Military badge, general service 'Rising Sun' hat badge, Australian Imperial Force, copper alloy, maker unknown, Australia, c. 1914
The rising sun badge has been worn by Australian soldiers since 1902. Thus it is a symbol that links soldiers across several generations, and across many conflicts and peace-keeping missions. Its symbolism is at once warlike and hopeful, as it incorporates an array of bayonets to create the form of the rising sun. At the centre sits a crown, symbol of a soldier's allegiance to the Australian nation and the British monarch.
The badge was donated as part of a large collection of military badges and buttons. Each item in this collection is part of a long military tradition dating back to 1600s Britain. There is frequently a connection between the regiments represented by these badges and the invasion, securing and protection of the Australian colonies after 1788. Most of the badges date to 1914, when Australian troops fought during World War I side-by-side with these regiments in France, Palestine and the Dardanelles. They were probably collected during this time by an Australian Imperial Force member, as evidenced by the preponderance 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. By the end of that 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 as Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres known as the battle of Passchendaele.
The economic, social and emotional cost of these losses 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 designed in 1904. It followed a simpler design of 1902 that also incorporated an array of stylised bayonets to form a representation of the rising sun.
The badge was made in Australia. The good quality of metal used in this badge indicates that it was made either immediately before World War I, or in the early stages when the expected duration of the war was greatly underestimated. Later in the war, the need for frugality in the use of materials was realised, and badges were stamped from thinner gauge metal.
The badge would have been worn by a soldier from about 1914.
The badge was later collected by N A Taylor, who 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.