Topic: Militia - LH
The Australian Light Horse
The following is an extract from the book by Hall, RJG, The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, pp. 11 - 14.
The Early Years 1818-1870
To understand the conditions which existed at the time of the appearance of the Australian Mounted troops, one has to make a brief examination of the development of the military defence in Australia. Such developments take place in fairly well defined periods
• 1788-1850 Imperial Forces only
• 1850-1870 Imperial Forces plus local volunteers
• 1870 Departure of Imperial Forces
• 1871-1880 State Volunteer movements
• 1880-1900 Reorganization in accordance with Jervois-Scratchley Report
• 1902 Federation reorganization
Initially, the military forces were closely associated with the nature of the community. A large number of convicts was being used in the labour field. The colonists depended upon the military, in the absence of a police force, to protect life and property against the possible threat of convict violence and aboriginal reprisals against the unwelcome intrusion. The troops supplied for this task were Imperial regiments of foot, stationed in the Australian colonies for a definite term of duty.
The New South Wales Corps, a force raised in England for service in Australia, arrived in 1790 - 1792. A detachment was stationed at Parramatta, a town later to become a strong Light Horse centre and currently the depot for one of the oldest light horse regiments, the Royal New South Wales Lancers.
Despite the popular association of the Corps with the infamous rum traffic, the disciplined development of public, as well as military services, owes much to the quality of both officers and men of the Corps. The declining good relations with the Administration, noticeably during the later part of Governor Hunter's term of office, ceased altogether after the arrival of the autocratic and unbending Governor Bligh. After the disastrous "rebellion" of 1808 the Corps returned to Britain in 1809 and were disbanded as 102 Regiment in 1818. The Australian colonies then saw the arrival and departure of 26 British line regiments and a detachment of the Royal Artillery from 1810 - 1870.
More good than ill can he said of the regiments performing their difficult duties in the colonies.
Of the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment (1835 - 1842), the "Australian" of 16 June 1842 made the following comments:
"During the sojourn of the Corps amongst us, the steady, soldierlike conduct of the men, the courteous demeanour of the officers, have carried our cordial approbation and they will leave many friends and well wishers behind them in the colony."
Not so cordial was the General Order directed at the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment (1826-1831) and published on 27th April 1826:
"The Lieutenant General is pleased to Order that John Jones and John Doherty of 57th Regiment, who have rendered themselves by self mutilation to be incapable of performing their regimental duties, be sent at the first opportunity to Norfolk Island for the purpose of being employed there as scavengers."
The 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot (1832-1837) left behind something more tangible than memories of their service. Lieutenant Colonel McKenzie, their commanding officer, retired on 11th July 1834, married and settled in Australia. One of his daughters married Capt A. T. Faunce of the King's Own. This couple became the grand parents of Granville Ryrie (later Major General Hon. Sir Granville Ryrie KCMG, CB, VD, commander of the 2 LH Brigade in the Great War 1914-18).
Between 1825 and 1840, the colonies suffered under a period of military inertia which was to be visited upon the country at least twice again over the next 140 years. The Colonial Office repeatedly ignored the observation of Governor Darling-that there was "a total absence of works necessary for the protection and security of the colony". The situation deteriorated even further with the reduction of the NSW Garrison in 1846 to assist in the Maori Wars. With the possibility of further reductions, the colonies were told to raise volunteers themselves. As the control of revenues, did not rest with the Legislative Councils, such a proposition was economically unsound. However, this was resolved in 1854. Further stimulation to establishing a voluntary force was provided by the outbreak of the Crimean War the same year. Following second amending act of the Volunteers Forces Act (Vic.) 1854, the following mounted troops officially existed:
NSW - One troop Yeomanry (NSW Cavalry Troop)
Vic - Victorian Volunteer Yeomanry Corps
SA - One troop of Mounted Rifles (Adelaide Mounted Rifles)
After a further decline in interest by the British Government (the Victorian Government was now meeting the entire expenses of maintaining 700 Imperial Troops), a revival occurred with the rumours of French designs against Britain in 1859. Mounted detachments were now organized in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia.
The Castlemaine Mail, reporting upon the volunteer review held in honour of the Queen's Birthday on 24 May 1861, indicated the heat of the Victorians' fervour:
"Later a sham fight took place - the Kyneton men on the defensive. The Kyneton men got so warm that it eventually appeared more like a real than sham fight. Several accidents occurred to riders and one horse was shot in the head. Mr G. W. Johnson, ex MLA, was shot across the hand, another of the corps in the neck and another was spattered with powder in the face in such a manner that he will ever present indelible evidence of his proximity to powder More than one rifle bears dints on the barrel and cuts on the wood."
It did however provide Dr. Hutchinson, surgeon to the Castlemaine Corps, the opportunity to tend his men. This he did, resplendent in his new dress uniform which he was wearing for the first time.
By 1863, with the resurgence of Voluntary enlistments, the state of the Australian Cavalry was as follows:
NSW - Mounted Rifle detachment of 4 officers and 35 other ranks
Vic - The Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (Prince of Wales Fight Horse Hussars)
Qld - 2 Troops of Mounted Rifles (Brisbane and Ipswich troops)
SA - 4 Troops of Mounted Rifles (Adelaide Mounted Rifles)
WA - A troop of Mounted Rifles (organized by the 12th Regiment of Foot)
Tas - A troop of Mounted Rifles (Launceston Mounted Rifles)
The Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment being the only cavalry regiment in Australia to have the Prince of Wales title, a title preserved by 17 Light Horse and later 4/19 Prince of Wales's Light Horse, it is interesting to note the circumstances of its first use. 1861 was notable in Victoria for the number of independent mounted troops, "The Castlemaine Dragoons", "The Kyneton Mounted Rifles", "The Victorian Yeomanry Cavalry" and so on, each attempting to dress themselves in a uniform both distinctive and yet quite unlike that of the rival troop.
After considerable negotiation, the like of which can well be imagined, the troops were amalgamated under the title "Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment". The troops were distinguished by the name of the town from which they were raised. Later in the same year, the prefix "Prince of Wales" was added in honour of the marriage of the Heir Apparent. Although disbanded in 1883, the Prince of Wales title remained in the Victorian militia for many years.
With the conditions of garrison maintenance becoming more and more unfavourable for the State Governments and the guarantee of support from Imperial troops in an emergency increasingly unlikely, it was obvious that the responsibility for military protection was to rest squarely upon the colonies. At the inter-colonial conference of 1870, the question was raised for the last time. The departure of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Artillery from Sydney on 14 August 1870 marked the close of the Imperial Military era.
The Sydney Morning Herald recorded the passing as follows:-
"The circumstance is important as marking an event in history, not only of this colony, but of Australia. It is the first step towards neutrality, not the result of direful conflicts and years of suffering, but the well considered conclusion of men who rule the destiny of a great nation."
With few exceptions, the military and civil example of the Imperial troops was a worthy model for the future military organization within this country, then only 30 years from achieving nationhood.
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Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Part 1