Battalion members wear wool well

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Battalion members wear wool well
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Wool was a highlight of Anzac Day ceremonies last week, and wearing it best was the 16th Battalion, Royal WA Regiment.

Dressed in traditional kilts, Bravo Company, led by sergeant major Warrant Officer Class Two Joe Cicala, upheld WA's early Scottish heritage as it paraded down St George's Terrace, just as the company did in 1938, during the first official parade of the kilted battalion.

WO2 Cicala said one difference to those early days was that new recruits must finance their own uniforms.

"Notwithstanding, they inspire to uphold traditional ceremonial Scottish dress and are extremely proud to do so," he said.

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WA authors John Treloar and Peter Shaw, who wrote The Kilted Battalion: The History of the 16th Infantry Battalion, gathered findings from war diary extracts on the introduction of Scottish traditional highland dress into the Australian militia.

Footnotes in the 2006 book found that from its inception in 1936, 16th Battalion - The Cameron Highlanders of WA - wore a tartan originally adopted in 1794 by the newly raised 79th Regiment in Scotland, which later became the Queen's own Cameron Highlanders.

The Cameron tartan kilt cloth was then made of fine crossbred 18-ounce serge, supplied by WA Worsted and Woollen Mills of Albany.

Unfortunately, war brought an abrupt end to many WA public ceremonies and the kilts were put into storage until after World War II.

The 1960s brought about the modernisation of the Australian Army, although with renewed interest in the preservation of history, and the 16th Battalion Cameron Highlander of WA Association was formed. Today, B Company, 16RWAR recruits are keen to don Scottish dress, honouring the past soldiers who served before them.

Lance Corporal Justin Martin, whose family farmed in Kalannie, said the kilt represented important militia history and tradition.

"We take great pride in wearing Scottish dress," he said, after participating in the Anzac Day parade.

"My grandparents, Graham and Jean Martin, cleared their farmland to run big Collinsville-type woolly sheep, which continued with my parents Russell and Roslyn, giving me more reason to respect the cloth of my heritage."

Mr Martin, who is an Armadale fireman, said one of the great benefits of wearing woollen clothing was that it was a fire retardant.

While the Scottish dress of B Company, 16RWAR has survived the test of time, unfortunately WA's woollen mills have not.

The kilts must now be ordered from Scotland. Nevertheless, we may still remember a time when WA wool was worn by those who proudly served their country.

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