Soldiers banned from displaying ‘symbols of death’ by new Defence chief Angus Campbell

Defence’s soon to be new chief has banned soldiers from using any display of the “symbols of death” like skulls and cross bones in patches, badges or imagery.

Chief of Army Lt Gen Campbell on Tuesday issued the directive to the Army banning the “display or adoption of symbols, emblems and iconography” which he says are “ at odds with the army’s values and the ethical force we seek to build and sustain”.

New defence chief Lieutenant General Angus Campbell at the announcement of his promotion. Picture: Kym Smith.
New defence chief Lieutenant General Angus Campbell at the announcement of his promotion. Picture: Kym Smith.

He cited the use of “death symbology or iconography such as the pirate skull and crossbones, the phantom or punisher symbols, the Spartans or the grim reaper.”

The skull or cross bones, he stated, was associated with maritime outlaws and murders, the phantom with vigilantes, the Spartans as extreme militarism and the grim reaper as a “bringer of death”.

“Such symbology is never presented as ill intentioned and plays to much of modern popular culture, but it is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession the legitimate and discriminate taking of life,’’ he said.

“As soldiers our purpose is to serve the state, employing violence with humility always and compassion wherever possible. The symbology to which I refer erodes this ethos of service.’’

Lt Gen Campbell called on commanders to take immediate action and remove such symbols in any and all formal or informal use within the army.

“I appreciate that without explanation some will rile at this direction, so please ensure my reasoning is explained; but to be clear that I am adamant that this is right for the army, I have asked RSM-A to have my direction incorporated into army dress code and seek your immediate attention to addressing this issue within your command.”

The directive was issued the day after Lt Gen Campbell was announced to be the nation’s new chief of the defence force replacing Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin in July.

Queried about the decision, a Defence Department spokesman said the minute was issued as a general directive on April 17 — to reinforce all such symbols used across the organisation must align with army values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.

“Death symbology demonstrates a general disregard for the most serious responsibility of the army’s profession; the legitimate and discriminate taking of life,’’ he said.

Rory Callinan
The Australian
6:14PM April 20, 2018

This article has generated  over 500 comments in one hour



  1. Phil Garvan says

    It’s at odds with the Army’s ethical standards that we hope to build and sustain???????
    It’s high time that the politicians stop prying into the running of the defence force.
    It should be separate to any political opinions and should be left alone to operate as military leaders deem necessary.
    The government of the day should only make the decision on whether to use the defence force or not, and what operations they hope to achieve with them.
    It is; as it’s name states, a military force, there to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, to repel attack by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain.
    It is there to be used as a last resort, when politics has failed.
    When it’s time to take the gloves off, I hope we have an effective military force, ready to get itself dirty. Because that’s what soldiers do.
    Not to be a hamstrung force due to political involvement.

  2. This is the direction these very senior officers follow to impress the government of the day…..Cosgroves posting would be up soon?OR will they need a GOVERNOR in a year or two?

  3. Keoni Ronald May says

    *** Espirit de corp will take a big morale hit. *** Warriors deserve to choose their own symbols of accomplishment and recognition. *** This has been done, since the Army & Navy were invented, to distinguish themselves, from everyone else. ***

  4. Peter Safe says

    Does this mean the end of the Infantry Combat Badge with its Bayonet, the Australian Army Badge with the sun reflecting off Bayonets, Cross Rifles, and most Corp and Unit Banners.
    Look at the uniform you wear General Campbell. How many “symbols of death” are adorned on it?
    If you don’t have the balls to stand up for the ADF and not kowtow to this PC BS it’s time you moved on and stopped denigrating those who have proudly worn the uniform and fought for their mates and country.

  5. Butch Mathew says

    Well Mr Angus Campbell, That’s put the cat amongst the pidgeons, Eh ?
    I hope you read these comments, from combat soldiers

  6. This is an absurd and ultimately pointless reg that accomplishes precisely nothing. Oddly enough, there is some measure of value in encouraging your warriors to kill their enemies. This new rule will only serve to engender resentment of the top leadership by the troops at the sharp end, the Infantry. Let warriors be warriors, not pawns in your stupid and ill informed social justice idiocy. Spend your time and effort supporting them in every way possible so they can get it done.

  7. Ian Petch says

    He is removing decades of unit and sub unit history. These symbols do no harm, they are there as a form of identity and help to foster esprit de Corp. This really needs a rethink.

  8. Dean Schmidt says

    Here we go the Milatary Command bending to their Politcal Masters idea of political correctness. Little by little these so called leaders are emasculating and rendering our War Fighters unfit for the dangerous and confronting roll they play in the security of our country. The Australian Military Command need to look to (dare I say it) the US Marines for how to be aggressive leaders and cultivate the aggressive nature a Soldier needs to have.

  9. David Bourke says

    What a load of crap B coy 6 RAR known as the phantom coy with the phantom painted on our coy HQ and coy t shirt since I joined in 1979 another idiot officer giving a order just cause he can

  10. Butch Mathew says

    But it’a alright to be a shirt lifter & still serve. funny orders fro higher up

  11. Free American says

    You do know the purpose of the Infantry and other COMBAT arms is to KILL people and destroy the enemies ability to KILL your side? DEATH is the outcome of the force projection. We Infantry do not give out teddy bears and hugs. Has the DM ever seen the end result of a kinetic attack upon the foe? Typical politician officer with ZERO exposure to the ugliness that is combat.

  12. Michael Shave says

    How on Earth does one employ violence with humility and compassion? When were good soldiers ever expected to be humble or compassionate? When taught to recognise successful leaders of men I never ever thought any of them to be compassionate or humble. Good soldiers I have known and or admire: Jack Morrison MC and bar; Jack Woods DCM; Paddy Mayne DSO and several bars; Charly Upham VC and bar; Bludger Blake MC; Ray Simpson VC DCM. General Campbell should spend some time being shot at. We used to be taught the needs of the task supersede those of the team which supersede those of the individual. Campbell has confused this somehow.

  13. OK,
    All you soldiers with skull and crossbones on your arms, cut them off. Does this mean that the Eureka Flag has to go , as the rioters were called murderers were they not? PC again

  14. Jon Gercama says

    Agnes Campbell must resign, he neither has the stomach nor the mental capacity to be a leader of men. Men, who’s primary occupation is
    to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, and to repel attack by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain.