History and heraldry by design

Published on LEUT Dave Devlin (author), POIS Phil Cullinan (photographer)

Topic(s): Naval Heritage and History

'The Badger' Mr Paul Burnett shows how the HMAS Darwin badge was designed and some of the finer details that are involved with the history of the badge. (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
'The Badger' Mr Paul Burnett shows how the HMAS Darwin badge was designed and some of the finer details that are involved with the history of the badge.

With the Royal Australian Navy undergoing it’s biggest refresh since the Second World War, and a number of ships commissioning and decommissioning, it’s time to investigate ships’ badges.

Manager of Navy Badges, Paul Burnett, more affectionately known as ‘the Badger’, has the responsibility to maintain the register of all approved ships’ badges and the histories and heraldry that goes into their designs. This includes all ships, establishements, units, and organisations within Navy.

“It is customary for any HMA Ship that is named after a city or town to wear a badge that is derived from some feature that is associated to that place,” Mr Burnett said.

“The motifs have predominantly been drawn from the crest at the top of the cities’ coats of arms, as can be seen in the HMA Ships AdelaideBrisbane, and Sydney.”

But in some rare circumstances, other considerations are taken to the Ships’ Name Badges and Honours Committee. HMAS Darwin was an example of this, being the first of its name, the design team were able to be a little more creative with their badge concept.

Mr A. Victor Cassells, a Royal Australian Navy heraldry advisor, made the suggestion to use a phoenix, which was then drawn up by the graphic artist Mr Ken Little.

In the minute written to the then Chief of Naval Staff on the 29 September 1980, Mr Cassells explained his idea for the Darwin badge.

“The reason for selecting the phoenix as a motif is (to represent) the spirit of the people of the City of Darwin, who have, over the years, had to withstand the depredation of numerous cyclones – the latest being Cyclone Tracy - as well as sixty four raids by Japanese aircraft during World War II. Despite these onslaughts by both man and nature, the City has always risen from the ruins.”

The decision was made for the motto to have the same allusion as the phoenix. The Committee put forward three suggestions for the ship’s motto ‘Resurgent’, ‘Indestructible’ and ‘Enduring’.

Then Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sir James Willis, chose ‘Resurgent’ and approved both the motto and the phoenix design on the 4 February 1981.

Mr Burnett has the responsibility to prepare and refresh each design prior to a ship being commissioned, thus ensuring that history and tradition are preserved.

There are currently over 900 official commissioned and non-commissioned ship, establishment, command, unit, organisation and other badges with logos that have been used throughout the history of the Royal Australian Navy, including uniform shoulder patches and ballcaps.

If you would like to know more about the history of the Navy badges, please visit http://www.navy.gov.au/history/tradition/official-badge-design-and-history.