Military badge, headdress badge, Durham Light Infantry, British Army, white metal, maker unknown, Great Britain, c. 1914
Each badge and button in this collection is part of a long military tradition dating back to 1600s Britain. Nevertheless, there is frequently a connection between the regiments represented by these badges, and the invasion, securing and protection of the Australian colonies after 1788. In addition, most of the badges date back to 1914 when Australian troops fought during World War I side-by-side with these regiments in France, Palestine and the Dardanelles. It is during this time they were likely to have been collected by an Australian Imperial Force member as evidenced by the large numbers of Commonwealth AIF badges and buttons.
While the relevance of these objects appears to be as part of military tradition and history, it is far broader: for every badge represented in this collection there were families and loved-ones at home. Many of the men who went to war did not return. In World War I, from Australia's population of less than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, of whom over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. Examples of specific action underscore the carnage. In July 1916 Australian infantry at Fromelles suffered 5,533 casualties in only 24 hours and by the end of the year about 40,000 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In 1917 a further 76,836 Australians became casualties in battles, such Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres, known as the battle of Passchendaele. The economic, social and emotional cost for the Home Front is incalculable with grieving families, and especially women, being left to carry the burden in the tough societal conditions of post-war Australia. When viewed in this way, the history represented by these seemingly utilitarian and military-specific badges and buttons is actually of deeply complex and multi-layered significance.
Australian War Memorial http:www.awm.gov.au/atwar/ww1.htm.
The badge was made in Great Britain.
The good quality of metal used in these badges indicates they were made either immediately before World War I, or in the early stages when the expected duration of the war was greatly underestimated, and before the subsequent necessity of frugality in the use of materials was realised. Badges made later in the war were stamped from thinner gauge metal.
Worn on headdress of the uniform at time of WWI, c. 1914.
Collected by N A Taylor. The donor of these badges was prompted to give them to the Powerhouse Museum by virtue of his relationship to Major H.P. (Pat) Boland, numismatic curator (and later consultant) at this Museum from 1961 to 2006.