Topic: Militia - LHW - WA
Western Australian Militia
Organization and Training
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. 75 - 77:
Organization and Training
Training in the very early days was restricted to handling of weapons, rifle shooting, and parade ground movements, little attempt being made to teach tactics or field exercises. Facilities were lacking and funds were not available to purchase them. At the end of the first decade there was a Volunteer Force but its value as a fighting force was low.
The first serious attempt to improve matters must be credited to Lieutenant Colonel RA Harvest, R.A., Inspector of Volunteers, who in 1874 grouped the Perth, Fremantle, and Guildford corps for training purposes, under his own command, in a body known as the 1st Battalion W.A. Volunteers. This expedient, which prevailed with little variation until 1899, permitted training to be carried out at a much higher level, field days becoming a popular and valuable item on the training programme.
An important feature was the raising of artillery corps at Perth and Fremantle. From 1872 all field exercises provided for artillery co-operation with infantry. The Artillery corps were called upon to fire salutes on the amazingly numerous occasions when the Governor attended functions. Much of the military value of these activities lay in the amount of "brushing-up" personnel had to undergo prior to each outing. The amount of training greatly exceeded that shown on parade programmes.
The next step was taken by Lieutenant Colonel EF Angelo, Inspector of Volunteers, who organized and commanded the first Camp of Continuous Training to be held in the Colony. This Camp was held during Easter 1884 at Bullen's Grounds, Albion, attendance totalling 355. On the Easter Monday a sham fight took place. A water colour executed by Lieutenant Colonel Angelo illustrating various incidents is filed in the public archives. A small Camp was held at Geraldton in the same year.
The Albion Camp proved most successful but there was one serious blemish. There was a grave shortage of greatcoats and various essential items of camp equipment, of which no official stocks were held. Steps were taken to acquire the necessary stocks but four years passed before another camp could be held. The next Camp was held at Greenmount in 1888, and another at Guildford in 1889 -at neither of these were there adverse comments regarding equipment. From that time Camps were held more frequently but not necessarily annually, finance as usual being the deciding factor. In a year when no Camp was held it was usual to hold a Field Day on the Easter Monday and as the years passed this form of training tended to become extensive and practical.
It is worthy of note that in 1889 the Guildford Volunteer Rifles at its own expense held a voluntary Camp at Albany.
The Adolescent or Growing-up period was marked by considerable progress in tactical and operational knowledge. However, knowledge of corps administration and maintenance was of a rudimentary nature. Corrective action was taken in 1896 when local districts were created to afford experience to senior officers as Commanders, viz. –Perth (Major EW Haynes),
Fremantle (H/Major J. W. Hope),
Guildford (Major S. Gardiner) and
Geraldton (Major R. H. Cowan).
On July 1, 1899, the organization known since 1874 as the First Battalion W.A. Volunteers, became the 1st Infantry Regiment under the Command of an officer who was given full operational and administrative control. Not until then had it been possible for the Volunteers to view training for war in its true perspective. It had taken 37 years to reach this goal.
The successful formation of the W.A. Infantry Brigade in 1900 indicates that the 1st Infantry Regiment was intended to act as a model for the benefit of new formations then contemplated. Military leaders in Western Australia were prone to overestimate the recruit potential of the Colony and in raising five battalions would appear to have repeated former errors. When the early enthusiasm had waned some of the Battalions would have had to fight hard for bare existence.
In 1889, Major General Edwards, G.B., recommended that the Defence Force be made up of Militia (partially paid) corps, with the support of Volunteers at Perth and Fremantle-two Battalions of Infantry of four Companies each, one battery of Field Artillery, and one Battery of Garrison Artillery. This recommendation may have led to the adoption of the Defence Act 1893, which provided for Militia Forces who could be called out for service anywhere within Australia. The first Militia corps in Western Australia, the 11th Infantry Regiment, was converted to that status on 1 January 1905.
Next: Uniforms and Badges
Further Reading:Western Australian Militia, Light Horse
Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Organization and Training