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- September 1991 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
BATTLE HONOURS FOR H.M.A. SHIPS AND FLEET AIR ARM SQUADRONS
The criteria used by the RAN for the award of battle honours are based on those of the Royal Navy. Battle honours are intended to foster esprit de corps among ships companies and encourage them to take a personal interest in the war time exploits of their present ships as well as those of the same name which distinguished themselves in the past.
If a ship is renamed at any time she will assume any battle honours of her new name and will no longer be entitled to those previously worn under the old name.
Award of Battle Honours
Battle honours are awarded by the Governor-General for successful war service and are granted to those ships and parent ships which took part in actions or campaigns categorized as follows:
a. Fleet or squadron actions,
b. single ship actions,
c. major bombardments,
d. joint operations,
e. campaign awards, and
f. area awards.
Fleet or Squadron Actions.
Fleet or squadron actions consist of:
a. the sinking of enemy merchant ships in an escorted convoy;
b. engagements with light enemy forces when both sides incur losses or heavy damage; and
c. operations which resulted in frustrating the enemy’s intention at the time, although no warship may have been sunk.
In deciding which actions are to rank as battle honours the following general rules apply, although exceptional cases may require departure from rigid adherence to them:
a. battle honours will be awarded for those actions which resulted in the defeat of the enemy or when the action was inconclusive but well fought and where outstand ing efforts were made against overwhelming odds, and
b. battle honours will not be awarded for a defeat or when the action was inconclusive or badly fought.
The qualification entitling a ship to a particular battle honour is that the ship was present during this action. The word `present’ is to be taken to mean presence at sea under the direct orders of the Service officer controlling the operation even though some ships may not have opened fire on the enemy.
Single Ship Actions. Single engagements of particular significance between two ships (eg SYDNEY and EMDEN in 1914) which deserve to be highlighted may be eligible for a battle honour.
Major Bombardments. Battle honours for major bombardments (naval gunfire support or air attacks) are granted only when there was appreciable opposition by the enemy. Other bombardments, where the enemy reply was negligible, are to be included among the various minor affairs for which a separate battle honour will not be awarded and which are merged, when appropriate, with a campaign or area award.
Joint Operations. The capture of a fortified area or a large island, in conjunction with other military units, may be recognised with the award of the battle honour. When the Navy has little to do beyond safe conveyance of troops to the point –of attack, a naval battle honour will not be awarded, notwithstanding that a participating military unit may wear the honour on its colour.
Campaign and Area Awards. Battle honours may be awarded for certain campaigns as a whole rather than for individual actions during those campaigns.
Battle Honours Approved for Use in the RAN
Battle honours awarded by the Admiralty since ARMADA 1588 are approved for HMA ships bearing the same name. In addition, battle honours have been approved for HMAS ships for service in the Pacific 1941-45, New Guinea 1942-44, the Indian Ocean 1941-45 and Vietnam 1967-71 as indicated at Annex A.
The criteria for campaign and area awards for World War I, World War II and subsequent campaigns are detailed at Annex A.
The selection of battle honours for World War I is based on the award of clasps with the British War Medal, although not all of the campaign or area events which were distinguished by a clasp are suitable for the grant of separate battle honours. Also several clasp awards have been combined into a single campaign or area battle award.
Battle honours, either those `inherited’ or those `earned’, may only be acquired by units (past, present or future) of the following categories:
a. commissioned ships, whether named or numbered and whether built for naval service or otherwise acquired,