Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Real Fighting Kangaroo... (Pt 1)

The Real Fighting Kangaroo... (Pt 1)

Many of us of a certain age may recall the America’s Cup challenge of 1983 that electrified the nation. One of the iconic images that emerged from that was the ‘fighting kangaroo’ flag showing a yellow kangaroo with red boxing gloves on a green background.
The real fighting kangaroo is red and can be found on the wings and fuselages of ADF aircraft (or another colour if the aircraft is in tactical livery) or on the funnels of Her Majesty’s Australian Ships or adorning the sides of Army armoured vehicles.
This page may not be Dr Sheldon Cooper’s ‘Fun With Flags’, but we hope these posts give you some history into this uniquely Australian marking found on the machines of battle of your ADF.
So here is the first part of ‘The Story of the real Fighting Kangaroo’.  To see  more, go to my Facebook page at

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The 1983 America’s Cup saw our 12 metre yacht Australia II come back from trailing the New York Yacht Club’s Liberty, 3-1, to win the best of seven race. 

The nation went nuts and PM Bob Hawke declared on national TV that…”any boss that sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum!” (True story!)

One of the enduring symbols of that competition was the Boxing Kangaroo that was created by the team members to match other nations’ flags in a local bar in Rhode Island. It would later become incredibly popular in Australia and was licensed by the Australian Olympic Committee as the symbol of our Olympic athletes.
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But the symbol of the kangaroo had been long in use. During WWI, the Australian Flying Corps painted kangaroos on their aircraft, the most famous being those of No 6 Squadron, AFC. This squadron was based in Minchinbury in England and was a training squadron supplying pilots for the squadrons fighting in France.

(Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial – AWM P8374.012 – Used with permission)
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Fast forward to WWII. During the see-sawing desert campaign in Northern Africa, Australian troops captured Italian tanks and painted large white kangaroos on them to ensure they were not fired upon by friendly troops while Aussies were using them against the enemy.

The Divisions of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force also used various animal symbols as tactical signs to differentiate equipment between the divisions. The 6th Division had a leaping kangaroo above a boomerang.

AWM images 0546 /0543
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Perhaps the most significant use of the kangaroo was by the Royal Australian Air Force. Whilst not an official national symbol, their No 456 Squadron created a design and used it on their Mosquito fighter-bombers and other squadron equipment. They created templates using the kangaroo design based on the 1937 penny.

Interestingly, the person given credit for the design of the penny is George Kruger Grey, well known English artist renowned for the design of coats of arms and coinage. His initials are on all coins he designed (see just above the kangaroo’s tail), however the actual designer of the coin was a Toowoomba-born man by the name of Douglas Shenton Annand. Kruger Grey merely changed the design slightly to allow it to be minted and stuck his initials on it. He did the same on the ha’penny and shilling!

Scroll down for Part Two of 'The Real Fighting Kangaroo.'

AWM UK 1437 – used with permission. Images of coins open source.


  1. Interesting! I look forward to learning more.

    1. Thank you Sharon. I hope you find the rest just as interesting. ConwayB



No 1 Squadron's F/A-18F.