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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, The Plan in Operation
Topic: Militia - LHW - WA

Western Australian Militia

The Plan in Operation

 

The following is an extract from the book written in 1962 by George F. Wieck called The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia 1861-1903, pp. 22 – 25:

 

Chapter V - The Plan in Operation

The Vasse District was first in the field. It desired to form an Infantry corps - to be named the Sussex Volunteer Rifles, with Headquarters Busselton. A roll bearing 33 names, including that of Captain-elect J. Couchman (ex British Army) accompanied by a request for the loan of some muskets and the services of a drill instructor, was forwarded to the Military Commandant. Apparently Lt-Col. Bruce was not quite satisfied for he visited Busselton and there decided that not sufficient of the persons enrolled resided close enough to the proposed headquarters to ensure a sufficient and regular attendance at training parades; he suggested the raising of a mounted corps with fewer numbers. Lt-Col. Bruce's suggestion was indignantly rejected by Capt. Couchman (an Infantry Officer) and the elected committee. During the course of some rather heated correspondence Capt. Couchman returned to England and the proposal to form a Volunteer corps was withdrawn.

The Vasse experience was repeated, with variations, at York, Guildford and Newcastle (Toodyay). With opinion divided at first, York eventually decided on an Infantry corps with some Cavalry as well. Lt-Col. Bruce did not agree, recommending a small Cavalry corps in lieu. The committee agreed but wanted a corps of at least 30 men. Lt-Col. Bruce insisted that York could not maintain so large a body. Nothing further was done.

At Guildford a meeting presided over by Viveash proposed to form a corps, either Cavalry or Infantry, to be known as the Swan River Volunteers, with Capt. Young in command. Sixteen volunteers were available for Infantry and seven for Cavalry. Training commenced under Lieut. Thorold, R.E. Lt-Col. Bruce said there were insufficient volunteers to form an independent corps and suggested that Guildford form a detachment of the Perth corps. The committee would not agree to the suggestion and withdrew its proposal.

At Newcastle no suitable person could be found for the position of Captain Commanding so the proposal could not be accepted.

At Perth and Fremantle action proceeded simultaneously along parallel lines. Public meetings were held in September 1861. Perth recommended a corps of Infantry, 100 strong, to be known as the Perth Volunteer Rifles, with Mr F. S. Leake as Captain Commanding. Fremantle recommended a similar corps, to be known as the Fremantle Volunteer Rifles, with Mr R.S. Price as Captain Commanding. Both proposals were approved, the Gazette notice appearing on 6/8/1862.

Pinjarrah, as was expected, recommended a Cavalry corps of 17 men, to be known as the Pinjarrah Mounted Volunteers, with Mr F. Fawcett (ex-Cornet of 6th Dragoon Guards) to Command. This proposal was approved, the Gazette appearing on 23/10/1962.

Thus far the Movement had produced three corps with a united strength of about 180 men, most of them located where the need was greatest. There was a lapse of 8 years before another corps was raised. Then it was a Cavalry corps whose chief occupation seems to have been the provision of escorts for the Governor on official occasions. Gazetted on 19/7/1870, it was 30 strong and was designated the Union Troop of Western Australian Mounted Volunteers. Its commander was Lieutenant F. de Lisle, a Cornet of British Cavalry.

Very aptly and conveniently the Volunteer Movement may be considered as covering three stages or phases, i.e. Infant (1862 to 1872), Adolescent (1872 to 1895) and Adult (1895 onwards). As we see, the first (infant) stage produced four corps - two mounted and two dismounted - under the conditions originally prescribed. In that same decade the dismounted corps were disbanded, one for insubordination the other for inefficiency. The Military Commandant had no Staff and because of his other duties supervision would tend to be irregular. The ultra-democratic nature of corps administration proved a weakness. However, enthusiasm was not wanting and its tendency towards irregular actions soon brought about drastic changes. It cannot be claimed that the Volunteer Force had achieved a very high standard of efficiency in the first stage.

The invasion scare of 1872 came when the fortunes of the Volunteer Movement were at a low ebb. The manhood of Western Australia is remarkable for its willingness to answer the call to serve and the call of 1872 was no exception. The second (adolescent) stage commenced under good auspices. The conditions of enlistment, service, discipline, and command were improved. Corps were raised at Perth, Fremantle, Guildford, Geraldton, Bunbury, Albany, York, Northampton, Northam and Newcastle. Some of these were disbanded but generally were soon replaced by others containing most of the former personnel. During this stage every corps had a separate identity and dealt direct with the Military Commandant. The Defence Force was still a collection of small corps whose opportunities to gain experience in and a knowledge of leadership and higher administration were very limited. However, the Force was growing up. In addition to Cavalry and Infantry there were now some Artillery, and as the financial position improved the three Arms joined more frequently in camps and training exercises.

By 1895 the Defence Force was sufficiently mature to enter the third (Adult) stage. Here we find, firstly several Infantry corps grouped and forming a Regiment of Four Companies under a Regimental Commander; secondly, several other similar corps (some quite new); and finally, the formation of a Brigade consisting of Brigade Headquarters and five Battalions. It will be noticed that the emphasis is on Infantry. Artillery is a costly arm of the Service and requires specialists, which would account for the relatively small proportion raised. The Archives contain no reference to Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Medical Corps, &c, so it must be presumed no attempt was made to raise them. Some Infantry corps, certainly those at Perth, Bunbury, Geraldton and Guildford, maintained a mounted detachment which carried out cavalry duties as required. Eventually a mounted regiment was raised (in 1900) and a tactical balance achieved. It was also customary for each corps to maintain a body of Cadets who wore the uniform of the corps and appeared on corps parades.

 

Previous: Enrolment and Conditions of Service 

Next: Perth Volunteer Rifles

 

Further Reading:

Western Australian Militia, Light Horse

Western Australian Militia, Infantry

 


Citation: Western Australian Militia, Light Horse, The Plan in Operation

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 14 August 2009 12:15 PM EADT

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