Researching Ships’ Badges

We are asked if we can reproduce a ship’s badge from a particular period.  We’re also asked, why a particular ship’s has changed.  These questions require some research to pinpoint design elements to a particular period.  While developing our website, we discussed the topic of just how much information do we include when describing each badge and how much lineage do we illustrate up to the current approved badge.

While there are few reference books on the topic Australian Naval Heraldry or Ships’ Badges of the Royal Australian Navy, we have managed to isolate a five.  We would like to acknowledge Mr Gary Kinkade, Manager Navy Badges, who shared his knowledge in this area willingly.

It is therefore very appropriate that the most comprehensive, albeit brief, article on the history of RAN ships’ badges was written by Gary Kinkade.  His article, “A Brief History of Royal Australian Navy Ships’ Badges”, published in the commemorative publication, “100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy” (pp 90-94) may be viewed on-line at:

Mr Kinkade highlights and contrasts the similarities and differences between ships’ badges of the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).  He also features the evolution of ships’ badges since the pattern was first formalised in 1947 and discusses why the coat of arms/motif for some ships has changed and evolved, as well the move away from Latin mottos.  He also develops the framework for all badges in RAN, including major commands, non-commissioned establishments and organisations, Joint or Tri-Service units, and Australian Navy Cadet Units.  This is a very easy to read article and will answer many questions for old salts and researchers alike.

For those who wish to delve deeper into the specific histories of ships and their badges, it is hard to go past two books written by Vic Cassells.  Vic Cassells was the RAN’s heraldic advisory at the establishment of the RAN Badge Design Committee in 1963.  Vic has subsequently written three books.  In the two books published in 2000, he looks at the histories of specific ships, their battle honours and their badges.  These, in our opinion, are the definitive texts on the lineage of most ships’ badges in the RAN.

Finally, as a very quick reference there is Alfred Festburg’s, “Heraldry in the Royal Australian Navy” (1981).  This comprehensive text for the RAN of the 1970s and 80s and examines all existing badges for that moment in time and provides black and white illustrations of each.  However, there are reportedly a couple of inaccuracies and researchers would do well verifying their findings secondary and tertiary sources.


If you have an interest in this are the references we use are:

Cassells, Vic, The Capital Ships: Their Battles and Their Badges (2000), Kangaroo Press, Roseville, NSW – ISBN 07318 0941 6

Cassells, Vic, The Destroyers: Their Battles and Their Badges (2000), Kangaroo Press, Roseville, NSW – ISBN 07318 0893 2

Cassells, Vic, For Those in Peril: A Comprehensive Listing of the Ships and Men of the Royal Australian Navy who Have Paid the Supreme Sacrifice in the Wars of the Twentieth Century, (1996), Kangaroo Press, Roseville, NSW – ISBN 08641 7734 8

Festberg, Alfred, Heraldry in the Royal Australian Navy (1981), Silverleaf Publishing, McKinnon Vic – ISBN 0 949746 00 2

Kinkade, Gary, A Brief History of Royal Australian Navy Ships’ Badges in “100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy” (2013), pp90-4, Faircount Media, Bondi Junction, NSW

Weightman, Alfred, Heraldry in the Royal Navy: crests and badges of H. M. ships, (1957), Gale and Polden, UK.

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