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.

Part of a coloured diagram showing different red and green colour patches used by 1st Division soldiers from New South Wales and Victoria

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:

Portrait photograph of unidentified Australian soldier taken during World War I, with colour patch on sleeve of his uniform circled in red.

Detail from Portraits of unidentified soldiers taken during World War I, H84.205/79

Detail from photograph showing Australian soldier standing in trench, wearing uniform; sandbags in background. Colour patch on right hand sleeve of his uniform circled in red.

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

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