10th November 2020

British Regiments Serving in  Colonial Australia

Note that many British regiments have long histories, and that not all buttons of these regiments will be contemporary with the time of service in Australia.

NSW Marine Corps

This was raised by the British Navy in 1786 to guard convicts aboard the First Fleet, and to defend and  keep order in the new colony where they served from 1788 until 1792. Some remained in Australia as settlers.

The marine uniform of the time consisted of a white shirt, waistcoat and trousers, black canvas or wool gaiters with pewter buttons, brick red swallow tailed coat with white cuffs and collar (known as facings), black leather or felt `stock’ around the neck and black bicorn hat with an extended front.

NSW LIbrary portrait of Captain Watkin Tench of the NSW Marine Corps dated 1787.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 24th July 1954 page 8.


NSW Corps (102nd Regiment of Foot)

This regiment was formed in England in 1789 as the NSW Regiment to relieve the NSW Marine Corps, who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia.  It was in turn relieved by the 73rd Regiment in 1810 and disbanded in 1818. They were later known as the ‘Rum Corps’ due to their involvement in the ‘Rum rebellion’. The officers involved were all returned to England in disgrace for their involvement in the mutiny against Governor Bligh.

State Library NSW file no. FL3203677. The arrest of Governor Bligh in 1808 by the NSW Corps. The jackets were of bright scarlet cloth with mustard yellow facings and brass buttons. The white cross belt was worn with the regimental insignia. They had white linen shirts and black neckcloths.

From the portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson., officer in the NSW Corps. The insignia can be made out on the belt.


73rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Highlanders)

Thanks to Noble Numismatics. Note that the 73rd does not feature in Cossum’s book. This may not be the button worn to Australia.

The Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser, 19th January 1910 page 34.

The Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, 31st December 1809 page 2.

From 1786 until 1809 it was known as the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot, which would explain the thistle on the button. They lost Highland status around the time of the start of the journey to Sydney.  They were to take over from the 102nd (NSW) Corps, who had been involved in the Rum rebellion leading to the deposing of Governor Bligh.

Arriving in the Harbour on the 28th December, the 1st Battalion of the 73rd Regiment landed in Sydney on the 1st January 1810 with Governor and Lady Macquarie. (Note a detachment had arrived on an earlier ship in August 1809.) It relieved in 102nd Regiment (NSW Corps) but some of these men were drafted into the 73rd. They are remembered for clearing land at what is now Hyde Park for the first horse racing course in Australia, and running the first race in October 1810!  They also built new roads. Their tour of duty ended in 1814 then they left for Ceylon.

For a replica of their uniform, see  https://www.flickr.com/photos/94809589@N04/37314893524

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