"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.
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The following text is extracted from and article written by R. J. Marrion and R. L. Campbell called 1st Australian Horse which first appeared in the March 1981 edition of the magazine, Military Modelling.
In June 1897, the New South Wales' Government gave official sanction to the raising of a volunteer cavalry regiment consisting of 410 men, all ranks, as a trained force to assist with the defence of the state and, indeed, Australia. The first enrolment took place on the 28th August, 1897 at Murrumburrah, recruitment being completed by 20th November. In all there had been a total of 3000 applications to join the regiment.
Command was given to Colonel Kenneth Mackay who, having lived most his life in various parts of the interior of Australia had great experience of bushmen and stockmen, etc., from the early days of cattle ranching. He had also previously raised and, as a captain commanded the West Camden Light Horse.
The amount of enthusiasm displayed by applicants to join this new regiment meant that Colonel Mackay had the pick of a type of man and horse (all volunteers [See note below regarding volunteers, ed.] provided their own horse and saddle) unsurpassed for their zeal and stamina; which went without saying when a four-hour drill often meant a 40 mile ride! Officers, with the exception of the Commanding Officer, the second in command and the adjutant, were, for the most part inexperienced as the men in the art of formal military training and cavalry drill, being squatters or sons of squatters.
There were hardly any official-issue carbines and only 50 swords; the main weapons at this time being civilian firearms and the stock whip. Instructors were in short supply and were men who had seen previous service in the Mounted Rifles or Artillery and, although conversant with their own drill books, still lacked any formal cavalry training. However, the Regiment was particularly fortunate in having as second in command Captain A.C.F. Ferguson, an Aide de Camp on the Staff of the Governors' Household and a serving officer in the 2nd Life Guards, and the adjutant, Lieutenant R.R. Thompson and ex-4th Dragoon Guard and New South Wales' Lancer who contributed much in the early formative days.
The regimental title, The "First Australian Horse" and the colour of the uniform, "Myrtle Green" (a deep full green - not a Rifle Green), were chosen by Mrs Mackay, the colonel's lady.
Immediately the men were enlisted they were measured for their uniforms and an order was sent to Messrs Hobson and sons of London to provide 400 serge jackets, pantaloons, slouch hats, boots, spurs, military bridles, bits, haversacks and other impedimenta of the cavalry soldier, at a total cost of £7,000; this was the total clothing allowance for the Regiment, and it was spent three and a half years in advance! A trumpeter was borrowed from the artillery and a band was formed which was based with the Headquarters' Squadron at Goulburn.
Ship after ship arrived from England until eventually the long-awaited uniforms and equipment arrived, before Easter 1898, just in time for some units of the Regiment to receive them prior to their fist nine-day camp and inspection by Major General French. The first official parade of the Regiment was to take place on Easter Saturday at 3pm, without formal cavalry training and without squadron and troop leaders being appointed. Although this was the first time, since its formation, that the whole Regiment had been together and as the various squadrons were many miles apart, they almost managed to muster their full strength and paraded four squadrons and a mounted band. Formal training or not, General French expected the Regiment to be able to walk, canter and gallop past in good order. All men were expert horsemen and under the expert eyes of Captain Ferguston and Lieutenant Thompson the regiment were given half-an-hour's drill - with swords, which had only been issued that morning! The Regiment performed its manoeuvre's well and passed muster.
On 18th May, 1898 the Regiment acted as escort to Earl Beauchamp, who had arrived to take up the post of Governor of New South Wales. On 31st March, 1898 the Regiment changed its designation to 1st Australian Horse and Earl Beauchamp became its Honorary Colonel and maintained an unfailing interest in the Regiment even after his return to England.
The Regiment was brigaded with the New South Wales' Lancers and New South Wales Mounted Rifles to form the New South Wales' Mounted Brigade and in 1898, its strength was increased to 515 men. In 1899 the strength was yet again increased to 638 all ranks.
Volunteer v Militia
Two distinct types of part time service was available to men in Australia at the time, either Volunteer service which meant that there was no payment by the government to the participant, or Militia service where the participant received an emolument equivalent to the daily pay rate of an Imperial Soldier pro rated to the actual hours served. At the time referred to by the above article, the standard payment for a base grade recruit in the Imperial Army was 2/6 (two shillings and six pence) per day or about 2009 AUD $120.00 per day. The use of volunteers declined within the Australian setting as it was considered essential that a contractual arrangement was maintained by the Department of Defence and the individual soldier which would bring forth many additional disciplinary aspects not available in a volunteer situation.
New South Wales Lancers, The Uniform Topic: Militia - LHN - 1/7/1
New South Wales Lancers
New South Wales Lancers [1885 - 1903] 1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1903-1912] 7th (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1912-1919] 1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1919-1929] 1/21st Australian Light Horse [1929-1935] 1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment [1936-1942] 1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Armoured Regiment [1942-1948] 1st Royal New South Wales Lancers [1948-1956] 1/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers [1956- ]
[The elephant's head used on the badges is taken from the family crest of Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales from 1885 - 1890 and was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment from 1885 until 1928.]
New South Wales Mounted Rifles, History, Part 1, 1888 - 1889 Topic: Militia - LHN - 2/9/6
New South Wales Mounted Rifles
History, Part 1, 1888 - 1889
New South Wales Mounted Rifles [1888 - 1903] 2nd (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1903 - 1912] 9th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1912 - 1918] 6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1918 - 1941] 6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Motor Regiment [1941 - 1943] 6th Australian Armoured Car Regiment [1941 - 1943] 6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Motor Regiment [1948 - 1949] 6th New South Wales Mounted Rifles [1949 - 1958] Royal New South Wales Regiment [1958 - 1960]
The following is the first extract from a manuscript written by an anonymous author. The hand written manuscript outlines the history of the 2nd ALHR NSW Mounted Rifles from commencement in 1888, until 5 April 1899, when history ceases. From the internal evidence of the manuscript, it appears to have been composed sometime from July 1903 to 1904.
The anonymous manuscript.
The first extract from the manuscript.
2nd ALHR Mounted Rifles
Permanent Mounted Infantry 1888, Captain Sparrow in Command.
The Corps of Permanent Mounted Infantry was raised in September 1888 by order of His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief of the Military Forces of New South Wales (Lord Carrington) with the advice of the Executive Council; its formation was to a very great extent due to the report made by Major General Shaw of Her Majesty's Imperial Army who had been deputed early in the year 1888 to make an examination and inspection of the New South Wales Defences, on his recommendation the Colonial Secretary, Sir Henry Parkes, obtained a vote of money from parliament for the purposes of making this addition to the Forces.
The Corps was intended to supply men and horses for instructional purposes to the Officers of the mounted branched, and to form the nucleus of a Regiment to be distributed by companies throughout the colony.
The officer appointed to command the Corps was Captain Henry Glendower Bodycham Sparrow who was transferred from the Adjutancy of the "Northern Reserves."
The establishment consisted of one Captain, one Sergeant and thirty men.
Recruiting commenced on the 11th September 1888, at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, the first enrolment being Richard Holman (Now Warrant Officer and Regimental Sergeant Major of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles); a large number of the men presented themselves for attestation, each candidate was required to pass a successful trial of horsemanship before enlistment, and none were accepted below the height of 5 feet 7 inches, with a minimum chest measurement of 34 inches.
The establishment having been speedily obtained, the men were grounded in the rudiments of foot drill, and gymnasium work until December 1888, when the horse arrived from Neotsfield Station, they were handled and broken by a selected number of men for duty in the ranks.
The Corps was employed chiefly on Escort, Orderly and Guard duties, its first public appearance being in February 1889, when by command of His Excellency, the Governor, Lord Carrington, they were inspected by him at Government House.
The first guard furnished was at Government House in July 1889. The Corps was popular with the inhabitants of the city, and gained much distinction by the particularly smart appearance of its members, and their good conduct.
Captain Lassetter to Command, 1889.
Early in January 1889, Captain Henry Beauchamp Lassetter of "Her Majesty's 80th Regiment of Foot", and a native of the colony, arrived in Sydney to take command of the Corps, and to perform in addition, the duties of Adjutant to the Lancer Regiment.
Mounted Infantry Regiment formed 1889.
During the first few weeks that Captain Lassetter occupied this dual position he spared neither time nor energy to promote and encourage his new Military factor, with the result that before Easter 1889, the Upper Clarence Light Horse, the Field Battery of Artillery at Bega and the companies of Reserves at Queanbeyan, Picton, Campbelltown and Inverell were selected to form together with the Permanent Company stationed in Sydney, an administrative Regiment under the partially-paid system, with Major Lassetter as Commanding Officer, and Captain Sparrow as Adjutant, the latter officer being also in command of the Permanent Company.
Each of the partially-paid companies consisting of 3 Officers and 47 rank and file, who received an annual allowance of pay according to rank, which was paid for attendance at drill and training, the maximum a private could earn was £12/-/- per annum at the rate of 10/- per day.
Inscription of Clothing and Equipment.
The following is a brief description of the clothing and equipment worn by the Regiment, the buttons and mounting of the Permanent Company being brass, the remainder white metal.
Drab tweed, with four outside patch pockets, two at breast and two at waist with flaps, red cloth shoulder straps; the Permanent Company wore the Regimental Badge on shoulder strap and partially-paid men to letter of their company.
Drab Bedford cord, fitting tightly.
Drab soft felt, turned up at left side enclosing a white puggaree and plume of black cock feathers, the brim fastening back with the regimental badge.
Brown leather laced at side.
Drab tweed with ½ inch red wilt down leg.
Drab tweed piped with red of field service pattern.
Brown leather with buff tops.
The Equipment was of brown leather throughout, and consisted of the following articles.
Waist Belt and Frog carrying Long Sword Bayonet.
Bandolier for 50 rounds, worn over left shoulder.
Haversack, white, ordinary infantry pattern.
Water Bag, white canvas, carried on saddle.
Clasp Knife and Lanyard, as used in Navy.
Saddle, ordinary bush pattern, and supplied by men.
Numnah, brown felt.
Valise, worn at rear of saddle.
Great Coat, black cloth of Infantry pattern.
Breastplate, Head Collar, Pelham Bit, and two reins.
An Artillery pattern Carbine carried in a leather bucket on the saddle, and a Cavalry pattern Mess Tin completed the equipment.
Regimental Badge, Southern Cross, surrounded with wreath of Waratahs, having a crown on top and lion rampant in centre of cross.
On the 19th April 1889 the Regiment assembled for the first time and marched to the National Park to participate in the annual manoeuvres at Easter, of the troops; extending over nine days; the inauguration of the Regiment met with so much approval on all sides, and was commented upon in such glowing terms by the press, that shortly after the conclusion of training, numerous applications, memorials and petitions were made or raised throughout the colony and presented to Parliament, praying for an extension of this branch of the service.
The Sydney Morning Herald in a leading article dated 22nd April 1889 says:
"One of the most hopeful of our land forces is the Mounted Infantry, which has been established lately, and a few years should give us a force of men most valuable in case of War."
Writing of the camp in general, the same contemporary of the same date says:
"The great feature of the camp is the Mounted Infantry in their smart uniform under the command of Major AB Lassitter of the 80th (South Staffordshire) Regiment, whose appointment was gazetted at the beginning of the year. A finer body of men it would be difficult to get together. In some instances the men rode 60 to 85 miles to the railway station. The Regiment marched into camp 185 strong exclusive of Bega and Queanbeyan Companies which have not gone under canvas owing to their equipment being incomplete."
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd April 1889 says:
"The Mounted Infantry commenced an attack on an enemy near the railway heights, they seized the position and scattered the enemy, this action stamped the riders as most capable, in fact brilliant horsemen, besides proving the undoubted mettle of their steeds."
The same paper of April 24th 1889 says"
"The special feature of the days work was a sham fight arranged by Major Lasseter of the Mounted Infantry; it was viewed from start to finish by the General Officer Commanding and his staff, who exhibited the deepest interest in the movements of Major Lassetter's handsome little corps. This Corps must prove a tower of strength and usefulness in any and every conflict in which they may take part in the far or near future. The work done on the previous day was magnificent in every respect, and every body after hearing of the daring ride, was anxious to come and look on today and to follow the brilliant horsemen as best they could. Major General Richardson exhibited the keenest interest in the proceedings, and congratulated Major Lassetter upon his fine force; indeed it is impossible to bestow upon them too much praise."
In a leading article of April 29th 1889 this daily paper says:
"In two most important particulars, this years exercises have been satisfactory and instructive. In the first place the value of the Mounted Infantry as a defence body has been clearly established. The most brilliant services have been rendered in the other lands by the Mounted Infantry, and if occasion should require, the same might be expected from this newly formed body amongst us. On Friday the display made by them at the sham fight was marked by dash and great activity. The government should push as fast as possible the formation of these corps in rural districts."
The companies stationed at Bega and Queanbeyan were fully clothed and equipped in June 1889 and marched to Moore Park, Sydney, together with the Permanent Company for a twelve days course of training.
Speaking of the Bega men, the Sydney Morning Herald of June 8th 1889 says:
"The hardship which men undergo in coming into camp are seldom understood by the public, and rarely realised by any but the men themselves. The Bega men left home at 7am on June 5th, with a fifty mile ride before them to Nimitybelle. The country was in a dreadful state from wet weather, and bad enough to prevent the progress of the most daring horsemen, but the men were determined at all hazards to reach Sydney and so they forced their way along most difficult and almost impassable roads, climbing up 7 miles to pass over a mountain 4,000 feet above the sea level."
His Excellency, the Governor visited the camp on June 11th 1889, and was entertained by the officers; during the afternoon a programme of Military Sports was carried out in the presence of His Excellency, who was much pleased with the feats of Horsemanship.
The training was conducted under Major Lassetter who kept all ranks hard at work up till the last day, the camp broke up on the 16th June 1889.
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