Topic: Militia - LH
The Australian Light Horse
The following is an extract from the book by Hall, RJG, The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, pp. 29 - 32.
Federation to 1914
The new Commonwealth Government's reaction to her defence responsibilities was to organize the former State forces into a number of brigades on a territorial basis.
The Light horse brigades in 1905 were as follows:
1 LH Brigade - NSW
2 LH Brigade - NSW
3 LH Brigade - Victoria
4 LH Brigade - Victoria
5 LH Brigade - Queensland
SA Brigade - South Australia
WA Brigade - Western Australia
This represented 18 Light Horse regiments (see Appendix 6) covering districts from Townsville in the North (15ALH) to Warrnambool in the South (11 ALH ) and Perth in the West (18ALH).
Additional regiments were added to the ALH order of battle as follows:
1905 - Total of 18 regiments
1910 - Total of 19 regiments
1914 - Total of 23 regiments
To date, frequent use has been made of the term Lancer, Light Morse, Mounted Rifles, Mounted Infantry and Cavalry. The correctness of title prior to 1901 is open to question in some cases. However, a noticeable contribution to Australian Military Forces written doctrine was published under the title of The Mounted Service Manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry on 1 July 1902 and authorized by Major General E. T. H. Hutton, Commanding Military Forces of the Commonwealth of Australia. In the preface to the Manual, General Hutton indicates the direction to be taken be Mounted units in regard to tactical operations and defines the nature of the mounted units to be found in the Australian Order of Battle.
Regardless of the territorial titles, then in limited use and soon to become a general feature of the units, Mounted Troops were divided into two categories:
(a) Horsemen, trained to fight on foot, e.g.-Light Horse.
(b) Infantry soldiers temporarily provided with increased powers of locomotion, e.g.- Mounted Infantry.
In further detail the Manual describes the roles of these units as follows:
“Light Horse are required to:(a) Fight on foot both in the offensive and defensive;
(b) To perform the duties classed under "Information", viz. reconnoitring and screening, and;
(c) Afford "protection" from surprise for all bodies of troops both halted and on the march.
Mounted Infantry are required to perform only the duties pertaining to infantry, who are temporarily provided with increased means of mobility".
Reference to the "Marching or Service Order-Field Kit" (see Table 1 to this chapter) shows that the Australian mounted units were in fact of the former category, i.e. Light Horse.
Table 2 shows the organization of the regiment. This organization, with minor amendments, was to prevail until 1940.
The question of compulsory part time training occupied the early parliament during the period 1902-1908. The results of such arduous labour was the birth of the first Defence Bill of 1908. Before being made law, Mr. Deakin went out of office and his successor, Mr. Andrew Fisher, introduced a more strenuous bill, then the returning akin finally introduced legislation late in 1909. It provided for Compulsory training as a part time commitment.
Junior cadets - 12-14 years
Senior cadets - 14-18 years
Citizen forces - 18-20 years
Before this Bill began to operate, Lord Kitchener, at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, made an inspection of Australian defences. Recommending that the forces be brought up to 80,000, he also suggested that compulsory training of the Citizen Forces be extended to the trainee's 25th year.
These recommendations were incorporated into the bill and further drastic changes took place. The militia men, not covered by the 18-25 year compulsory citizen force training, were permitted to complete their current 3 year engagement, but were not permitted to re-enlist. Officers and NCO's were the exception.
It can be seen that despite the increase in Light Horse Regiments, the majority of other ranks in the 23 regiments would be in their 19th or 20th year. The implications of this are discussed in the next chapter. The importance, however, of having 23 regiments on the home forces order of battle lay in the increasing association of the mounted soldier with the civil community.
The Mounted Service Manual again had a great deal to say on this subject and the parade card of the 4th Australian Light Horse in 1910 devoted three pages to quoting the relevant provisions.
"Each troop should be composed of men raised in the same locality, or, if detachments from existing corps, of men belonging to the same regiment or battalion. The permanent sections similarly should be made up by men who live in the same vicinity in civil life, or who will have some association in common.
It will be found that the permanent section or comrade system, if carefully and intelligently adhered to in principle no less than in letter, will produce the highest form of discipline. Men will naturally fight better and with more confidence among those whom they know and trust rather than among strangers".
Such principles lent themselves ideally to the rural distribution of the troop centres. Regardless of how often the number of the regiment changed or the number of "linkings" they experienced, the territorial title identified the soldier with his district.
Seymour, Victoria, so familiar to soldiers of all arms and service for a number of years, first saw a mounted rifle troop in 188 (Seymour Mounted Rifles). Later the Seymour Troop was to appear with 7 ALH, Victorian Mounted Rifles (1905), 15 LH Victorian Mounted Rifles (1912), 14 LH (1919) and 20 LH (1935).
No less familiar to today's recruits is Wagga-Wagga (NSW), which raised its own light horse in 1885 and continued to have representation in 12 LH and 12/24 LH until 1940.
Many of the territorial titles were derived from unit names of pre-federation days. For example in South Australia, the 18 LH Adelaide Lancers called upon the early formation of the Lancers in 1892. Others adopted "State" titles, as with Queensland Mounted lnfantry and Western Australian Mounted Infantry. The "district" titles such as Hunter River Lancers, Northern River Lancers remained for over 50 years.
Within regiments, squadrons and troops became known by their territorial title and as such were recorded upon the many cavalry trophies available in pre 1939 days.
By 1913 all the light horse regiments had adopted their territorial titles.
A notable feature of the period 1902-1914 was the confusion in the numerical identification of the regiments brought about by the redistribution of brigades under the military district system. Brigades were changed as follows:
Old Designation - New Designation - State
5 LH Bde - 1 LH Bde - Qld
1 LH Bde - 2 LH Bde - NSW
2 LH Bde - 3 LH Bde - NSW
3 LH Bde - 5 LH Bde - Vic
4 LH Bde - 7 LH Bde - Vic
SA Bde - 8 LH Bde - SA
WA Bde - 12 Mixed Bde - WA
Tas Bde - 13 Mixed Bde - Tas
Within the brigades, the regiments changed numbers to such an ;tent that the territorial titles provide the only means of locating the line of descent.
Examination of Appendix 6, 7 and 8 will show the considerable expansion and redistribution of unit areas, particularly in the districts from which the divisional cavalry regiments were raised. The total strength of the light horse in 1914 appeared formidable with approximately 9,000, all ranks.
Previous: The Australian Light Horse, Part 3
Next: The Australian Light Horse, Part 5
Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Part 4