were brought into existence and formally recognised from 1903. Under the Defence Act of 1903, permanent soldiers could not be ordered to fight abroad. This meant that during WW1 and WW2 it was necessary to raise of an all volunteer AIF (Australian Imperial Force).
Australian Military Forces: 1916- 1980
The Australian Military Forces (AMF) was the official name of the Army of Australia from 1916 to 1980. This encompassed both the full-time and part-time (Citizen Military Forces). The new button design was shown in newspapers in 1912.
The map in the initial design seen was without state borders. There are also versions with state borders excepting the Northern territory, and versions with all borders. There were multiple makers involved, such was the demand for uniforms and buttons at the start of hostilities. The map of Australia shows varying degrees of accuracy, with Tasmania tiny in some, and the whole mainland distorted in others. This design was current during both world wars.
Later versions like Luke’s below, even have a dot to locate the A.C.T.
The initial version is described as “smooth on the field, rough on the relief”, but some versions have the opposite, and some are all smooth.
Miscellaneous clothing buttons
Australian Flying Corps:
This was initially a branch of the Army. See below in the entry for the R.A.A.F.
Australian Staff Corps
In 1920 this corps took over the administrative duties, and the Australian Instructional Corps (AIC) took over training of the interwar militia from the previous Administrative and Instructional Staff (A & I Staff). Post WW2 the increasing role of the regular army, and centralisation of the part-time forces training lead to the ending of this corps in 1983.
Australian Women’s Army Service
The A.W.A.S. was inaugurated in August 1941 after the success of the Women’s Australian National Service (W.A.N.S.) from 1940. They were demobilised by June 30th, 1947. Some who had served with the A.W.A.S. would later enlist in the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (W.R.A.A.C.S.) that formed in 1951.
Launceston Regiment, 12th Infantry Battalion
This regiment operated from 1914-1919. It had its roots in the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment formed in 1878. The battalion was re-raised in 1921 and given the title ‘Launceston Regiment’ in 1927. In 1960 after several mergers, splits and reformation, the Derwent Regiment and the Launceston Regiment were merged to form the Royal Tasmanian Regiment as part of the Army Reserve.
See also Cossum page 58.
The N.A.P. were sponsored by the Navy on 25th June 1941 to patrol the whole coastline of Australia . It absorbed the existing Volunteer Coastal Patrol, formed in 1938, originally with ten Sydney Yachtsmen but growing to over 1000 men in the ports and inlets from Queensland to the border of South Australia. In May 1942 the NAP was transferred into the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. The strength was over 3,000 men until 1944, when the risk of enemy attack was low enough to reduce to a minimum strength. Full time service volunteers became members of the RAN and received naval rates of pay and wore naval uniform.
Naval Dockyard Police
The Naval Police formed in 1913, called at that time the Naval Dockyard Police, although they were civilians, and had no real police powers, but did guarding duties. During WW1 they took on counter espionage. They did not cease to be a civilian organisation and become auxiliary of the Navy until 1923, when they also were given statuary powers. They remained an auxiliary until 1972 when they become part of the navy proper. They were then renamed Naval Police.
Royal Australian Air Force
Australian Flying Corps
In 1912 the Australian Army ordered its first aircraft and appointed its first pilots. The first flying school was set up at Point Cook, Victoria, the following year. At first known as the Australian Aviation Corps, the Australian Flying Corps was the forerunner of the Australian Air Corps formed in 1919, then the RAAF, established in 1921. The AFC saw action in Mesopotania, Palestine and France during WW1.
The example of the uniform tunics in the AWM collection have the general AMF buttons with the map of Australia.
Royal Australian Artillery
The Royal Australian artillery had been established prior to federation in 1899 (see the pre-federation page). From Federation until 1962 the artillery was referred to as the Royal Australian Artillery. Prior to 1947 the artillery in Australia were mainly militia units. Since the 19th September 1962, the artillery were renamed the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery as it is now a regiment of the Australian Army.
The Royal Australian Artillery took over post Federation from the colonial artillery units. It 1962 became the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.
Royal Australian Engineers
The RAE was formed from the merging of the colonial engineer corps in 1902. They provide engineering, construction and technical support to the defence forces.
Royal Australian Naval Brigade
According to https://www.navy.gov.au/brief-history-royal-australian-naval-reserve the R.A.N.B. was the title of naval reservists from 1917 until 1920, becoming the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserves in 1921.
Royal Australian Navy
The separate colonial navies were combined at Federation into the Commonwealth Naval Forces, however, it was not until 1904 that new uniforms were regulated. In 1911 it became the Royal Australian Navy.
From 1911-1928 the “lazy anchor”, i.e. tilted, was replaced by the “upright anchor”.
Australian Army Medical Corps
Royal Navy Reserve
According to Cossum, Stokes & Sons made uniforms for the British Royal Naval Reserve when they visited Australia. He dated them to pre 1910, but cannot confirm that. This design was used 1901-1921.
Volunteer Aid Detachment (V.A.D.)
There is an interesting history of the V.A.D. on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_Aid_Detachment
In 1909 the British Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Association together formulated a volunteer citizens nursing service which became known as Volunteer Aid Detachments, with nursing sections for women and a pharmacy/tradesmen/orderly section for men. The women were to supplement the Regular Army nursing service. A similar scheme was suggested in Australia in 1914.
The V.A.D member serving under Army command became the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service.
This service existed between 1942-1951. They were mainly drawn from Voluntary Aid Detachment personnel, and would serve full-time in military hospitals under Army control. In 1949 it became part of the Regular Army. When it disbanded in 1951 its duties were absorbed in that of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps.
Women’s Air Training Corps
The WATC was formed at Archerfield in Brisbane in July 1939 as a voluntary auxiliary service for local women interested in supporting the RAAF, although the War Council did not formally approve it until January 1941. When Flying Officer Bell, the founder of the corps, moved to Melbourne she was asked to establish a local group. Other groups were then established around Australia. The members were trained in communications, transport and clerical work for future positions in services such as the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) when it was formed in 1941.
A famous member of this corps was Nancy Bird (later Nancy Bird-Walton). She was Commandant from 1942-1944.