5th August 2021

Melbourne Cavalry Corps

A set of  Victorian Military Forces buttons marked ‘H.W. Martin London’ has set me off on journey…

The Australian War Memorial has a “Trooper’s full dress tunic  Melbourne Cavalry Corps, Victorian Mounted Rifles” c.1901, complete with brass Victorian Military Forces buttons of the 1880-1893 period bearing the ‘AUT PACE AUT BELLO’ motto and made by ‘H.W MARTIN LONDON’, which had me wondering why a 1901 uniform would bear buttons 10 years out of date?

I searched in Trove for ” Melbourne Cavalry Corps” and came up with three eras.

The first era started in 1860. A Melbourne Cavalry Corps was proposed, but was formed as the ‘Victorian Volunteer Mounted Rifles’. It lasted until 1862 when all the various mounted troops were merged the ‘Victorian Volunteer Light Horse’, then as the Prince of Wales VVLH the following year.

Geelong Advertiser (Vic), 11th December 1860 page 2.

The second era was 1890.

The Age (Melbourne), 16th September 1890 page 6.

The idea did not find favour; the interested men being encouraged to join the Mounted Rifles as a better idea.

The final era, and one to which the uniform, if not the buttons, belongs was 1901-1911.The Melbourne Cavalry Corps was a volunteer corps raised in 1901.

The Age (Melbourne), 23rd April 1901 page 6.

They had to supply their own uniforms, saddles and horses. Their main duties were  ceremonial, such as attending the opening of the first Parliament in 1901 and forming escort for the Governor. Not surprisingly, this resulted in the cavalrymen being affluent  Melbourne gentlemen, with a penchant for showing off in fancy uniforms and impressing the ladies. Although small in number (20 men in 1903, rising to 50) they were proud of their name and unit, and resisted being merged into the Commonwealth’s new Light Horse. They were allowed to keep their identity as the No. 6 Squadron “Melbourne Cavalry” 10th Regiment, 4th Light Horse  until 1911. The following year all squadron were merged as the 13th Light Horse, Victorian Mounted Rifles.

A similar uniform auctioned by Carter’s sported buttons with the ‘PRO DEO ET PATRIA’ motto, which replaced the ‘AUT PACE AUT BELLO’ buttons in 1891 and which would have been the original buttons used. I guess the uniform at the AWM must have had its buttons replaced. Not much of a mystery after all.

Try as I may, I can’t find out who H. W. Martin of London was. Does anybody know?

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