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Burns Philp cap badge

Date: 1919-1941
Overall: 50 x 70 mm, 19 g
Medium: Fabric, metal, enamel
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Margaret Royds
Object Name: Badge
Object No: 00049650

User Terms

    This Burns Philp cap badge belonged to Captain Basil Helm who served with the Burns Philp line from 1919 to 1941.
    The badge features the Burns Philp house flag on top of a golden wreath. The white, red and blue flag depicts a thistle in the centre in recognition of James Burns and James Philip, the Scottish born founders of the shipping company.
    SignificanceThis is an excellent example of shipboard personal items from a Burns Philp line captain at the height of Burns Philp operations during the mid-twentieth century.
    HistoryBurns Philp represents an important and unique chapter in Australian shipping history. Originating in a trading company in Townsville in the 1870s, Burns Philp developed its own shipping line and trading empire throughout northern Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, along with a network of plantations in the islands. By the 1920s it was a household name. It operated a fleet of large main-line ships in conjunction with a fleet of smaller inter-island ships. Its main-line ships ran regularly as far afield as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Burns Philp passenger liners were well-appointed and well known, with their black and white chequered funnels and the Burns Philp thistle on the house flag. Many BP captains were legendary colourful figures, and the company's name conjured up the romance of the South Seas.

    During World War II both ships and personnel were taken into war service, and the company's specialised knowledge of the Pacific was put to use by Allied commanders. The company's flagship, its then new liner Bulolo, in particular had a distinguished war record, when it was requisitioned into the British Royal Navy and served in actions in both hemispheres. One Burns Philp liner, the Neptuna, was destroyed in the Japanese raid on Darwin in 1942, with the loss of 45 lives.

    Burns Philp resumed operations and commissioned new ships after World War II, but sold its last ship in 1971. In the 1980s the company made vast operating changes which resulted in an organisation bearing little relation to the past shipping and trading company, and brought it to near-bankruptcy. It continues to exist but has no maritime connection.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Basil Helm collection

    Assigned title: Burns Philp cap badge

    Web title: Burns Philp cap badge

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