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"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.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Thursday, 31 December 2009
The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Contents
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Militia and AIF



This section deals with general details regarding the Australian Light Horse during the Great War regarding its service in the Middle East. The items in this section were common to all Light Horse formations.



Navigating the National Archives Service File 

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy



B103, Index to Common Terms 

Cavalry Glossary

Medals and Badges awarded to the Light Horse



17th Australian (Prince of Wales Light Horse) Machine Gun Regiment, Training Camp Film 
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Productions 
Beyond Beersheba: Anzacs in the Holy Land
Photograph Albums, Contents 



The Australian Light Horse - Structure

The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Organisation


The Australian Ligth Horse

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.

The Australian Light Horse, The Early Years 1818-1870, Part 1

The Australian Light Horse, Regional Development, 1870 - 1900, Part 2

The Australian Light Horse, Boer War 1899 - 1902, Part 3

The Australian Light Horse, Federation to 1914, Part 4

The Australian Light Horse, Marching or Service Order Field Kit, Part 5 


Mounted Rifles or Mounted Infantry

The Australian Mounted Rifles, Militia Outline, An essay by Ivan, 1885

The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Concept 1902


Collyer, JJ, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Military Journal, April, 1915, pp. 265 - 305

Part 1, Preface 

Part 2, Contents

Part 3, General Considerations 

Part 4, The Attack 

Part 5, Defence 

Part 6, Protection 

Part 7, Night Operations 

Part 8, Reconnaissance 

Part 9, Conclusion


Light Horse

Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse Major FA Maxwell, June 1911 

The Australian Light Horsemen, Thomas Patrick Conway, June 1912


Dove, FA, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, 1910.

Part 1, Preface & Introduction

Part 2, Protective Scouting 

Part 3, Communication 

Part 4, Patrol Formations 

Part 5, Co-operation of Patrols 

Part 6, Lecturettes 

Part 7, The Flank Screen 

Part 8, Screen To Rear Guard 

Part 9, Scouting For Information 

Part 10, Finding One's Way 

Part 11, Avoiding Detection 


Priestley, PH, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Military Journal, March 1912, pp. 171 - 185.

Part 1, Scouting for Troop Leaders

Part 2, The Scouts of the Screen

Part 3, Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard

Part 4, A Criticism of the Article


Notes on Cavalry Principles, Spanish Cavalry Training. Vol. IV, 1910

Some Features of Squadron Training, Arthur William Hutchin, 1912

The Limitations of the Militia Officer by Captain EW Tulloch, 1914

Training by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier, 1914

Squadron and Company Training by Major Duncan John Glasfurd, 1914

The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen by GGA, 1914

The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Light Horse

The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Mounted Rifles v Mounted Infantry


Tactical Theory, 1916

Advanced Guard by Day


Flank Guard


Artillery Formation

The Attack


Trench Warfare

The Counter Attack

Supply and Care of Ammunition


Regimental Administration

Nominal Rolls


Roles within the Regiment

Officers in general

Commanding Officer

Second in command



Squadron Commander

Officer Commanding a Regimental Unit


Qualifications of Non-Commissioned Officers

Regimental Sergeant-Major

Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant

Orderly Room Clerk

Squadron Sergeant-Major

Squadron Quartermaster-Sergeant






Regimental Scouts



Orders for Guards

Relieving and Posting a Guard 

Marching Reliefs 

Relieving and Posting 

Sentries Paying Compliments 

Sentries Challenging 

Instruction of Recruits as Sentries 

Guards Turning Out 

Guards on Horse Lines 

Orders for Sentries on the Horse Lines by Night 



Duties of Captain of the Day 

Orderly Officer 

Duties of Regimental Orderly Squadron Sergeant Major 

Duties of Regimental Orderly Sergeant 

Regimental Orderly Corporal 

Regimental Orderly Trumpeter 

Duties of Half-Squadron or Troop Orderly Sergeant 

Duties of Troop (or Half-Squadron) Orderly Corporal 

Duties of Tent Orderly 



Troop Cooks

Hints for Camp Cooking 

Preserved Meat Tins 

Aldershot Oven 

Other Ovens 



Recipes for Field Cooking - Preserved Meat



The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Unit Numbering 

The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, The Division


The Waler

The Waler, Moving the Light Horse

The Riding Test, Argus 27 January 1915 


Kitting out a Regiment.

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Weedon Section

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Accoutrements

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Pioneer Equipment 

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Regimental Transport

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Harness, Saddlery and Packsaddlery

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Signalling and Reconnaissance Equipment

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Miscellaneous Camp Equipment

Regimental Embarkation Equipment Stock List, 1914, Machine Gun Equipment


Light Horse Marching Kit

Australian Light Horse Regiments, AIF, Marching or Service Order Field Kit 

Australian Light Horse Regiments, AIF, Full Marching Order Kit


Light Horseman's Kit

All Light Horsemen wore emu plumes  
Soldier's Housewife - the "Hussif"


Light Horseman's Weapons

The Machine Gun

Machine Gun Tactics, Applin Account 

Hotchkiss Portable Machine Gun Handbook

Hotchkiss Portable Machine Gun Handbook



Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 3 May 2011 4:56 PM EADT
Monday, 7 December 2009
Navigating the National Archives Service File
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

Finding Your Light Horseman

Accessing the Service File

National Archives of Australia


Let's start

Following the trail to find your ancestor can be a daunting process if you have never done it before. Because of the sheer volume of information, sites that offer information about Australian service personnel are usually very difficult to navigate. The concentration is on the information rather than window dressing - substance over fluff. Once you get used to it, the processes are easy to follow. 

The following instructions aim to trace a service person from a search term on Google. The process works equally well for Yahoo, Bing and any other search engine that regularly updates internet site information. Google updates the information catalogued from the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre on a daily basis and thus is always current.


This page is divided into four sections which can be accessed by scrolling down to the specific heading.


1. Finding 466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW

2. Finding the Service File at the National Archives of Australia

3. Problem Solving with file searching

4. Reading the Service File - The vital pages



1. Finding 466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW


For simplicity, we will search for one name from beginning to accessing the chronology on the National Archives of Australia Service File.

Go to the Google search page - Google Search Page

Enter in the search box the following term:

466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW

Then press the "Google Search" button.

The result should be similar to the following result displayed below.


Google search result for 466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW


The result is highlighted by the red box. The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre information is ranked No. 1 as it is the most like the search parameter.

Click on the link.

For the purposes of this exercise, here is the link:

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Embarkation Roll, 1st Reinforcements

The following page should open up. Scroll down until you reach the record for 466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW.


466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW's record on the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site.


The record for 466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW is highlighted in red.

466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW's embarkation information contains the following details:

Rank on embarkation;

Full name of the soldier;

Declared age of the soldier;

The last occupation held;

The last address as a civilian;

Enlistment Date; and,


This is a very brief outline designed to allow you to find the correct information in a convenient summary form. It allows you to then follow up the information on other sites confident that the information will lead you to your goal, a fuller chronology of service.



2. Finding the Service File at the National Archives of Australia


The National Archives of Australia web site is absolutely full of incredible information but it is difficult to navigate unless you have much experience.

For the first timers and new searchers, the following will make it an easier experience.

First we need to go to the search page. To do that we go to the following link:

Record Search

If this link does not work, try copying the following link and pasting it in the address box on your browser: 


The following window should open.


National Archives of Australia Record Search Page


When you have reached this page, click on the "Search Now - as a guest"  link.

The following Search Page will open up.


National Archives of Australia General Search Page


The following steps are necessary to ensure that the information you seek will appear rather than thousands of extraneous results which will only confuse.

To assist, there are three large numbers on the page. At these points, place the information suggested below.

Put the full, correct name of the service person. You will note that included is the service number. This ensures that the record search will be confined to this combination of items. This is the best combination possible to obtain solid results.

Once this information is keyed in, then press the "Search" Button.

The following page will then open.



National Archives of Australia Results Page


This page confirms that the search has been successful displaying one file for  466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW.

Press the "View Digital Copy" link.

The following page should open in a new tab.


National Archives of Australia Service File Page 1


Once you have this page, then accessing the rest of the file is simple.

To turn the pages, just press the arrow at the top of the page. You can go forwards or backwards.

To go to a specific page, type the page number in the page number dialogue box and press enter and that page will appear.

Once you become familiar with this process, accessing service files will become a relatively simple process. The hardest search is always the first one.


3. Problem Solving with file searching 


The most frustrating thing in searching is putting in all the correct search parameters and receiving a nil answer.

The common reasons for difficulties in searching the National Archives of Australia search engine are:

1. The soldier used an alias;

2. The NAA used a different record on the Service File to list the details of the person;

3. An enlisted man received a field commission which removed the Regimental Number; and,

4. The NAA recorded the name or number incorrectly;

5. No Record.


1. The soldier used an alias

During the Great War, quite a number (between 1-2%) enlisted in the AIF under false names. Some were detected but many were not.

The reasons for enlisting under a false name were as varied as the men themselves. However, there were some consistent reasons, the main of which were:

1. Universal Service conscripts who deserted from Militia service. From 1912 onwards, all eligible Australian males were compelled to serve within the Militia. This was very unpopular amongst certain groups and the men conscripted either failed to be inducted or once inducted, deserted. Since this was a criminal offence, the Militia authorities notified the police and the names of the deserters were gazetted. Many thousands of names appeared in the various state's District Orders as a consequence of the failure to comply with Universal Service laws. The men in this situation joined the AIF under a false name to avoid being arrested and prosecuted for draft evasion or desertion.

2. Men who abandoned their families and domestic liabilities.  The next largest category included men who sought not to have their wage allotted to a family member, be that person a parent, a spouse (either legal or common law), or any children. There were many different combinations of family events but at the heart of the matter was a refusal of the soldier to have his income applied in support of a family member as was required under law.

3. The stigma of Germanic origin drove many from this background to enlist under an Anglicised for of their name or another name altogether.

4. Escaping debts, prosecution or imprisonment by the civil authorities.

There were many other causes but these were the four principle reasons for a person enlisting within the AIF and utilising a false name.

In relation to the NAA Service File, the listing may be under the alias, or the real name, or a combination of both. The NAA listings are rather capricious in the entry protocols for the file so it is necessary to try all if possible.


2. The NAA used a different record on the Service File to list the details of the person

During the period of the Great War, a person attesting with the AIF may have received anything up to a half dozen Service Numbers or more. The Service Number you might hold could be different from that used on the Service File record with the NAA. The problem of multiple numbers was capriciously dealt with by the NAA: on some entries, all the different Service Numbers are used; on others, the Service Number from the first Attestation Paper in a series of different Attestation Papers; or a number was selected from a group of papers that might have appeared to be correct.

Whatever the reason, this can be a major source of frustration. One solution is to just place the full name of the serviceman in the appropriate search box without the service number. There might be multiple results as a consequence but these can be examined until the correct entry appears.


3. An enlisted man received a field commission which removed the Regimental Number

When a soldier received a commission as an officer, he no longer carried a Regimental Number.

The NAA's policy on recording the circumstance of an enlisted man receiving a commission again is capricious. Sometimes the number is recorded and at other times it is not. The result is that if the Service Number is used in a search and it returns no result, then you should enter just the full name of the serviceman in the appropriate search box without the service number. There might be multiple results as a consequence but these can be examined until the correct entry appears.


4. The NAA recorded the name or number incorrectly

During the process of entering file details, errors occurred. At the moment, a collation of errors detected by this site indicates that there is an error rate of about 2-3% on all file entries. This can be extremely frustrating as this problem is the most difficult to rectify. The consequence of an error could be in the Service Number - transpositional errors being the most common. It could be in the name where a misspelling occurred or letters was transposed.

Solving this takes a bit of ingenuity. Sometimes just putting in the Regimental Number with the first name produces a result. Other times the Regimental Number with state from which the serviceman came can give a result. Other times using the first names and the state of origin works. There is no set answer. It is just a matter of persisting at this point. Most files can be found.


5. No Record

There are cases where the record for the Serviceman just does not exist for one reason or another. To date this site has discovered only a few such records out of some 40,000 examined so this is not a likely circumstance.


4. Reading the Service File - The vital pages.


Some service files are very brief while others are very lengthy and detailed. There are a couple characteristic pages which are essential in determining the outline chronology of the service person. For Great War files, the following pages are essential for building an intelligible chronology. They might be anywhere in the file and there may be many duplications, but regardless, these are the necessary items.

The following summary details the information contained on the pages.


466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW, Attestation Paper, p. 1.


The front cover of the Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad provides the reader with the following information:

  • Service Number,
  • Surname,
  • Given Names,
  • Age,
  • Employment,
  • Married or Single,
  • Next of Kin Relationship,
  • Next of Kin Name and Address,
  • Enlistment Date.

This information is vital as it identifies the specific soldier and in case of death or injury, allows the relatives to be informed. The next of kin was important for another reason. Each soldier was compelled to give an allotment of their daily wage to the person nominated as the next of kin. This was an essential financial consideration.

Once this information was gathered, the second page dealt with an oath to the King. The next page to give information was page 3.


466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW, Attestation Paper, p. 3


The third page of the Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad provides the reader with the following information:

  • Height,
  • Weight,
  • Chest Measurement
  • Complexion,
  • Eyes,
  • Hair, 
  • Religion.

The health of the potential soldier was important as the life was particularly strenuous. The ability to carry heavy weights for great distances was most important.

The next form that is most common in the Service File is the B103, the  Casualty Form - Active Service. Every movement of the soldier is recorded. The reasons for this are fourfold.

1. The location of the soldier at any one time was essential to establish where his rations were to be drawn.

2.  The form established the entitlements to drawing pay at a particular level. A soldier in the field was allowed to draw pay but when in hospital was not allowed to draw their pay as it was considered that everything to assist the soldier's recovery was provided.

3.  By tracking the movements of the soldier, it allowed early detection of desertion if that were to occur.

4. At the end of the war, the chronology of this form was used as the basis for post war entitlements such as medals, pensions, repatriation assistance, access to hospitals and any other service available for an ex-serviceman for the rest of his life.

The B103 may be as simple as one sheet or multiple sheets. It depended upon the individual serviceman.

To assist in understanding this particular form in relation to the men from the 11th LHR, Lesson 11 Resource, a list of terms and names are available at the Index to Common B103 Terms. The link is below.

466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW, B103, p. 1.


The front of the B103, the  Casualty Form - Active Service provides the reader with the following information:

  • Regiment
  • Rank on Enlistment,
  • Terms of Enlistment,
  • Embarkation Date,
  • Embarkation Port,
  • Embarkation Ship,
  • Date Taken on Strength.

As can be seen, the form is a chronology of the man's service in the AIF. All B103 forms in every service file is similar. 

In this case the man has two pages to the form. To finish his story, the page will be turned over. 

466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW, B103, p. 2


The back of the B103, the  Casualty Form - Active Service provides the reader with the following information:

  • Chronology,
  • Fate,
  • Date.

For a Glossary of B103 Abbreviations for Light Horse files, see:

B103, Index to Common Terms  


Once the B103, the  Casualty Form - Active Service was completed due to the expiration of service, any transactions during subsequent to service were recorded on a flimsy called Transferred to Australian Imperial Force D and it was here that all post service information was maintained.

466 Private Herbert HOUNSLOW, AIF D, p. 1.


Page 1 of the Transferred to Australian Imperial Force D provides the reader with the following information:

  • The last rank held in the AIF,
  • The date of Discharge,
  • The place where Discharged,
  • The eligible medals awarded to the serviceman.

Information on this form depends upon the individual. This particular form can at times run into many pages.


Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920


Citation: Navigating the National Archives Service File

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 11 July 2010 8:39 PM EADT
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, War Diaries and Letters, Site Transcription Policy
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

War Diaries and Letters

Site Transcription Policy


War Diary and Letters Transcription Policy

There are many philosophical difficulties faced by a person transcribing the War Diaries and letters. Each of the issues is addressed in this policy guideline.


The War Diaries used by the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre have a single source to ensure consistency. The War Diaries transcribed on this site are specifically sourced from the collection held by the AWM (Australian War Memorial) and may be found online.

Since the AWM changes its web site locations of documents, it is difficult to give a long term definitive address. Hence the entries contain no AWM web link as the currency of any link is not guaranteed. Hence, while the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre makes reference to the War Diaries at the AWM, should the individual reader wish to follow this up, they are encouraged to access the AWM sit and then conduct a search. Currently they are to be found by following these steps:


The Home Page of the Australian War Memorial.


1. Access the AWM site at:


2. At the left side bar go down to the button “Collections Search” and click on this button.

Finding the War Diaries section

3. On the Collections page, to the right of the left side bar there is a discrete column under the Search Box which states “Collection resources”. Go down this column until reaching the item:

“Australian Army war diaries"

"Browse images of selected Australian Army war diaries."


Finding the Great War AIF War Diaries.

On the new page that opens, a selection of War Diary Categories are opened and the appropriate diary may be found.

Other Sources

In addition to the Australian War Memorial, British unit war diaries have been accessed from the War Office collection at Kew in the United Kingdom.

Private and public letters and diaries also are incorporated and these are documented accordingly.  Similar principles are followed in their transcription.



For those seeking to reference the entries, there are two solutions.

Each War Diary Entry is designed to stand alone. At the bottom of the page is a citation link. The is designed to assist any researcher to quote the item in accordance with convention.

At the commencement of the Diary Entry, there is a picture of the actual page extracted from the original diary as held by the AWM. This allows authentication of the transcription by allowing the document to be read in the item itself or the reader to access the document at the AWM. As mentioned above, the steps to access the original document have been properly detailed to allow a person to find the original document and reference that particular item. The choice is entirely for the individual to determine that which is appropriate.

However, one thing must be kept in mind. To utilise the transcription on the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site is not to cite the War Diary verbatim. The discussion of policies and methodologies employed relating to this issue are detailed below. Thus the transcription is unique to this site.

Verbatim or Expansion

The first obvious issue is whether to give a basic verbatim transcription – an as is – transcription. The problem with this lies with the underlying assumptions of the War Diary authors. They were military men writing notes about the day’s activities at night or early morning within a day or two of the events reported. Consequently, the War Diary was seen by many authors as just another pointless task demanded by the military bureaucracy and consequently tackled with minimum effort. Most of the War Diaries illustrate this frustration. In addition, being military men, short cuts were used by employing acronyms and other shortened terms which made sense to the authors and the immediate readership, all being contemporary military men. Ninety years later, all those with this knowledge have long since departed for the long sleep and there is no living knowledge of these underlying assumptions of understanding. Hence some of the paragraphs filled with arcane expressions can appear nonsensical or mystifying to our current audience and thus the information contained in them is missed by all except a few specialists.

Philosophically, verbatim presents the truest account but it also presents the most unreadable account for the modern audience.

To overcome this and make it readable to a non military audience some ninety years later, certain conventions have been followed.

1. All military ranks are given in full. Eg, “Lt” is Lieutenant.

2. All unit and formation contractions are expanded. Eg, 1 Bn is 1st Infantry Battalion.

3. All acronyms and capitalizations are expanded. Eg, “EEF” is “Egyptian Expeditionary Force”. The exception relates to expressions subsequently and currently employed as general or proper nouns and understood as such today. An example is the word Anzac.

4. All grammatical and word contractions are expanded. Eg, “+” is “and”; “E” is “east”.

5. Spelling of proper nouns is corrected according to issued maps of the time and aligned to these maps. Eg, “Belah” is “Deir el Belah”. This ensures that the reader can readily find the location through referencing alternative sources.

It is felt that should a person wish to refer back to the original War Diary entry in the verbatim form, a picture of the original entry is attached to each specific War Diary transcription which allows the reader to access the original item held by the AWM and then read it in its contemporaneous form.

Ultimate Aim

At the end of it all is the aim to make the War Diary as readable to the contemporary audience and so make accessible the story contained in the entry. Each entry should stand alone and be intelligible to any non-specialist of the era. It is hoped that this goal is achieved for the ordinary reader.


Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920


Citation: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, War Diaries and Letters, Site Transcription Policy

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 30 April 2011 11:51 AM EADT
Friday, 4 December 2009
The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Training by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse


Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier


Noel Murray Brazier


Every year, the Commonwealth Military Journal ran a "Gold Medal" essay competition on a nominated subject. Some of the best military minds in Australia responded to the challenges of these essays, Monash being one of the most celebrated winners. For 1914, the topic was on training within the CMF. The Second Prize Essay was provided by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier, Commanding Officer of the 25th Australian Light Horse, West Australian Mounted Infantry.

Brazier was a tireless worker in putting together the 25th ALH and on the outbreak of the Great War, the 10th Light Horse Regiment over which he was appointed the Commanding Officer. The 10th LHR was almost destroyed at the Nek and afterwhich Hill 60 where Brazier was wounded but never to return to his Regiment.

Brazier, NM, Training, Military Journal, July 1914, pp. 449 – 462.


"Training is the preparation of the officer and the man for the duties which each will carry out in war." - (Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, section 1(1)).

"In applying this principle, how can the best use be made of the limited time available for training the citizen forces of the Commonwealth of Australia?"



The more one looks at this question the more one feels inclined to ask a question in reply, "Can the citizen forces be efficiently trained during the limited time available?" Yet, had the Australian Parliament been asked to pass an Act compelling its youth to put in two or three years' continuous service as the only sure method of training an army, it is most certain to have rejected the measure; while it is more than probable that Lord Kitchener, in his Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, recognized this fact, and recommended the least possible amount of time that would suffice to begin the training of an array under Australian conditions. As the whole of our military system has been based on that memorandum, parts Of which can only come into force in some years, while some of the recommendations have not yet been given effect to, it may be necessary to refer to it to show that not till the whole scheme is fully endorsed can we expect to get even the efficiency anticipated, unless special efforts in that direction were put forth during this transition period. Again, it is a well-known fact that the British soldier, at the end of his third year of continuous training, is the test fighting material the world can produce. In Australia it is expected to train an army in roughly, from 130 to 200 days spread over eight years after a course of cadet training, and, during the first eight years, with a shortage of general staff officers, while regimental officers have not generally been taught to teach.

What material, then, have we to lay a foundation with, upon which an army may be trained, physically and morally fit, to fight for that great heritage we possess?

The answer is given in the Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 67 -

"The Australian citizen soldier experiences much of military value in the every-day conditions of his civil life. He is generally a good rider, active, lithe, and intelligent."



The Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 57, says:-

"While the staff corps will provide the trained instructor, the leadership of units of the citizen forces will depend on the citizen officer. Every opportunity must be taken to educate him in the spare moments of his civil business, and accordingly means of instruction should be available at or near his home."

The staff corps is only to be drawn from the Military College, now in its infancy; therefore, we have left only the officers of the administrative and instructional staff, partly derived from the citizen forces, and not all of whom have had much special instruction in the art of teaching. Their duties are principally, except during the annual training, administrative, and they have but little time to devote to the training of officers at other periods. This is one of the weakest spots in the military system. More staff officers should be available to teach regimental officers during the spare moments of their civil business. Nearly the whole of the Australian officers are volunteers, generally busy men, patriots to a man, and only likely to resign because they cannot see through the “fog of war." Once the drill and camp routine of their corps are mastered, the carrying out of “sealed pattern" advanced and rear guards and attacks becomes monotonous. The object-the real business end of the object-must be taught; they must be taught to think war; they must be taught that the object of every action taken is eventually to “kill or disable," so that their country may not be disgraced in war time. In every action taken, from the simplest forms of drill to the higher tactical exercises, every officer should be able to explain the connection of the exercise with “the desire to kill," and should explain it before carrying out any exercise or drill. To train the officer to think and talk thus, it is not necessary to have troops. It would be better if he were taught away from his troops. Only by staff and regimental tours, nearly every week of the year, can officers be rapidly taught to think "war," and even in the case of scattered country units like light horse, most useful instruction can be imparted during the drive home from the railway station, while walking about the farm, while riding about the station, or sitting on a verandah in a "defensive position," when, given certain conditions, he would be asked, "What action would you take?" After an officer has been taught to think in this way, during all his peregrinations lie can be marching with imaginary troops, create a practical tactical situation, rapidly corns to a conclusion, and give his orders. He must be taught to think first. All the reading of Field Service Regulations without practical application, however simple the exercise, although it may help to pass a theoretical examination can only end in limitless blunders.

Again, map reading may be easily learnt by all officers, town or country, if the habit be formed of each officer carrying a plan of his locality with him always, or, when going away from him, by taking any plan of the country it is intended to travel through and constantly making military notes upon it. In the daily train journey from suburb to city, look for prominent buildings and hill features, bends of rivers, &c., and put them on the map in pencil. In the country, hills, cleared fields, thick timber, and any special military features should be noted and put on the plan, and when the staff officer or commanding officer next comes round, discuss the map with him. It is often because we are not put in the way of these things that their beneficial results are not appreciated. A monotonous journey, the tired feeling, that “horrible ride," give place to interest and enjoyment in fulfilling a national duty at no cost.

Yet it is necessary to sink into oblivion one's private affairs at such times, whether it be convenient or not, to say nothing of the time lost attending schools of instruction-one of the most important features of an officer's tuition. In administrative duties to-day, more exactitude is demanded than formerly, and no officer can thoroughly fulfil his duties without making huge inroads into his time and pocket. If the volunteer officer finds the demand too much, will the officers derived from the universal training scheme carry on the enforced duty as an officer? Will he give the time required to qualify for the higher positions unless he can afford it? Shall we then get the best brains to train?



Although not part of the fighting unit, his early training becomes part of the preparation of the officer and the man for military duties. Time is the essence of the contract, and during each stage the last half-year or year should be specially devoted to preparing for the next step. Here we have the early stages of physical culture, but while physical culture should be taught to strengthen the body and mind, now is the time to plant the first seeds of national duty. Why are we training the youth? To become one of a physically strong nation; to strengthen our bodies and sharpen our wits to fight for the chastity of our women should occasion arise; to prepare ourselves to take our place in our army, full of life and patriotism, and defend our country from those foreign nations whose eyes are ever on our fertile shores. This should be part of the training. The object should be ever instilled into the soldier before the lesson is given, and, by so doing, create individualism.

During the last half-year of the junior cadet, training, and as part of the school curriculum sergeant-instructors should, by diagrams and practical illustrations, explain all parts of the rifle, its use and effect. When this is instilled into the lads, they will look forward to the next step.



Here we arrive at the first step when the youth must be told why he is being taught to drill and march and shoot, why he is compelled to learn to fight and to kill or disable. The nation can only be trained to take a solid stand upon the defence question, and train its soldiers in a limited time, by taking every opportunity of explaining to all ranks, in all stages of its training, the reasons why any action is being taken. This is just as essential as drill and shooting.

During the first year of their senior cadet training the youths should be treated as recruits, and physical exercises, squad drill, care and use of arms thoroughly grounded into them before they join the ranks of the older cadets. This becomes the foundation of a system - recruit training before joining the next higher rank.

Now comes the foundation of the training upon which the army must depend. Discipline must be strictly enforced; physical exercises, boxing, singlesticks, sword exercises, and gymnastics should be made a pleasure to look forward to. During fine weather, marches of from five to ten miles should be undertaken frequently, either in the afternoon or evening. Work never kills. Company and battalion drill and shooting should be thoroughly taught, but, again, we should always-ever-grind into the youth why such action is being taken. Automatism must give way to individualism if we are to succeed in our object.

During the seventeen to eighteen years, the lads should be issued with service rifles, which would be kept in the drill halls under strict supervision. They should be taught their parts, to shoot with them, care for them, and prize them as they carry them home on the 1st July, admitted to the fighting units.



The first year of life under canvas, the lad has been taught to drill, had preliminary instruction in shooting, been taught the care of arms, and is physically fit. As in the case of the junior cadet, so, on being transferred from the senior cadets, his first year, including his first period of eight days in camp, should be purely recruit training, and the work in camp should be done as a separate unit or units before being drafted to any regiment. The musketry course should be gone through, and a certificate should be issued that he is fit for field firing, before being allowed to join any regiment; pitching of tents, carrying of equipment, camp sanitation, and drill of the arm he is to be attached to, or such special preliminary instruction as may be necessary. Camp routine and explanation of simple tactical exercises would be best done collectively as recruits, rather than be left to the regimental officers and their staffs, whose time would be occupied on matters of more importance to them. It is here that we can save time, and it is now that no slipshod methods must be allowed to creep in. Therefore, the year of recruit training should be the hardest, and discipline kept at the highest point.

The present system of drafting recruits straight into regiments must weaken the efficiency of a regiment and become a drag on its training for war, in the fact that there will always be some untrained men in the ranks; nor does it seem that it was ever intended to draft recruits to regiments before their year of recruit training was completed.

Here, now, the regimental officer comes in. If he is a well-trained officer well and good, but lie cannot attend to recruits and his trained soldiers. If not well trained, will not the year's work be wasted? Will it not be wasted on recruits in either case? The officer has not been trained to teach. This difficulty will gradually be overcome; but, in the meantime, we want to get the best we can, and this is the first year that we have trained soldiers of last year's draft. Therefore, to save time, train all recruits separately under the best staff available before drafting to regiments.



A soldier and a man, he knows his drill or only wants a little brushing up; he is a good or fair shot with his rifle, understands camp discipline, routine, and sanitation; is prepared to create history if called on, with traditions to follow, and at all times uphold the prestige of his corps.

How, now, can we handle him to the best advantage in the few days annually at our disposal? The Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, para. 78, says:- "The training of the citizen soldier may be divided into two parts-the home training, which will take place all the year round ire the vicinity of the men's homes under the staff corps or the citizen officers of the area, and the camp training, which will be annually held in the neighbourhood."

Now, the rock upon which the home training splits is this, that unless the nation itself rises upon the wings of patriotism and demands from its youth every available hour for training, only those compulsory parades will be attended sufficient to comply with the law, and the home training becomes desultory-two days per quarter, in which it is possible to keep the drill just decent, and the day ended before the o>' lesson of the tactical exercise is learnt.

The rock upon which the camp training splits is, that the army has not learnt to move in masses to manoeuvre from masses, to get its supplies on the march, or to carry out almost war practices. It is fro"' the annual training must come, the incentive for home training. From the defects and deficiencies of the annual training, tile bungles over transport and supplies and the victualling of large bodies on the march, from the shortage of medical equipment and hospital and veterinary supplies in peace, must the nation learn of our unpreparedness for war. The training of the nation in its responsibilities is as essential a principle as the training of the soldier. That this was ever before Lord Kitchener is apparent from paras. 16 and 17 of his memorandum. "The first and essential principle for the enrolment and maintenance of an efficient citizen force is that the nation as a whole should take a pride in its defenders, insist upon the organization being real and designed for war purposes only and provide the means for properly educating, training, and equipping their officers and men. Unless these requirements be met, no military system can be devised which will be other than an illusion and a source of waste of public funds."

What, it may be urged, has this to do with the subject under discussion? Everything. It is because the time for training annually is so short, our unpreparedness for war so apparent, our people only half-hearted, our light horse regiments filled mostly by volunteers, our supply of suitable horses inadequate, and with no system inaugurated for their absorption in war time, that every factor must be discussed, every weakness exhibited, in order that we may arrive at the best general principles upon which to train our army in the short time available.

What are our weaknesses?

I. The want of staff officers trained in war methods.

II. The lack of well-trained regimental officers.

III. Non-commissioned officers not knowing and feeling their responsibilities and duties.

IV. Soldiers are drilled only in small bodies and not used to being manoeuvred in large forces.

V. All arms with little knowledge of the real co-operation used in war, and not trained to advance or shoot coolly while shot and shell burst over their heads.

VI. The want of suitable horses for all arms.

VII. Lack of transport for all arms.

VIII. A commissariat department acquainted only with the demands of standing camps at rail heads.

IX. Medical services and departments generally untrained to anything approaching war conditions.

An inadequate army, surely! But the nation generally is not aware of what constitutes all adequate army, and need we let history repeat itself when we have the lesson before us of at least the first eight months of the American Civil War in 1881, when, owing; to the want organization, of discipline, of training, and of a proper system of command on both sides, [Stonewall Jackson ] according to Lord Wolseley, " from first to last, the co-operation of even one army corps (35,000 men) of regular troops would have given complete victory to whichever side it fought on." Numbers, even if they amount to millions, are useless, and worse than useless, without training and organization. Of what avail were the enormous armies raised by the French Republic in 1870 and 1871, which, consisting of brave men led by not unskilled generals, were defeated again and again by numerically inferior forces of seasoned enemies?

Let us now look at our weaknesses and to the training of the citizen forces of Australia after the recruit year when every soldier is, or should be, classed as efficient in shooting:


The Military College could be of little use if war arose at an early date, therefore, more staff officers should be borrowed from the British Army to teach our own staff officers their duties in war, and how to teach regimental officers. More staff officers are needed for this latter work and to do practically nothing else, even if they have to go to the home of the citizen officer, whose time is his living, to give him the necessary instruction.


Regimental officers cannot train themselves, nor have all commanding officers the necessary time and ability to coach individually their officers who, in some regiments, are scattered over wide areas. Nor can it be expected that regimental officers will attend the many schools they would probably like to, as they interfere too much with their business. Their training is, however, essential, and must otherwise be done either by staff officers, staff and regimental tours in week-ends-continuous if possible or, if necessary, by correspondence. Every officer should feel that he is being individually cared for and taught to teach. In the cities lectures can be held, but in the country a great lack of efficient coaches is experienced by officers. The coaching of the regimental officer on sound lines demands the immediate attention, at any cost, of the nation. Men know only too well when they are serving under an officer in whom they have no faith, while often a good officer who can be taught practically in the field cannot pass an examination on paper. Therefore, we want more teachers to advance, rapidly the instruction of the officers.


Regimental officers are supposed to instruct their non-commissioned officers, but these matters take time-much time-and, again, all officers are not capable of teaching. In many cases of light horse regiments, non-commissioned officers are scattered far and wide, and are not available even to their troop leaders, who themselves have just joined the regiment, and have no knowledge of military matters. In time the-go matters will automatically adjust themselves. To-day we are untrained and must be trained rapidly. As in the case of officers, so in the case of non-commissioned officers, must we have trained teachers. 1 hose should be supplied from the non-commissioned officers of the administrative and instructional staff. Here again, we the short of teachers taught to teach. But it should be part of the organization that, as with staff officers for officers, so should the instructional staff non-commissioned officers be prepared to sit on a citizen non-commissioned officer's verandah, follow his plough, ride on his cart, and pour out the fruits of his own knowledge, talk of duties and responsibilities, and give problems for solution according to the advancement of the student. The non-commissioned officer is to be prepared to take his place as leader. He also must be taught to think and to act quickly. He must also be taught to teach, and, as his time is money, teachers must be sent to him if he is to be rapidly fitted for his position in the regiment in time of war. Too little attention in the past has been given to such matters, and if more money is necessary to pay teachers, so must the nation be prepared to find it.

(IV.) (V.)

The incentive for the home training must come from the annual continuous training. The minor parts each different unit has played during this period will show the absolute necessity for the careful instruction in drill, shooting, and tactical exercises, in order that it may be the more efficient in larger movements.

There is more marching than fighting in a Campaign, yet how little we practice marching, except to a church parade.

The annual training should be done in each State at the time most convenient to its inhabitants, and, for instructional purposes, at the most suitable time as regards weather. As the training of our troops is our object, each year every incident likely to occur in war must be thought out and touched upon. The recruits are being trained separately. Only trained soldiers, with certificates for shooting, are in the field. Why, then, go into camp? “Is not the wide earth best?" Let us try and depict the annual training of all arms.

A general idea has been issued, and the troops have been ordered to mobilize at any place within the State that may be deemed suitable. The artillery and engineers will do their preliminary work before joining in the general mobilization, and perhaps light horse regiments may do the tactical reconnaissance, scouting, &c., preliminary to the movement of the larger bodies of infantry. Each arm will have its transport and supply column complete in marching order. Contracts for supplies will be called for over the theatre of operations, or be drawn from a rail bead as the situation and training of the Army Service Corps demands in connection with the training. Artillery and engineers have now joined the force, as have also the squadrons allotted as divisional mounted troops.

Orders are issued by the (G.O.C. for the march, and again repeated by regiments. The daily ration will be carried on the man or horse, as also the number of rounds of ammunition, even if in blank. The first day's march need not be too long, and some sore feet will require attention. The force will be some miles in length, and provision must be made for the bivouac. The distribution of the next day's ration and its cooking will form an excellent lesson, and more, will be learnt in one day thus than in years of standing camps of training. The supply trains will need re-filling. The Army Medical Corps will find something to do, and Field Service Regulations will be brought into requisition every minute of the day. Outposts will be carried out strictly and only withdrawn in the orthodox manner, and all training instructions carried out properly.

Orders for the following day will again be issued, and on the force marches again. Staff officers will need to be awake, and regimental officers will want to wipe off the cobwebs to avoid yesterday's mistakes. Communication must be established and telegraph offices put at the disposal of the force when necessary. Some business men may growl, but the nation, too, must be trained if the country is worth defending.

Another day's march without incident other than “rumours" to keep up the interest of the force, will do no harm. The supply trains have gone astray. The contractors have failed to supply in time. Curses and anathema go through the bivouac. Tinned dog and biscuit! But soldiers must be trained, and this is one of the greatest lessons to be learnt. Where is the fodder? The owner of the privately-owned horse does not mind for himself, but this is too bad, and he is expected to starve his horse and them ride it all day. Just before midnight supplies arrive, the horses must be fed, and the sleepy light horseman turns out of his blanket pouring wrath on the powers that be, but glad to feed his faithful steed. Another lesson rapidly learnt.

Owing to the reports received from the light horse commander, the force is pushed on early next morning with barely time for hot coffee. Another regiment has found the advanced guard, the regiment finding last night's outposts falling in rear of the column. The number of men with sore feet, through being unused to marching, is increasing and taxing the accommodation of the vehicles available. Boots have not been properly fitted, socks have not been aired, and commanding officers are being hauled unmercifully over the coals. Another lesson rapidly taught.

Why all this marching? Why are we not being taught to “kill or disable"? For discipline's sake. This is the greatest lesson there is to learn, and the Australian will learn it quickly, and learn to put up with difficulties cheerfully. Till he can do this, of what use would lie be in front of a determined enemy who would die with pleasure for his country?

At midday the head of the column has reached its halting place, and everybody is praying for peace for the afternoon. Not so. The light horse commander is in touch h the enemy's advanced troops and wants assistance in pushing them back. A battery of artillery gallops past, and the whole battalion which found the advanced guard has pushed oil. The general officer commanding intends to stop here yet and puts out fresh troops on outpost.

The commissariat department is getting into better working order, and teams are settling down to steady work. The force is scattered a bit and must be supplied with food and forage, necessitating more thought for the army Service Corps. The advanced troops of the enemy have been driven back, but they are reported in strength some miles further on.

With plenty of food and water behind, the general officer commanding intends to strengthen the position just forced. The engineers lay out the necessary earthworks, and parties are told off to carry them into effect. The ground is hard and hands are soft. The men clearing the foreground find the axes are blunt and the box trees hard. This is only natural. Nobody thought a new axe wanted sharpening. Where are the files? Back in camp. Oh! So the blisters come on the hands and the sweat pours off the soldiers, as can only be expected. Yet, these are duties to be taught. The work must be completed properly. Will the free and easy, don't-care-a-damn Australian stand the strain? Yes, if he has had ingrained into him the necessity for the work in all his training from his youth up.

Let us hope that the ground is soft, and that during the first few days the general officer commanding has a soft spot under his iron exterior and decides to camp for the next day to do some regimental training before going on with the work. Camp fire concerts and hot coffee - Oh! For a tot of rum - dispel the trials of the first few days. The Australian is laughing over his troubles and getting fit as fiddle-strings. The day's halt has saved the sore feet. What is on to-morrow?

The general officer commanding intends to hang on to his position. He has plenty of room to manoeuvre and a splendid place for the co-operation of all arms, especially in the counter-attack.

Orders are issued over-night and the necessary arrangements made for water, &c.; orders are given as to trains and ammunition columns; the medical arrangements for the care and evacuation of the sick and wounded are carefully thought out. The Intelligence Corps are watching events and gathering information. The brigade ammunition column is at work, and pack animals will be used in conveying ammunition from the regimental reserve. Signallers will open up communication by telephone, as well as Morse, code. The enemy will be represented by a flagged skeleton army, the arrangements having been made on the previous day. The co-operation of all arms in the defence will be practised, casualties will be marked and sent back. Any unreal situations will be stopped immediately. It must lx' more' or less a sealed pattern display to begin with. The general principles must be taught correctly at first. The enemy will be driven back, and after being pursued by the light horse, will be found to have fallen back on a strengthened position.

Another day's march and preparations made for the battle. Trains will be some miles in rear and the organization of supplies, ammunition, &c., must be complete. Ball ammunition is to be used. The engineers have prepared a system of targets, so that after each phase of the operation results may be checked and told to the troops.

The country has been selected to facilitate supporting and covering fire. Artillery will prepare the way. No perfunctory firing, however. Results must be checked and satisfactorily obtained before any advance is made by the infantry. Now real battle practices must obtain, but the country must be selected for the purpose.

Under the covering and supporting fire of their comrades the firing line advances, reserving its ammunition. Results must be checked again, and if the firing is not good enough to make the enemy "keep down their heads," the advance must not proceed. Try another battalion or two. There is plenty of time and we must not hurry.

The firing line is now within 600 yards of the objective and pressing forward. Superiority of fire must be obtained. The crisis of the training is at hand. The artillery at its own targets in rear of the enemy's trenches (for safety and instructional practices) will now be pouring in its fire over the heads of their comrades. Supporting fire by the infantry behind to assist the reinforcements to reach the firing line will, with the artillery, try the nerves of the firing line. Yet they know that no shots are being fired at them. They trust their fellows. Will the shooting be good? If not, what is the use of the training? Why spend money on an army?

As the time available for training is so limited, we must go as near to service conditions as possible. The eight days must be hard and in earnest. What does Field Service Regulations say in para. 106? "As the infantry advance to the decisive attack, every available gun will be concentrated against its objective, and artillery fire will be continued until it is impossible for the artillery to distinguish between their own and the enemy's infantry. The danger from shells bursting short is more than compensated for by the support afforded, if fire is maintained to the last moment."

The light horse are on the flanks, but it will not be possible with ball ammunition to teach the method of dealing with the enemy's counter-attack. Such matters can only be taught with blank ammunition.

The carrying of the position by assault, its strengthening when taken, and the preparation for local counter-attacks, form only a few of the many lessons to be learnt, and to the staff must be left these details.

A howl of derision may greet such proposals, but at present we are only playing soldiers. Where there are standing armies, men are used to being in masses and only feel safe in masses, and are so disciplined in drill that by orders only will they retire. As in Australia our time is limited, and the day of reckoning may come at any tune, it is essential that the troops shall feel their responsibilities to each other, recognize that they are trusting their lives to their fellows in training, and, when the training is over, the odd accident will only accentuate the supreme necessity for such training; the very risks taken will endear the arms to each other, and so will be inculcated in the hearts of our young soldiers the importance of their duties and the seeds of the responsibilities of nationhood.

The incentive for home training has entered the hearts of our soldiers. They smell blood. Notions have entered the heads of regimental and company commanders. The desire to participate in next year's exercises will stir up the recruits and make them eager to classify as good enough shots for their comrades to risk their lives with. The necessity for marching and care of arms and clothing will be born of experience, while the greatest pleasures we all have in life are on looking back over the risks we took, the hardships we successfully went through, and the thoughts of "what might have been." We have done something of which we are proud. We are doing our duty.


More lessons to be learnt yet. What has happened to the horses of the light horse regiments? One-third of those in some regiments are not fitted for the work, and have caved in under the load they have carried. Commanding officers are trying to emulate Ashby in front of Stonewall Jackson. They are right. The nation has made no provision, or the authorities have not been strict in seeing that every light horseman has a horse suitable for the work as provided for in the Regulations. Every horse fit for such work is worth from £25 to £44 per head, according to the State they are bred in. The exercises of the whole training are being hampered. Many men are losing valuable training. And the nation says, “Where will the expense cease?" Even if horses were not wanted for reconnaissance in Australia, distances are too great to do without them; nor can aeroplanes relentlessly pursue a defeated enemy. The lesson learnt here is that there are not enough suitable horses in Australia, or available in case of need, and Parliament has made no provision for the registration of, and paying for, only suitable horses. Light horse units will never be trained, and the time will never be long enough, until this matter of horseflesh is settled. Light horse cannot properly train for war in a standing camp; they must be exercised in doing certain independent work covering long distances before becoming efficient in their duties.


If an army is to be trained rapidly, it must be trained on the march. It is not necessary to march all the tune, but unless regiments and brigades are trained to move with their transport and the transport is efficient, much valuable time will be lost in preparing for war. Are not these the lessons history teaches us? We are trying to solve the problem of how to make the best use of our limited time. Money works wonders, bit does not train men. Yet, the money must be found for supplying the necessities for rapid training if the time of the people is limited for the work. The nation must be trained by experience in peace.


One does not want to read novels like "Between Two Thieves" to get an insight into the doings of army contractors during the Crimean War, and although it is hardly possible for history to repeat itself in such a diabolical way, yet the putrid and maggoty meat sent to some camps in Australia shows the necessity for the thorough training of the Army Service Corps in all its branches. Will dead meat be always available to an army? If not, why wait for war to practice the moving and slaughtering of meat when it can be done in peace? We must save time in training. Whatever system is adopted, it will cost money. We want rapid training to be ready for war. It is only a national insurance. Let us pay.

Will the bakers send their bread by rail daily in war time? One feels almost tempted to laugh at such thoughts. Hand in hand with the training of the soldier is the training of the nation. The training of the nation rapidly will be the best method of making the best use of the limited time available. All these details, with their organization and administration, form a great part of the problem to be solved.


Who can ever think of the medical services in the field without thinking of Florence Nightingale and her inauguration of the medical services in the Crimea when soldiers were dying by thousands of fever, etc.?

The training of the Army Medical Corps, above all arms, should receive the best the nation can give. Can it be done in a standing camp? No answer is needed. The officers know their professional duties, and, while there may be little to do in regard to the card of the sick, they should at least be practised in collecting and evacuating 5 per cent. of the force. Regimental medical Officers and their stretcher bearers will then have the actual practice in the field. The necessary orders for the collection of the wounded and the selection and indication of positions for dressing stations, &c., will give a practical training from the firing line to at least the clearing hospital that is absolutely necessary if the organization and administration are to be tested. Again, on the march and in the different bivouac sites, sanitation must be taught and all regulations strictly adhered to. In standing camps one gets used to a certain thing, but the daily routine on the march must also be taught to save trouble in war time.



To criticize one's own opinions is difficult. Yet it will be urged that our soldiers are not yet sufficiently trained to participate in such a training on the march has been here indicated that any semblance of danger must be prohibited, and that the cost of finding transport, &c., will be more than the nation can afford. The time for training, however, is very limited. It is the time that Parliament has ordained. No nation in the world has succeeded in training an army in such it short time. Discipline cannot be taught in short spasmodic jerks at long intervals. Without discipline the whole training is wasted. The training of the officer and the man should not be subordinated to administrative duties by the staff, and continual practice in the field under service conditions can be the only solution to the difficult problem given as a text.

Given, however, a much longer period of continuous recruit training, there the problem becomes easy to solve.

When one is imbued with the thoroughness of the Swiss military system of training its citizen militia force, which is based on universal compulsory service in peace as well as in war; when one knows that the Swiss nation has increased the time of the recruit period of continuous training from 45 to 65 days (80 for cavalry, with additional training in schools of from 30 days for non-commissioned officers, and 70 days for officers) followed by seven annual courses of eleven clear days' training; when one reads the following words of such a distinguished British officer as Lieut.-Colonel G. F. Ellison, CB., A.A.G. Army Headquarters, who saw the Swiss Army at work some years ago:-

"That it is perfect in all its details, or that it is the same highly finished instrument that the French or German Army is, I do not pretend to assert, but I do unhesitatingly affirm, and in this opinion I am supported by more competent judges than myself, that taken as a whole, it is, for war purposes, not unworthy to court comparison with the most scientifically organized and most highly trained armies of the Continent. In some respects it even surpasses all other armies in its readiness for war. and there is certainly no other country that I am aware of, a fourth of whose army is annually mobilized for manoeuvres on exactly the same scale of equipment and transport as it would be for actual warfare"; ["Swiss Military System." - Lieut.-Colonel GR Campbell]

when one knows that all the, staff and militia officers in Switzerland tried hard to get 70 days as the necessary limit for the successful training of a recruit; when one reads of the efforts of that great general and organizer, Lord Roberts, to establish a system of compulsory universal training for Great Britain, which includes a period of six months' training in the recruit year ; when one knows that under the best system of continuous training, outside the "crack" regiments of England, it took six months to train the Spectator experimental company of recruits thoroughly, and that the best instructors in the "crack" British regiments assert that they cannot train a recruit under three or four months, given the most favourable conditions; when, above all, we realize our own weaknesses, and then see before us such a Herculean task as has never been accomplished yet in the limited time we have made available, it makes one wonder whether the nation itself, through its Parliament, has grasped even a rudimentary knowledge of the first principles essential to the training of an army.

In conclusion, we may again ask, “Can the citizen forces be efficiently trained during the limited time available?”


Further Reading:

Western Australian Mounted Infantry 

10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Training by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Murray Brazier

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 13 December 2009 12:12 PM EAST
Thursday, 3 December 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse Major FA Maxwell
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse

Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse

Major FA Maxwell


Francis Aylmer Maxwell

[VC Heroes - Boer War, Card No. 67.]


One of the better leaders of Light Horse in the British Empire, Major Francis Aylmer Maxwell, VC (Sannah's Post), DSO, was seconded for a short period to the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces from the 4 March 1910. As part of his duties, he was asked to give a lecture on the issues that he considered to be the essential points on training a good Light Horseman. The essay which emerged from his lecture notes detail the indispensable knowledge with precision based on hard won experience while gently chiding those who sort to use drill as a goal rather than a means to an end. Maxwell's lecture was published under the title Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse in the Military Journal, June 1911.

Maxwell, FA, Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse, Military Journal, June 1911, pp. 214 - 221.


Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse.

The object of this lecture is to give you a few new lights on how and what to teach squadrons, and, more particularly, troops.

The first and foremost thing I want to rub in is the absolute necessity of training for war, and excluding all that is useless in war or for war. This great principle is neglected by many squadron and troop commanders. The fault lies in the failure to distinguish recruit's training from that of the trained soldier, and we constantly and far too often see the trained soldier coming to parade without his horse, paddling about on his feet at foot-drill, and going through rifle exercises. Once the Light Horseman has passed through the recruit stage, he should leave foot drill and rifle exercises, and similar elementary work, for ever, and go right on to the real business of war.

Now, passing from what not to do, let us look into what we should work at to make ourselves efficient for war, taking the shortest cuts to do so.

First of all, for regimental and squadron work, the troop needs to be handy and mobile in drill, so that, when it is thrown into squadron, it takes its place without confusion. Now, fortunately for us, as so much of our work (in the 3rd Light Horse Brigade) is in troop, the foundation of all drill and manoeuvre is the suppleness and high training of the individual troop, which should be so well trained that it follows its leader unhesitatingly and correctly, no matter what is happening, to right, left, front, or behind.

Therefore, the first business of a troop leader is to make his command as handy and obedient as a polo pony, and there is no quicker method of doing so than by literally teaching it to play " follow my leader " behind him. It is a simple form of instruction: The troop leader gets out in front of hip troop, and without command or signal wheels it all angles of the wheel at the trot and gallop with, of course, considerable advances in between to shady the ranks. He starts at a very slow jog-trot for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour before thinking of increasing the pace to a slow canter or gallop, and so settles the men down and steadies the horses (which latter soon get like slugs thinking there is nothing in it !). The men learn to watch the troop leader's every movement for, unless absolutely alert, those on the outer flank will be all over the place when a wheel is made. They easily tumble to the game, and wheel like a regular troop. After fifteen minutes I have led a light horse troop, which never saw the game before, round and round, as if round a maypole, half-a-dozen men, the pivot man walking, the flank at full gallop, and then moved straight ahead again, the troop following at a perfectly easy pace, and perfectly steady, as if it had been at the job daily for months.

If a troop can play this game moderately well, it has, in my opinion, learnt all its mounted drill, and, in addition, each man in it has learnt that he must look to his troop leader for everything always, and realizes that the troop is the unit to which, and to which only, he belongs.

Combined with the following leader exercise, rapid dismounting and mounting should be practised. Halt the troop, and give the commands, "prepare to dismount" - "dismount," almost simultaneously, and see that the men are off and the even members up in line in two ticks of your watch. Similarly order "prepare to mount" and "mount" close on top of the other, and walk on yourself, by which you will discover the slow ones, who will be seen waltzing around trying to mount, while at the same time you inculcate the principle (if "follow my leader" again, for each man mounted at once moves up behind you. If dismounting and mounting are slow - very slow at first, it uncommonly soon becomes a point of honour not to be left behind, and there is nothing like this method to get the business done. It is a matter of the first importance to mounted rifles to be able to mount and dismount quickly, but it is not realized by squadron and troop commanders in peace; in war it very soon becomes apparent, possibly too much so.

The above is about all the "drill" there is for a troop. It learns to advance by section or file in the recruit stage, and no time should be wasted on increasing or diminishing of front.

When you get troops together in squadron, start them off, individually, for at least a quarter of an hour's "follow my leader." Then bring them together, and move about in column of troops, wheeling them in and cut of line (not for the sake of forming line, but to supple them); wheel troops about, form squadron, and immediately out of it, for a squadron does not need to advance in (unextended) line.

Practise forming squadrons at any pace you like, but never at the halt, so there is no object in practising it in peace. (Later I will explain why it is necessarily for a squadron to be able to form line as a preparation for forming extended line, which is a formation of great value to mounted rifles.)

Do not bother about the formation of column, of half squadrons, unless you an think of any use for it in war. I cannot.

For the rest, practise rapid dismounting and mounting as already described as a most essential part of your "drill."

And now come to what may be termed "fighting'" or "tactical" drill, or exercises as distinct from "drill" in the ordinary sense of the term. But where proceeding with this, it is first necessary to decide what we want, and why we want it; and this short discussion of light horse fighting methods.

First of all, have we tactics of our own or are we - as infantry regiments so persistently urge - to adopt those of infantry, whose characteristics differ so much from ours? Infantry have numbers and great fire power as their assets, while our deficiencies in both are compensated for, and more than made up to us, by our magnificent possession of mobility, if we know how to use it, and use it fully.

Consider the infantry mode of attack. It aims at reaching a position within effective range of the enemy, and there building up such a volume of fire as will crush the enemy and enable the assault to be made. The advance to this fire position, and the gradual piling up of men on it, is slow and costly, but infantry have the numbers to stand the racket.

Shall light horse attack on the same lines, and hope to succeed with their comparatively small numbers? Shall they throw away their mobility, hand over their horses to Nos. 3 (further reducing strength), and transform themselves into a feeble and un-numerous infantry?

If so, why not have a number of one-horse cabs, each of which will carry five or six men to the battle-field? It would be a great deal cheaper than providing each man with a horse to do the same thing, and if infantry complained of our luxury, and if we found it necessary to change our name from light horse to heavy what matter?

Surely it seems ridiculous to suppose for a moment that our methods are the same as those of infantry. Ours should be such as will minimize our deficiencies in numbers and fire power and magnify our possession of mobility. Briefly, our tactics are to rattle at the front door and enter the back; that is, we demonstrate or pin the enemy in front, and, no matter how far we have to go, we turn his flanks and threaten his rear. If we are acting in co-operation with infantry, it may be we only turn or operate on the flanks or rear; but acting alone we shall almost invariably have to play a tune in front as well.

Infantry choose what they believe to be the weakest point in the enemy's position as the objective of their main attack, and the intervening ground may have nothing to say in the matter. They simply go ahead and reach a point beyond which, till the enemy's resistance is overcome, they cannot move, but from which, as already stated, an effective and decisive fire can be poured on him.

Now, our frontal attack is different from the above, and we should choose our ground with the double object of giving us cover behind which we dismount on arrival at it, and at least a fairly effective fire position. We may not find it opposite the weakest point of the enemy's position; but find one we must or consent to walk on our few flat feet in the probably vain hope of arriving at a position within effective range of the enemy.

Say we have found such a position as indicated. It may be, if we are lucky, a. ridge; or it may be a knoll or hill, a creek, a farm, haystacks. How are we to get there? There is only one way in war, whatever peace may teach us, and that is to gallop there in extended order, and, if the range be not too great, covered by the fire of the other portions of our force (in the case of a squadron, say two troops).

Once the frontal attack has safely arrived and has got to work, the covering fire ceases, and the other two troops begin their turning movement, the route of which has previously been thoroughly well reconnoitred.

If the flank attack comes under any part of the enemy's position during its movement, the frontal attack troops devote all their energies to that part, and so divert the attention of the enemy from the flank attack, or at least make them uncomfortable. Immediately the enemy begins to feel the effect of the turning movement, and shows signs of evacuating his position, or some part of it, then will one or both of the first two (frontal attack) troops be ready to mount and gallop to what the enemy has left, and then assist the turning movement.

Thus the whole action is a series of alternate movements, in which one body covers and the other gains ground to flank or front.

Such is my conception of light horse action, and if it is sound and preferable to the purely infantry procedure, then we must try and fit ourselves for it by drill-ground practice, which will enable us to carry out the business on these lines on the field; for it must be remembered that, owing to lack of time, it is comparatively seldom that we can work out actual schemes under which to practise our tactical conceptions.

The following, then, are, I think, some of the exercises one can deduce from the above, and which we should, on non-scheme days practise and perfect ourselves in, so that when we do get into the field we at least have all the essentials of a fight at our finger tips:-


(1) Rapid extensions from troop or squadron

Rapid extensions from troop or squadron; for we may be surprised by fire, and have to extend at a moment's notice (in the preparation for a frontal attack we should probably start from behind cover or out of range, and would extend before getting off).


(2) Long advances in extended order at a steady pace and at the fastest.

Long advances in extended order at a steady pace and at the fastest. The greater our extension and rapidity of our pace the more difficult is the target we offer to the enemy.


(3) Rapid closing on leaders in any direction and at fastest pace

Rapid closing on leaders in any direction and at fastest pace; for, on arrival at our position, whether frontal or flank, we shall have to "close" under the cover we have looked (in the case of our frontal attack) so hard to find, because, whether that cover is small or large, we have to dispose of our horses as well as have men fairly concentrated for purposes of command. (I have frequently been asked why a troop should be closed before dismounting, and the above is the answer.)


(4) Rapid dismounting

Rapid dismounting, already explained under “follow my leader practice."


(5) Disposal of horses

Disposal of horses, of which there are numerous methods:

(a) "Action," when horses are handed to Nos. 3.

(b) " Linking."

(c) Throwing the reins of one troop to one man.

(d) Tying horses to a fence.

(e) Each man holding the reins over his arm while firing in the kneeling position, or hitched round his foot if lying down.

Of the above, neither (a) nor (b) are, in my experience, often employed on service.

As already explained, mounted rifles should always look for cover behind which to dismount, which means that the horses are actually at the fire position, or very close to it. Under such circumstances, it is waste of fire power to leave

one man in four to look after them, and waste of time to link; while the latter method is actually dangerous in wet weather, for when we are in a hurry to mount in order to push on or to retire, we find all the head-ropes have been pulled so tight as to be impossible to unfasten, and life and death delay occurs.

And, therefore, practical experience in war has found other methods than the above more useful, such as (c), (d), and (e). Under (c) method, the horse holder may be the worst shot; he easily holds the dozen horses, which of themselves get in a circle round him, leaving plenty of room between each for their riders to get to them again when "mount" is given. In regard to (d), in this country, as in South Africa, fences abound, and it takes but a moment to hitch the reins to one.

Always remember this dismounting under cover. You cannot dismount in the open under fire, at, say, 800 yards or under. (How often do we see people, surprised perhaps, dismounting on absolutely open ground within even 200 yards of the enemy?)

Suppose, for example, you have chosen a couple of hay rich as the best suitable cover within good shooting distance of the enemy. You gallop towards them in extended order, “class" when near them, and dismount behind them. You cannot fire over the risks, so must get your men out to one side or to both sides, or beyond them; if there is no cover whatever, they must do without, being amply satisfied with the enormous advantage of being brought to within perhaps effective range of the enemy with few, if any, casualties. But in nearly all cases there will be found cover to, which they can crawl, and sufficient to protect them.

When it is time to go on again you double the men back to carer, mount, and gallop on a method ordinarily infinitely preferable to that of pushing on like infantry and leaving your horses further and further behind. Still, there are possible occasions when this may be necessary, and if they can be foreseen, then Nos. 3 must be left with the horses, and the latter made really mobile when led. Personally, l would chance such occasions, put every rifle I could in the firing line, and, getting my men back to the horses close by, ride them on rather than have them led on. When it is a case of retiring, men running back to the horses (to mount under cover) offer a far smaller target than a mob of horses being led out into the open to be mounted. And not the least consideration in all this is the moral effect on the men of having horses in close proximity to them.

The last method (e) also requires explanation, because it is unorthodox as not being in the manual. It is particularly valuable when following up an enemy in retreat, and we have to travel after him at a great pace, and, when near him, dismount, and, without a moment's loss of time (i.e., loss of range), pour fire in on him, then, remounting, repeat the performance. Also, it is of the greatest possible value in fighting a rearguard action pressed by a vigorous enemy over open country offering no features as successive positions. The hottest thing of my small experience was fought under this method over a distance of 3 miles. There was not time to hand over horses to anybody, but each man of a unit dismounted, slung the reins over an arm, dropped on his knee, and opened fire the moment the unit or units nearest the enemy had cleared the front, and continued to do so until the latter had passed through and were dismounted in rear, when up he got and cleared with his unit in rear of them again.

If we can learn anything from the Boers, it is that they never, to the best of our knowledge, had horse-holders, at any rate, in the proportion of 1 to 4.


6. Protective measures when Dismounted.

When dismounted, throw out scouts always and without fail. Do so even on the drill-ground to flank, flanks, or rear. The manual speaks only of the serrefile N.C.O. keeping up communication between led horses and dismounted men, which I cannot help thinking is a waste of material, for Nos. 3 can well do this themselves. Nothing is said about protection of men and horses from surprise, particularly by cavalry, who, if they can stampede your horses, reduce light horse to a very helpless body of men. There are many ways by which they will try to do this, some of which I would like to instance, but space forbids.

Have, therefore, a man in every troop told off as a permanent scout, who, when the troop dismounts for fire action, remains mounted and receives instructions from his commander as to which direction he is to scout, and to what distance. Often two scouts may be necessary.

As already said, never omit this precaution even chi the drill ground. Send your scout to flank or rear even if working in an acre paddock, so that it becomes an instinct. Your serrefile will do all right, for the better the men the better will this most important business be carried out. (The object of the permanent scout remaining mounted is to remind the leader of his existence and the necessity of it.)


7. Fire Discipline.

We must pay the greatest attention to this, the elder brother of all good shooting, and without which shooting loses half its value.

As an arm, we are very weak in this all-important matter. Infantry more fully recognise Fire Discipline, which includes more than the words appear to mean, as the great factor of their work. It embraces among other things:-

(a) The choice of target and its indication.

(b) Estimation of range.

(c) Choice of fire, rapid or slow, continuous or in bursts.

(d) Control over expenditure of ammunition and its replenishment.

(e) Absolute, rigid control over the unit, and instant obedience by all ranks to the commander's orders.

The indication of target clearly, quickly, and in as few words as possible is not easy by any means, and requires much practice. If badly indicated, men will be firing at all sorts of things, and not “following my leader" in the true sense of the word.

Time prevents even a short discussion of the whole of this important subject, but one thing I want to remind you of very particularly, and that is the use of the whistle. We all, of course, know the long drawn-out blast of the "Cease Fire," but what about the short sharp blast we hear so often when mounted, and which calls our attention to a signal about to be made? It is just as useful for the same purpose of attracting our attention when dismounted, and should be in constant use in order to get that perfect control over fire which is so absolutely essential.

As this short whistle blast is a novelty to some, let me explain its use by an example or two.

Your troop (say) is firing at infantry at 700 yards, when another party opens fire on you from another direction. You wish to switch the fire of half your, men on to this lot. Blow a short blast, on which every man of your troop stops firing on the instant, and waits with ears pricked for the new command. You give it - Nos. 1 and 2 sections continue as before; Nos. 3 and 4 at the infantry half left near farm house 800 yards (or you may leave the range to senior section commander). Nothing further, and all will begin firing again without any other command.

In practising this, be sure to see that not a rifle goes off after the "attention" whistle sounds, and drop like a cart-load of lead on any man that lets his off.

Blank ammunition is generally issued, therefore take it out to every Parade - lots of it. It adds reality and interest, and where there is the latter there is a day out for efficiency. In the above business of fire discipline and the use of the short whistle you can check the men disobedient to it, which you would not be able to do without blank, as the click of a released spring is often inaudible. Constantly check, or get a serrefile to check, the sights and see if the men are all firing at the target you have named. Allow no slip-shodness.

If you order rapid fire see that you get it, and not less than ten rounds a minute at that. Do not by any means always give the order to "unload" after “cease fire." (I notice that numbers of men unload after only being given the command "cease fire" - which is quite incorrect.) "Cease fire" simply means "stop firing and raise your safety catch." You may have more business on hand further ahead - possibly further back - and if so you will open fire so much the quicker if you are not unloaded.

Briefly to recapitulate:-

(a) We learn “drill" and rapid dismounting, and mounting in the “follow my leader” practice; and

(b) We learn what may be called “fighting” or “tactical” exercises by practising the following extensions:-

Advances in extended line.

Closing from extended line.

Dismounting, and disposal of horses in various ways.

Scouting while dismounted.

Fire discipline.

Finally, anything we do must, if we are to preserve and encourage the true spirit of light horse, be full of jump and dash.



Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Notes on Squadron training for Light Horse Major FA Maxwell

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 12 December 2009 7:57 AM EAST

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A note on copyright

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre is a not for profit and non profit group whose sole aim is to write the early history of the Australian Light Horse from 1900 - 1920. It is privately funded and the information is provided by the individuals within the group and while permission for the use of the material has been given for this site for these items by various donors, the residual and actual copyright for these items, should there be any, resides exclusively with the donors. The information on this site is freely available for private research use only and if used as such, should be appropriately acknowledged. To assist in this process, each item has a citation attached at the bottom for referencing purposes.

Please Note: No express or implied permission is given for commercial use of the information contained within this site.

A note to copyright holders

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

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