Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs
Australian Rifle Clubs
Attestation Paper 1914 - 1918
Question 11 on the AIF Attestation Paper reads as follows:
An interesting question which set off a trail of interest with me a few years ago when the children's GGF listed the following on his attestation papers:
2823 Private Herbert Leslie Schramm, Served 2 years with Tumby Bay Rifle Club.
Of course, the curiosity is raised as to why a person would include a rifle club as part of military service. My nephew and myself were members of a rifle club in WA and apart from all the regulation things that had to be dealt with as par for the course, there was nothing martial about it. So the connection is tenuous. A puzzler indeed for the person in the 21st century.
A bit more digging and we find rifle clubs being listed in the Commonwealth General Military Orders as they become active or are deactivated. In addition to shooting, their main task, they also undertook rudimentary drills and led by a captain, usually a nominal position a la Captain Mainwaring in "Dad's Army".
There was a very serious side to the Rifle Clubs which is missed by most historians of the Great War, but one which laid the underpinnings for the Australian defence posture from 1901 - 1910 and the roll on effects into the Kitchener Report.
My understanding is that Hutton was asked to put together a low cost military model for the defence of Australia upon Federation. The state's model - producing Imperial formations which would slot into the British Army seamlessly - proved to be outrageously expensive and far beyond the resources of the Commonwealth. Boer War commitments nearly ruined the state governments and it certainly crippled the growth of the Commonwealth for many years. So Hutton was assigned the task of coming up with a solution that fit the funding ability from the states' empty coffers. With little money, the soolution was relatively simple.
Hutton selected the Boer Commando system as the best model for the defence of Australia. This was the greatest accolade that could be paid to Oom Paul and his methodology of fighting the British. Hutton aped the Boer system of defence while ironically being committed to fight against it and stamp out the Boer Republics. To get trained cells of men without actually incurring too much cost the notion of Rifle Clubs came into play. The Commonwealth would provide the rifles and ammunition while the members would pay the rest. The clubs would be an integral part of the military with the Australian Instructional Staff taking care of the drills and shooting training for the leadership cadres of the clubs. In essence, if Australia had been invaded during this period, one would have seen a replay of the Boer War although this time Australians riding in the commandos.
After the Kitchener reforms where the posture was to be changed from a guerrilla force to a military that would once again fit seamlessly into an Imperial Expeditionary Force, massive battalions and regiments were formed, and while not stated, appeared to be slotted into an Imperial scheme with 7 infantry divisions and 2 cavalry divisions. We can see how this played out in the Great War with 5 Infantry Divisions, 2 Cavalry Divisions and 1 Training Division - just one division short of the Kitchener Plan and that was only because the PM, Billy Hughes could not get his desire for another division through cabinet.
For regions not able to be adequately served by this structure or for those not eligible to serve, the rifle clubs remained an integral part of the landscape in their quasi military role.
Here are a few other members of the 9th LHR who also answered Question 11 regarding Rifle Club service:
552 Pte Albert Ernest King, Served 3 years in the Tumby Bay Rifle Club
689 Pte John Diamond, Served 7 years with Appollo Bay Rifle Club
717 Pte Arthur Harry Charles Jackson, Served 3 years in the Sandringham Rifle Club
895 Pte Edgar Ernest Mathews, Served 3 years in the Crystal Brook Rifle Club
943 Pte Carl Martin Steicke, Served 10 years in the Caltowie Rifle Club
1000 Pte Edgar William Gifford, Served in the Port Germain Rifle Club
2475 Pte John Thomas Ward, Served 3 years with Red Bank Rifle Club, Victoria
2803 Pte Guthrie Hugh Lipson Baillie, Served 1.5 years with Tumby Bay Rifle Club
2824 Pte Frederick Harry Schwartz, Served 2 years with Mannum Rifle Club
2986 Pte William Bumett Willison, Served 2 years with the Salisbury Rifle Club
These are just a few examples.
The Australian Militia, 1899 - 1920
Citation: Rifle Clubs, Question 11, and the 9th Light Horse Regiment