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Here's why every Australian soldier wears the subcontinental invention that is the puggaree

Jasjit Singh was the only turbaned Sikh to have formed part of the Catafalque Party on this year's Anzac Day service in Melbourne. Source: Supplied

The Slouch Hat is a "standardised headdress" for members of the Australian Defence Force, but few realise that the slouch hat is accompanied by a uniquely subcontinental addition – the ‘puggaree’.

Few things are as uniquely Australian as the iconic slouch hat.

But what completes this symbol of military pride worn by every soldier is an element of adornment hailing from the subcontinent and its British colonial era. The khaki-coloured cotton puggaree is worn above the brim of the Slouch Hat with a unit colour patch sewn on the right side.


  • Slouch Hat is the "standardised headdress" for all members of the ADF, with every member issued a ‘puggaree’
  • Puggaree is a light-coloured cotton band worn on the Slouch Hat 
  • The current official puggaree has seven pleats, each representing the states and territories of Australia

   

Slouch Hat
Puggaree is the cotton band that is worn above the brim of the Slouch Hat with a unit colour patch sewn on the right side.
Getty Images/VM_Studio

Paul McAlonan, a senior historian at the Australian Army History Unit told Manpreet Kaur Singh of SBS Punjabi that every ADF member is issued a puggaree. He said the only variance to this requirement is “consideration of the respective religious or cultural affiliations of the personnel.”

“Personnel whose recognised cultural or religious affiliations preclude wearing of the Slouch Hat wear a headdress that is respective of that cultural or religious affiliation.

An example is where Sikh members wear a khaki ‘turban’ or ‘pagari’

                                

Lieutenant Amrinder Ghuman leads 2 Initial Employment Training Troop onto parade
Lieutenant Amrinder Ghuman leads 2 Initial Employment Training Troop onto parade
SME

Last year, Jasjit Singh, an Army Reserve Combat Engineer scripted history as he became the first and only turban-wearing sapper who formed part of the Catafalque Party that slow-marched inside the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground ahead of the annual Anzac Day match on April 25. 

Speaking to SBS Punjabi after the march in April 2019, the young sapper said, "It was a great honour as it allowed me to represent the Australian Army and the Sikhs at the same time."

"People are already messaging and commenting on Facebook that they had no idea about the 'puggaree' and a high school history teacher has mentioned that they are going to be taking this information to the classrooms," said Mr Singh.

The origins of Pugarree:

The term ‘puggaree’ originates from the Hindi word, ‘Pagri,’ which means a turban or a thin scarf. The puggaree was a traditional Indian head-wrap, later adapted by the British as a headdress worn to provide insulation in hot regions.

Mr McAlonan said the commencement of the tradition of wearing a puggaree with the Slouch Hat is attributed to Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Price from the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1885, and influenced by the traditional puggaree headdress being worn by Burmese police in Myanmar.

“During the First World War (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.”

Later during the Second World War, a flat type of band was issued.

“Troops who were on active service in the Middle East, were introduced to a folded puggaree as a distinguishing mark of active service,” added Mr McAlonan.

As years passed, the Army reverted to various types of plane bands, including green-dyed puggarees for ‘jungle warfare’. The flat band remained the official puggaree at the conclusion of the Second World War.

The current official puggaree has seven pleats, each representing the states and territories of Australia.

   

Slouch Hats
Two Australian soldiers carry slouch hats at the funeral service of three unknown World War I diggers at the war cemetery near Pozieres in France, 2016.
AAP Image/Lloyd Jones

Many colours of puggaree

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 (1RAR), and the Corps of Staff Cadets. 

For instance, the soldiers of 1RAR don a jungle green puggaree.

“The dark green puggaree was introduced during the Battalion’s service in Malaya over the period 1959-1961 when puggarees from Australia were unable to arrive for an official parade,” said Mr McAlonan.

He added that the task of producing the dark green puggarees was assigned to Mr Mohavved Beseek, a battalion tailor, who 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 William Morrow decided that the green puggaree would be the puggaree worn by the 1RAR in Malaya.”

The dark green puggarees were later adopted for permanent use after the battalion’s return to Australia.

“Because the dark green puggaree is so distinctive, the battalion does not wear a colour patch,” said Mr McAlonan.

The Royal Military College staff cadets wear a distinctive puggaree of olive drab colour.

That puggaree has eight pleats symbolising the graduation of the first international cadet through the Royal Military College, who hailed from New Zealand.

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