Australian Uniforms

The Slouch Hat (KFF)

The Slouch Hat (KFF)


The slouch hat is an object strongly associated with Australian identity.

The Army refers to the slouch hat by its official designation; Hat khaki fur felt (KFF) - to everyone else it is a ‘Slouch Hat’. 

The word ‘slouch’ refers to the sloping brim. The brim is made from rabbit-fur felt or wool felt and is always worn with a puggaree. 

History has it that the origins of the Slouch Hat began with the Victorian Mounted Rifles; a hat of similar design had been worn in South Africa by the Cape Mounted Rifles for many years before 1885. The design of the Victorian Mounted Rifle hat originated from headgear of native police in Burma where Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Price had recognised its value. 

The Victorian hat was an ordinary bush felt hat turned up on the right side. The intention of turning up the right side of the hat was to ensure it would not be caught during the drill movement of “shoulder arms” from “order arms”. 

By 1890, State military commandants had agreed that all Australian forces, except the artillery corps, should wear a looped-up hat of uniform pattern that was turned up on the right side in Victoria and Tasmania, and on the left side in all other States to allow for different drill movements. 

The Slouch Hat became standard issue headdress in 1903 and its brim position was mostly standardised. The slouch hat became a famous symbol of the Australian fighting man during World War One and continued to be worn throughout World War Two. Its use since that time has made it a national symbol.

General Bridges, the first commander of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, was found wearing his slouch hat back to front when he was fatally wounded at Gallipoli. As a mark of respect and remembrance for Bridges, when the slouch hat is worn at Royal Military College - Duntroon, it has become traditional to wear the chinstrap buckle on the right side of the face and the brim down. 

This tradition commenced at the Royal Military College in 1932. However, when the slouch hat is worn ceremonially, for example on ANZAC Day, it is worn in accordance with the wider Army custom - brim up and chinstrap buckle on the left hand side. 

Today, army members wear the slouch hat with the brim down to provide additional protection from the sun when not performing ceremonial duties. 

The Puggaree 

The term ‘puggaree’ originates from the Hindu word, ‘Pagri,’ meaning a turban or thin scarf of muslin. Intended for insulation, the puggaree was a traditional Indian head-wrap, adapted by the British for headdress worn in hot, sunny regions. 

During World War One (1914-1918) a plain khaki cloth band was worn and this practice continued until compulsory training was suspended in 1929. 

Following the introduction of Voluntary Training in 1930, new puggarees were issued to the Commonwealth Military Force with different coloured folds denoting Arm or Service. 

During World War Two, a flat type of band was issued. Troops who were on active service in the Middle East at the time introduced a folded puggaree as a distinguishing mark of active service. 

Later, the Army reverted to various types of plain bands, green dyed puggarees for example, for jungle warfare. However, the official puggaree at the conclusion of World War Two was still the flat band. 

The current puggaree has seven pleats, one for each state and one for the Australian Territories. It is made from light khaki coloured cotton and is worn on the slouch hat with a unit colour patch sewn on the right side. 

While the majority of the Australian Army wear the light khaki coloured puggaree, there are slight variations for members of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, and the Corps of Staff Cadets. 

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, wear jungle green puggaree. The dark green puggaree was introduced during the Battalion’s service in Malaya over the period 1959-61. Unable to get puggarees from Australia for an official parade; the task of producing them was given to the Battalion tailor, Mr. Mohavved Beseek. Mr Beseek used ‘bush shirts’ (common issue British field uniform at the time) to make the puggarees as he was unable to obtain the khaki material locally or from Australia. 

It is thought that the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel W. Morrow decided that the green puggaree would be the puggaree worn by the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, in Malaya. After the battalion’s return to Australia, the dark green puggaree was adopted for permanent use. Because the dark green puggaree is so distinctive, the battalion does not wear a colour patch. 

Royal Military College staff cadets wear a distinctive puggaree of olive drab colour. The puggaree has eight pleats, with seven representing each state and one for the Australian Territories. The eighth pleat signifies the graduation of the first international cadet through the Royal Military College who hailed from New Zealand.

The Emu Plume 

Slouch hats worn by members of the Armoured Corps are adorned with emu plumes, a tradition that originated with the Queensland Mounted Infantry during the great shearers’ strike in Queensland in 1891. During this time, the Queensland Mounted Infantry were called out, as soldiers to aid the Civil Power. 

As time permitted, the soldiers would participate in a sporting activity where they would ride their horses alongside the emus, plucked the breast feathers, and placed the feathers on their hat. The Gympie Squadron was the first to wear the feathers, a fashion soon followed by the regiment. 

The Queensland government permitted the Regiment to adopt the plume as part of its uniform in recognition of its service. In 1915 then Minister for Defence Sir G. F. Pearce granted all units of the Australian Light Horse permission to wear the plume , which they refer to as ‘Kangaroo feathers’. 

Emu tufts of approved design and dimensions are now worn by all members of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps as an item of dress. All Royal Australian Armoured Corps personnel were given authority to wear emu plumes in the slouch hat, brim up or down in 1996, this was extended to all personnel serving in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Regiment in 2000.

Australian Imperial Forces Army Pennant

The standard AIF pennant encountered is approximately 63 cm long and 26.5 cm high at the staff or ties. It bore the AIF rising sun (or General Service Badge), with correct inscription ' Australian Commonwealth Military Forces '. This was then followed by letters AIF in large stylised capitals, descending from 9.5 cm in height for the A, towards the tail of the pennant at 6 cm for the F. It also bore the colour patch of the desired unit in the top left hand corner.

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Photo courtesy of The Rural Life Museum, Robinvale in conjunction with Robinvale Sub-Branch Returned & Services League

WWII Army Uniform – Pacific Issue

WWII Army Uniform

This uniform belonged to Private Joseph Robert Weatherson VX4865, better known as "Bert". Bert was born in Kingston Victoria and was a farm hand before joining the war in 1939 at the age of 32.

Bert served in the 2/8 Australian Infantry Battalion and after being captured in Greece in 1941, was a prisoner of war, imprisoned in Stalag 17D in Maribor (German: Marburg an der Drau) in what is now Slovenia and 18B and 18A located to the south of the town of Wolfsberg, in the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, then a part of Nazi Germany.

Bert was a prisoner of war until the end of the war in 1945 when he was recovered to the United Kingdom before being shipped back to Australia where he eventually settled in Robinvale on Soldier Settlement Block 59B.

The uniform has the colour patches of the 8th Battalion on the top of the sleeve. The uniform also displays overseas service chevron above the cuff on the right sleeve and what appears to be a Warrant Officer badge above those.

The service ribbon above the breast pocket indicates service in North Africa.

The uniform was donated to the Rural Life Museum in Robinvale. Information from Robinvale Euston Historical Society.

History of the AIF Uniform

In March 1901, the Commonwealth Ministry of Defence took control of all the state military forces. A new Commonwealth uniform pattern was introduced in 1903 which incorporated individual regimental colours, and new badges and buttons to distinguish regiments and corps. The slouch hat was included as headgear, but the colourful uniforms of the colonial forces were replaced with standardised pattern khaki.

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History of Australian colour patches – situated at the top of the sleeve

The Australian army's system of colour patches arose from the need to solve an immediate problem. When the first Australian Imperial Force (AIF) set off for the Middle East in 1914, the only badge it wore was on headgear and jacket collars: the Australian "Rising Sun" emblem, inscribed with the words "Australian Commonwealth Military Forces" (ACMF). Nothing distinguished one regiment from another. Divisional Order No. 81(A) Administration was issued at Mena, Egypt, on 8 March 1915 to overcome the problem:  562. In order the better to distinguish the several units of the Division, coloured patches of cloth 1 inches wide by 2 inches long will be worn on the sleeves one inch below the shoulder seam. Except in cases of Headquarters of Brigades and the Divisional Artillery, the Engineers and Army Medical Corps, badges will consist of two colours, the lower indicating the formation, the upper the unit etc. Light Horse [4th Light Horse] and Artillery badges will be divided diagonally, the others horizontally.

Colour patch, 1st Infantry Battalion, AIF

The shape of the colour patch indicated the level of the formation to which a unit belonged. The combinations of particular colours or particular arrangements of colour combinations indicated the function of a unit.

After the First World War the use of colour patches continued in the Citizens Military Forces (CMF), also known as militia. The CMF were reorganised into a divisional structure similar to that of the AIF. Units were generally renamed to provide a direct numerical association with AIF units raised from the same states and districts. Through their identification with AIF units came the authority for militia units to wear the colour patches of their associated AIF units; other colour patches were approved for units outside the AIF association.

Colour patch, 2/1st Infantry Battalion, AIF

With the outbreak of the Second World War, second AIF units were authorised to adopt the colour patches of their correspondingly-numbered first AIF forebears. In April or May 1940, an army instruction allocated grey backgrounds to second AIF colour patches. This instruction also reflected the reduction in the number of battalions in each brigade from four to three, reallocating colour patches to infantry battalions on the basis of the new divisional structure by shapes and colours which represented the new divisional, brigade and battalion seniority of their second AIF grouping. As a result, many battalions found themselves wearing patches unrelated in shape or colour to those of their first AIF forebears. Representations to Members of Parliament by first AIF unit associations and the (then) Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia resulted in this anomaly being corrected around November 1940, by the issue of another instruction: second AIF battalions would wear the patches of their first AIF battalion forebears, superimposed on grey backgrounds and in the shape of the second AIF division to which they were allotted.

This colour-patch system remained in place until 1949, when the policy for post-war army dress adopted the British system of embroidered shoulder titles, formation signs and lanyards. From about 1960, the British system was abandoned, first by dropping formation signs, later by the partial replacement of shoulder titles with abbreviated metal corps and regimental titles worn on shoulder straps. In July 1987, following representations by a number of units, the Chief of the General Staff approved the wearing of colour patches on the right side of puggarees on hats in order to foster the Army's heritage. Units wishing to wear such a colour patch were required to research their lineage to prove their link with an original patch, preference being given to the older patches of the First World War.

Information from

The colour patch on this uniform is white over red which would indicate this uniform belonged to a soldier in the 2/8 Battalion.

Headquarters New Guinea Force, 1942-1944:
Formed by redesignation of HQ 8th Military District in April 1942. Absorbed as 1st Aust. Corps and NG Force Headquarters between August 1942 and August 1943, and was again absorbed by HQ 2nd Aust. Corps on 20.4.1944, although the new unit retained the title of HQ NG Force. Disbanded on 2 October 1944, reforming HQ 2nd Aust. Corps, the functions of the former HQ NG Force being taken over by HQ First Australian Army.

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The chevrons on the mid arm of both sleeves have been a modern addition and do not belong on the uniform

Overseas Service Chevrons – situated above the cuff on the right sleeve

In January 1918 the AIF also approved the wearing of the overseas service chevrons which had been adopted by the British Army. These were embroidered or woven inverted chevrons worn above the cuff on the right arm. Due to a shortage of supply, some men had chevrons privately made. For each year of war service a blue chevron was awarded and those men who had embarked in 1914 received a red chevron to indicate that year’s service.

Information from
Photo courtesy of The Rural Life Museum, Robinvale in conjunction with Robinvale Sub-Branch Returned & Services League

Brodie steel helmet
Brodie steel helmet

Brodie steel helmet


From 1936, The Helmet, Steel, Mark I was fitted with an improved liner and an elasticated webbing chin strap. This final variant served until late 1940, when it was superseded by the slightly modified Mark II, which served the British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II.

During this period, the helmet was also used by the police, the fire brigade, air raid wardens and the Salvation Army. The helmets for the ARP wardens came in two principal variants, black with a white "W" for wardens and white with a black "W" for Chief Wardens.

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Army khaki wool serge field service cap

Army khaki wool serge field service cap


The field service cap is a military cap that can be folded flat when not being worn. Also known as a side cap or forage cap. The cap is missing the Rising Sun badge which would normally be pinned on the side.

Air Force Uniform

Air Force Uniform


This uniform belonged to Squadron Leader Raymond Tom Cupper, RAAF 250539 and was donated to the Rural Life Museum in Robinvale by his family.

Photo courtesy of The Rural Life Museum, Robinvale in conjunction with Robinvale Sub-Branch Returned & Services League.

Royal Australian Air Force

Established in 1921, the Royal Australian Air Force is the second-oldest independent Air Force in the world.

Early History and World War I

Military aviation came of age during World War I when airships and early aircraft were mainly used for reconnaissance. Australia's eight Australian Flying Corps (AFC) squadrons were part of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and were attached to larger British Royal Flying Corps / Royal Air Force formations.

During World War I, 800 officers and 2,840 men served in the AFC and 175 lost their lives. Many AFC veterans helped to lay the groundwork for the future Royal Australian Air Force, and after the war others would enter industry to make significant contributions to civil aviation.

In January 1920, the AFC was replaced by the Australian Air Corps, which became the Australian Air Force on 31 March 1921, with the King's consent given on 13 August 1921.

World War II

In World War II, Australian air and ground crews fought in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; over the North Atlantic, the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean; India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, China, the Netherland East Indies, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines and Borneo. They also fought over Australia, its territories, and its approaches.

In late 1944, the RAAF peaked at over 182,000 personnel and 6,200 aircraft in 61 squadrons. In 1945, Australia had the fourth-largest air force in the world (after the USA, USSR and UK).

Over 215,000 men and women served between 1939-45, and 9,870 Air Force personnel lost their lives. Over 55 per cent of these deaths occurred in the air war against Germany over Europe.

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Navy Uniform

Navy Uniform


This uniform belonged to Able Seaman Thomas Wilson, PM8298. Thomas served on the HMAS Barcoo during WWII.

The uniform was donated to The Rural Life Museum in Robinvale by his wife, Nonie.

Tom never lost his love of the water,he was still water skiing well into old age.

History of the Royal Australian Navy Uniform

The granting of the Royal title in 1911, coupled with the arrival of the Australian fleet unit in October 1913, removed any lingering concerns the Admiralty held concerning Australian naval men wearing RN uniform and in 1913 the RAN received approval to adopt the full range of uniforms, badges and insignia of the RN. The only differences that remained between the two were minor changes to buttons and cap ribbons referencing Australia. For many, this was viewed as the final affirmation that Australia’s naval forces, as the embryonic RAN, had come of age.

Not all of the RAN’s personnel went to war in navy blue. Members of the 1st Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, an engineering unit, served at Gallipoli and throughout the Middle East dressed in the olive drab uniform of the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Their commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander LS Bracegirdle, RAN, saw a need to distinguish between the two forces and designed large, stockless anchor badges to identify them as sailors, these were worn in lieu of the army’s ‘Rising Sun’ badges.

The onset of war with Germany on 3 September 1939 triggered another technological revolution that saw the armed forces of the industrialised world rapidly advance in ways not previously considered possible. With new technologies and innovation came the requirement for a host of new categories in the RAN and a much more practical approach to dress. At the beginning of the war many battles were fought in what today would be considered to be ceremonial uniforms. By the war’s end, thousands of sun-tanned Australian officers and sailors could be found throughout the Pacific, with bare chests or clad in khaki open necked shirts, shorts and sandals.

Australia’s reserve forces played a significant role throughout World War II serving in theatres the world over. Generally they wore the same uniform as officers and ratings of the permanent forces although officers were easily distinguishable by their waved rank lace that appeared in two different styles.

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HMAS Barcoo
HMAS Barcoo

December 31, 1983

HMAS BARCOO was one of the eight Australian built River Class anti-submarine frigates laid down during the Second World War. All except Barwon and Macquarie saw active service in the latter part of the war.

Barcoo was laid down at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 21 October 1942 and was launched on 26 August 1943. She was commissioned by Lieutenant Commander A.J. Travis, RAN on 17 January 1944.

After short trials and work-up in local waters she was despatched on active service off the north coast of New Guinea. She arrived at Milne Bay on 15 March 1944 where she met her older sister HMAS Gascoyne. In the next few months she was employed as a maid of all duties patrolling, escorting, providing gun support and protection for smaller craft in the area.

On 13 May 1944 Barcoo joined HMAS Kapunda in the bombardment of Japanese positions on Karkar Island and Bunabun on the mainland. Three days later she was operating with HMAS Wagga, ML803, ML421 and ML817 in softening up the coast at Uligan Harbour, Neptune Point, Bunabun Harbour in preparation for occupation by Australian Army units.

Lieutenant Commander C.G. Hill, DSC assumed command on 16 October and Barcoo joined Vendetta and Swan as a naval escort for Allied ships in the Jacquinot Bay area of New Britain as a preliminary to Operation Battleaxe. From 4 to 6 November the flotilla carried out anti-submarine patrols off the entrance to Jacquinot Bay and Wide Bay. On the 7th they bombarded targets in the Wide Bay area. When this operation was complete they sailed for Langemak to provide escorts and to patrol as far west as Morotai.

Barcoo formed part of the screen for the convoy of 150 ships, including the Australian landing ships Manoora and Westralia, which sailed from Morotai on 26 April 1945 for the invasion of Tarakan. Her sister ships Burdekin and Hawkesbury were also units of the screen.

The assault on Tarakan began on 1 May 1945 and Barcoo remained in the area, except for two convoy escorts, until the end of May. She was the last major Australian ship to leave the area.

Barcoo sailed from Tarakan on 31 May as senior ship of ten LCTs and forty-four LCMs bound for the landing at Brunei. She arrived off the beachhead on 10 June and saw the Landing Ships Infantry land their troops.

The remainder of this month saw her employed in escort and patrol activities around Brunei. At the end of June she departed for Morotai escorting a convoy of LSTs.

When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 Barcoo joined Burdekin, Bundaberg, Cootamundra, Latrobe and Inverell in Operation Recovery, planned to secure the early release of Allied prisoners of war believed to be held on Ambon. The operation did not achieve its object at Ambon but on 1 September Barcoo embarked 153 Indian prisoners of war held on Mili Island near Morotai.

Barcoo arrived at Balikpapan on 20 September to embark troops of 21st Brigade. Next day she entered Macassar with other RAN and RN units and was greeted on the wharfside by a guard of honour of prisoners of war. The port was not occupied by Allied troops until the next day. Barcoo had the pleasure of ferrying the British ex-prisoners out to HMS Maidstone in which they were evacuated.

The frigate’s last occupation was Bandjermasin. This operation was completed on 30 September and Barcoo’s eighteen months war service ended.

Early River-Class Specifications

Original Displacement: 1,420 tons standard, 2,220 tons full load
Length: 301 ft (91.74m) overall
Beam: 36½ ft (11.12m)
Draught: 12 ft (3.65m) mean
Armament: Two single 4″ (102mm) HA/LA guns, 8 single Oerlikons, 1 Hedgehog, 150 d/cs
Radar: A286
Boilers: 2 Yarrow Admiralty 3 drum type
Machinery: 4 Cylinder triple expansion reciprocating 2 shafts
I.H.P.: 5,500
Speed: 20 knots
Oil Fuel: 640 tons
Complement: 140

Information from
Photo courtesy of The Rural Life Museum, Robinvale in conjunction with Robinvale Sub-Branch Returned & Services League

Australian Women’s Army Service

These uniforms belonged to Marguerite Ellen Holmes (Daisy Roberts), click here to see photos from her time in the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) .

"Doing their bit"

From the outset of the Second World War, Australian women were aware of the changing role of British women in supporting Britain’s war effort. To help “do their bit” for Australia’s war effort, women in Australia joined groups as diverse as the Australian Red Cross Letters Association, the Australian Comforts Fund, the Women’s Air Training Corps, and the Women’s Emergency Signallers.

The Women’s Australian National Service (WANS) was inaugurated in 1940. Training for members of the WANS included air raid drills, first aid, basic military drills, and even shooting, signalling, and mechanics. In the period leading up to the formation of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS), the WANS demonstrated that women were capable of filling roles traditionally filled by men.

Sir Percy Spender, Australia’s Minister for the Army, considered women to be an underutilised resource in Australia’s war effort. Consequently, he approved the formation of the AWAS on 13 August 1941 with the objective of releasing more men into forward areas.

Many of the women who entered the AWAS had previously been in the WANS. Members of the AWAS took on roles such as drivers, provosts, canteen workers, cooks, typists, signallers, and cipher clerks. There were other unusual roles, such as a Japanese translator, a veterinary surgeon, and an anthropologist who liaised with Indigenous groups.

A group of AWAS personnel was stationed at the barracks near Cowra during the prison camp breakout in 1944, and another AWAS group was attached to the experimental chemical warfare unit in Queensland. Over 3,000 AWAS members helped defend Australia by manning the Fixed Defence units.

Establishing the AWAS

Lieutenant Colonel Sybil Howy Irving was appointed as Controller of the AWAS in October 1941. Irving came from a military family and had extensive experience with the Girl Guides and the Red Cross. She was responsible for the selection of assistant controllers and other officers, who were chosen from the ranks of women considered outstanding in their own field or in the community.

The first Officer’s Training School was held at the Guide House at Yarra Junction in November 1941. These 28 officers then set about recruiting more women, with the AWAS eventually enlisting 24,026 members. These women were the first to serve in the Australian Defence Forces outside of the medical/nursing field.

Eligibility criteria for entry into the AWAS included:

  • A satisfactory medical examination and X-ray
  • Age between 18 and 40 (extended to 50 under special circumstances)
  • Ability to commit to full-time military service for the duration of the war
  • Security check and clearance by the Manpower Authority
  • Character testimonials signed by a clergyman or municipal councillor.
Remote service

Approval was given by the War Cabinet in November 1944 for the posting of up to 500 AWAS members to New Guinea. These women were to be volunteers, single, and aged between 21 and 35 (40 in the case of officers). A total of 385 AWAS members served in New Guinea.

In May 1945, the MV Duntroon left Brisbane with 342 members of the AWAS under the command of Captain Lucy Crane. The women were stationed at Lae, New Guinea, for about 12 months under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Margaret Spencer. Most of these women worked in the Headquarters First Australian Army.

An additional five AWAS members worked with the Entertainment Unit in Rabaul from January to June 1946.

Between 1942 and 1946, 300 AWAS members served in the Northern Territory at Alice Springs, Adelaide River, Katherine, Tennant Creek, and Darwin.

One officer, three NCOs, and one private travelled to London on HMAS Shropshire with other members of the Australian contingent to participate in the Victory March in June 1946.

  • Total enlistments: 24,026
  • Maximum strength: 20,051 in January 1944

Officer establishment:

  • Colonel 1
  • Lieutenant Colonel 4
  • Major 22
  • Captain 93
  • Lieutenant 559
  • TOTAL 679

After the war ended the AWAS was no longer required. Colonel Irving resigned on 31 December 1946, and the AWAS was demobilised by 30 June 1947.

Information from

Voluntary Aid Detachment Uniform (VAD)

Voluntary Aid Detachment Uniform (VAD)


Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform worn during World War II.

Voluntary Aid Detachment personnel were essentially orderlies - responsible for cleaning wards and patients, changing bed pans, food services and other support roles. They did not work in military hospitals, instead working on hospital ships, troop trains, and in Red Cross convalescent and rest homes.

Physical Description

Mid-blue linen dress from Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform. The dress had short sleeves with turned-up edges and a turn-down collar with wide revers. The skirt was slightly flared and joined to bodice at waist. The belt was threaded through belt loops and fastened with a button. There was also a strip of white linen worn around the neck, over the top part of the collar of the dress. The veil - cotton organdie, tied under the back of the head and fell in a loose point behind. The hat which belonged to the V.A.D. uniform - was blue and made of stiff cotton.

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German Uniforms

Wehrmacht Belt Buckle

Wehrmacht Belt Buckle


The belt buckles of the Third Reich came in a variety of designs. There were over 100 different types developed. Even the non-military belt buckles often displayed the swastika as a means to show support of the Nazi party.

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