Monday, 21 April 2014

Military Forces in Australia before Federation

British soldiers were among the first European settlers in Australia as they were needed to guard the convicts transported first to New South Wales and then to Tasmania. However, being a British colony, when Britain was at war with another country, particularly the French, it was  considered additional security might be required and voluntary forces were formed. The Year Book of Australia 1909 contained an article entitled the 'Military System in Australia Prior to Federation'. The article is available online on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

The Napoleonic Wars were the first overseas events to impact upon events in the colony. In 1801 a corps of volunteers known as the Loyal Association was formed in New South Wales in case of invasion by the French.. When news of the outbreak of war with France reached the Colony in 1808 the Governor called a muster to raise a defence force. Many of the settlers also organised their own protection. When Thomas Birch, for example, built his large brick house in Hobart in 1815 he mounted a canon on the roof in case of foreign invasion.

The next major international concern was in 1854 when England was at war with Russia - the Crimean War. Before Federation, each state was responsible for its own defence.  In New South Wales the 1st Regiment of New South Rifles was established in Sydney initially consisting of one troop of cavalry, one battery of artillery and six companies of foot soldiers. In Victoria the Melbourne Volunteer Rifle Regiment (later the Victorian Volunteer Rifle Regiment) was formed with 2,000 men.

In New South Wales, once the threat of war was over the regiment barely existed but in 1860 a second expanded force of volunteers was established consisting of one troop of mounted rifles, three batteries of artillery plus twenty companies of infantry - a total of 1700 men. The Volunteer Regulation Act of 18687 reorganised the structure of the forces and also offered incentives such as a grant of 50 acres of land for five years 'efficient service'.  In 1874 the land grants were abolished but were replaced a system of part payment. Additional artillery batteries and other forces were introduced including the Engineer Corps and torpedo and signalling corps. The New South Wales Lancers, a cavalry regiment, was raised in 1885 as a volunteer reserve corps until they were merged into a partially paid Light Horse troop three years later. The uniforms and weapons were supplied by the government but the men provided their own horses. Another unit, the Mounted Rifles, was also part of the Light Horse. Over the years companies were formed, merged or disbanded until 1892 when the 1st, 2nd. 3rd and 4th Regiments were extended from eight to ten companies. A number of civilian rifle clubs had also been formed at this time. By 1894 it was the custom for senior cadets from public schools to be absorbed into the regiments. Organisation of the forces improved and by 1895 an Army Service Corps, an Ordinance Store Corps and a Veterinary department was added.

From the mid 1890s volunteers were again encouraged with the formation of the Scottish Rifles, Irish Rifles, St George's Rifles and Australian Rifles. The Defence Forces continued to grow with the establishment of the First Australian Volunteer Horse in 1897 and the Railway Volunteer Corps (1897 - 1899) and the National Guard (consisting of older men and former servicemen) in 1899. Volunteer companies continued to form including, in 1900, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, Civil Service Corps and Drummoyne Volunteer Company. An Army Nursing Service Reserve was also established.

In New South Wales by the end of 1900 the military consisted of 505 officers and 8833 men. There was also a reserve with 130 officers and 1908 men plus 1906 members of civilian rifle clubs.

Military establishments also developed in the other states.

By the end of 1900 in Victoria the forces consisted of 301 officers and 6034 men, in Queensland the military forces totalled 4028 men, in South Australia there were 135 officers and 2797 men, in Western Australia there were 135 officers and 2561 men while in Tasmania there were 113 officers and 1911 men.

The Year Book Australia 1909 article provides detailed tables showing the numbers of military personnel for each state and the types of units including permanent, partially paid and volunteer in 1908.

The military forces were not just established to protect the colony from attack. An infantry battalion of 522 men and 24 officers plus an artillery battery of 212 men left Sydney on 3 March 1885 to fight in the Sudan under the command of the British.

Colonies, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, also sent troops to assist British forces in China during the Boxer Rebellion and to South Africa - the Boer War.

The Internet has a number of introductory articles on the topic. A sample of sites is listed below.
General articles:
Colonial Forces of Australia -
Military System in Australia Prior to Federation - online edition
Digger History -
History of Australia's Artillery -
Australian War Memorial website has a number of sections covering:
Colonial Period 1788-1901 -
Sudan (New South Wales Contingent) 1885 -
Australia and the Boer War 1889-1902 -
China (Boxer Rebellion) 1900-1901 -
Victorian Military History:
Victorian Volunteer Forces 1854 to 1884 - Museum Victoria
Victoria's Volunteers - Defending Victoria website
Colonial Defence Records held in Melbourne - National Archives fact sheet
Colonial forces and militia - State Library of Victoria research guide
Australian colonial forces and family history - State Library of Victoria research guide
Armed forces VF 372 -   Public Record Office Victoria
The early muzzle loaders in the Victorian Volunteer Forces -
Military History and Heritage Victoria -
Victorian Volunteer Force on the Central Victorian Goldfields 1853-1883 - thesis by Bob Marmion
Victorian Volunteer Forces Long and Efficient Service medal 1880 - Museum Victoria
Melbourne Volunteer Rifle Regiment - History
Victorian Mounted Rifles - Traralgon Historical Society
Victorian Colonial and Pre WWI badges - Digger History

A number of books have been written covering on the military in Australia prior to Federation.
A search in the State Library of Victoria catalogue for Colonial Forces or Volunteer Forces or Military service, Voluntary for example provides information about  books, records on microfiche, photographs and online resources on the topic. Similar searches in the catalogues of the other state libraries and the National Library of Australia would also provide useful information.
Books have also been written concentrating on one locality. One title is The Shire of Lilydale and its Military Heritage by Anthony J McAleer published in 1994.

Also check public library catalogues for relevant items. The search for the words Colonial Military Forces in a public library catalogue located the following titles:
A Military History of Australia by Jeffrey Grey (3rd ed. 2008)
An Atlas of Australia's Wars by John Coates (2006)
The Diggers: Makers of Australian Military Tradition (1993)
The Colonial Volunteers: the Defence Forces of the Australian Colonies 1836 - 1901 (1988)
The Remote Garrison: the British Army in Australia 1788-1870 (1986)
Red Coat Dreaming: How Colonial Australia Embraced the British Army (2009)
Australian Military History for Dummies (2010)

Newspapers are perhaps the most valuable resource for locating information on early Australian military history, particularly as it affects a local area. Increasingly local newspapers, as well as the larger state and national newspapers, are being digitised and made available through Trove. Use the Advanced Search option to limit the search to a particular newspaper or time frame. If the local newspaper in your area has not yet been digitised it may be available on microfiche or even hard copy at the historical society for the area. The State Library of Victoria has copies of newspapers published throughout Victoria. Check the catalogue for availability. It may be necessary to order copies in advanced as much of the newspaper collection is in storage, offsite.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Crimean War - Thomas Bruce Hutton

Family history is one way to explore and help to understand military events.

Thomas Bruce Hutton (1834-1914) was born in India where his father was a captain in the British army serving in India until 1841. The family then returned to Scotland and Thomas was listed in the 1851 Scittish Census as a scholar living in Lanarkshire. He became a professional soldier and served in the British Army from his enlistment in 1855 aged 20 to his resignation from the service in 1872 aged 38. During that time he served with the 21st (Royal Scots) Fusiliers, the 61st (South Gloucester) Regiment of Foot and the 100th (Prince of Wales Royal Canadian) Regiment of Foot. Deployments were to the Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, Canada, West Indies and West Africa as well as time spent at Aldershot in England training soldiers.

Thomas Bruce Huttton enlisted as an ensign in the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers on10 January 1855 when he was 20. By July 1855 he was a lieutenant and on his way to the Crimean War (1853-1856). His first involvement was at the Siege of Sevastopol which took place from 25 September 1854 to 8 September 1855. Thomas would have arrived towards the end of the siege and during the final battle for Sevastopol on 8 September the regiment was in reserve and not involved in the actual battle.

With four other regiments from the Fourth Division the Fusiliers then took part in the bombardment of Kinburn on 7 October. The regiment then returned to the Crimea until the end of May 1856. From there they went to Malta before serving in the West Indies. For his services in the Crimea, Thomas received a medal and clasp from the Queen, and also a Turkish medal.

 Details of Thomas' military history were listed in an article in the Argus on Saturday 11 February 1882 when Colonel Hutton was invited by the Government to take temporary command of the volunteer forces in Victoria. Information about military units can often be found on line. In this case

History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers  is a book by Buchan available online and there is a Wikipedia article on the 100th (Prince of Wales) Regiment of Foot.

The Crimea Medal was a campaign medal of the British Forces awarded for taking part in campaigns against the Russians on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding area from 28th March 1854 to 30th March 1856. Clasp-Sebastopol.
 He was also awarded the Turkish Crimea Medal. The Sultan of Turkey awarded the medal to allied military personnel involved in the Crimean War.
Both of these images were found via a Google search the website, Forces War Records also has images of a number of British medals from various campaigns. They also have brief records relating to British soldiers who have fought in various wars including the Crimean War. This is a paid site and when I took out a one month subscription I found a little information. Like most databases additional records are constantly being added.

Crimean War - locating information

Recent developments with Russia annexing the Crimean Peninsula from the Ukraine has raised interest in the dispute in the area in the mid nineteenth century.

The Crimean War (October 1853-February1856) was fought between the Russians and an unlikely partnership consisting primarily of British, French and Ottoman (Turkish) armies. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and the Russians wanted access to Ottoman territories, particularly to gain  access to the Mediterranean Sea. The British and the French did not want Russia to move into this area especially if it resulted in a risk to shipping through the Mediterranean. There were also disputes about access to religious sites in the area. Most of the battles were fought on the Crimean Peninsula. Major battles and sieges included Sevastopol, Balaklava and Inkerman. The icy winters played a crucial part in the sieges with all the armies suffering from the extreme cold. Major military tactical blunders on both sides were also prevalent during the campaigns in the Crimea. The end of the Siege at Sevastopol on the 8th September 1855 was one such example with the French taking the Malakhov which was their target but the British failing to take the Redan. Some of the British soldiers did succeed in scaling the fortifications but most remained outside refusing to enter, therefore providing no support to those who had breached the walls. Although the Russians later evacuated the city and the Russian naval base at Sevastopol was destroyed, the victory of the French further compounded the embarrassment of the British defeat. The war finally came to an end after the Austrians told the Russians that they would enter the war on the side of the Allies if Russia did not accept an ultimatum by 18 January 1856. Points included freedom for ships of all nations to sail on the Danube and the Black Sea, plus Russia relinquishing the protectorate of Wallachia, Moldavia and Serbia and also over the Orthodox population of the Turkish Empire. Other issues could be raised at a Peace Conference. At the end of the war all parties had suffered severe casualties for only marginal changes to the situation before the war.

The Crimean War was noted for the use of new techniques in warfare including the use of railway and the electric telegraph. Florence Nightingale gained prominence during this period with changes introduced in the treatment of British wounded soldiers. The events of the war were also documented extensively with written reports in newspapers and photographs and other illustrations keeping the public aware of developments.

A number of websites provide a summary of events during the Crimean War. A selection includes:
The National Archives (UK) provides a summary of the events leading up to and during the fighting. The site also contains copies of maps and documents relating to the events.

The Economist (March 18, 2014) provided a summary of events leading to the war while on 24 March 2014 it published an article originally written on 25 March 1854 about the possibilities of war with Russia.

BBC History has an article by Andrew Lambert about the Crimean War.

Many books have been written on the topic. Two books that may currently be available in public libraries are:
Fletcher, Ian and Natalia Ishchinko. (2008) War in the Crimea: an illustrated history
Kerr, Paul et al. (1997) The Crimean War
It is probable that additional material will be available as recent events have probably renewed interest in events that occurred 160 years ago.

As noted earlier, British newspapers carried regular reports about what was happening. Many of these newspapers have now been digitised and can be searched online via databases such as The Times Digital Archive (1785-1985), Nineteenth Century British Newspapers and The British Newspaper Archives. Many libraries subscribe to these databases making the information available to their members.

Trove which includes digitised Australian newspapers is another place to search. Using the advanced search and the term Crimean War limited by the years 1853 to 1856 provided 118 articles. Searching for articles including the term Crimea includes thousands more If interested in a particular battle type the name of the battle - Sevastopol for example - for articles restricted to that topic.

The National Archives UK contains records relating to the Crimean War. It is best to begin with the information sheet explaining what is available in the archive and elsewhere and how to locate the records.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Vermont Volunteers


To the long list on Vermont's honor roll are to be added the names of three more volunteers-Messrs. Anderson, Hall and Wallace, who are leaving to join their comrades at the front. Prior to their departure, presentations were made as under:-- F. Anderson, whose younger brother was killed at Lonesome Pine, a silver mounted wallet and fountain pen; W. Hall, son of Ex-Cr. Hall, a wristlet watch and a fountain pen; Chas. Wallace, a wristlet watch, bearing a suitable inscription. To each of the above was handed a letter in the following terms:- "Dear Sir,--On the eve of your departure for the front we desire your acceptance of the accompanying gift as a slight token of our esteem and in appreciation of your action in volunteering to fight for your empire. Australians who have gone before you have won renown and imperishable fame by their brave deeds at Gallipoli. We have every confidence that you will do your utmost to uphold the honor of Australia by your conduct both on and off the battlefields. In conclusion, we sincerely wish you a safe journey, a speedy victory, and a happy return to your native land.-- For and on behalf of your friends at Vermont, J. A. Fitzmaurice, hon.sec. presentation committee, July, 1916)."

Reporter 4 August 1916

Arbor Day at Vermont


Arbor day was celebrated at Vermont on Friday, July 12, by planting memorial trees for the past scholars of the school who had enlisted for active service. About half-past one o'clock the school children were formed in line,-and headed by a standard bearer each for boys and girls, were marched to the recreation reserve, where the trees were to be planted. The National Anthem having been sung, the head teacher (Mr. Bourke) explained the object of the gathering, and stated that he would like to see a fitting monument placed near the school in honor of the lads who had paid the supreme sacrifice. The children, under the direction of Miss Mills (the lady assistant) sang "For England." Stirring addresses were delivered by Cr. Fankhauser (president of the school committee), Cr. Hatfield (president of Nunawading shire), Mr. F. Groves, M.L.A., Mr. W. F. Gates (assistant chief inspector of schools), Capt. Turnbull (a returned soldier, who has taken up residence at Vermont), and Cr. Tilson. Cr. Tainton read out the names of those who had fallen in action, also the reminder of those who had enlisted. The children then sang "For those at the front," and after saluting the flag, the work of planting the trees began in earnest. Mr. Anderson planted a pinus insignis for his son, who lost his life on Lonesome Pine. The remainder of the trees were of the silver oak species. A vote of thanks to the visitors, proposed by Mr. Bourke. and responded to by Mr. Groves, M.LA., terminated the proceedings. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed throughout. Mrs. H. M. Farmilo was secretary, and had all arrangements completed in her usual efficient manner. The trees, while acting as a memorial to the soldiers who have given their lives for their country or who are fighting her battles abroad, will also help to beautify the recreation reserve.

Reporter 19 July 1918

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Roy Anderson

An article appeared in the Nunnawading Gazette, 14 July 1982 on pages 1,2 and 3 entitled, 'Recluse turns down $1/2 m.'. It was written about Roy Anderson, aged 72, who still lived on the land on which he was born. Roy had turned down an offer to purchase his land. The article by Frank Palmos, provides information not only about Roy but also some information about his family and their life in the Vermont.
View of last 10 acres - 1982
The Andersons had at one time owned around 60 acres of land but this was subdivided into blocks, some of which were sold. In the 1930s they still owned several blocks averaging 10 to 12 acres. In 1982 Roy owned 10 acres with developments on either side. A description of the farming of the Anderson family property is provided on page 2 of the article.

Roy was trained as a blacksmith, with his father. Together they cleared the land with Clydesdales and chains to rip out the stumps, then used a stump-jump plough to finish the job.

Between the two great wars the Andersons grew flowers, using blackberry hedges as windbreaks and land markers.

"Never did put fences up. We grew the most beautiful flowers and supplied many markets. All that's left now is the blackberry hedge. You know you can't grow flowers near paling fences, don't you? Blackberries let the gentle breezes through yet protect them from strong winds," he said.

Roy's only other friends have long gone. He trained and raced greyhounds 50 years ago, but speaks of his champion Joylad (a winner at White City and Gracedale Park) as though it was yesterday. 

"I had to get rid of them. People were always stealing them." Little wonder with no fences.

A row of giant pine and cypress trees form a northern boundary. There is a disused fowl shed, some ancient ploughs and five rusting cars - all from a forgotten era when Vauxhalls and Hillmans and old V8 utes were supreme.
Roy Anderson's house 1982
Roy Anderson lived in a fibro shack, had no gas or electricity or telephone and cooked on an open fire. He grew his own vegetables and obtained any other supplies from a shop in Hanover Road. He had never married. Roy's land was on a hillside overlooking Burwood Highway.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ships used to transport troops

The Australian War Memorial website contains information about researching First World War troopships.

Australian troopships were known as His Majesty's Australian Transport Ships (HMAT)
The Commonwealth Government leased ships for the purpose of transporting the troops overseas. Each ship leased was provided with a number beginning with A. The ships were usually British or captured German ships and were converted for carrying troops and supplies.

The website - Desert Column - lists the ships used and provides photographs and general information.

Arthur Anderson embarked from Melbourne on the HMAT A18 Wiltshire. The ship 'weighed 10,390 tons with an average cruise speed of 13.5 knots or 25.00 kmph. It was owned by the Commonwealth & Dominion Line Ltd, London, and leased by the Commonwealth until 2 October 1917.'
Arthur embarked on the ship on 13 March 1915 and sailed to Alexandria, Egypt.

David Anderson embarked from Melbourne on the HMAT A23 Suffolk. The ship 'weighed 7573 tons with an average cruise speed of 12 knots or 22.22 kmph. It was owned by the Potter, Trinder and Gwyn, London, and leased by the Commonwealth until 14 June 1917.'
David emarked on the ship on 1 April 1916 and sailed to Alexandria, Egypt.
He travelled to Plymouth, England aboard the HMT Briton leaving Alexandria on 29 May 1916.
Britain also hired ships to transport troops. The ships were referred to ad Hired Military Transport (HMT).

Frederick Anderson embarked from Melbourne on the HMAT A10 Karoo. The ship 'weighed 6,127 tons with an average cruise speed of 12 knots or 22.22 kmph. It was owned by the Ellerman & Bucknall SS Co Ltd, London, and leased by the Commonwealth until 3 January 1917.'
Frederick embarked on the ship on 18 September 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth, England.

 Return journey
 David Anderson embarked for Melbourne on the HMT Main on 11 October 1919

Frederick Anderson embarked for Melbourne aboard the SS Chemnitz 7 July 1919 arriving on 5 September 1919.
SS Chemnitz -