"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.
The small volume written by RJG Hall called The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, is a simple reference volume on the Light Horse in Australia which outlines in broad terms the trends that effected its history.
Volunteer v Volunteer, Definitional matters within the Militia Topic: Militia - LH
Australian Militia Force Structure
Volunteer v Volunteer
Definitional matters within the Militia
When first meeting with texts dealing with military issues dating back to the late 19th Century and early 20th Century as covered by this site, the term that constantly causes the new reader problem is the word "volunteer". The reason is that it has two very different meanings, one as a general term and one as a technical military term as defined by the laws of the land and military law specifically.
In the general military sense, a "volunteer" is a person who freely enlists for military service. There is no sense of legal obligation attached to the act of volunteering in itself although once volunteered, a new set of legal obligations are created.
Upon becoming a volunteer, a person's service in the military may be classified into one of three different categories as defined by State or Federal laws, or both, they being:
These specific categories are detailed below.
27In the legal sense a "Volunteer" is an unpaid recruit in a particular formation who may or may not have kit supplied. In the mounted sense, when the various mounted units were being created, the "Volunteer" also supplied his own horse and saddle. This particular category of military serviceman and recruitment was completely abandoned in Australia by the reforms of 1912. In contrast, the New Zealand mounted forces were maintained entirely by the "Volunteer" system.
Depending upon the conditions of the State or Federal Government, the volunteer was obliged to attend a certain number of training sessions per year. The volunteer was obliged to find their own rations except during any camp of training. The military authorities were responsible for arming the volunteer and providing ammunition for musketry practice. The particular unit was reimbursed with an annual capitation fee for every volunteer on the roll. This practice brought with it many inherent problems, the worst of which was the padding of rolls with non-effective volunteers giving the impression that the unit had more trained men available than existed in reality. In addition, since there was little incentive other than personal discipline to attend parades, volunteers were capricious in attendance which ensured there was poor efficiency as a unit. For the governments, however, because of their parlous financial circumstances, this was all they could afford to do to obtain some defence facility.
The "Militia" volunteer is partially paid. In other words, a part time soldier who is responsible for his own rations but is paid a fee for attendance at parades as well as provided rations when required to attend a camp of continuous instruction, usually once a year for two weeks. The standard fee for attendance was similar to that of the full time soldier of similar rank. The importance of payment created two sides of a contract - the volunteer had a legal and contractual obligation to attend a specified number of commitments while the government had both criminal and commercial sanctions to impose should there be non-compliance. After the Military reforms of 1912, all part time members of the military forces were part paid Militia.
The "Permanent" volunteer was the full time soldier. In the time period you mention, these men were involved mainly on Garrison duty or as Instructors for the militia. Expense of maintaining individuals as full time soldiers at the commencement of the 20th Century was far greater than the community could afford and thus the numbers of "Permanent" remained very limited.
The structure of the early 20th Century Australian military forces
To assist readers follow this trend, each formation in Australia at the time of the 1903 integration of the Federal forces has been listed in the following brigades, both infantry and light horse. In each of these categories, units are designated as either "volunteer", "militia" or "permenent".
Australian Light Horse Regimental list for 1914 Topic: Militia - LH
Australian Militia - Light Horse
Australian Light Horse Regiments, Militia, 1914
Below is a list of all the light horse regiments in existence within the Commonwealth as at 1 January 1914. Each light horse regiment that was operational has a link which goes to the blog entry for that particular unit. The entry will usually have a small history attached and some detail about the regiment including the locations of the various squadrons and troops. In addition, each entry has a list of officers active as at 1 January 1914. The officers who were known to have enlisted or sought commissions within the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the Great War are linked to their Service File at the National Archives of Australia, allowing the reader to immediatly access the service information about this person.
It is evident that a number of light horse regiments were not operational. These were reserved numbers until it was decided to raise that particular formation. This process was interupted by the advent of the war some eight months later and so never actually occurred. To indicate the formations that were not filled, the term "Vacant" is placed next to the regimental number.
The Australian Light Horse, Part 1 Topic: Militia - LH
The Australian Light Horse
A shooting competition between the Hobart Town Artillery and the First Rifles at Cornelian Bay, Tasmania, 17 October 1866.
The following is an extract from the book by Hall, RJG, The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, pp. 11 - 14.
The Early Years 1818-1870
To understand the conditions which existed at the time of the appearance of the Australian Mounted troops, one has to make a brief examination of the development of the military defence in Australia. Such developments take place in fairly well defined periods
• 1788-1850 Imperial Forces only • 1850-1870 Imperial Forces plus local volunteers • 1870 Departure of Imperial Forces • 1871-1880 State Volunteer movements • 1880-1900 Reorganization in accordance with Jervois-Scratchley Report • 1902 Federation reorganization
Initially, the military forces were closely associated with the nature of the community. A large number of convicts was being used in the labour field. The colonists depended upon the military, in the absence of a police force, to protect life and property against the possible threat of convict violence and aboriginal reprisals against the unwelcome intrusion. The troops supplied for this task were Imperial regiments of foot, stationed in the Australian colonies for a definite term of duty.
The New South Wales Corps, a force raised in England for service in Australia, arrived in 1790 - 1792. A detachment was stationed at Parramatta, a town later to become a strong Light Horse centre and currently the depot for one of the oldest light horse regiments, the Royal New South Wales Lancers.
Despite the popular association of the Corps with the infamous rum traffic, the disciplined development of public, as well as military services, owes much to the quality of both officers and men of the Corps. The declining good relations with the Administration, noticeably during the later part of Governor Hunter's term of office, ceased altogether after the arrival of the autocratic and unbending Governor Bligh. After the disastrous "rebellion" of 1808 the Corps returned to Britain in 1809 and were disbanded as 102 Regiment in 1818. The Australian colonies then saw the arrival and departure of 26 British line regiments and a detachment of the Royal Artillery from 1810 - 1870.
More good than ill can he said of the regiments performing their difficult duties in the colonies.
Of the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment (1835 - 1842), the "Australian" of 16 June 1842 made the following comments:
"During the sojourn of the Corps amongst us, the steady, soldierlike conduct of the men, the courteous demeanour of the officers, have carried our cordial approbation and they will leave many friends and well wishers behind them in the colony."
Not so cordial was the General Order directed at the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment (1826-1831) and published on 27th April 1826:
"The Lieutenant General is pleased to Order that John Jones and John Doherty of 57th Regiment, who have rendered themselves by self mutilation to be incapable of performing their regimental duties, be sent at the first opportunity to Norfolk Island for the purpose of being employed there as scavengers."
The 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot (1832-1837) left behind something more tangible than memories of their service. Lieutenant Colonel McKenzie, their commanding officer, retired on 11th July 1834, married and settled in Australia. One of his daughters married Capt A. T. Faunce of the King's Own. This couple became the grand parents of Granville Ryrie (later Major General Hon. Sir Granville Ryrie KCMG, CB, VD, commander of the 2 LH Brigade in the Great War 1914-18).
Between 1825 and 1840, the colonies suffered under a period of military inertia which was to be visited upon the country at least twice again over the next 140 years. The Colonial Office repeatedly ignored the observation of Governor Darling-that there was "a total absence of works necessary for the protection and security of the colony". The situation deteriorated even further with the reduction of the NSW Garrison in 1846 to assist in the Maori Wars. With the possibility of further reductions, the colonies were told to raise volunteers themselves. As the control of revenues, did not rest with the Legislative Councils, such a proposition was economically unsound. However, this was resolved in 1854. Further stimulation to establishing a voluntary force was provided by the outbreak of the Crimean War the same year. Following second amending act of the Volunteers Forces Act (Vic.) 1854, the following mounted troops officially existed:
NSW - One troop Yeomanry (NSW Cavalry Troop)
Vic - Victorian Volunteer Yeomanry Corps
SA - One troop of Mounted Rifles (Adelaide Mounted Rifles)
After a further decline in interest by the British Government (the Victorian Government was now meeting the entire expenses of maintaining 700 Imperial Troops), a revival occurred with the rumours of French designs against Britain in 1859. Mounted detachments were now organized in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia.
The Castlemaine Mail, reporting upon the volunteer review held in honour of the Queen's Birthday on 24 May 1861, indicated the heat of the Victorians' fervour:
"Later a sham fight took place - the Kyneton men on the defensive. The Kyneton men got so warm that it eventually appeared more like a real than sham fight. Several accidents occurred to riders and one horse was shot in the head. Mr G. W. Johnson, ex MLA, was shot across the hand, another of the corps in the neck and another was spattered with powder in the face in such a manner that he will ever present indelible evidence of his proximity to powder More than one rifle bears dints on the barrel and cuts on the wood."
It did however provide Dr. Hutchinson, surgeon to the Castlemaine Corps, the opportunity to tend his men. This he did, resplendent in his new dress uniform which he was wearing for the first time.
By 1863, with the resurgence of Voluntary enlistments, the state of the Australian Cavalry was as follows:
NSW - Mounted Rifle detachment of 4 officers and 35 other ranks
Vic - The Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (Prince of Wales Fight Horse Hussars)
Qld - 2 Troops of Mounted Rifles (Brisbane and Ipswich troops)
SA - 4 Troops of Mounted Rifles (Adelaide Mounted Rifles)
WA - A troop of Mounted Rifles (organized by the 12th Regiment of Foot)
Tas - A troop of Mounted Rifles (Launceston Mounted Rifles)
The Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment being the only cavalry regiment in Australia to have the Prince of Wales title, a title preserved by 17 Light Horse and later 4/19 Prince of Wales's Light Horse, it is interesting to note the circumstances of its first use. 1861 was notable in Victoria for the number of independent mounted troops, "The Castlemaine Dragoons", "The Kyneton Mounted Rifles", "The Victorian Yeomanry Cavalry" and so on, each attempting to dress themselves in a uniform both distinctive and yet quite unlike that of the rival troop.
After considerable negotiation, the like of which can well be imagined, the troops were amalgamated under the title "Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment". The troops were distinguished by the name of the town from which they were raised. Later in the same year, the prefix "Prince of Wales" was added in honour of the marriage of the Heir Apparent. Although disbanded in 1883, the Prince of Wales title remained in the Victorian militia for many years.
With the conditions of garrison maintenance becoming more and more unfavourable for the State Governments and the guarantee of support from Imperial troops in an emergency increasingly unlikely, it was obvious that the responsibility for military protection was to rest squarely upon the colonies. At the inter-colonial conference of 1870, the question was raised for the last time. The departure of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Artillery from Sydney on 14 August 1870 marked the close of the Imperial Military era.
The Sydney Morning Herald recorded the passing as follows:-
"The circumstance is important as marking an event in history, not only of this colony, but of Australia. It is the first step towards neutrality, not the result of direful conflicts and years of suffering, but the well considered conclusion of men who rule the destiny of a great nation."
With few exceptions, the military and civil example of the Imperial troops was a worthy model for the future military organization within this country, then only 30 years from achieving nationhood.
The Australian Light Horse, Part 2 Topic: Militia - LH
The Australian Light Horse
A Tasmanian Light Horsmen photographed in the 1880's.
The following is an extract from the book by Hall, RJG, The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, pp. 15 - 23.
The second period of development of the Colonial Forces received a favourable impetus by the outbreak of the Franco Russian war and a highly coloured suggestion that a naval "filibustering" expedition from San Francisco was to raid Sydney. The inhabitants of Sydney recalled, no doubt, the occasion in 1839 when Commander Wilkes, with two United States cruisers, entered Port Jackson and anchored off Circular Quay without anyone knowing about it until the following morning. The Naval and Military Act (1871) provided the means of raising permanent forces. The national lack of confidence in matters military now made itself shown. An appeal was made in 1876, for the assistance of a military personality. This was to be repeated in 1938 when General Squires, British Army, was invited to become Inspector General of the Australian Military Forces.
The result of the 1876 appeal was the appointment of Major General Sir William Jervois GCMG CB (1821-1897), as Governor of South Australia and Commissioner of Defences for all colonies with the exception of Western Australia. The subsequent reports did little for expansion of Mounted units, as they were based upon the British fleet's command of the seas.
Emphasis was placed upon armed vessels and forts. The greatest value of the reports of Jervois and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley was their advice on the question of partially paid militia. The best way of ensuring regular attendance at training periods, they contended, was to provide pay. Whilst this disregarded the potential of the spirit of youthful adventure, it was a sound approach in a community which was still developing its rural industry.
In 1885, as the recommendations were beginning to take effect, the following distribution of Mounted Troops existed:
NSW - New South Wales Cavalry Brigade Reserve with 7 Light Horse Troops
Vic - A Militia regiment of mounted Infantry (Victorian Mounted Rifles);The remains of the Royal Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (PWLH Hussars) represented by the Sandhurst Cavalry Troop
Qld - A mounted Infantry troop (Brisbane Mounted Rifles)
SA - Adelaide Mounted Rifle Corps
WA - A Mounted Rifle Detachment
Tas - 1st Light Cavalry Corps
The position occupied by the horse in the community and the areas in which it was used were to be great factors in the development of the Light Horse centres. As the rural districts spread, so communities were established where the horse was a vital means of transportation. The decline in the standard of horse flesh, when industrialization made its presence felt, naturally occurred in the capitals and centres of the major secondary industries. This decline can be easily traced in the 1921 regimental linkings.
The service of the militiamen, as distinct from the permanent soldiers, was on a part time basis. The militia service of the mounted troops, from the first, became associated with the district in which they worked.
The history of these districts is almost the rural history of Australia. The rural territories, whose activities are now finding their place in the commercial world at home and abroad, are monuments also to the enthusiasm of the light horseman. They were to bear these names as troop, squadron and regimental identities for the many years of their militia service.
The following section is devoted to a brief territorial description of these centres and the regiments appearing therein up to 1901.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Captain James Cook RN, a valued servant of the Empire, took possession of the whole of the eastern coast in 1770 and called it New Wales, later altered to New South Wales. As the initial colony, and by general acceptance (at least by New South Welshmen), New South Wales has the accolade of senior State. Therefore, the use of the title as part of the territorial identification of regiments has certain significance. The senior of these regiments is undoubtedly the New South Wales Lancers who, in 1884, first raised a mounted troop called the Sydney Cavalry Troop.
When Major General Richardson, the Commandant of the New South Wales defence forces, returned from the Sudan, he converted this troop to Lancers -probably the first volunteer Lancers recorded. By 1893 the title, New South Wales Lancers, was in popular use.
The second "parent" New South Wales regiment was the Mounted Rifle Regiment and owes its origins to the permanent Mounted Infantry raised in 1888. Costs and local depression caused the untimely disbandment of the regiment in 1890, but the districts of Mudgee, Camden and Forbes retained their association with the state and descriptive title, to subsequently raise troops of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles.
The Australian Horse
A volunteer unit, titled 1st Australian Horse, was recruited from the districts of Cootamundra, Gundagai, Goulburn, Tamworth and Armidale, in 1897. When the original unit passed away with Federation, the title was to resound within the Empire and beyond, after the actions of the Australian Commonwealth Horse in South Africa.
The Northern Rivers
In 1892, Captain Henry John Rouse RN explored two rivers which he named the Richmond and the Clarence. In 1885, the Upper Clarence Light Horse was raised by Captain Chauvel, whose son General Sir Harry Chauvel [GCMG, KCB, Commanded Desert Mounted Corps 1917/19. Inspector General in Australia 1919/30. CGS 1922/30. Born Tabulam, 16 April 1865, died 4 March 1945.] was to distinguish himself as one of the great Australian military personalities. The unit recruited from Tenterfield, Tabulam, Casino, Fairfield and Cullenden.
As the numbers increased, there emerged the Tabulam Mounted Infantry (later to become the Tenterfield Mounted Infantry) and the Richmond River Lancers (later to become the Northern Rivers Lancers).
The Hunter River
Early in the history of the colony, some enterprising convicts, somewhat dissatisfied with their lot, obtained a boat and departed for more suitable places. Lieutenant John Shortland RN, whilst conducting an unsuccessful search for the absconders, discovered an attractive river which he named the Hunter, after the second governor. The districts surrounding the Hunter River originally supported rural industries. Later, with the discovery of coal deposits, the towns of Maitland, Newcastle and Singleton cut into the natural grounds for supporting horses and horsemen.
The influence of the Royal Navy continued to be recorded in the Light Horse story. Lieutenant John Oxley RN, in the course of one of his frequent trips of exploration, came upon a rich pastoral area in the North East of New South Wales. In 1818, he named this district, New England, “because of the similarity of the climatic conditions to those of Britain". Despite the apparent poetic licence employed by Oxley in his justification of the name, he was later to become a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Some of the recruiting areas for the Australian Horse (1897) lay within the New England district, giving the first New England Regiment (1902) a distinct link with pre-federation organizations.
The Gwydir River flows from the New England mountains into the Darling River, after passage through the pastoral districts on the Queensland border. Although the Gwydir Regiment was not to appear until 1937, mounted troops were raised from the districts of Armidale, Inverell, Glen Innes and Moree from 1897.
This district is generally described as being that bounded by the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. However, in the early part of the century the name was applied to the districts north of the Murrumbidgee as well. Once again, the Australian Horse recruited in this district before the Riverina Regiment came into existence in 1937.
The Illawarra District
Lake Illawarra lies just south of Wollongong. A light horse troop was recruited from this district as early as 1885. The regiment bearing the Illawarra title later recruited as far South as Milton on the east coast.
The activities of bushrangers in Victoria in 1854 and the popularity of seeking, finding and transporting gold, caused the appearance of a Light Cavalry Company; the 40th Regiment (2nd Somersetshire) (1852-1860) mounted one of their companies and equipped it as a light Cavalry. The first Victorian titled regiment came into existence in 1862, when part of the Prince of Wales's regiment and the Royal Victorian Mounted Artillery amalgamated as the 1st Victorian Volunteer Light Horse. For a while, titles and uniforms were more significant than actual training, until the Victorian Mounted Rifles were raised in 1885. This unit rapidly attracted a large number of recruits and they attended a Field Camp near Queenscliff during Easter 1886, with nine companies all mounted. The VMR had detachments in Broadford, Yea, Avenel, Cathkin, Mansfield, Rushworth and Shepparton from the First Battalion, and at Ballarat, Clunes, Talbot, Maryborough, Elmore and Wharparilla from the Second Battalion.
Lake Corangamite is one of the largest natural inland waterways in Victoria and was discovered in 1837 by an explorer named McLeod. He apparently used a native name and early maps show it to be spelt as "Korangamite". In 1885, Colonel Tom Price raised the Victorian Mounted Rifles, the second battalion of which recruited in the districts to north and east of the lake. By the time the title "Corangamite" was to be employed, recruiting for the Victorian regiments had been extended as far west as Camperdown.
The Yarrowee River is first related to the Victorian Cavalry in records of the Prince of Wales's Light Horse (Hussars) (1862-1883). Many rural settlements along the banks of this river raised independent troops prior to 1862 and became part of the Prince of Wales's Light Horse in 1862-63.
The Indi District
Infrequently used as a name today, the lndi district was the area of the upper Murray to the Ovens River. The Victorian Mounted Rifles had detachments at Wangaratta, Beechworth and Rutherglen in 1885. These centres continued to support this very popular unit up to Federation and one finds both "lndi" and "VMR" used in the naming of the early post federation Light horse regiments.
The Gippsland District
Angus McMillan first discovered the forest areas in the south east of Victoria, but it was Count Strezlecki who gave to it the present name in honour of Sir George Gipps a former Governor of New South Wales. The Gippsland district was developed as, and continues to be, a rural and timber area. Early horsemen also belonged to independent troops and subsequently saw service with the Prince of Wales's regiment and the Victorian Mounted Rifles.
Captain James Cook, during the course of his explorations of the eastern part of Australia, entered an inlet to the North of Botany Bay. On 17 May 1770 he named this inlet Moreton Bay, in honour of the Earl of Moreton. Settlement of the area did not commence until 1824, when Lieutenant Miller commanded a detachment of soldiers and convicts who established themselves on the Brisbane River.
In 1860, two troops of mounted infantry were raised in Queensland. They were known by their district titles as The Brisbane and Ipswich Troops respectively. As further troops were raised in the surrounding areas, the title of the Brisbane Mounted Rifles became more frequently used during the years 1877-1885. In 1891, the Brisbane troops and those from Dalton and North Pine were formed into the "Moreton Mounted Infantry". In 1900, the title Queensland Mounted Infantry was applied to all the Mounted Troops.
The Burnett River was named after Charles Burnett, in recognition of the great service he gave with the Surveyor General's office in NSW. The title as a regimental identification was not used until 1927.
This district, bounded roughly by the Burnett River in the North, the Boyne in the West and Ipswich in the South, became a prolific source for the mounted militia.
In 1887, the districts west of the Moreton settlement were opened up by the botanist Alan Cunningham and the Darling Range was named after Sir Ralph Darling. In 1891, when the Brisbane troops formed the "Moreton Mounted Infantry", those troops located at Warwick and Toowoomba became the Darling Downs Mounted Infantry.
Capital and State Titles
Colonel William Light sailed from England in 1836 to survey for the new Colony of South Australia. He was followed by the first governor, Captain John Hindmarsh RN, who presided over the new (Adelaide) settlement on 28 December 1836.
Five years later, a squadron of cavalry was formed in Adelaide and they took the name of the Adelaide Lancers. This name changed, in 1884, to the Adelaide Mounted Rifle Corps with troops at Molong, Adelaide, Strathalbyn and Reedbeds. In 1899, the unit had adopted the State title of Fourth Australian Mounted Rifles with troops at Yankella, Inman Valley Port Victor, Jamestown, Mount Gambier and Wallaroo.
Colonel Light formerly served with the 4th Dragoons. During the Peninsular War, the British troops, which included the 4th Dragoons, defeated Marshal Victor at the "Heights of Barossa". On finding some hills in South Australia with similar features to those original heights, he named them the Barossa Range. The title Barossa did not appear until the reorganization following the Great War.
In 1829 Western Australia was proclaimed a British Colony at Fremantle.
The pattern of individual mounted troops appearing briefly in the mounted firmament, then falling into disrepair and disbandment was also evident in Western Australia. One of the earliest of these troops was the Pinjarra Mounted Rifles raised in 1858. The Guildford Mounted Rifles appeared in 1887 and between 1895 and 1899 a number of troops appeared in Perth only to fade away in the face of other interests.
The first use of a state Title occurred in 1900, when the Western Australian Mounted Infantry had detachments at Perth, Victoria Park, Cannington and Fremantle. The Bunbury Rifles had a mounted detachment in 1899. All these areas were to become the districts for the Western Australian Mounted Infantry following Federal reorganization.
The mounted troops in Tasmania are first recorded in 1860 when the Launceston Mounted Rifles are shown. By 1865 these troops rejoiced in the title of the 1st Light Cavalry Corps and remained thus until 1887. The Tasmanian Mounted Infantry was formed at Ulverstone during 1889.
The States' cavalry contribution to the new federal defence organization was as follows:
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