Fairfield City Open Libraries: Heritage Blog

Australian soldiers’ uniforms in World War I

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Australian soldiers of the First World War wore a very practical and comfortable uniform. A tight fitting jacket, breeches and long puttees were the accepted fashion for most armies at the time. But Australia adopted a loose fitting working jacket. The Australian tunic, or service dress, was less a parade uniform than a practical working dress.

For the Australian troops going overseas, in the Australian Imperial Forces (or initially the Australian Expeditionary Forces), a new jacket was developed. Prior to its development soldiers of the Australian Military Forces and Militia were clothed in breeches and a half buttoned or tab fronted wool shirt. This shirt was deemed to be an inadequate piece of clothing. The tunic developed was made of pure Australian wool, woven to have a very strong nature. It was made with four large external pockets, two on the upper chest and two below the belt. There was a fifth pocket on the inside front skirt to hold a field dressing.

The cuffs have a vent and button at the wrist, this allowed the sleeves to be rolled up or fastened securely around the wrist. The coat was designed to have plenty of ventilation for comfort and hygiene, it was pleated in the back to allow for expansion and the collar could be left open or buttoned up. Across the yoke of the shoulders is an extra piece of material, and down the spine there is a large solid pleat, these were to protect the wearer from heat stress from the sun. The buttons were plain, dished shaped with four holes in the centre, and made of a cellulose material, an early type of plastic.

The tunic’s colour has been described as a “pea soup” green, but there are many variations in colour due to the numerous suppliers of dye, and the quality of the dye varied. It was intended that all Australian troops were to be supplied purely with Australian made uniforms and equipment, the Government policy at the time made this quite clear, and not with-standing several temporary supply problems, all Australian troops were supplied with uniforms from Australia, for the majority of the War.

Over the right shoulder and hanging at the left hip are two haversacks. The large haversack is the pack for this equipment, the Pattern 1903, Commonwealth Pattern, haversack. The pack is made of a canvas material, with a two inch shoulder strap with one simple brass friction buckle. On the rear of this pack is another pocket, this is to hold an emergency ration tin.
The other small haversack is the carrier for the gas helmet , this was a flannel hood with eye pieces, the material was impregnated with a chemical that would neutralise the effects of the gas.
Over the other shoulder is the ‘mounted’ pattern bandolier. This has 9 pouches, each holding 10 rounds each, thus a total of 150 rounds of .303″ were carried; each soldier was also expected to carry a further 10 rounds in the haversack.

For the light horseman a further 90 rounds would also be carried in another bandolier slung about his horses neck. The water bottle is a blue enameled steel, with a cork stopper, it is covered in wool, and carried in a leather frame work, also of the Pattern of 1903. There is a thin leather strap which loops from two brass rings on the carrier, about the soldier. On this strap is a wide cotton or web shoulder pad, to spread the load. Although all the leather pieces of this equipment are Australian made, the web shoulder section of the water bottle carrier usually carries an English inspectors mark, as these were imported from Britain, due to Australia’s inability to produce this type of product.


Picture of Les Ashe in Egypt.

The Light Horse Australian Imperial Forces sent many troops overseas, some of this fighting force went to tropical areas.  Australian Imperial Forces sent many  troops overseas, some of this fighting force  went to tropical areas.

The first Australian soldiers sent overseas went to Rabaul, to deal with the German Colonial troops of ‘German New Guinea’. This first contingent of soldiers in 1914 were known as the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force, most other soldiers were sent to training camps in Egypt, where some stayed to fight in Palestine, after Gallipoli, where as the rest went to Britain and Europe. Those soldiers who remained in the tropical areas had specific requirements for clothing.

The officers of the Australian Expeditionary forces were usually required to provide their own uniform and accoutrements. Most clothing worn by officers during the First world War, found today, tend to be examples of such ‘tailor made’ clothing. The tunic follows the standard for officers tunics of the British forces set down under the pattern of 1902. This pattern still exists today with some very minor variations. The coat is made of a strong cotton, it has an open collar, so a collared shirt with a tie can be worn; it also has four large pockets on the front of the tunic, the coat has a false belt sewn about the waist, and the cuffs are plain and have an inverted V-shaped cuff. The breeches are an identical pattern to other officers pattern of breeches in wool. The breeches are a ‘riding’ breeches style, with re-enforced inner thighs and sometimes the seat as well. Officers usually wore a high boot with this type of uniform, the boots were usually a riding boot, with either a high shaft or a tall legging.


The slouch hat was the standard head wear of the Australian troops of WWI and was usually made locally. The Australian fur felt slouch hat was adopted by the A.I.F. and A.C.M.F. as a practical piece of uniform headgear, although under some conditions it was anything but uniform. It was made of either a fur felt (rabbit’s fur) or a wool felt. It was worn with a puggaree, usually muslin cloth folded about the crown of the hat, but it could be almost any type of material. Most examples of the puggaree are either folds of cotton sewn together, or a band of woollen tunic material. Some folded types of puggarees also had a separate colour folded into them. The number of folds vary, some are said to have three folds, but most are seen with five or seven and even up to nine folds. The hat could be worn with the left side of the brim laying flat or the brim could be held to the side of the hat by a press stud or a small flat hook and square loop. The Australian rising sun hat badge was usually worn on the upturned left side of the hat, although it was also worn on the front of the hat.

[Source: Grants Militalia]


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