Colour patches were worn on Australian soldiers’ uniforms to show which unit they belonged to. The colour on the upper part of their patch showed which battalion a soldier was part of, and the lower colour signified their brigade.
Detail from a diagram showing colour patches used in World War I,
from Official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918, volume 3, published 1929.
Different divisions had different shaped patches:
First Division: rectangle
Second Division: diamond
Third Division: horizontal oval
Fourth Division: circle
Fifth Division: vertical oblong
Sixth Division: vertical oval patch
Someone at headquarters was obviously kept busy thinking up new designs!
The men below, found in photographs from our Pictures Collection, are from the Second Division, although it is tricky to figure out which brigade they were part of:
Detail from Portraits of unidentified soldiers taken during World War I, H84.205/79
Detail from [Australian soldier in trench], H83.103/282
You can find out more about interpreting colour patches in our World War I: researching soldiers research guide, which includes a coloured diagram showing many of the patches that were used during World War I.
Written by Barbara Carswell
Librarian, Redmond Barry Team