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I was prompted to start this thread by Brett's thread on the S.A. Navy and its origins. I am no authority on Australian Colonial Forces but thought that I could at least initiate the subject's discussion and for others more knowledgeable to follow.

When Australia was settled in 1788 by the British, units of the Regular British Army provided a garrison and performed such duties as guarding convicts, maintaining civil law and order and providing protection from foreign interference. The posting was not popular with the troops because of the inherent boredom, the climate and the sheer distance from their homes and fellow regiments.

The British Government, always with an eye to costs, soon began to pressure the various Colonial Governments to raise Volunteer forces which would assume responsibility for their own defence. These forces were raised in 1854 in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. They were followed by Volunteer forces in Tasmania 1859, Queensland in 1860 and Western Australia in 1861.

Volunteer forces generally fashioned themselves on British Army lines. Some of these men saw service in the British Army during the Maori Wars, and in 1885 a contingent from New South Wales went to the Sudan. In 1870 the British Regulars left Australia and the Volunteers were supported by permanent forces, but in the mid 1880s permanent Militia forces were formed which received payment for service. In 1901, with Federation, control of all Australian forces passed to the Commonwealth of Australia.

Uniforms were closely modelled on their British counterparts with Hussars, Lancers, Horse Artillery and infantry resplendent in scarlet or blue tunics and trousers of blue, brown, gray and rifle green. Headgear included Busbies, plumed helmets, British Home Service helmets, white Colonial pattern helmets with and without puggarees and with helmet plates. It is interesting to note that these white Colonial helmets had both the spike and dome fitting and spike with the Home Service helmet crosspiece depending on the regiment.

Stuart

Here is a photo of the Adelaide Lancers and note the hogspear spike to the helmets.

Edited by Stuart Bates

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Stuart

Thank you for starting this thread and I hope there will be many contributions to it.

It was interesting to read of the parallels between the Australian States and the Colonies in South Africa (Cape & Natal). Being parts of the British Empire, it is obvious that there would be similarities, but I had not thought about it until now. I am aware of the fact that Australian military history is exceptionally well documented, while Australians have also contributed to recording South African history, especially the Boer War. This may in part be due to the fact that there are so many ex-South Africans now living in Australia, but also because Australians played a significant role in the Boer War itself. Also, in the latter half of the 19th Century many Australians came to South Africa in search of diamonds and gold. Some returned, but others stayed, so the links between Australia and South Africa were fairly strong at that time.

One of the Australians who stayed for a number of years and who served in the Boer War was Major Karri Davies of the Imperial Light Horse, a unit in which I have a particular interest. Karri Davies was from a prominent family in Western Australia and he left his mark on the history of the Transvaal in the 1890's. There is a great deal about him and his family in Western Australian archives. I have been trying to get an ex-colleague to write a biography of this remarkable man. (By the way, my ex-colleague is Borneo-born Australian, who spent most of her adult life in South Africa, but who has now settled in Perth.)

Regards

Brett

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Brett,

perhaps you could get your colleague to provide a precis of Major Karri Davies' service. It surely belongs on this thread.

One thing that I am not going to do is scan every page of the book I mentioned above. I don't think that would be right.

Cheers,

Stuart

Edited by Stuart Bates

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Hi - Stuart. You have started a splendid new Post - and one that , hopefully, will be added to by other members with an interest in Australia.

Brett's recent post should also attract a lot of interest - particularly with his medal links.

I am going to see if Brian agrees with me that your post will be better on the Australian section - below this one. Nick added two new Forums to allow members to go directly into their particular interest.

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The first volunteer units in Australia were the Loyal Associations of Sydney & Parramatta. They were formed due to fear of a French invasion and the possibility of a revolt by Irish convicts. They wore whatever they had or received from the NSW Corps and only lasted a couple of years. There were various attempts to raise other corps over the next 40-odd years but to no avail. There was a militia in South Australia, but its said this had more officers than men. Then fear of an expansionist Russia led to the formation of a number of corps in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

The colonial forces in Australia waxed and waned as fear and apathy caused the number of volunteers to rise and fall. By federation each colony had a reasonable force that included permanent artillery supported by militia cavalry and infantry. Their uniforms were very distinctive along with their name and role in some cases, like the NSW Railway Volunteer Rifles, the Victorian Railways Volunteer Rifles, St George's English Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the highlanders in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. And then you have Lancers in NSW and South Australia, Mounted Rifles in all colonies.

Some small illustrations of their uniforms can be seen at www.uniformsotw.com/products.htm

The CDs include brief histories of the forces, badges, and in some cases dress regulations.

Attached is an illustration of an officer of the St George's English VR from the mid 1890s, hope you enjoy it

Sean

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Seanus,

thanks for the informative post. As I said earlier I am no authority on pre-fed Australian Forces but wanted to prompt more knowledgeable people to contribute.

Cheers,

Stuart

BTW: welcome to GMIC

Edited by Stuart Bates

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