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Where did ANZAC come from and 50 other Frequently Asked Questions

ANZAC is made from the initials of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps.

  • The first proposal for a name for the newly formed Corps was the "Australasian Army Corps". The New Zealanders would have none of it, so A & NZAC (later ANZAC) came into being.

Australian war historian C.E.W. Bean attributes the acronym ANZAC to a Lieutenant A.T. White, one of General Birdwood’s ‘English clerks’. The first official sanction for its use was at Birdwood’s request to denote where the Corps had established a bridgehead on the Gallipoli Peninsula. However, there is little argument that ANZAC was first used as a simple code in Egypt. A later historical work, Gallipoli, by the English historian Robert Rhodes James states:

Two Australian Sergeants, Little and Millington had cut a rubber stamp with the initials ‘A & NZAC’ for the purpose of registering papers at the Corps headquarters, situated in Shepheard’s Hotel, Cairo. When a code name was requested for the Corps, a British officer, a Lt. White, suggested ANZAC. Little later claimed that he made the original suggestion to White. It was in general use by January 1915.

Whatever its origin, the acronym ANZAC became famous with the landing of the Corps on the Gallipoli Peninsula at the Dardanelles, on 25 April 1915. It has since become synonymous with the determination and spirit of our armed forces.

The acronym survived Gallipoli. I and II ANZAC Corps fought in France and the ANZAC Mounted Division fought in Palestine. The decision to separate the Australian and New Zealand components of the ANZAC Corps was taken on 14 November 1917 when it was announced that the Corps would cease to exist from January 1918. An Australian Corps was then created to absorb the Australian divisions.

There was a brief period during World War 2 when ANZAC was resurrected. On 12 April 1941 in Greece, General Blamey declared I Australian Corps to be the ANZAC Corps, much to the delight of its Australian and New Zealand formations.

ANZAC was again a reality during the Vietnam conflict where, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, an ANZAC battalion served in Phuoc Tuy Province. These battalions were created by absorbing companies and supporting elements from The Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment into a battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR). Our 2nd, 4th and 6th Battalions held the distinction of being titled, for example, 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion.

General Ian Hamilton wrote in his preface to "Crusading at Anzac, A.D. 1915," by Signaller Ellis Silas: "As the man who first, seeking to save himself trouble, omitted the five full stops and brazenly coined the word "Anzac," I am glad to write a line or two in preface to sketches which may help to give currency to that token throughout the realms of glory."

Frequently asked questions 51 to 100

  1. What is Trench Foot?
  2. What is Crotch Rot?
  3. What is the J?
  4. What is "the rubber"?
  5. What is the 1,000 yard stare?
  6. What is a "grunt stick"?
  7. What is a grunt, a sparkie, a drop short, a tankie, a ginger beer?
  8. Some medals were created well after the war. Is Grand-dad eligible?
  9. Were those blokes in the 1st AIF really tough or is it just a legend?
  10. What was the most valuable thing the AIF blokes had?
  11. I have heard about a mutiny in the AIF. Did that happen?
  12. Were men made to go to Viet Nam against their will?
  13. Why didn't the men from Viet Nam have parades when they came home?
  14. Was the Viet Nam War always unpopular?
  15. Was WW1 the end for "real" cavalry on horses?
  16. Why do you have such little writing on your web pages?
  17. My uncle's Discharge Papers read ARA/NS. What does that mean?
  18. Can you describe the Kokoda Track?
  19. Is the proper name Kokoda Track or Kokoda Trail?
  20. What is "the Pig"?
  21. What does "Rock & Roll" mean?
  22. What is Lock & Load?
  23. Can Officers or NCOs hit Diggers?
  24. What happens if a Digger thinks he has been mistreated?
  25. Can women service personnel give orders to men?
  26. Do Australian Service personnel have to take orders from other Armies?
  27. Do Australian service personnel have to obey civilian laws?
  28. Do Australian service personnel work set hours?
  29. What are "Rules of Engagement"?
  30. What is the story about the Burma Star and the Pacific Star?
  31. Is Australia the only country with an ANZAC Commemorative Medal?
  32. Where is all the history of East Timor and Afghanistan?
  33. Do Viet Nam Veterans whinge more than soldiers from other wars?
  34. I have read King Rat and seen The Bridge on the River Kwai. Are they true?
  35. How did soldiers get their numbers in WW1?
  36. How did the numbering system work in WW2?
  37. Was the Army numbering system still the same for Malaya, Korea, Vietnam?
  38. What was Anzac Leave? Did it have anything to do with Gallipoli?
  39. What does "port side" mean ?
  40. Why isn't there more info about my unit?
  41. Can Aussies wear medals from other countries?
  42. What does a white feather mean?
  43. Why do you use emotive names like Jap and NAZI?
  44. Is the VC harder or easier to win now?
  45. Have community standards changed about acceptable military behaviour?
  46. Is the method of awarding medals fair?
  47. What is a swagger stick?
  48. How does the military discipline system work?
  49. What does "Confined to Barracks" mean?
  50. What are the colours?

What is Trench Foot?

Trench Foot (Trench Feet) was a highly debilitating condition bought about by having the feet in water for long periods. It caused 12% of the non fatal casualties in the AIF. It was avoided in the early days by rubbing the feet with whale-oil. Other later treatment was to use talcum powder and to air dry the feet daily. It was a lesser problem in WW2 and is reducing almost to the point of non-existence because of Army insistence on hygiene standards in the field, better footwear and a reducing use of fixed trenches. In the 1960s I was required to inspect the feet of my Platoon on a regular basis and if any one got Trench Foot he got a kick up the ask your mother and so did I. 

The mud and slush throughout the Ypres Sector kept the feet of the troops in a continual state of dampness and caused the complaint of 'trench feet' to become fairly general. Members of the 40th Battalion, 10th Australian Infantry Brigade are seen here taking advantage of a rest at Dragoon Farm, near Ypres, after the Battle of Passchendaele Ridge, to bathe and oil their feet in order to obviate the malady. Details of WW1 treatment . Go to top of page

What is Crotch Rot?

Soldiers sometimes spend weeks, even months, in the field without the chance to wash or shower. Even in peacetime this happens, especially overseas. The longest time I have personally seen is 3 weeks. In hot climates the old skin particles around the crotch and armpits and in the crack of your bum mix with the dirt and sweat to form a foul smelling goo that eventually gets infected and  attacks the flesh and turns it "proud", that is red, inflamed and very itchy turning to painful. It is to be avoided at all costs in my opinion. The treatment is worse but of shorter duration.

The treatment is an ointment called "Whitfield's Ointment". It contains a fair dose of benzoic acid and when applied to proud flesh or the very tender parts around the crotch, burns with a pain that has to be experienced to be believed. I can assure you that it takes a fair bit of talking to get a Digger to voluntarily rub acid on his knackers.

Short, true story. Malaysia 1969. I am a Rifleman/Stretcher Bearer (now called Combat Medic). I had just returned from 14 days in the J with my Platoon. I am looking forward to lots of beer and a girl or two and some proper food. The Boss calls me up to tell me that I have to do an immediate turnaround and go back into the J for another 14 days with another Platoon. I am NOT HAPPY. Guess what. That Platoon has a brand new Duntroon graduate 2Lt on his first trip into the bush in Malaysia. He ran the Platoon ragged, charging up mountainsides (bloody steep in Malaysia) just for the sake of showing that he was "the man". After 4 days I disliked him, after 10 days I hated him and the rest of the Platoon did likewise.

Towards the end he came to me with crotch rot. Now normally I would advise a new boy about Whitfield's and tell him to use it sparingly and be ready for the pain but it was PAYBACK TIME. I tossed this bloke a full, new tube of Whitfield's and said "Here, smear this on and don't miss anything". He used nearly the whole tube and applied it to EVERYTHING he had hanging or in the area. When the pain hit him it was a pretty sight. He did not know whether he was punched, bored, drilled or stapled. He was in agony.

When we got back to camp he tried to have me charged. "Can't do, sorry" was the reply he got from my boss, the Medical Officer, a doctor. "It was the correct ointment and the dosage was self administered". He now hates me. We are even. He is a little wiser. The Doc slipped me a slow wink. Go to top of page

What is the J?

The jungle, the bush, the scrub. The land out past where the bitumen ends and the tracks run out. Go to top of page

What is "the rubber"?

In Asia there are many rubber plantations. These are much easier to travel through than virgin jungle but are even more dangerous. In the jungle everyone can be considered enemy unless it is a native village. A rubber plantation has many workers who are not enemy....or are they? Go to top of page for photo of rubber.

What is the 1,000 yard stare?

It is a term from the Viet Nam war that was originally used to describe the look in the eyes of front line soldiers that gave one the impression that they were ever watchful out to the 1,000 yard line (where possible) as that was considered to be the extent of the danger zone.

Later for American troops it was sometimes used, with a different intonation, to describe the vacant expression on the face of dope-heads just serving out their time . Go to top of page

What is a "grunt stick"?

When in the J troops poop into small trench latrines. One cannot totally undress and squatting over a hole in the ground, with your trousers around your ankles, without falling backwards is not easy. You need something to hold onto.

As well, because you are living on dehydrated ration pack food with a limited amount of water your stools are small, hard and not easily moved. Constipation is a common problem in these circumstances.

It became the practice to either dig the latrine beside a tree or insert a stick at the front of it so the Digger would have something to hold onto while he went about his business. Because completing the bowel motion took some effort this stick got known as the "grunt stick".  Go to top of page

What is a grunt, a sparkie, a drop short, a tankie, a ginger beer?

Grunt an infantryman, from the noise they make when they lift their pack
Crunchie an infantryman circa 1960 to 1967
Sparkie any soldier from Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers
Drop Short or (b) 9 mile sniper an artillery man, from their worst possible mistake, dropping rounds on you because they fell short of the target (b) from their ability to hit a target from that distance
Tankie any soldier in the Armoured Corps, whether in tanks or tracks
Ginger Beer any soldier in the Engineers, from rhyming slang  Go to top of page

Some medals were created well after the war. Is Grand-dad eligible?

  • He very well might be. 
    • The Australian Service Medal 1945/75 was instituted well after the war and many thousands of people from WW2, Malaya, Korea, New Guinea and other places are now eligible.
    • The 50th Anniversary of National Service Medal is another recent medal to which hundreds of thousands of people are now entitled.
    • There is also 2 newish medals from the Viet Nam war era for civilians and others who had previously been overlooked.
    • There is a new medal to recognise Civilian Service in WW2

Go to top of page

  • If you believe you or a relative have a claim direct your enquiries to It's An Honour

Were those blokes in the 1st AIF really tough or is it just a legend?

"In September, for example, there came to the medical officer of the 9th a youngster named Gray (of Murgon, Q'land), whom he remembered having seen before. This was one of two brothers, Queenslanders of the 9th Bn., who during the voyage from Australia nearly a year before had both become ill with influenza. They had been so reduced by illness that they were suspected of being tubercular, and were consequently brought before a medical board at Mena Camp and ordered to be returned to Australia. Both were so heartbroken that they wept, and Col. B.J. Newmarch (of Sydney), who presided over the board, relented, and allowed each of them to be put temporarily off duty, in order to build themselves up by food and exercise. They were eventually declared fit, and afterwards sedulously avoided the doctor, and both landed with their battalion. At the Landing one brother (Pte. G.R. Gray) had been a member of one of the parties which penetrated farthest. It was the other who now came to the regimental doctor saying that he had received a wound at the Landing and, though he had been to hospital, it was again giving a little trouble. He had endeavoured to "carry on," but had at last been forced to see if the doctor could advise a little treatment. The medical officer found that he had had a compound fracture of the arm, two bullets through his thigh, another through diaphragm, liver and side; and that there were adhesions to the liver and pleura. He was returned at once to Australia, where he was eventually discharged from hospital and , re-enlisting, returned to the front in the artillery. His brother eventually became quartermaster of the 9th, in which capacity he continued to serve until the last year of the war."  (source : C.E.W. Bean) Go to top of page

What was the most valuable thing the AIF blokes had?

Leaving aside obvious things like weapons and food the things that many Diggers treasured most was their Shoulder Patches (Colour patches). It was a recognisable mark of their "family". Remember that these blokes were overseas for 4 years in some cases and the Battalion was all they had. Go to top of page

I have heard about a mutiny in the AIF. Did that happen?

Yes but it was not called a mutiny as too many people were involved. It came about near the end of the war. There were not enough reinforcements coming through to replace casualties and men sent home on "Anzac Leave". The decision was made to disband some Battalions and use those men to bring others up to strength. It was firmly resisted right up to the point of mutiny. For a full run down on the affair as handled by one Battalion go to Mutiny. Go to top of page

Were men made to go to Viet Nam against their will?

In most cases No. More than half the troops who served were regulars, i.e. men who had joined up for 3 or 6 years and who did so knowing that overseas service was a possibility. Of the National Service men, while it is true to say that they were in the Army through no choice of their own, many, a great many, took the attitude "Well we are here now and trained so we might as well go do the job". As well Diggers were offered the chance, not once but several times, to indicate that they did not want to go and they would be transferred out. Very few took the opportunity. No one wanted to squib on his mates. 

Also keep in mind that Vietnam service entitled a man to a Defence Force Home Loan. That might mean little now but in those days it was a "big deal" and something that men treasured. I know that I was dirty when I was transferred to a battalion going to Malaysia as the loan was not available for that service.
  • Most conscripts did not go to Viet Nam. Most served their time in Australia.  During the term of Selective National Service 804,286 men were eligible. 62,342 were called up. 15,381 were posted to Viet Nam. Go to top of page

Why didn't the men from Viet Nam have parades when they came home?

The belief that has grown up that the returning troops did not get a parade is another urban myth. There were many many parades when whole units (Battalions) returned. However many men were sent home at the end of their 12 months service, mid way through a Battalion's tour and of course it is impossible to arrange a parade for a small number of troops. Most Diggers just wanted to get home, get a cold beer and some civilian clothes and get on with life. It was only later that people started complaining that there had been no fan-fare for them.

When a battalion returned it usually marched through the streets of the city it returned to. That was not always a triumphant welcome however. The morons who made up the vocal rat bag section of the opposition to the war were disgusting pigs. When my battalion marched through Sydney at the end of 1968 by the time they had gone 300 metres they had been sprayed with bags of urine, human excreta, pigs blood and gawd knows what else. They were branded baby killers and murderers and worse.

The fact that they did not break ranks and kick some ass in the ass is a tribute to them. Go to top of page Please don't send me emails saying you don't believe this happened. I was there. I saw it. I was never prouder of the Pony Soldiers (1RAR) than I was on that day.

Was the Viet Nam War always unpopular?

No. That is another urban myth. In the elections of 1966 (our commitment in SVN started in 1962 and became major in 1965) the Liberal Party won a significant victory on a "khaki" vote. They increased their margin of seats from 19 to 40. 

It was only in 1968 that the tide really started to turn and that had a lot to do with the Tet Offensive. Although it was a military disaster for the North and the Viet Cong lost tens of thousands of it's best men the fact that a small band of VC got onto the grounds of the American Embassy made a major impact in America (on TV) and was the start of the end of American political interest in pursuing the war. Go to top of page

Was WW1 the end for "real" cavalry on horses?

Yes with one major exception.  It is often forgotten that the German Wehrmacht of 1939-45 relied heavily upon horses. Not only was the majority of Army transport and much of the artillery dependent on draught horse teams; the Germans also kept a horse-mounted cavalry division in the field until the end of 1941. After withdrawing it, they discovered a need to revive and greatly expand their cavalry units in 1943-45. The Army and Waffen-SS cavalry proved their worth on the Russian Front, supported by other Axis cavalry contingents - Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, and locally recruited. Also of course a lot of the Russian troops were mounted although in many cases they were irregular cavalry, including Cossacks.Go to top of page

Why do you have such little writing on your web pages?

Text size on your screen is YOUR choice. Go to the View button on your task bar. Choose Text size. You will get 5 choices. Largest, Larger, Medium, Smaller, Smallest. Choose the one that suits your monitor and your personal preference.  Go to top of page

My uncle's Discharge Papers read ARA/NS. What does that mean?

ARA stands for Australian Regular Army. NS stands for National Service. Your Uncle was a 2 year conscript into the Army under the Selective National Service Scheme of the 1960s, early 1970s. Go to top of page

Can you describe the Kokoda Track?

Imagine an area of approximately 100 miles long, crumple and fold this into a series of ridges, each rising higher and higher until 7,000 feet is reached, then declining again to 3,000 feet. Cover this thickly with jungle, short trees and tall trees tangled with great entwining savage vines; then through the oppression of this density cut a little native track two to three feet wide, up the ridges, over the spurs, around gorges and down across swiftly flowing happy mountain streams.

Where the track clambers up the mountainsides, cut steps – big steps, little steps, steep steps or clear the soil from the tree roots. Every few miles bring the track through a small patch of sunlit kunai grass, or an old deserted native garden, and every seven or ten miles build a group of dilapidated grass huts as staging shelters, generally set in a foul offensive clearing. Every now and then leave beside the track dumps of discarded putrefying food, and occasional dead bodies. 

About midday and through the night, pour water over the forest, so that the steps become broken and a continual yellow stream flows downwards, and the few level areas become pools and puddles of putrid mud. In the high ridges about Myola, drip this water day and night softly over the track through a fetid forest grotesque with moss and growing phosphorescent fungi. More info. Go to top of page

Is the proper name Kokoda Track or Kokoda Trail?

The people that were there used BOTH. I think that arguments about which is more correct are a waste of time. 

(AWM).  "Kokoda Trail" and "Kokoda Track" have been used interchangeably since the Second World War and the former was adopted by the Battles Nomenclature Committee as the official British Commonwealth battle honour in October 1957.Go to top of page

What is "the Pig"?

This is the (mostly American) nick name for the General Purpose Machine Gun M60 (GPMG M60) of the Viet Nam era.  It is also the nick name for the RAAF's F111 fighter/bomberGo to top of page

What does "Rock & Roll" mean?

It is an American term for firing a weapon on full automatic. It also is used in the context of "Let's rock and roll" meaning "let's go". Go to top of page

What is Lock & Load?

It is an American tem meaning 'lock' your magazine into your rifle and 'load' a live round into the chamber. In other words, get ready to fire your weapon. Go to top of page

Can Officers or NCOs hit Diggers?

No. No service person of any rank is entitled to physically attack any other person, regardless of rank. (Declared enemy excepted, of course). Go to top of page

What happens if a Digger thinks he/she has been mistreated?

Any service person can lodge a request to have a senior officer examine or review any situation where he/she feels badly done by or mistreated. It used to be called "Redress of Wrongs". I think it still is. Go to top of page

Can women service personnel give orders to men?

Gender is totally ignored. Only the rank matters. So any female (or male) service person can issue legal military orders to any junior rank, whether that person is male or female. Go to top of page

Do Australian Service personnel have to take orders from other Armies?

Not unless the Australian Government has come to an arrangement to have a combined force, and even then the Australian Military Law prevails in any situation involving Australians. There will be no more Breaker Morant style episodes. Go to top of page

Do Australian service personnel have to obey civilian laws?

Yes........ and they also have to obey military laws. Go to top of page

Do Australian service personnel work set hours?

Quite often , YES,  but also they are "on call" 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Go to top of page

What are "Rules of Engagement"?

It refers to the rules under which Australian troops can fire their weapons in a combat zone. As a general guide it is OK for them to return fire if attacked. Otherwise there are strict rules and guidelines that have to be met before it is legal to fire weapons. They vary depending on the circumstances and I make no attempt to record all the variables here.Go to top of page

What is the story about the Burma Star and the Pacific Star?

Many men, usually RAN, were eligible for both but the ruling is that only the first earned (usually Burma) is worn with a clasp (bar) indicating the other. This is also true of some other "linked" medals. More info .Go to top of page

Is Australia the only country with an ANZAC Commemorative Medal?

No. Britain also has a commemorative medal for Gallipoli. It's called The Gallipoli Star. I believe that it is un-official where as the Anzac Medallion from Australia is  an official award. Go to top of page

Where is all the history of East Timor and Afghanistan?

Those two conflicts are still a little too close to the front page of the daily newspapers for a history site. I look forward to the day when I can add some non-sensitive information. If you have some, send it to me. Go to top of page

Do Viet Nam Veterans whinge more than soldiers from other wars?

They certainly are more vocal. I do not call it whinging. Remember that all of society is now more likely to talk about their problems. That is considered a good thing. Vets from the first war that Aussie troops were sent to where we were not allowed to win, the longest and most controversial war ever in our history, have many genuine concerns. Some are adequately addressed. Some are not.

My personal opinion is this. When WW1, WW2 troops came home they were a very large and vibrant part of the community that welcomed them as 'men of honour'. When Diggers came home from Malaya and Korea there were still many people at all levels of Government and society who had an understanding of the matter. When the Diggers came home from Viet Nam the country appeared not to care or notice. Everyone was into "the swinging 60s" or the "70s" and what did a few blokes from a "stupid" war matter anyway?

Now when those blokes approach Government Departments they are talking to young women (mostly) who were born AFTER the war was over. How in Hades name can they be asked to understand or comprehend? I do not know how long it is since we have had a Minister for Veterans Affairs that has ever pulled on a pair of combat boots but it is a long time.

The manager (of the RSL Club) noticed my Returned from Active Service Badge. He asked why I was wearing my father's badge ... I laughed and told him that it was mine. He was astounded, I was too young to have fought in WWII.

"Nah mate", I told him "I got it for Vietnam!"

"Bullshit!" he replied "that wasn't a war. They wouldn't give them out for that"

"Whatever" I said ... and left it at that.

Five minutes later he came back to inform me that I would get no more service and that I had to leave the club ...

"We don't let murderers into a Returned Servicemen's Club".

I threw my RSL badge and my Returned from Active Service badge into a garbage can.

this is a quote from

  Go to top of page

I have read King Rat and seen The Bridge on the River Kwai. Are they true?

No. Both are great stories. Both are almost totally untrue. For details read Tourist Traps Go to top of page

How did soldiers get their numbers in WW1?

The following extract regarding the numbering system used during World War 1 may interest you:

  • The numbering system during World War I was a fairly complex system. Light Horse Regiments and Infantry Battalions had their own numbering system which differed to that used by the other Arms and Services. As there were fourteen Light Horse Regiments and sixty odd Infantry Battalions it was quite possible, and in fact happened, for eighty or ninety soldiers to have the same number, particularly when one takes into account the Artillery, Engineer, Medical Services etc.

  • In the Light Horse and Infantry the number 1 was usually but not always allotted to the Regimental Sergeant Major. Sometimes it was allotted to the Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant or the Chief Clerk or even an ordinary soldier. It would seem to depend on what the Commanding Officer wanted in his unit.

  • The numbers were then generally allotted to the Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and Corporals and then consequently alphabetically by Companies. For example A Company could have the numbers 32 to 200 plus. B Company would start where A Company's numbers ended and so on. The early numbers, 1 - 31 would be allotted to the Headquarters and Machine Gun section personnel.  Once again this system did not always hold good for every unit. Some units seemed to have adopted their own individual system, of numbering; although the system described above seems to have been common to the Light Horse Regiments. Officers were not allotted numbers until the commencement of World War II.

  • With regard to the Arms and Services each State seems to have been allocated a block of numbers but without the State prefix such as is in use today. Once again it was possible for several soldiers to have the same number.

  • During the latter part of 1917 when the general service reinforcements system came into operation each soldier on enlistment was allotted a number to which Arms or Service he was eventually allotted. It was possible for a soldier to have two numbers. This generally indicated that he had been transferred from one unit to another. If he went from Infantry to Artillery, for example, he generally retained his old number. Having the numbers could also indicate two periods of service and was not uncommon. If a soldier was inadvertently given the same number as another man in his unit he was allotted the letter A as either a prefix or suffix to his number e.g. 187;187A or A187

  • Different numbers were used in the AN&MEF in New Guinea in 1914 before the AIF was raised.

  • Numbering in the NZ Army explained on NZEF


Some information supplied by the AWM

How did the numbering system work in  WW2 ?

Navy. Officers had no number. Lower deck-men were given a prefix by Port of Enlistment followed by a number.

Port of Enlistment Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR) Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) RANVR (NAP) Mobilised RANVR (NAP) unmobilised
Brisbane Q B B/V B/V (NAP) B/P
Fremantle WA F F/V F/V (NAP) F/P
Sydney NSW S S/V S/V (NAP) S/P
Melbourne V PM PM/V PM/V (NAP) PM/P
Adelaide SA PA PA/V PA/V (NAP) PA/P
Williamstown V W
Hobart Tas H H/V H/V (NAP) H/P
  • Army. The first letter indicated State of enlistment. 

    • V = Victoria, 

    • N = NSW, 

    • Q = Qld etc. 

    • P as first letter indicated Papua enlistment

    • NG indicated New Guinea enlistment

    • The second letter, if an X indicated that the soldier was AIF. 

    • The second letter, if a P indicated a  member of the Permanent Military Force. 

    • No second letter indicated that the soldier was ACMF.  

    • Army Nurses has the letter F as a second letter, although those that served in Africa, Syria, Greece and Crete did not have the second letter.

  • Men who were ACMF & later transferred to AIF had a new number issued that contained the X. 

    • Example P J Davidson was called up when too young for the AIF, served as ACMF until he was able to transfer. His Service Numbers were  Q144989 (CMF number) and then QX54455 (AIF number). His rank and Unit remained unchanged.

Air Force. Air Force Officers and Airmen were given numbers without a prefix. So were WAAF officers and other ranks

The numbering system used by the Royal Australian Air Force was identical for Officers and other ranks. Blocks of numbers were allocated to each State. Air Crews were identified with serial numbers between 400001 and 459999 which were retained in the post war period. As more numbers were issued than were necessary, a great deal were never used.

The women personnel (WAAAF) Officers and other ranks were issued separate numbers, unlike their male counterparts.

Victoria 1-5999; 7300-7599; 8001-9465; 10001-12000; 12444-14000; 18001-20000; 40001-43000; 49001-60000; 116501-121500; 125001-130000; 142001-150000; 156000-160999; 173000-173999; 185000-186999; 205001-207000; 250000-259999 (also Tasmania); 300000 Reserve all States; 400001-401999 (Air Crew); 408501-410999 (Air Crew); 418000-419999 (Air Crew); 428250-428669 (Air Crew); 430001-432000 (Air Crew)

New South Wales 6000-6999; 7600-7899; 12001-12443; 14001-16000; 20001-22000; 32001-38000; 60001-75000; 130001-140000; 161000-169999; 188000-188999; 207000-210000; 260000-269999; 402000-403999 (Air Crew); 411000-413999 (Air Crew); 420000-424999 (Air Crew); 428670-429299 (Air Crew); 432001-434000 (Air Crew)

Queensland 9500-9749; 22001-26000; 43001-45000; 75001-80000; 123001-125000; 150001-152000; 170000-172999; 187000-187999; 270000-279999; 404000-405999 (Air Crew); 414000-414999 (Air Crew); 425000-426999 (Air Crew); 429300-429619 (Air Crew); 434001-436000 (Air Crew)

South Australia 26001~29000; 39001-40000; 47001-49000; 115001-116500; 121501-123000; 140001-142000; 152001-155999; 280000-289999; 407000-407999 (Air Crew); 416000-417999 (Air Crew); 429801-430000 (Air Crew); 437001-438000 (Air Crew)

Western Australia 7000-7271; 9750-10000; 16001-18000; 29001-30000; 38001-39000; 45001-47000; 80001-88000; 21001-249999; 290000-299999; 406000-406999 (Air Crew); 415000-415999 (Air Crew); 427000-427999 (Air Crew); 429620-A29800 (Air Crew); 436001-437000 (Air Crew)

Tasmania 30001-32000; 88001-89999; 408000-408500 (Air Crew); 428000-428249 (Air Crew); 438001-438250 (Air Crew)

WAAF Officers 350000-354099. Other Ranks 90000-184061 All States

Details from Medals to Australia R D Williams  ISBN 0 7316 8175 4 (3rd edition) 

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Was the Army numbering system still the same for Malaya, Korea, Viet Nam?

No. The system changed with the introduction of the Australian Regular Army (ARA). With that the first number indicated the State of Enlistment. As Queensland is the First Military District any soldier who enlists in Qld would have his Regimental Number start with the number 1. (The second number, if a 7, indicates a National Serviceman from the Selective National Service Scheme of the 1960s).

  • The first numeral in the seven figure Army National Service numbers (i.e. 2/771128) indicated the State in which the trainee was called up:  

    • 1 Queensland, 

    • 2 New South Wales, 

    • 3 Victoria, 

    • 4 South Australia, 

    • 5 Western Australia, 

    • 6 Tasmania and 

      • 7 (as second number) indicated National Serviceman)

    • 1(later 8)  Papua New Guinea. 

  • First National Service Scheme Army numbers had an oblique, Vietnam-era Selective National Service numbers did not. 

Go to top of page

What was Anzac Leave? Did it have anything to do with Gallipoli?

No direct relationship with Gallipoli but an indirect one. In 1918 the Anzacs who had joined in 1914 and 1915 had been overseas for over 3 years and in the thick of the worst of the fighting for most of that time. The Australian Government insisted that the longest serving of the soldiers be give 'Home Leave" in Australia. It got named Anzac Leave. Go to top of page

What does "port side" mean ?

It is the left hand side of the vessel if you are facing forwards (an easy way to remember that port is left it that they have the same number of letters. Starboard and right have different numbers). Go to top of page

Why isn't there more info about my unit?

Probably because you haven't sent it to me........yet. Go to top of page

Can Aussies wear medals from other countries?

For this answer we have to leave Britain out as for many years Australia took part in the Imperial Honours Scheme for awards. That aside, NO, not without specific approval of the Australian Government. It is difficult to obtain. Men who were awarded medals by the Government of South Viet Nam in the 1960s were only granted approval to wear them 30 years later. The heroes of Long Tan were going to be awarded medals by the SVN Govt and the Australian Govt stopped it.  They were given dolls instead. Men who were recommended for Australian awards for service at Long Tan were denied them so that senior officers would not miss out under the strict quota system that was in place. 

It seems that awards from major Allies like the US are more easily approved than minor Allies like SVN, particularly if the feeling is that the intending donor country tends to overdo things a bit.

There is a fair degree of jealousy in the ranks of professional soldiers when it comes to awards. They can help a career enormously. It is reported that Howse VC stopped the award of the VC to Simpson of "Man with the donkey" fame and supposedly said that no medical person would get the VC in his lifetime. Howse was Australia's first VC and was a medical man.

Of course the rules only apply to serving personnel while in uniform. In civilian clothing, particularly after discharge, nearly anything goes but many military men choose not to wear awards unless they are approved.Go to top of page

What does a white feather mean?

During WW1 there was huge community support for the war. Men who did not volunteer for Active Service were considered to be cowards. Many of course were not. Some were involved in important, even vital, work in keeping the troops fed and supplied. Naturally the whole country could not be run by boys, old men and women so some able bodied men had to stay at home. Those with a job that was of importance to the war effort were issued badges indicating that they were not shirking their responsibilities. So were men considered not medically acceptable. Even soldiers who came home on leave after 3 plus years of fighting found it necessary, when in public, to wear a badge indicating service.

The women who were most vocal and bitter about men they judged to be "shirkers" got into the habit of posting a white feather to them. It was to indicate a charge of cowardice. It was less common in WW2 but there were still some zealots around. My father, who was decorated for bravery in WW1 and who re-enlisted in WW2, aged 45, only to be told "No, we need you here to do important work at the hospital", was sent a white feather in 1943.   Details of the white feather. Go to top of page

More details about the badges at Civilian Badges Pages 1, 2 and 3.

Why do you use emotive names like Jap and NAZI?

There are 2 answers to this. 

(1) In some cases the word Jap will fit on a heading where Japanese will not. In the same way sometimes I use OZ instead of Australia. 

(2) This is a historical report. The Japanese military were called Japs. The fact that I report what happened does not indicate that I am promoting racial hatred. In 1941/45 they were "Japs". When I report the events of 1941/45 I refuse to do so with any new found sensitivity that requires a spade to be called a digging instrument. Political correctness does not rule here. As for the term NAZI, anytime that anyone can show that WW2 was not started and prolonged by the NAZI Party, with the resultant loss of 40 MILLION lives, well, then I will call them something else. Go to top of page

Is the VC harder or easier to win now?

Much harder. In the early days it was the ONLY medal that could be awarded to ALL Ranks. Therefore it tended to be awarded much more frequently. Now that there is a large range of awards to choose from to recognise above average gallantry or service the VC has become an Icon, only to be awarded under the strictest controls. Example; at Rorke's Drift 11 individual VCs were awarded for 1 days fighting. During the years 1965 to 1972, with 3 Battalions in the field NOT ONE VC was awarded to an Australian except to the members of AATTV. If no VC was earned at Long Tan then the late WO2 Jack Kirby wasn't there.  Details Go to top of page

Have community standards changed about acceptable military behaviour?

Yes. And markedly so. These days we seem to have got the idea that war is some sort of gentlemen's game  where one must put some misguided idea of "fair play" in front of survival. 

  • One example. Albert Jacka VC MC was one of the most decorated heroes of the Great War. He was a tough and gallant fighter. He later told the story of 5 Germans who surrendered to him. He bayoneted 1 and shot 4. Why? Because he was not able to trust them not to rearm and kill him if he relaxed his guards for a split second. He made no secret of the fact. 

  • He was idolised for his overall efforts and that episode earned him the MC. Today some smart ass reporter would shove a TV camera down his throat and accuse him of being a "war criminal". Much of the audience, in the comfort of their lounge room 12,000 miles from the danger would agree and call for him to be prosecuted. 

  • Recently the Defence Department spent $10,000,000 dollars trying to prosecute a SAS sergeant for kicking a corpse in Timor and the only reason that a conviction was not gained was that NZ SAS troops refused to give evidence. 10 minutes ago that bloke was an armed and dangerous enemy. Now he justifies the expense of 10 million to "protect" his corpse.

Another matter that does not get spoken about is the matter of "murder". No one ever condoned murder. It has always been illegal in the military even of enemy soldiers. If they surrender and you kill them, that is "murder". So, what is the meaning of the often given order "Take no prisoners"? Breaker Morant and several other Officers were charged with murdering POWs. The order "Take no prisoners" had been given. You work it out. I can't, and neither could Morant when he stood in front of a firing squad, convicted of "murder". Go to top of page

Is the method of awarding medals fair?

No. It never has been, never will be and CANNOT be. Awards can only be given to a relative few. Many acts of extreme bravery go unreported and sometimes unseen. Different Officers have differing views on what constitutes "bravery". It is a matter of record that some senior WW1 officers considered that in their battalion "uncommon bravery is expected" and refused to process paperwork recommending awards. Sometimes it is a matter of luck that a piece of work attracts attention. 

On other occasions senior officers have been accused of trying to "cook the books" to make their unit look good by recommending many persons for awards. For these and a dozen other reasons most recipients of awards recognise, both publicly and privately, that they are representatives of the many. Go to top of page

What is a swagger stick?

It is a cane, timber or leather covered stick carried by Company Sergeant Majors and some Commissioned Officers. 

  • "Swagger sticks" evolved from the "leading cane" prescribed for British officers in a General Order of 1702. On parade, this cane was used for leading men. But it was also used administering on-the-spot punishment of up to 12 strokes for minor violations of regulations. Examples of the latter were: 

    • sneezing in ranks, 

    • scratching the head, or 

    • giving an officer a dirty look. 

 They probably had their genesis in a riding crop with the mounted units in the British Army. Details. Go to top of page

How does the military discipline system work?

This is a huge subject but here is a quick overview. There is the Military Law that every service person is ruled by. There are Standing Orders and Routine Orders that are in place for a particular unit and that govern the day to day running of the unit's activities. Then there are issued orders. All the above must be obeyed. Failure to obey brings a penalty. The most common is a ticking off by the NCO and the implied threat that if the situation is not rectified worse will follow. Worse might be extra duties, cleaning the latrines when it's not your turn or some other similar matter. These are handled on a case by case basis and are not recorded in any way. A more serious breach will see a soldier "charged". In some serious but minor cases he will be brought in front of the Officer Commanding his Company who can impose penalties of up to 14 days "Confined to Barracks" and or a fine. More serious cases will go to the Commanding Officer of the Battalion who can impose penalties of up to 28 days "Confined to Barracks" and or a bigger fine. Very serious cases will go to a Court Martial which can jail and or discharge a soldier. Go to top of page

What does "Confined to Barracks" (CB) mean?

It is a military punishment (see above). It is a lot more than just being allowed to swan around the barracks doing nothing. On the hour, every hour from 0600 (6am) until 2200 (10pm) you have to report to the RSM in full kit. Usually he will use you to help train young NCOs or junior Officers on parade ground drill. By that I mean the soldier/s on CB will be the squad given orders by the trainee. It is hot, tiring and boring. It is to be avoided if at all possible.

In WW1 the varying types of field punishment were No1 and No 2. 1 was the more serious. No 1 involved being attached to a fixed object that was in sight of the enemy. No 2 involved extra duties, loss of pay and sometimes loss of any temporary rank you held.

What are the colours?

The Colours are a Units sacred Battle Flags. Read all about them on the pages that start at Q&R Colours.

Copyright © 2003  Ted Harris. All rights reserved as per Legal page.
Revised: February 12, 2013 .


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