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"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.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

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WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Swan Barracks History, Part 3, the Soldiers
Topic: Gen - St - WA

Swan Barracks


Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge, Western Australia


The following history, Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge is extracted from a booklet produced by the 5th Military District in 1992. It is well researched and put together for anyone to read.


Part 3, the Soldiers

Perth's association with the military dates to the birth of the colony in 1829 when Governor Stirling travelled west to establish a defensive base.

The colony's first corps of volunteers was formed en route to the new colony but was soon disbanded amid the stresses of early settlement.

The volunteer corps did not re-emerge until September 11, 1861, when a meeting of citizens voted to form a militia. Only three days later, after a deputation from the meeting had gained the approval of Governor Kennedy, the first drill parade was held at Barrack Square. Within two weeks the Metropolitan Volunteer Rifle Corps numbered 100 effective members and seven honoraries.

Parade of Volunteers, 1900.


Parading at 5.30am and 6.00pm every day the men earnestly went about training to defend the young colony, not only from potential outside invaders, but from the ever present threat of convict uprising and attack from natives.

The reality of the threat was confirmed only a month after the militia was formed when raiding natives speared a soldier in Barrack Street near the Perth Town Hall.

Such instances ensured the corps the support of concerned private citizens who donated funds and the colonial government which gave encouragement and a small annual grant.

Despite this popular support the corps' fortunes fluctuated over the next 30 years. As volunteers could not be forced to endure all training, attendance became a problem. (While shooting practise was popular, some of the volunteers preferred to attend drill parades in civilian clothes, with guests, as spectators.)

In February 1892 the colonial government withheld the annual grant of 15/- from the Perth Corps, a decision that did not sit well with the volunteers who voiced their displeasure in the strongest terms.

The resulting insubordination charge saw the disbandment of the Metropolitan Corps. A cooling of heels, some apologies and growing international tension, however, soon saw the volunteers reformed under the new title "The Perth Company of WA Rifle Volunteers."

Still the problems of attendance persisted. The most oft quoted solution was to provide a well-located and appointed drill hall that would:

"add ... to the popularity and efficiency of the volunteer force."

In 1897 the Perth Volunteers moved into their new headquarters at the drill hall in Francis Street and the Western Australian volunteer movement made its headquarters in the stone administration building.

The buildings quickly increased the popularity of the force and served as a rallying point for volunteers at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 with 1,233 Western Australian Volunteers joining the Australian Bushmen's Contingents.

WA soldiers cross Barrack Street Bridge on their way to the Boer War, 1899.

As in all wars to follow, the soldiers of WA fought with distinction in South Africa with one landmark named West Australian Hill after a battle in which 20 Western Australian soldiers held off a force of 300 Boers.

The outbreak of war in 1914 again sent Perth into a patriotic fervour. The rush of volunteers to the Francis Street headquarters initially overwhelmed officials who were forced to set ridiculously high standards to stem the flood of enlistments - even men with dentures were turned down for the first contingent.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick, better known to the world as Gallipoli's "man with the donkey" was among the many notable soldiers to sign up at the barracks.

Queuing to enlist 1914.


Between the wars Swan Barracks remained an important administrative centre for the military in Western Australia. A 1929 defence plan says the headquarters was responsible for:

"the security of vulnerable points of positive military importance against the activities or enemy agents or other ill disposed persons."

On activation of such plans, the guards at Francis Street had it better than many of their peers. The lack of adequate kitchen facilities had the soldiers dining in local restaurants with Government meal tickets.

The call-up for World War Two saw the showgrounds in Claremont double as a recruiting centre, sparing the barracks for the rapidly increasing administrative work load.

On parade at Swan Barracks, 1943.


By the end of World War Two Swan Barracks housed the headquarters of the 3rd Australian Corps, Western Command and the 5th Military District.

With the Army reverting to peacetime proportions after the war the large headquarters shrunk away. By 1960 Headquarters Western Command was the sole occupant.

That headquarters enjoyed sole occupancy until the staff function was divided in 1973 to form the 5th Field Force Group and 5th Military District. The final title of Headquarters 5th Military District was adopted in June 1980.

With the move towards the doctrine of self reliance in the 1980s the Australian Defence Force (ADF) began to realise the benefits of a more cooperative or joint approach to operations.

An ADF headquarters was formed in Canberra and several steps were taken to create a single command and control system for the national defence resource. Significant among these steps were the 1989-90 Force Structure Review, which restructured and directed resources to combat elements, and the 1990-91 Defence Regional Support Review which reduced service and civilian duplication in administrative support.

This later review in particular led to the amalgamation of Headquarters 5th

Military District, District Support Unit Perth, the Defence Regional Office Western Australia and several smaller service and Defence organisations into a new Defence Centre Perth.

The amalgamation, coupled with the need to reduce Defence property and maintenance costs, led to the decision to vacate Swan Barracks. In June 1992 the headquarters moved to its new premises at Leeuwin Barracks, East Fremantle, ending a 95-year association with Northbridge. Swan Barracks, however, remain a lasting memorial to the Army's part in the early history of Perth and to the many brave Western Australians who served this country so valiantly.

Further Reading:

Swan Barracks History, Part 1, the Site

Swan Barracks History, Part 2, the Building

Swan Barracks History, Part 3, the Soldiers


Citation: Swan Barracks History, Part 3, the Soldiers

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 2:25 PM EAST
Bert Schramm's Diary, 11 February 1919
Topic: Diary - Schramm

Diaries of AIF Servicemen

Bert Schramm


During part of the course of his military service with the AIF, 2823 Private Herbert Leslie Schramm, a farmer from White's River, near Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsular, kept a diary of his life. Bert was not a man of letters so this diary was produced with great effort on his behalf. Bert made a promise to his sweetheart, Lucy Solley, that he would do so after he received the blank pocket notebook wherein these entries are found. As a Brigade Scout since September 1918, he took a lead part in the September 1918 breakout by the Allied forces in Palestine. Bert's diary entries are placed alongside those of the 9th Light Horse Regiment to which he belonged and to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which the 9th LHR was attached. On this basis we can follow Bert in the context of his formation.

 Bert Schramm's Diary, 11 February 1919


Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 9 - 13 February 1919

[Click on page for a larger print version.]


Bert Schramm

Tuesday, February 11, 1919

Bert Schramm's Location - Tripoli, Lebanon.

Bert Schramm's Diary - Nothing worth recording. Fine weather today.



9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Tripoli, Lebanon.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary -  0800 Reconnaissance of portion of 1/250,000 Syria Tripoli carried out by Luxmoore, Captain EM; Kildea, Lieutenant FJ; Cruddas, Lieutenant GF, DCM; Ayliffe, Lieutenant SH; Hannaford, Lieutenant E; and, Price, Second Lieutenant FG.

Shelley, Captain SE, proceeded to Jerusalem.

0900 Squadrons commenced tests for teams to take part in Brigade shoot.



Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.

No Entry

Previous: Bert Schramm's Diary, 10 February 1919

Next: Bert Schramm's Diary, 12 February 1919


Further Reading:

9th Light Horse Regiment AIF War Diary - Complete day by day list

Bert Schramm Diary

Bert Schramm Diary - Complete day by day list


Additional Reading:

Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.


Citation: Bert Schramm's Diary, 11 February 1919

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 3 May 2009 9:42 PM EADT
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Swan Barracks History, Part 2, the Building
Topic: Gen - St - WA

Swan Barracks


Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge, Western Australia


The following history, Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge is extracted from a booklet produced by the 5th Military District in 1992. It is well researched and put together for anyone to read.


Part 2, The Building

The first two storeys of Swan Barracks' central stone building, and the drill hall behind it, have the distinction of being among the oldest buildings in Northbridge.

Local builders Holman and Cousten's tender of £52,080/1/11 for construction of the drill hall was accepted on 16 August 1895. The building was supposed to have been finished by December but it was not completed until Christmas Eve 1896.

The lengthy delay must have been difficult to accept given the growing demand for the hall and the contractor's recent experience with an almost identical building.


Drill Hall and Administration Building, 1898.


The distinctive curved trussed roofing used on the hall, quite modern for the time, was the same as that used for another military drill hall built by Holman and Cousten in Holdsworth Street Fremantle in 1895.

The frustrating delays were set to increase when Holman and Cousten's tender of 1400 pounds for the administration building was also successful.

On its scheduled completion date of September 30, 1896, construction of the building had barely started. The tardiness appears, however, to have had little to do with the contractors.

In his historical survey and management plan of the barracks, Perth architect John Stephens says the delays may have been caused by the rejection of the original plans drawn for the administration building in 1895.

"There may have been some problem with the design of the administration buildings," he says. "New plans were drawn up in April 1896 and a tender was accepted in July, but it was not signed by the contractors until February 1897.

"Construction of the Royal Mint Building (now the Perth Mint) may also have slowed work in the less prestigious building at Francis Street.

"Limestone used for both buildings was transported from Rottnest Island, a difficult task in the winter months, and the administration building contract may have been held over until summer because of the
lack of stone."


Artillery Drill Hall, 1901.


The Public Works Department finally reported to Parliament in 1897:

"Perth - Central drill hall, completed, comprising stone administration offices and large iron drill shed and branch rooms.”

In 1900 another drill hall was built west of the existing structure. The hall was designed, and the construction supervised, by J.J. Talbot Hobbs (later Sir), a prominent local architect who was also a major with the volunteers.


Administration Building, 1901.


(Talbot's talents as an architect were destined to be overshadowed by his talents as a soldier. He commanded the Australia Corps as Lieutenant General Hobos from 1918-19. The Artillery Drill Hall, as it became known, was demolished in 1955.)

At Federation the new Commonwealth took over the buildings, then valued at 11,315 pounds.

The present facade of the stone administration building has been part of the Northbridge landscape since completion of the third level in 1910.

When the building was finished one soldier said it resembled "Castle Greyskull", a fantasy castle of children's fiction. The parapet and robust design of the new floor certainly complemented the romantic characteristics of the earlier building, enhancing its imposing and distinctive street facade.

The next addition to the expanding complex was the two-stage construction of the red brick and stone buildings on Museum Street. The first portion, the three level building at the North West corner of the site, was built in 1905. Six years later the second stage filled the remaining Museum Street frontage as well as taking up part of the western Francis Street frontage.

These western buildings were modified significantly in 1936 to provide an entrance, staircase and fireplace for the officers’ mess on the corner of Museum and Francis Streets.

The modifications also saw the United Services Institute (USI) moved from its original rooms next to the officers mess to the second floor of the North West corner.


Museum Street frontage of Swan Barracks, 1910.


(The barracks' resident ghost is said to inhabit the old USI library and offices. "George" the ghost has spooked staff and USI members over the years with the occasional touch of a ghostly hand and noisy strolls along the old floor boards.)

The original plans for the east and west wings on Francis Street were also drawn in 1936 but a later sketch dated June 1939 appears to have been the basis for the building.

Wartime secrecy clouds the detail, but the east wing (on Francis Street) and the north east wing (bordering Beaufort Street) were probably built in 1941 to cater for increasing administration pressures of World War Two.

While the date of completion of the western wing (Francis Street) is not recorded, it is likely to have been finished around the time of the demolition of the Artillery Drill Hall in the later half of the 1950s.

With available space being all-but filled, construction work after 1955 was restricted to relatively minor internal alterations. Among the more notable alterations for the soldiers was the extension of the Sergeant's Mess in the late 1970s into the part of the north east wing formally occupied by an other ranks canteen. The ORs canteen was relocated to a partitioned area at the eastern end of the drill hall.


Demolition of Artillery Drill Hall, 1955.


Over the years of development few rooms in the barracks have been left untouched. The building, while of significant historic value, was primarily a workplace and work needs often had to take precedence over aesthetics and nostalgia.

Swan Barracks remains, however, one of Perth's most distinctive buildings and it will remain a focal point in the memories of those tens of thousands of Western Australian soldiers who either enlisted or served there.


Further Reading:

Swan Barracks History, Part 1, the Site

Swan Barracks History, Part 2, the Building

Swan Barracks History, Part 3, the Soldiers


Citation: Swan Barracks History, Part 2, the Building

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 2:24 PM EAST
Hamel, France, July 4, 1918
Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front


France, 4 July 1918


Hamel, the first set-piece operation planned and conducted under Lieut.-General Sir John Monash, the newly appointed commander of the Australian Corps, took place on 4 July 1918. The action was actually a fairly small affair - little more than divisional scale - but has since become famous as a model of the completely successful all-arms battle. In particular, the methodical and thorough way in which preparations were made, the new procedures devised, and the use of conferencing as a means to both inform and consult subordinates, set new standards of generalship which were emulated subsequently by other commanders on the Western Front.

In reality, the scale and nature of the operation left little to chance. Its purpose was limited to straightening the line by carrying it eastwards no further than two kilometres on a frontage of 6.5 kilometres. Covering this movement were 650 guns, and the advancing infantry was supported by the British 5th Tank Brigade containing no less than 60 of the latest Mark V tanks. Overcoming the Australians' unhappy experience of working with tanks at the First Battle of Bullecourt (q.v. ), these armoured vehicles were ordered to accompany the assault troops immediately behind the creeping barrage, operating under infantry control to break down wire obstacles encountered and deal with troublesome enemy strong points.

Monash's main worries were concerned with the manning levels in his divisions, the ranks of which were already reduced by losses and being thinned even more by an influenza epidemic. To avoid totally crippling any one of the divisions, he resorted to assembling an assault force using a brigade from each of the 2nd (contributing the 6th Brigade), 3rd (11th Brigade) and 4th (4th Brigade). Command of this force in the attack was given to Major-General Ewan Maclagan, the General Officer Commanding 4th Australian Division, from whose sector it would primarily be launched. Bolstering the Australian strength were four companies of troops from the American 33rd Division, which were attached by platoons to Australian battalions to gain combat experience.

Arrangements for the operation were developed with remarkable attention to detail. To mask the sound of the tanks moving into position during the night of 3 July, Allied aircraft bombed Hamel and enemy rear areas. Several diversions were also planned, the main one requiring the 15th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division to strike beyond Ville north of the River Somme. To lighten the normal burden of the advancing infantry, innovative use was made of carrier tanks to bring forward supplies and of air-dropping ammunition to the forward troops.

The result of all this effort was that the assault met with outstanding success. The attack was over barely 90 minutes after it started at 3.10 a.m., and all objectives had been seized for a cost of just 1,062 Australian and 176 American casualties; the 15th Brigade's diversion added another 142 to the tally, making a total of less than 1,400. German casualties were assessed at considerably more than 2,000, including 1,600 taken prisoner. In addition, the enemy lost 200 machine-guns and trench mortars, plus some anti-tank weapons.

Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 148-149.


Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:

C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Hamel, France, July 4, 1918

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2009 12:10 PM EADT
AMR, NZMRB account about Romani
Topic: AIF - NZMRB - AMR

Auckland Mounted Rifles

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916


Auckland Mounted Rifles account about the Battle of Romani


Romani, Mount Royston in background - Painting by George Lambert

[From: AWM ART02704]


For a contour map of the area drawn by Lambert, see:

1:40,000 map of Mt Royston area


13/112 Sergeant Charles Gordon Nicol, a member of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, a unit which was part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, wrote an account of this unit called The Story of Two Campains”  Official war history of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914 - 1919 in the Battlefields  of Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine during WWI, in which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below. A copy of this book is available on the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Association website.

Nicol, CG, The story of two campaigns : official war history of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914-1919, (Auckland 1921).



Romani Opens.

Notwithstanding the fact that it was the height of summer, the Turk was about to challenge. His first concentrations, a few miles east of Katia, were observed on July 19 by General Chaytor and an airman who had taken him out for a “joy ride” after the desert had been reported clear. The force was estimated at 9,000 men with guns. The bringing of heavy guns over the desert for so many miles was a remarkable feat. It was afterwards found that in many places the Turks had made a gun road by digging ditches where the wheels were to run, and filling them with brush, which prevented the wheels sinking in the soft sand.

The Turks started to dig in on a line from Oghratina to Mageibra. All the vital eminences were held in strength, and our patrols were frequently fired on, in some cases by machine-guns. Patrols of the A.M.R., under Lieutenants Reed and Martin, were sent to Bir Nagid, some 15 to 20 miles to the south, to keep a secret watch against the enemy’s left. Secrecy demanded that this little post, so far from assistance, must be supplied with rations and water and fodder during the hours of darkness. Camels, of course, had to be used to transport the supplies, and as they took four or five hours to cover the outward journey, this was a matter of some difficulty. The fact that the camel drivers were Mohammedan Indians, under a superb looking individual who wore a sword, and that the escort was a party of A.M.R. troopers under a corporal, led to an amusing incident the first night, or rather morning. Dawn was just about to break when the loads had been taken off, and there was need for haste if the camels were to be out of sight by sunrise. The Indians did not appreciate the position, and instead of turning back at once, they washed their hands and made ready to pray as the sun came up, the individual with the sword not excepted. The A.M.R. corporal tried persuasion, but that being of no avail, he used the toe of his boot on the head Indian. This form of persuasion was quite effectual.

At the time the enemy’s intentions were not known. He was certainly expected to move forward and gain the advantages of the Katia system of oases, but there seemed every possibility that there he would wait for the British to dislodge him. The Commander-in-Chief decided to give him battle on August 13. A considerable force of infantry was in position, but the chief activity for some days was among the mounted troops of both sides. The enemy did not wait to be attacked, however. On July 27 his force, estimated now to number about 20,000 men, made an advance to Abu Darem, in the south, but was checked to some extent in the north by Light Horse and the W.M.R., with whom the latter were then brigaded.

So far the A.M.R. had remained at Hill 70 “standing by.” Important patrol duties were daily carried out. On August 1, part of the 11th squadron was sent to establish a strong post to Bir En Nuss, some miles to the east of Dudar, to sink sufficient wells to water a brigade, and part was sent to Bir Nagid to keep a watch on, the Turks. These hods were opposite the Turkish left, which was “in the blue,” the desert being its only protection, and the troopers looked forward with the liveliest anticipation to what they hoped would be a rapid out—flanking movement, the eternal dream of cavalry. The troops of Finlayson and Alsopp were in touch with enemy patrols, and were able to send in valuable information as to the activities of the enemy at Hamisah. On August 3 the remaining two squadrons relieved some Light Horse at Dueidar. That night the enemy force made a general advance, one of the fiercest fights being a delaying action by a small body of Light Horse at Hod “El Enna”. On the morning of the 4th, the Turks commenced to push forward their left flank, in a north-west direction, towards the high ground west of Bir Etmaler, and soon were on Mount Royston, a high sand dune, three miles north of Romani. This hill now became the key to the whole action. Whatever side held it would have possession of Romani, and it fell to the New Zealanders to take a prominent part in the action which regained the hill and put the seal of failure upon the hopes of the German led Turks.

At 7 a.m. the New Zealand Brigade, in which the 5th Light Horse had taken the place of the W.M.R. who had been detached for some time, got orders to move forward. The A.M.R. was at Dueidar, and got orders to join the brigade as strong as possible. The 3rd squadron and two troops of the 4th squadron rejoined the column a mile and a-half south- east of Canterbury Hill, the 11th squadron and the balance of the 4th squadron remaining to patrol the Dueidar-Katia road. About 11.30 a.m. a force of Turks, numbering 2,000, was observed on Mount Royston. About midday, after being heavily shelled by the skilful German or Austrian gunners on the ridge, a dismounted advance was ordered, the C.M.R. being on the left, the 3rd squadron of the A.M.R. in the centre, and yeomanry on the right. It was actually an enveloping movement, the New Zealanders moving against the Turkish front and the yeomanry against their southern flank. Enemy advanced posts were driven back, and the 3rd squadron, now supported by Major McCarroll with the two troops and the machine-gun section, again moved forward across the sandy “waves.” The warm fire of the Turks was returned vigor- ously by the A.M.R. machine-guns and the supporting battery, which had brought up its guns with twelve horse teams. Steadily the line moved forward, but surprisingly few casualties were suffered, one of the reasons being the advantage taken by the men of the cover offered by slight depressions, while the dangerous ruts, running parallel with the advance, were avoided. It was to be a race against time. If the hill did not fall before nightfall all the effort of the day would be lost, so a general advance was ordered for 4.45 p.m. When the moment arrived, the Turks had begun to feel the pressure of the enfilade fire from the south, and they had already evacuated a position slightly in advance of the base of the hill, and also the left end of their trenches on the ridge itself.

As soon as the final rush began the attackers were met by white flags instead of bullets. About 250 Turks were taken by the A.M.R., including a complete hospital. With the south section of the position taken, it was merely a matter of

moments before the whole position was occupied, over 1,000 prisoners being secured besides a battery of mountain guns. The first man to reach the guns was  Lieutenant 0. Johnson, of the A.M.R., who was killed a few days later. In the latter stages of the action some infantry gave support on the left.

Altogether it was a very satisfactory day’s work, and the results were of the highest importance, seeing that the Turkish retirement began almost immediately. The Regiment had carried itself according to its Gallipoli traditions, and they were very tired but very satisfied men who rode back that night to rest after handing over the position to the infantry. But perhaps the proudest man of all was the padre, who had the distinction of getting a piece of metal through his hat without receiving any injury.


Additional Reading:

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, Contents

Bir el Abd, Sinai, August 9, 1916


Citation: AMR, NZMRB account about Romani

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 7 April 2009 4:51 PM EADT

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