Prior to the introduction of distinguishing colour patches on 8 March 1915, units of the Australian Imperial Force were distinguished by corps letters and numerals. These badges were worn above the "Australia" shoulder title by other ranks and on the collar, above or beside (depending upon the jacket worn) the general service badge, by officers. On the adoption of distinguishing colour patches these badges appear to have been abandoned. Many other ranks however, continued to wear them up to the end of the war.

 

Introduction and Withdrawal


Lieutenant David Brown, 4th Bn c. 1914

Lieutenant David Brown, 4th Bn c. 1914

Lt Brown wears the corps title ('INF') and numeral ('4') of the 4th Battalion just above the step of the collar. The collar badge is worn below the step. The majority of officers shown wearing these badges do so with the collar badge above the step of the collar and the corps title and numeral(s) above.

AWM P03302.001

The earliest reference to these badges in AIF Orders is contained within AIF Order No.2 of 26 August 1914. Within this order the authorised scale of issue of kit, uniform and necessaries is published, included in which are the Badge, Copper, Shoulder Strap, (Corps Letters), Pairs; and Numerals, Copper. These orders however, contain no information as to the form of these badges.

 

AIF Order No.14 of 10 September 1914 shows images of all corps letters then in use, those worn with numerals having a "1" placed above them. This order states that the badges were to be worn by 'warrant and non-commissioned officers and men on the shoulder straps of the service jacket'. The order contains no reference to the badges being worn by officers however, an earlier order (AIF Order No.5, 31 August 1914) publishing lists of clothing kit and necessaries in seperate lists for both officers and other ranks, mounted and dismounted, lists these badges in both the mounted and dismounted officers lists. These lists also give the position items were to be worn or carried. Interestingly, these badges are listed as being worn 'on person' while other badges (rank, hat, collar and 'Australia') are listed with clear positions given. This undoubtedly led to confusion amongst officers and a later order was published giving the position the badges were to be worn.

 

Corps letters and numerals will be worn by officers on the stand-and-fall collar of the service dress jacket, the badge being 1 inch from the opening and the numeral and letter in line with it, but 1 inch further to the rear on each side.

 

On the jacket, service dress, with step collar, described in Military Order 606/1913, the corps letters and numerals will be worn just above the step.

 

AIF Order No.10, 5 September 1914

 

Orders introducing numerals for Army Service Corps Companies (AIF Order No.3 28 August 1914) and for Signal Companies, Signal Troops and Light Horse Field Ambulances (AIF Order No.13 9th September 1914) were made after the introduction of the badges. Given the short time between the badges introduction and the promulgation of these orders however, it is unlikely that they were ever worn without numerals by these units.

 

Not shown in AIF Order No.14 are the corps letters worn by the Army Pay Corps ('APC'), Army Ordnance Corps ('AOC'), and Army Veterinary Corps ('AVC'). Although the AIF Order introducing these badges has not been located they do appear in the 'Special Orders for the AIF For Troops on board Transports forming the 3rd Convoy' (February 1915).

 

On the adoption of Distinguishing Colour Patches on 8 March 1915, these badges appear to have been abandoned. No mention of their removal is however, contained within Divisional Order 81 (introducing distinguishing colour patches), and an AIF order deleting them from items of dress is yet to be located. Certainly, they do not appear to have been worn by officers after this date which would indicate that they were no longer an item of dress.

 

Private Errol Watkins 17th Bn c.1915

1318 Private Errol Watkins 17th Bn c.1915

The corps title ('INF') and numerals ('17') can clearly be seen on the shoulder strap of Pte Watkins' jacket.

AWM P06418.002

The earliest reference to their removal is contained within the standing orders of the 47th Battalion. These orders list the 'only badges to be worn by a soldier of the Australian Imperial Force' and orders the following badges 'be deleted from para.47(1) Orders for the Australian Imperial Force:- Badge, Collar, Shoulder Strap (Corps Letters and Numerals)'. Although these standing orders are undated the orders concerning dress and these badges in particular are quoted from Brigade Routine Order No.246. This order, although a copy has not been located in the unit diary for the 12th Brigade, would appear to date from early 1919.

 

Photographic evidence clearly indicates they continued to be worn in Australia by AIF soldiers of units that were to form the 2nd Division (this division not being formed until July 1915). On the adoption of colour patches for these units however, they also appear to have been removed.

 

It is clear that many other ranks continued to wear them up to the end of the war and period photographs clearly attest to this. These photographs suggest that after being abandoned the majority of men who continued to wear them did so without the numerals, the corps title alone being worn. Their continued use may be attributable to the fact that they would have clearly indicated early enlistment within the AIF, as men who had enlisted after late 1915 would not have been issued these badges. Before the appearance of the Gallipoli Service Emblem in November 1917, worn unofficially by some soldiers from 1916, the corps letters would also have been an indication of service at Gallipoli.

 


Manufacture


Corps letters and numerals, like hat, collar and "Australia" badges were made of copper and oxidised. Given the majority of these badges were not marked it is difficult to identify the badges of different manufacturers. That they were made by several different manufacturers is almost certain given the variance in both font and size.

 

Table: Corps Letters and Numerals


The following images show the corps letters and numerals above the "Australia" badge (as worn by other ranks on the shoulder strap). Those shown with the corps letters only were worn without numerals. The description below those badges with numerals shows the units distinguished by that numeral.

 

Divisional Headquarters

Divisional Headquarters

Light Horse Brigades

Light Horse Brigades

Infantry Brigades

Infantry Brigades

Light Horse Regiments

Light Horse Regiments

Infantry Battalions

Infantry Battalions

Field Artillery Brigades

Field Artillery Brigades

Field Companies, Australian Engineers

Field Companies, Engineers

Signal Companies, Australian Engineers

Signal Companies, Engineers

Signal Troops, Australian Engineers

Signal Troops, Engineers

Field Ambulances, AAMC

Field Ambulances, AAMC

Light Horse Field Ambulances, AAMC

Light Horse Field Ambulances, AAMC

Army Veterinary Corps

Army Veterinary Corps

Army Ordnance Corps

Army Ordnance Corps

Army Pay Corps

Army Pay Corps

Post Office Corps

Post Office Corps

Military (Mounted) Police

Military (Mounted) Police

Provost Corps Titles


The Provost Corps was the only unit within the AIF that continued to wear corps shoulder titles after the adoption of distinguishing colour patches.

 

The corps title "Anzac Provost Corps" was introduced by AIF Order No.496 of 1917 and "Australian Provost Corps" by AIF Order No.1098 5 February 1918.

 

Anzac Provost Corps

Anzac Provost Corps

Australian Provost Corps

Australian Provost Corps