Service Dress Tunic, Australian Imperial Force (AIF); F. Crabb & Sons; 1918; C41...

From

Port Macquarie Museum

Name/Title

Service Dress Tunic, Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

About this object

This World War I service dress tunic is khaki in colour, made from wool, and its design is distinctly Australian. It is complete with the original brass buttons which feature a crown above the map of Australia and the words ‘AUSTRALIAN MILITARY FORCES’, plus the original ‘Rising Star’ collar badges, and ‘Australia’ shoulder title badges which were issued to every serviceman with his tunic. It is believed to have been made in England by military tailors, F. Crabb & Sons of Weymouth.

The tunic was designed, after consultation with medical and physiological advisers and officers of the Australian Department of Defence, to provide our soldiers with a garment that was comfortable, serviceable and hygienic. It was loose fitting to allow for the circulation of air and the free movement of arms, chest or neck, and the double pleats at the back of the tunic and pleats in the upper pockets were designed to provide extra thickness for additional warmth and protection down the spine and around the chest area. The four large outer pockets also enabled each soldier to carry many personal items, whilst an inside pocket was included to hold the ‘first-field-dressing packet’.

This tunic was owned by Arthur George Munro [1895-1984] who enlisted in the AIF on 20 March 1917, Service No. 38267, and was attached to the Field Artillery Division. The red and dark blue flannel patches on the upper sleeves indicate that he was part of the 12th Field Artillery Battalion which was involved in action in Egypt, Sinai and along the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. Arthur was wounded by gun shots to his head, thigh and elbow whilst on duty in France in August 1918. Consequently the tunic has single gold braid vertical stripe on the lower left sleeve indicating that his wounds were so severe that he was evacuated from the front line and unable to return. This tunic is a replacement issued to Arthur Munro in England. The practice of being issued with a replacement uniform after long periods serving in the battlefields was common.

Some aspects of the tunic are a little unusual and suggest that it was possibly embellished after the War, when it might have been worn in Anzac Day marches. New unused patches were found in one of tunic’s pockets, but used patches and badges have been attached to the new tunic in atypical positions, together with metal “FA” (Field Artillery) badges that were only issued to soldiers in 1914, before Arthur Munro enlisted. Similarly dark blue fabric strips have been added to the shoulder straps. This fabric appears to be the same as that worn as armbands, by long term hospital patients once they became mobile, in order to identify them so that publicans would not serve them alcohol.

Regardless of the additional badges and embellishments, and the non-standard placement of them, they, and the tunic, are all authentic items that were issued to Australian soldiers who served with the AIF during World War I, and together they contribute to Arthur Munro’s personal story of his war service - he served with the Artillery Brigade, he was a signaller in the Sinai and on the Western Front, he was severely wounded resulting in his repatriation home, and like many ex-servicemen he experienced long periods of hospitalisation upon his return to Australia.

In 1933, Arthur came to Port Macquarie to work in CBC Bank. He quickly became involved with the RSL and was elected President of the Sub Branch in 1938. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s he worked throughout country NSW, but in 1958 he retired and returned to Port Macquarie. Here he continued his association with the RSL, as a Patron of the Sub Branch, as well as with the Port Macquarie division of Taree Legacy, as its President.

Whilst this is one of thousands of tunics issued to Australian servicemen during the First World War, its personalised embellishments reflect Arthur Munro’s wartime experiences in a unique way. It provides an insight into Arthur Munro’s service and appears to have been quite special to him. Retaining this tunic enabled Arthur to tell his war service story in a visual way and evidences what was no doubt a life changing experience for him as it was for the many others that he assisted after the war through his work with the RSL Sub Branch and with Legacy.

Margaret Blight
6 June 2017

Maker

F. Crabb & Sons

Maker Role

Tailor

Date Made

1918

Place Made

England

Medium and Materials

Wool, metal

Measurements

Neck 430mm, Chest 1150mm, Waist 950mm

Subject and Association Keywords

Wars

Credit Line

Donor: Olive Munro

Object Type

Military uniforms

Object number

C419

Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

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