14th May 2022

South Australian Volunteers and Militia: part 1

Looking for information on colonial militia  I came across this advertisment for Lincoln, Stuart & Co.

North Melbourne Advertiser (Vic), 19th June 1885 page 1.

It states that “We are the only Government Contractors for the supply of Cadet Uniforms to the schools of Victoria, price 30s. No other firm is authorised to make them. Contractors for the supply of Military Clothing to the Governments of N. S. Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Militia Uniforms. Volunteer Uniforms. Firemen’s Uniforms. Band Uniforms. Makers of the Uniforms for the Sydney Contingent in the Soudan.” Therefore, it is a backmark to look out for on uniforms supplied after 1882 (when the name changed from McIvor & Lincoln).

The terms ‘militia’ and ‘volunteer’ can be confusing, especially when they were used interchangeably or in tandem.  However, usually in Australia the term militia refers to part time soldiers, either volunteer or conscripted who received payment (however meager) for their services, whereas volunteers did not. Historically, both often had to pay for their uniforms, arms, horses, etc, which was quite a burden. This was one of the reasons that ‘gentlemen’ (i.e. men of means) made up most of the volunteers. It is also a reason that forces would fade away; lack of government support undermined the soldiers’ enthusiasm. The following  South Australian article illustrates the financial burdens, as well as by the very term “Volunteer Militia”, the confusion regarding terminology.

Adelaide Chronicle and South Australian Advertiser, 3rd March 1840 page 3.

Even when governments were willing in theory to support volunteers, in practice they could not afford to do so, or not at least adequately. Often, even if weapons were supplied, they may arrived late, been obsolete or without ammunition.

To be continued.

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