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Thursday, 15 May 2008
Anzac v ANZAC
Topic: Gen - Legends

A Legend from Misunderstanding

Anzac v ANZAC


Now the intentional institutional changes to our language and ultimately, our history.

In house, 10 years ago, the AWM began the policy of capitalising the word Anzac to become ANZAC, both grammatically and spelling wise incorrect. However, this is the policy. Here is the official version of this policy as given to me in response to my query by the regarding this very issue:

"But to pass on to your main point: whether to write "ANZAC" or "Anzac".

"The instances of "ANZAC" you adduce in this document are neither "typos" nor evidence of a "policy to redefine history", but rather simply examples of the author and his editor following a particular house style. All institutions have house styles: they are necessary to provide consistency and a professional look for the institution's various publications. Now, ANZAC (all caps) is the Memorial's preferred style for this word, and this is what individual writers or editors for the Memorial's publications must adhere to, regardless of their personal views.

"Even book titles need to conform to an institution's house style; to take the example you quote, even though a publisher may have The Shores of Gallipoli: Naval Aspects of the Anzac Campaign (or even THE SHORES OF GALLIPOLI: NAVAL ASPECTS OF THE ANZAC CAMPAIGN) on the title page, it is quite acceptable editorial practice to make this The shores of Gallipoli: naval aspects of the ANZAC campaign in a list of references. (Otherwise you might end up with differing styles in the same list.)"

Well that leaves me speechless. Had I not seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it. Basically the AWM has taken it upon itself to redefine the English language and shape it into its own mould. What was acceptable English usage a decade ago has now suddenly been expunged. It is the AWM "in house" policy to capitalise Anzac regardless of context and in so doing, change the titles of books. Here is an example at:


Their entry reads:

C.E.W. Bean, "The Story of the ANZAC", Official History of Australia in the War 1914-1918 vol 1 and vol 2

"The Story of Anzac" is the original title.

This indicates that the person who made the entry does not understand that Bean meant his title to refer to 'Anzac' - the PLACE - but instead thinks he meant to refer to the army corps ("The ANZAC'). Whatever the person though, however, altering others' work on that basis. Bean knew what he meant to write. So instead of the word "Anzac" in Bean's book, for the purposes of conformity with the web site in house operation, it is now "ANZAC", a totally different concept to that portrayed by Bean in his book title. Indeed, this in house practice flies in the face of everything produced then an now. Very deliberate.

Of course, once this ball starts rolling, it compounds into unbelievable howlers. Here is a quote from the AWM [April 2008] email newsletter:

    Fri 25 March

    93rd anniversary of ANZAC Day

Apart from changing the date of Anzac Day, they have also changed its spelling. Yes, I accept that the date change is probably a typo, but it is a sloppy one born of the lack.

The renaming of Anzac Day is a bit strange because it celebrates the landings at Anzac Cove by the ANZAC forces who were known as Anzacs. It was a celebration of the Anzacs who landed, not the defunct military formation. A combination of hubris and lack of care.

There still is some contention as to whether it is the 93rd anniversary of the landing at Anzac by the Anzacs or the 92nd Anniversary of Anzac Day - the first Anzac day in some states was celebrated in 1915 when they renamed "8 Hour Day" for that year "Anzac Day" so it could still be the 93rd anniversary of Anzac Day.

One of the best articles produced on the subject was by Bruce Topperwien called 'The word "Anzac" '; which was published in Sabretache, the official journal of the Military Historical Society of Australia (MHSA), Melbourne, July - September 1997, pp. 33 - 36 which is extracted below.

I've heard from some people that the word 'Anzac' should always be spelled with capital letters, but others say it shouldn't be. What do you think about this? 

To say that 'Anzac' should always be spelled in capitals ignores both the rules of English grammar and the word's historical usage.

I use both forms, but for different purposes. I certainly do not believe that the word should always be capitalised, for any reason.

Insisting that the word should always be capitalised is implying that everybody in the past - including the Anzacs themselves - used the term incorrectly. This is insulting.

The full capitalisation is fine so long as it is actually the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - that is, the army formation - being referred to. However, when 'Anzac' is used as a proper noun, as in 'Anzac Cove', 'Anzac Day', or 'the Anzacs', the word does not refer to the army formation but forms one of the other six uses of the term as identified by Dr. Charles Bean in the Official History of Australia in World War 1.

The following definitions of the word 'Anzac' are from Bean, C.E.W. The Official History of Australia In The War of 1914 - 1918 Vol 1. The Story Of Anzac p 609. [I have not changed any of the capitalisation from the original].

(1) Originally, code name for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (see p. 124) ;

(2) Name given to the beach where the A. & N.Z. Army Corps landed on Gallipoli;

(3) Official name of the two A. & N.Z. Army Corps in France (1st Anzac Corps, 2nd Anzac Corps) ;

(4) Term universally applied by British troops in France to the Australians and New Zealanders of the two Anzac Corps (the Anzacs);

(5) In Palestine, often used to denote men of the Anzac Mounted Division as distinguished from those of the Australian Mounted Division;

(6) In Australia (and eventually in the A.I.F.), used to denote Australians and New Zealanders who served on Gallipoli.
The generally accepted uses of the term are (1), (2), (3), and (6).

Clearly Bean has indicated that while originally the term ANZAC was, as is well known, a short-hand way of referring to the actual army corps, a new word - 'Anzac' - sprang from this which almost immediately evolved to have different meanings and uses.

Most authors since 1915 have used the proper noun 'Anzacs' or 'Anzac' to refer to the troops, the sector of Gallipoli and the actual cove.

It's ludicrous for anybody now to suggest that each and every one of these writers used the term incorrectly because they did not entirely capitalise it, and insulting to imply that they didn't know any better - but that 'we' do.

Consider exactly who used or uses the noun 'Anzac' :

The official Australian historian, Dr. Charles Bean;
The official British and New Zealand historians;
The Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in their official documents;
Those who wrote articles for the RSL in Reveille and other returned servicemen's magazines;
Those who wrote the unit histories (Australian, New Zealand and English);
Those that have written for the Australian War Memorial's Journal; the Gallipolian magazine; the Army Journal; the Defence Force Journal; the New Zealand Defence Quarterly and others.
Other authors on the subject (including French, Americans, Canadians and Turks);
All the newspapers of the day;
The Macquarie, Oxford and Collins dictionaries;
The compilers of the Imperial War Graves Commission's cemetery registers.
ALL used 'Anzac' when referring to the place, the holiday, or the men. They did not fully capitalise the proper noun because not only would that be an incorrect use of the term, it would also be incorrect use of basic grammar.
Almost every writer since 1915 has accepted that the word has different facets representing different concepts, that it is a word - a proper noun (or in some cases an adjective) - and we all (should) know that neither a proper noun nor an adjective is ever entirely capitalised.

Fully-capitalised acronyms may be used as words in order to avoid confusion with a word of the same spelling and pronunciation if that word already exists (for example PIN or AIDS - both these words - 'pin' and 'aids' already existed, so retaining the capitalisation for the new acronym helps avoid confusion). Obviously this is not the case with 'Anzac'. The word was invented in 1915, so there was no chance of confusion with an already-existing word (other examples of acronyms which evolved into nouns in the same way are 'Qantas', 'Fiat', 'scuba', 'laser' and 'radar'). The fully-capitalised acronym ANZAC refers only to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

It should not be used when referring to the sector at Gallipoli (the Anzac sector), the soldiers (the Anzacs), the name of the cove (Anzac Cove), the national holiday in Australia and New Zealand (Anzac Day), and it should not be used when writing of the Campaign Honours Landing at Anzac, Defence of Anzac and Withdrawal from Anzac.

To fully capitalise 'Anzac' in any of these cases is both historically and grammatically incorrect. The fully capitalised 'ANZAC' refers only to the army formation which came into existence in 1915 and which was disbanded in early 1916, and that's how I use it on this site. That's how almost every writer has used it since 1915.

From Hart's Rules, Oxford University Press 1983:

"As a general rule, abbreviations and contractions should be followed by a full point unless the shortened form consists [entirely] of upper-case initials or is a recognized acronym pronounced as a single word: thus print BBC, HMS, OUP, PAYE, PLC, SDP, SPCK, TUC, WEA; Anzac, Aslib, Fiat, Naafi (or NAAFI). Abbreviations and contractions consisting of a mixture of upper and lower case take full points, as in I.o.W. (Isle of Wight), Bt. (Baronet), Kt. (Knight), Ltd. (Limited), St. (Street), and university degrees (D.Litt., D.Phil., Ph.D., etc.); exceptions to be made for Dr (Doctor), Revd (Reverend; not Rev), Mr, Mrs, Mme, Mlle, St (Saint); here full points are not required."

I have increasingly often seen quotes taken from Bean and other authors where those doing the quoting - either in a magazine article, on a web site, or in a book - have capitalised the word 'Anzac' when it was NOT capitalised in the original document. I can only conclude that this is done to back the author's contention that the word should always be written in capitals. At worst, this is deliberate deception, and at best, sloppy research.

Most people will never read the original documents or official histories, and it's only reasonable for them to expect to be able to trust authors to have quoted truly and accurately from them.

Following are extracts from sources which have correctly used the word 'Anzac':

Sydney Morning Herald - Anzac


"Anzac" in the Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 1915, p. 13.

'Turkish prisoners at Anzac Cove. The name "Anzac" is made up of the initials in "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The cove is just north of Gaba Tepe, and the troops all land there.'

Anzac Park, Nelson, NZ


Anzac Park, Nelson, New Zealand.

One of the reasons sometimes given for fully-capitalising Anzac is that it is 'disrespectful' to New Zealand not to. Seems New Zealanders haven't had a problem with it though. The card above shows 'Anzac Park', in the South Island city of Nelson.

2nd NZEF Anzac Spirit poster

The poster below shows a 2nd World War NZEF Recruiting Poster. Note that 'The Spirit of Anzac' is calling.


2nd NZEF Anzac Spirit poster


Royal Australian Mint, the 1999 $1.00 Anzac coin


Royal Australian Mint, the 1999 $1.00 Anzac coin detail on their pamphlet


From the Royal Australian Mint; the 1999 $1.00 Anzac coin pamphlet which uses the term both as capitalised and as a proper noun. Here 'Anzac' refers to the soldiers ('Anzacs'), and to the spirit - 'Anzac'

'Reveille', the RSL journal, 1936 


'Reveille', the RSL journal, 1936


Origin of word 'Anzac', no comment necessary - from 'Reveille', the RSL journal, 1936 (and written by a New Zealander).

The Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland


The Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland


From the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland's 'Anzac Day 1921 - 1929'

Anzac Square sign, Brisbane


Anzac Square sign, Brisbane


While some in Queensland are insisting 'Anzac Square' in Brisbane is, and always has been, called 'ANZAC Square', they've been caught out because someone forgot to change the sign. Photographed 2007.

Army Form B. 103 (Casualty Form - Active Service)


Army Form B. 103 (Casualty Form - Active Service)


Extract from Army Form B. 103 (Casualty Form - Active Service) for Lieutenant Wilfred Bert Granger, 8th Battalion, AIF.
Died of Wounds at 'Anzac', 22nd August 1915. Buried Beach cemetery, Anzac.

Anzac Day 1916 commemoration at Winton, Queensland.


Anzac Day 1916 commemoration at Winton, Queensland.


Anzac Day 1916 commemoration at Winton, Queensland.
Note that in this photo 'Anzac' refers (in different signs) both to the sector at Gallipoli ('Quinn's Post, Anzac'),
AND to the holiday ('Anzac Day').

Were these men - who had been to Gallipoli - wrong, and the people who are pushing NOW, 92 years later,
to have 'Anzac' always fully-capitalised - right?


Anzac Day anthology and Anzac Gallipoli Landing

Anzac Day anthology and Anzac Gallipoli Landing


One for 'Anzac Day', one by 'a Returned Anzac'.

Anzacs in snow

Anzacs in snow postcard



Anzac Pier


Watson's Pier at 'Anzac Beach'


Watson's Pier at, according to the card, 'Anzac Beach'

Bruce Topperwien was a Director in the Legal Services Group of the Australian Department of Veteran's Affairs (which administers the Protection of word "Anzac" Regulations), when he wrote an article on this subject.

The article argues for the use of the historically correct 'Anzac' over the baseless assertion that 'Anzac' should always be written fully capitalised.

Reference for the article is:

Topperwien, B. 'The word "Anzac" ', Sabretache, published by the Military Historical Society of Australia (MHSA), Melbourne. July / September 1997, pp. 33 - 36.

The article may also be downloaded from Mr Topperwien's web site at:


See also the New Zealand Anzac Day site, maintained by the Heritage Group of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.


This section, 'The Anzacs', examines the development of the word 'Anzac' from the original acronym for 'Australian and New Zealand Army Corps'.

The above item was taken in toto with minor edits from Anzac officers died at Gallipoli, an excellent site produced by Bryn Dolan.


After reading this essay, no one should be left in any doubt as to the correct English usage of the terms. It also clearly demonstrates the hubris displayed by the AWM in this circumstance. It is not in the market to change language and create confusion but to promote understanding of an aspect of the Australian story.


Further Reading:

Myths and Legends

Great War, August 1914

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Anzac v ANZAC

Posted by Project Leader at 11:36 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 25 July 2010 12:18 PM EADT
Fleas on fleas
Topic: Gen - Legends
A Legend from Misunderstanding
Fleas on fleas, the results from careless work



The results from careless work - a case study

One major problem confronting any researcher is the quality of primary research conducted by popular historians. Poor quality research and published conclusions are then picked up by the public and soon the error becomes the reality. This is readily seen with the use of the emu plume as a symbol of the Australian Light Horse during the Great War.

One thing that becomes apparent is the confusion between the 3rd LHR (Light Horse Regiment) and the 3rd (LHB) Light Horse Brigade. This confusion rears its head in many captions of pix held at the AWM (Australian War Memorial) and because of the role played by the AWM as an authoritative institution, is picked up by many people as being accurate.


Case #1.


Caption Reads - "A captured turkish water cart at the camp of the 3rd Australian Light Horse near Beersheba. The cart is pulled by an emaciated grey Turkish horse while a ridden Waler in improvised breast plate and traces, is hitched in front of the Turkish horse. Horse lines can be seen in the background. "

[From: AWM P05109.003]


There are a number of overt problems with the description provided by the AWM regarding this specific picture. Desptie the caption describing the men as belonging to the 3rd Australian Light Horse, nothing could be further from the truth. A quick look by someone with a bit of knowledge would ascertain that the men in this picture are clearly British Yeomanry, and in this case, at a guess, possibly from the 5th Mounted Brigade.

The distinguishing uniform features of the men in the tell the story in this circumstance. They are wearing the pith helmet, rifle buckets and more importantly, they have puttees on their legs, items only worn by the Yeomanry. The Australians had discarded the pith helmet very early during the Sinai campaign and they never wore puttees, always leather leggings.

Just as an aside, all water casks captured from the Turks were ordered to be burnt. This was a great necessity as the containers were usually disease ridden. A couple cases of cholera ended any desire to retain Turkish water holders. The destruction was to ensure they did not end up in Turkish hands again either by accident or capture nor would they be available to carry cholera to the Allied troops.


Case #2

The poor ol' 3rd LHR get going over. They are attributed as taking part in many photograph captions regardless if they were no where near to be found. Such poor captioning brings up the realisation that there is a certain lack of quality control where the culture is more "near enough is good enough" and "say anything because the average person reading the site really wouldn't know". This is indicative of a culture that aims to gets quantity rather than quality from the dollar. It seems to work like this - if you employ professionals, they cost money, so basic wage staff will do the same for less money. This may seem like good economics within the organisation but the knock on effects to the broader community are dreadful. It is instrumental in passing on poor and corrupted information from one source to another, each compounding the error and feeding that error back as a confirmation.

To illustrate, I looked at the Hurley Collection and sure enough, an error made by a less than thorough historian or caption writer created an error which is then recycled in the public as well as scholarly works, thus adding to the apparent authenticity of the original mistake. We will use one of the famous pics take by the Official War Photographer, Captain Frank Hurley during his tour of Palestine at the end of December, 1917.

Here is the picture:


Four unidentified members of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment machine gun in action at Khurbetha-Ibn.

[From: AWM P03631.087]


Picture details displayed by the AWM at the time of writing, 15 May 2008:

ID Number: P03631.087
Maker: Hurley, James Francis (Frank)
Place made: Palestine
Date made: 31 December 1917
Physical description: Colour
Summary: Four unidentified members of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment machine gun in action at Khurbetha-Ibn. This image is a colour Paget Plate. The same image is available in black and white and is held at B01697.

Now let's test out the veracity of this caption. It should be easy.

The 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment War Diary is online and kindly provided by the AWM, a service which can only be described as of the highest order and most commendable as it is the life blood of most researchers - the December 1917 War Diary pages are found at this address:


Let's see what it says:

"Jisr Esdud, 31/12/17, Detailed working party of 1 NCO & 15 men to report to Lt Jones Field Troop, at watering area at 0900 to deepen troughs. Details party of 1 NCO & 6 men as Guards on the drinking water."

This is the simple part. A quick check of a map will reveal that  Khurbetha-Ibn and Jisr Esdud are no where near each other. Indeed, the former is in the Judaean Hills while the latter is on the coast, two very different locations. Added to this, there is no mention of deployment of any machine gunners from the 3rd LHR in their War Diary.

So who was at Khurbetha-Ibn?

Well, one will find that at a place named Khurbetha Ibn Harith were elements of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and indeed the 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron deployed near the Beit Sira area, nearby the headquarters at Khurbetha Ibn Harith. Here is what the 3rd LHB War Diary says for that very day:

"The relief of the Brigade by the 29th Infantry Brigade commenced at 0900 but owing to the steep and rocky nature of the country was not completed until 1600.

"At 2000 the Brigade was concentrated in the vicinity of Kefr Rut. Instructions were received that the withdrawal of the Brigade to Katra would commence at 1100 on 2nd January, 1918, and that the Brigade led horses would reach Brigade Headquarters at 1000 that day."

This entry gives a hint as to the formation that actually was at  Khurbetha Ibn Harith, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. There is a substantial difference between a "Regiment" and a "Brigade", the most significant difference being at that time being was a Brigade was composed of three Regiments, thus making the Brigade a larger formation and thus quite different in nature. The structure of the Light Horse in Egypt and Palestine may be seen discussed in general terms at The Australian Light Horse - Structure while the complete structure of the Australian Light Horse forces deployed is found here at Australian Light Horse Order of Battle.

Let us go one step further and meet Trooper Henry Bostock of the 10th LHR. Fortunately for us, he left a diary.


 Trooper Henry Bostock's Diary Entry of 30 December 1917


And now we go to the personal diary of Henry Bostock of the 10th LHR. He was a 3rd LHB Scout and was delegated to provide an escort for Hurley on 30 December 1917 to the front lines to take his pictures. Here is what Bostock says:

"I escorted Brig Gen Wilson & Capt Hurley OWP around the front line."

Finally we look at the diary of Frank Hurley himself. During these days he talks only of being escorted around by General Wilson of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. Not one mention of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment.


Frank Hurley's Diary, 31 December 1917

[From: Manuscript No. 883 - Frank Hurley Diary,  p. 128]

The relevant pages of the Hurley diary are available on the National Library of Australia site. 

So now we know - the men in the photograph are members of the 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squdron [3rd LHMGS] at Beit Sira.

One final piece of the puzzle. Hurley's team filmed this particular event.


Extract from the Hurley film of the 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron in action.

[To view the film clip, click on this link or on the above picture. Note: the clip is 5 mb in length.]


One look at the movie produced of the event and the still photograph indicates that it is one and the same event. Hurley was filming and photographing the 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron in action in the Judaean near Beit Sira, not the machine gunners from the 3rd Light Horse Regiment.

"Regiment" or "Brigade" - who cares and what is the difference anyway?

The 3rd LHR was part of the 1st LHB NOT the 3rd LHB. Two totally different formations. This is clearly seen when reading the Australian Light Horse Order of Battle.

Now the impact on external research and publications.

We now go to the book by Benjamin Z Kedar, The Changing Land - Between Jordan and the Sea - Aerial photographs from 1917 to the present, and then open at p. 102. where we see the Hurley picture published in this excellent volume.


Benjamin Z Kedar, The Changing Land - Between Jordan and the Sea - Aerial photographs from 1917 to the present, p. 102.


The caption to the picture on this page reads:

"The Third Australian Light Horse Regiment machine gun in action northwest of Beit Sira, 31 Dec 17. (Frank Hurley's color photo)"

Now we have the same error initiated by the AWM being perpetuated by Kedar. These are fleas on fleas. Goodness only knows where this corruption will head to but if publications such as these rely upon the AWM caption, which they have, then the editors relied upon poor information. But this mistake has now become reality.

And so it goes on.

This is not meant to pick on the AWM since there are other institutions who present this information in a flawed format. The list is long and the mistakes almost endemic. It presents the question: "If only the experts can determine the accuracy of a statement, what chance has the ordinary punter got?"

It is through producing a quality product that we honour our ancestors and the work and sacrifices they endured and in so doing, we honour ourselves.

The culture is clearly - "near enough is good enough" which is clearly not good enough.


Further Reading:

The Australian Light Horse - Structure

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle

Fleas on fleas - The results from careless work - another case study

Myths and Legends


Citation: Fleas on fleas - The results from careless work - a case study

Posted by Project Leader at 10:46 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 25 July 2010 12:30 PM EADT
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
All Light Horsemen wore emu plumes
Topic: Gen - Legends

A Legend from Exaggeration

Emu Plumes


The Origin of the Emu Plume with the Light Horse

In Sydney, along the M7 Tollway, 2005, one of the more controversial pieces of Australian public sculpture was unveiled. It claimed to symbolise the history Australian Light Horse Regiments who served during the Great War. Part of the sculpture was the characterisation of the now famous emu plume as part of the standard light horseman’s dress. According to Westlink M7, the Tollway operator, the emu feathers were portrayed in this manner: “The abstract plumage attached to each marker represents the emu plumes attached to the Light Horsemen’s slouch hats.” This comment is indicative of the depth to which this popular misconception has now become accepted wisdom.

But one cannot blame the M7 Tollway sculptor and organisation for this description as they draw their information from historical sources upon which they relied for accurate representations for the Australian narrative. Tracing this mistake back to the primary source requires an examination of the emu plume as it is portrayed by the premier institution charged with accurate preservation of Australian military history, the iconic AWM (Australian War Memorial).

On entering the Light Horse Gallery at the AWM, standing at the northern end, is a glass cabinet containing a mannequin dressed in the full uniform of a Light Horseman. The shoulder patch placed upon the uniform is black over red, the unit patch worn by the 7th LHR (Light Horse Regiment). To get the story regarding the attitude of the 7th LHR towards the emu plume, one only need access a file from the AWM archives – AWM25 389/1 – and visit the first page to find this letter written by Lieutenant Colonel George Macleay Macarthur-Onslow:

Hqrs., 2nd L.H. Brigade, 5th October 1917

Re Plumes - I hear there is to be an Ordnance issue of these in the near future for the Australian Units in the ANZAC Mounted Division. Could not these be kept for those Units who are entitled to wear them, viz., the Queensland and Western Australian Mounted Troops?

Since the Light Horse were first raised in those states the Emu feather has formed portion of their head gear - consequently Regiments from those States must feel that they have the exclusive right to wear it.

I have never heard of any New South Wales Regiment express any wish to wear it and one, the 6th L.H., has the Wallaby fur round the hat, so require no other distinctive mark. As for the 7th I would prefer to have the ordinary band [ed note – band = puggaree] - it looks better - is more serviceable, less expensive. We are being reminded continuously in Orders that every endeavour should be made to save expenses and Officers have much difficulty in impressing this on the men - but the issue of an unnecessary and useless article such as the plume creates a feeling amongst the men that the Orders re Economy are insincere.

Also the issue of plumes means that the men are to be charged with same if they are lost. Under the circumstances I request that the 7th L.H. Regiment be not issued with plumes.

George Macleay Macarthur-Onslow
Commanding 7th Light horse A.I.F.

The letter is very clear. The 7th LHR did not wear the emu plume and nor did they wear them after this letter. Additionally, the 6th LHR men, another NSW regiment, did not wear the emu plume. The 6th LHR men kept their wallaby fur puggarees and so remained, for the duration, under “furred” hats.

The origin of the emu feather as a piece of military clothing was specific to Queensland. Other colonies placed cockerel feathers in their puggarees. The first known use occurred in 1891 when the enlisted men of the Wide Bay Mounted Infantry were given the privilege of wearing the distinctive emu plume. In contrast, their officers remained using the green cock feather as prescribed by General Orders. Over the next few years it became a dress item throughout the QMI (Queensland Mounted Infantry) culminating an in a General Order promulgated in 1897 requesting that all ranks of the Queensland mounted troops adopt the emu plume as part of a permanent uniform.

After Federation, the Australian military was re-organised in 1902. The commander of the Australian Army at the time, General Hutton, issued an order (General Order No. 293, December 1903, Section F Paragraph 10) granting permission to wear the emu plume throughout all the Australian mounted formations as part of their uniform. This order so outraged the Queenslanders who felt they had exclusive rights to wearing the emu plume. The Queensland senior mounted officers went to Melbourne as a deputation to make strong representations over their ownership rights. In response, while there was no change to the order, the commandants of the other five states agreed not to order the wearing of the emu plume. Those non Queensland formations who wanted to sport a plume in their puggarees utilised cockerel feathers as a suitable substitute. For the Queenslanders, each mounted soldier paid for the emu plume out of their own pockets. At 1/2d each, (about $30 in today’s terms) they were quite expensive.

At the outbreak of the Great War, the expeditionary force known as the Australian Imperial Force came into being with the Light Horse Regiments forming part of the panoply of war. From the beginning, it was ruled that only the Australian rising sun badge and a specifically pleated puggaree could be worn on all light horse felt hats. This was an effort to bring national dress unity into all the mounted formations. The Queenslanders railed against this restriction and demanded the privilege of wearing the emu plume during a meeting with the Prime Minister Ander Fisher and the Defence Minister, Senator Pearce. In a letter dated 21 March 1915 [AWM25 389/1] Lieutenant Colonel Robert Mackey Stodart, Commanding Officer of the 2nd LHR describes this meeting in September 1914.

“I happen to be very closely in touch with the subject as it was entirely due to my personal repeated application that the wearing of the PLUME was generously granted by the Prime Minister of AUSTRALIA.

The wearing of all distinguishing headgear was taken away from Regiments on the introduction of the compulsory system in AUSTRALIA and since that time I have been engaged in correspondence with various officers and ministers of the crown with a view to having the privilege of again wearing it granted to the Queensland Mounted troops, for I well know how dearly it was loved by all ranks. My efforts culminated in MELBOURNE where Mr Fisher, at the close of our conversation said "Well, do you think they would fight any better?" My reply was to the effect that distinguishing marks always had this effect; men did not wish to disgrace their little especial honour and espirit de corps was generated - it was a long recognised principle in the Imperial Army. Mr Fisher turned to Mr Pearce and said "I think we should let them have it". Mr Pearce acquiesced. Mr Fisher then announced to the troops on Parade that all the Queensland troops represented at the FLEMMINGTON SHOW GROUNDS were permitted to once again adopt their old head dress. The deafening cheers which arose proved to Mr Fisher what that privilege meant to the men … “

At the commencement of the Great War, the QMI was the originating model upon which the Queenslander’s built their mounted formations, the 2nd, 5th and 11th LHRs, all of whom wore the emu plume in their puggarees.

The first assault on this privilege occurred from the 3rd LH Bde (Light Horse Brigade), a formation which consisted of the 8th (Vic), 9th (SA & Vic) and 10th (WA) LHRs. The Brigade Major, Lieutenant Colonel JM Antill issued Brigade Routine Order No 4, of 17 March 1915. At Paragraph 39 (AWM25 455/59 963) headed “PLUME”, it says:

“Plumes will be taken into use from this date and worn by all ranks when on parade or in the city during the day.”

When issued the plumes were first seen worn by members of the 3rd LH Bde, it proved an instant provocation to the Queenslanders who strongly objected to the men of a non Queensland formation wearing an item they felt was specifically allocated to them. In a scathing letter from Stodart to Colonel Harry Chauvel, the Commander of 1st LH Bde, he complained about this “gross assumption of privilege” of a symbol which was closely associated with the QMI (Queensland Mounted Infantry) and demanded an inquiry.


Adding confusion to the mix was the newly raised Queensland based formation, the 11th LHR, consisting of two Queensland squadrons and the last, “C” Squadron, raised in South Australia. The position of the South Australians in this regiment became problematic since by Stodart’s logic, they would be denied wearing the plume thereby creating a disharmony in the regimental uniform. In this circumstance, to grant the South Australians the right to wear the emu plume in the 11th LHR would beg the question about the other South Australian regiment, the 3rd and 9th LHRs. Since these two regiments raised their “C” Squadrons from Tasmania and Victoria respectively, then it begged another question. Every resolution of this state identity issue was fraught.

Claims and counter claims went all the way up the command chain until there was no one left to avoid making a decision. Knowing the issues and personalities involved, the Generals followed the time honoured method when confronted by an intractable problem - shove the decision onto the politicians who would end up carrying the ire. In the end, the file reached the Prime Minister’s desk, and for Fisher, the emu plume issue had no where else to go. Playing the role of Solomon, Fisher ended his feuding general’s argument by granting permission for all regiments to wear emu plumes provided no expense was incurred by the Commonwealth.

The 3rd LH Bde officers latched onto this as a victory. To circumvent the cost issue, plumes were purchased from regimental funds and lent to the men. If a soldier lost or damaged the plume, the man responsible was ordered to make good that loss out of his own pocket. Later on, other regiments who adopted the plume followed this example. For Antill, the officer to challenge the Queenslander’s right, historical recognition came for different reasons since half a year later his name would be one of infamy and forever associated as the scapegoat of the Nek debacle. However, no one could see this at the time.


During the Great War, three Australian Light Horse Regiments never took up the option of wearing the emu plume. They were the 4th (Vic), 6th (NSW) and 7th (NSW) LHRs. The reason for the two NSW Regiments has already been outlined in the above Macarthur-Onslow letter of 1917.

The 4th LHR declined to adopt the emu plume through the representations of the first commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Kealty Forsyth whose long career with the QMI began with his enlistment in 1885. Since Forsyth was thoroughly associated with the Queensland affectation, he ensured that no other state’s formation under his command would utilise the emu plume. This attitude was in synchronisation with the sentiments of the unionist and Labor leaning members of the Victorian regiment. For them, the emu plume was long associated with discredited QMI’s strike breaking activities at Barcaldine in 1891 and so they were happy to leave the scab emblem alone. For different reasons, the commander and men of the 4th LHR agreed with each other.

This being so, it was surprising to see some 60 years later a movie called “The Lighthorsemen” portraying the 4th LHR men wearing emu plumes. It was a curious piece of wardrobe work considering that the key script writer spent many hours interviewing 4th LHR veterans who plainly stated to him that they did not wear the emu plume.

The latest example of legend taking over the story is illustrated at Beersheba in Israel. Following Anzac Day, on the 28 April 2008, there was a dedication for the Park of the Australian Solider. The centrepiece featured a sculpture of a Light Horseman by Peter Corlett, a wonderful gift from Australia. The blemish by Corlett was to display the regimental shoulder patch of the figure in colour. It is the colour patch of a light horseman from the 4th LHR, a regiment that did not wear the emu plume. While the movie “The Lighthorsemen” may have been a work of historical fiction, that fiction has now become the unquestioned orthodoxy of the official Australian Light Horse story.

Many years after the Great War, the Army adopted the general use of the emu plume throughout the Commonwealth as part of the standard mounted troops dress. This addition to the standard dress was articulated by General Military Order No 90 of 1923 which states:

“Approval is given for the wearing of emu plumes and hat puggarees by members of Light Horse units, provided supplies can be arranged regularly without expense to the public.”

It is from the date of this order that the emu plume became a general item within the Australian Army rather than a piece of Queensland history.

Any idea that the emu plume was a general part of the mounted forces prior to this date flies in the face of the facts. Various public institutions, led by the AWM, have unwittingly propagated the legend. Private bodies have followed the lead in promoting this mythology. Ironically, the M7 sculpture in NSW represents the very state where only half the formations adopted emu plume in the last year of the war. The emu plume originally belonged to the Queensland mounted formations and gradually spread until it was in general use after 1923. Before then, not all light horsemen wore the emu plume in their puggarees but they all wore their uniform with pride.


Westlink Website: http://www.westlinkm7.com.au/LightHorseInterchange-Parade.asp

Robert Thomas, "The History of the Emu Plume and the Australian Light Horse " - http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/tff/slouch.html

Australian War Memorial files - AWM25 389/1; AWM25 455/59 963

Pix 1 – Jeff Darmann in the Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2005.

Pix 2 – Bill Woerlee, 20 March 2008.

Pix 3 – Unknown open source pic – Victorian, 1902 Coronation Uniform.

Pix 4 – Sydney Mail, 7 October 1914, p. 21.

Pix 5 - Sydney Mail, 28 April 1915, p. 19.

Pix 6 – Cover from the DVD box set, “The Lighthorsemen”.

Pix 7 – Photograph by courtesy of Gal Shaine.


Further Reading:

Myths and Legends


Citation: All Light Horsemen wore emu plumes

Posted by Project Leader at 6:25 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 June 2009 12:01 AM EADT

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