Topic: Gen - St - Qld
The Defence of Townsville, August 1914
Out of all the areas of Australia, North Queensland was the most conscious of any external threats. They were the erstwhile recent administrators of Papua and the German colony of New Guinea was just over the border. They truly felt the hot breath of German colonial expansionism. It is not unsurprising that these folk were the first to despatch troops specifically for the purposes of defending the borders of Australia from any German menace.
While land troops did not pose a problem, Rabaul provided a first class harbour and coaling base for German maritime raiders. The subsequent clash with the Emden at the Cocos Islands bears testimony to this circumstance.
So on that basis, to understand the Queensland view of the world, an examination of their response to the declaration of war in August 1914 would be useful, especially considering that it was so different to the rest of Australia.
Townsville was a major military centre even at the time of the Great War.
The first pillar of defence was the Kennedy Regiment.
Here is an extract from the Cairns Museum's commentary on this formation:
The Kennedy Regiment was formed out of the panic that gripped Queensland when it separated from New South Wales in 1859. The new colony suddenly realised that it was entirely responsible for its own defence and could no longer rely on New South Wales for protection against potential invaders. Once again, a voluntary defence militia was used for the defence of Queensland, based on Canadian guidelines. It was based in Townsville, which is why it was called the Kennedy Regiment, as Townsville is in the Kennedy Lands District.
The citizen militia had its critics. One of them was Mr MacFarlane, a member of the Queensland Parliament, who stated that: "Fancy an army like that going forth to meet an enemy who were determined to do some damage to Queensland. Very likely they would fly to the first tree for protection on the approach of the foe".
Despite this pessimistic remark, men of the Kennedy Regiment were sent north to guard the Torres Strait and patrol the wireless station on Thursday Island during the First World War. They included 200 Rifle Club members from the Far North, as far away as Chillagoe. They were so keen that 500 of the 700 volunteers decided to keep going and join the Australian invasion of New Guinea. The official Army wasn't impressed. Most of the men were very young, untrained and under-supplied. They were sent back.
The second formation was the 1st Garrison Battery.
Here is some notes about the formation from FORT KISSING POINT BUNKER TOWNSVILLE, QLD:
Fort Kissing Point was located overlooking Cleveland Bay, just behind the Rock Pool on the Strand in Townsville. It was actually built as a Fort in the late 1800's as a defence against the Russians.
By 1880 a Volunteer Garrison Artillery battery was formed to man two 64 pound guns on wooden platforms that were positioned at the top of the cliffs at Kissing Point in Townsville. These two 64 pound guns are now located at the entrance to the Jezzine Barracks HQ building. In 1888 work began to upgrade the battery position at Kissing Point, Magnetic Island and build a magazine at Brookhill. Two new 6" Mark IV breech-loading guns and two Nordenfeldt ten-barrelled machine guns were installed at Kissing Point by 1891 as part of establishing an operational fort at the site.
In 1905 a new battery command post was built.
There are some good contemporary pix of Fort Kissing Point on this page.
Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Great War, Queensland History, The Defence of Townsville, August 1914