Topic: Militia - LHW - WA
Western Australian Militia
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. 68 - 70:
The Volunteers of Western Australia were destined, in common with most Australian Volunteers, to be armed with weapons which had become obsolete elsewhere. The British Army necessarily kept abreast with foreign armies as regards armament and rapidly accumulated stocks of obsolete and discarded weapons. The necessity to keep abreast did not apply so strongly in the Colonies and in any case it was a question of finance. Replacements were costly and the Colonies were glad to accept at a lower price weapons no longer standard in the British Army. Whatever came was a step-up on what they had and represented progress.
Smooth-bore muzzle-loading guns of various types and sizes were carried by most ships arriving at Australian Ports and dumped there. Advertisements appeared offering guns for sale as suitable anchors for buoys, navigation marks, etc.
The first mention of Field Artillery occurs in connection with the W.A. Troop of Volunteer Horse Artillery formed on 1 July 1872. The Troop was armed with two 12Pr. B. L. [12 pounder breach loading] Armstrong-Whitworth guns, complete with limbers and stores. This type of gun was quite new and was then on trial in the British Army : it was not finally adopted, having to make way for the 9Pr. R.M.L. [9 pounder rifled muzzle loading.] These two guns appear to have belonged to the Enrolled Pensioner Force, although no record as to how or when they were received can be traced. The guns were unsuitable being too heavy for the type of corps but as the Commander of the corps was a "Horse Artilleryman" and no other guns were available, the guns had no choice. A photo taken about 1870 shows the guns, manned by Enrolled Pensioners, firing a Salute. They remained on issue until 1894 when they were replaced by two 9Prs; they remained in obscurity until World War II when they were used as dummy anti-aircraft guns on the local sea-front. (It is believed they are now in the loving care of a sentimental old-time gunner).
The next outbreak of artillery ardour occurred at Fremantle when the newly formed Naval Artillery Volunteers, in 1879, proudly paraded with two 6Pr. smooth-bore muzzle-loading guns (minus limbers or other form of draught). So far as can be traced these pieces left their depot on only one occasion, i.e., the 1884 Camp at Albion; they were replaced in 1889 by two 9Pr. R.M.L. [9 pounder rifled muzzle loading.] guns, valued with limbers and wagons at over £850, a gift from the War Office.
In 1902 the 9Pdrs on issue at Perth and Fremantle were replaced by 15Pdr B.L. [15 pounder breach loading] guns of the type in general use by the British Forces through the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.
Coast or Heavy Artillery first appeared in 1893 when a Fort was erected at Albany. Mounted at that time were two 6in. R.B.L. [rifled breach loading.] guns plus some light pieces. It was to assist with the manning of these guns that the Albany Volunteer Garrison Artillery was raised in 1899.
Muskets and Rifles
In the Commissariat Store maintained by the British Government at Perth were 40-50 muskets (including "flintlocks") which that Government magnanimously (?) presented to the Colony. One hundred new Enfield M.L. Rifles received as a gift from England were issued to the Perth corps in June 1862, the Commissariat stock going to the Fremantle corps.
Whenever the Colony could afford to buy new weapons it did so and issued them to the more needy of the Perth and Fremantle corps, the displaced weapons being handed down to those more recently formed. Thus it happened that within some of the corps different types of firearms were in use at one and the same time.
The various types of firearm made their first appearance among the Volunteers on the following dates:Enfield musket (from stock) - 1861
Enfield rifle - 1862
Martini-Henri rifle - 1874
Snider rifle - 1883
Martini-Metford rifle - 1892
Martini-Enfield rifle - 1898
Lee-Speed Magazine rifle - 1898
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Further Reading:Western Australian Militia, Light Horse
Western Australian Militia, Infantry
Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Armament