5RAR History Archive

Origin of the 'Rising Sun' Badge

The forerunner to the Australian Army's hat badge

The Rising Sun Trophy. A collection of bayonets and sword bayonets radiating out from a crown

The famous Rising Sun Badge selected as the Army's General Service badge in 1902 but now the badge of the army, originated in colonial South Australia.

The original concept, a collection of bayonets and sword bayonets radiating from a crown, was designed as a trophy. The initial drawing was done by Major Joseph Maria Gordon, of the South Australian Permanent Artillery who, in 1893, was appointed to be the first commanding officer of the newly constructed Fort Glanville on the coast west of Adelaide. The working drawing for the trophy was the work of an Adelaide artist, Mr. Frank Bartels, and was titled 'Australian - Rising Sun'.

Major Gordon requested the assistance of the navy in the manufacture of the trophy. It was made by a shipwright aboard the South Australian colonial vessel HMCS Protector and Major Gordon hung it in the officer's quarters at Fort Glanville, probably in 1893. It remained there for some time.

Major Gordon was later to be appointed Commandant of the South Australian Military Forces and he rose to be Chief of the General Staff before his retirement in 1914. It is believed that he took the Rising Sun trophy with him when he left Fort Glanville for it was still in his possession in 1902. That year he parted with it. He presented it to Major-General Sir Edward Hutton, a British officer who had arrived in Australia earlier that year at the request of the Federal Government to organize the heterogeneous forces of the six states into one Commonwealth Army. Major-General Hutton placed the trophy above the doorway to his office in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, and it remained there for two years.

His suggestion was acted upon and three pencil designs were submitted to a Melbourne firm of die-sinkers. One was chosen and a supply of badges was hurriedly made for the 1st Battalion.

When the 1st Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, was being raised for war service in South Africa, Major-General Hutton decided that the force should have a special badge.

He is reported to have pointed to the trophy above his doorway and said: "Why not something like that?"

Before Major-General Hutton returned to England he was honoured with a dinner, presided over by the naval chief Rear-Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell, and held at Melbourne's Menzies Hotel.
During his speech, Major-General Hutton referred to the Rising Sun trophy. He said: "It resulted from a coordinated effort by the army and navy in South Australia . . . to me it represents not only the coordination of military forces, it also represents the coordination of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth, and this is happily suggested by the circumstances of its construction . . . it was constructed aboard the first major sea-going ship of the Commonwealth Naval Forces."

Major-general Hutton then presented the trophy and Mr. Bartel's drawing to Rear-Admiral Creswell. He said that the drawing was to be regarded as the 'Title to the Australian Sun' which he entrusted to the Admiral until its disposal to a more permanent site. Rear-Admiral Creswell placed the trophy in the care of the Naval Commandant, in Port Melbourne. From there it was transferred to the Williamstown Naval Depot pending a permanent site at Flinders Naval Depot.

In the following years several attempts were made by the Army at high level to retrieve the Rising Sun trophy from the Navy. Finally on the 5 August, 1969, it was handed back to the army and placed on permanent display in Army Headquarters in Canberra. It remains there today — on a wall to the entrance foyer to Army Office at the Department of Defence's Russel Hill complex.

The Rising Sun badge was adopted as the General Service Badge of the 1st AIT, as the badge of the Australian Instructional Corps and as the General Service Badge of the 2nd AIF. In 1949 the title on the scroll was changed from 'Australian Commonwealth Military Forces' to Australian Military Forces'. In 1972, Her Majesty the Queen approved further changes to the badge: The crown to be superimposed on the Federation Star and the word Australia to replace other words on a scroll of slightly different design.

Badge of the Australian Badge world war two

This badge was worn by VX117749 Cpl W. Wardley 2/31st Infantry Battalion, fought in the Borneo Campaign and served with the British Occupation Forces Japan. Note the King's crown.

Badge of the Australian Army

The current badge of the Australian Army

The current design was produced with ‘The Australian Army’ on the scroll and the removal of the Federation Star and heraldic wreath.

Australian Defence Heritage By Frank Doak and Jeff Isaacs
© Department of Defence Canberra

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