22nd October 2020

Defence Forces of New South Wales – Part 1, 1854-1869


1st Regiment of  New South Wales Rifles

Australian War Memorial. No makers mark. 1854-1859

See  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C245922

Apart from short lived volunteer associations in 1804-9 that helped quell the Irish convict rebellion, this was the first government enacted Volunteer Force, developed in 1854. It was intended to be used in case of internal insurrection or foreign invasion, as the size of the British garrisons were limited. It  included a cavalry in a scarlet uniform, artillery in blue and infantry in dark green. The first infantry was briefly known as the Sydney Volunteer Rifles. The original uniform consisted of a dark green frock coat and trousers with black velvet facings and shoulder straps, a forage cap, with the numeral 1 and a bugle as a badge. It performed guard duty at the Sydney mint, and occasional ceremonial duties.

In the beginning, the quality of the officers was a problem as some had no previous military experience. Later, examinations were required to be an officer. Inadequate drill attendance, absconding and resignations were also a problem. Uniforms were not supplied by the government, and could be expensive. As also happened in England, this forced some volunteers to leave when their uniform wore out, and prevented others from volunteering in the first place. When the perceived Russian threat passed in 1856, the legislature declined to vote for funds for the Volunteers.

In 1859 the volunteer Force was considered a failure, “moribund but not dead”. In 1860, a resurgence of interest (in light of the Maori Wars) lead to the formation of new corps. The NSW Rifles were amalgamated with this new corps, the NSW Volunteer Rifle Corps.

New South Wales Volunteer Rifles, around 1863. From the Caroline Simpson Library (Sydney Living Museums) #43015



See Cossum page 5.


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