Topic: Militia - LHW - WA
Western Australian Militia
Perth Volunteer Rifles
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. 26 – 29:
Perth Volunteer Rifles
A meeting of citizens held on 13/9/1861 decided to seek authority to raise a corps of Infantry volunteers of a nominal strength of 100 all ranks, to be designated the "Perth Volunteer Rifles". Authority was given, enrolment commenced, muskets were borrowed from the Colonial Store, and training and organization took shape under the personal supervision of Lt-Col. Bruce. By-laws were approved on 5/10/1861, revised in June 1862, and finally, under the direction of the Military Commandant, amalgamated with those of other corps in one general code.
There was no difficulty in raising and maintaining the designed strength of 100. Civil servants and ex-members of the British Army enrolled freely.
The Gazette of 6/8/1862 which created the corps also carried the appointment of Mr F. S. Leake as Captain Commanding and a few days later Mr M. Dyett was appointed Lieutenant and Mr J. B. Roe Ensign. On the day of gazettal the roll bore the names of three officers, 95 other ranks, 13 bandsmen, 12 honorary members, and 20 cadets. 100 new Enfield muzzle-loading percussion rifles recently sent from England were issued on 1/6/1862, and by means not recorded the corps became possessed of a Regimental Colour. A sketch drawn in 1863 depicts the members wearing long tunics, white trousers, and shakoes-a similar uniform to that worn at the time by Infantry of the British Army.
As early as March 1862 it was found that Government assistance was necessary in connection with administration and cost of providing uniform, as well as an allowance for a drill instructor. Government agreed to assist to the extent of ten shillings per annum for each efficient Volunteer. Good progress was made. Drills were frequent and the corps paraded in conjunction with the Fremantle corps on such occasions as the Presentation of Colours at Fremantle in 1862, the Presentation of Officers Commissions at Government House in 1863, and a Birthday Review in May 1864. At Mount Eliza in 1864 the corps participated in the first annual rifle meeting held in the Colony (incidentally the prizes were donated by private citizens).
Then trouble arose in 1872. On top of the chronic shortage of public funds a form of financial depression prevailed. Among the drastic economies proposed by the Executive Council was the withholding of the annual grant then due to the Volunteer corps. The original grant of ten shillings had been increased to fifteen shillings and the prospect of losing this was most unpalatable to the Volunteers. Captain Leake vainly protested against the Executive Council's proposal and as a result resigned his commission on 9/2/1872. Lieut. Roe declined promotion to the vacant position whereupon the Governor appointed Capt. B. H. Burke, Staff Officer for Enrolled Pensioners, to Command. The corps elected committee then took over conduct of the battle, the Secretary calling a mass meeting of members for the night of 21/2/1872. An invitation was sent to Capt. Burke to attend and occupy a seat on the platform - he attended but refused the platform seat. During the course of the meeting several speakers violently berated the Executive Council, the most violent being a member of the Civil Service. The whole proceedings were extremely subversive and an immediate report thereon was made to the Military Commandant, who early next morning conferred with the Governor. On the same day, i.e., 22nd February, 1872, the Government Gazette carried an Extraordinary Proclamation disbanding the corps for "Insubordination."
The result was not due to any lack of loyalty to the Crown. It was due to the ultra-democratic nature of the Rules and By-laws which permitted soldiers with a grievance to meet and openly criticize their superior officers, the presumed authors of their discomfiture. The self-same Bylaws etc. soon were made inoperative.
The Fremantle corps having been disbanded at an earlier date, the Volunteer Force now consisted solely of two small mounted corps with a total strength of well under 100 all ranks.
Officers of Perth Volunteer RiflesCaptain S Leake - 6 August 1862Captain M Dyett - 15 August 1862Lieutenant JB Roe - 15 August 1862Ensign WH Knight - 7 June 1864
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Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Perth Volunteer Rifles