21st April 2021

 New South Wales Marines

The first troops sent to Australia were the New South Wales Marines, established in England as a volunteer unit of the British Royal Navy in 1786. They guarded the convicts on the First Fleet from May 1787 to January 1788 then provided law and order enforcement as well as defence at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. Inducements to volunteer for this unpopular assignment included a 2 guinea payment and the option of discharge after 3 years duty in the colony. Some historians describe them as honorable and hard working, who along with the convicts suffered hardship and privation. However, a  Wikipedia entry claims “The marines had a habit of getting drunk and not guarding the convicts properly, whilst their commander, Major Robert Ross drove (Captain Arthur) Phillip to despair with his arrogant and lazy attitude.”

Image thanks to Vanessa Pike Russell https://www.flickr.com/photos/25056484@N00/1240349386

Their uniform consisted of red, long-tailed doublet with white trousers, black headdress,shoes and garters. The buttons were  standard “Fouled Anchor” of the Royal Marines. Unfortunately, Royal Marine buttons have been varied both over time and between manufacturers.

From the Royal Museums Greenwich collection. Fouled Anchor button on 1774 uniform.

From the Royal Museums Greenwich collection. This is a button on a uniform dating from November 1787. The NSW Marine Corps had already sailed, so may have sported the other button.














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