Army Medical Staff Corps
This button, with Queen Victoria’s cypher and crown, is from the British Army. The Medical Staff Corps was first raised in 1855, only to be renamed Army Hospital Corps in 1857 then re-re named the Medical Staff Corps in 1884. Until 1870 the various British troops in Australian were cared for by regimental surgeons and colonial surgeons. The first regular Australian Army surgeon was Dr W. J. Bedford, appointed in 1871. The above button, if it was worn in Australia, would date 1855-1870.
The Port Macquarie Museum has a fine example of Royal Army Medical Staff c.1830. The buttons have a William IV cypher but a similar design. See https://ehive.com/collections/3977/port-macquarie-museum
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 included a 2 guinea payment and the option of discharge after 3 years duty in the colony. Some histories 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.”
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.
New South Wales Corps.
The New South Wales Corps (a.k.a. the Rum Corps) was formed in England in 1789 as three companies, and relieved the NSW Marines over the period of 1790-1792. The quality of the men was patchy as this was an unpopular posting. A fourth company was formed from marines choosing to remain in the colony. The Regiment was stationed in NSW until 1810. They were lead by Major Francis Grose, who had arrived in 1792 to relieve Captain Phillip as Lieutenant-Governor of the colony.
Grose introduced military rule and made changes to favour officers of the Corps, including land grants and rum trading. The misuse of power and wealth that resulted is infamous, including the Rum Rebellion against Governor Bligh, and was not brought under control until Lachlan Macquarie became Governor on 1810. However, they were effective in controlling the rebelling convicts of the 1804 battle of Vinegar Hill.
In 1809 they were renamed the 102nd Regiment of Foot, and the bulk of the troops recalled to England. Some remained, absorbed into Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment, and some were formed into a veteran and invalids troop. Some retired officers remained as farmers in NSW.
William Lincoln from a British reproduction uniforms manufacturer kindly shared knowledge and these diagrams with me (original source unknown). They are pewter buttons dug up in Tasmania including plain examples and those marked for the 73rd Regiment of Foot who were stationed there from 1810-1814.
Victoria Barracks in Sydney was built for the accommodation of British troops such as the 12th Regiment of Foot. They were in Sydney until called to New Zealand in 1860 to take part in the Maori Wars. A deployment of this regiment in Victoria was involved in the infamous battle at the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854. They were also deployed to Tasmania, Queensland and Swan River (West Australia). The regiment left Australia in 1866.
14th (2nd Battalion Buckingham) Regiment of Foot
The 14th regiment of Foot arrived in Hobart from New Zealand on the 31st October 1866. They Served in Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne before leaving in 1870.
For their time in New Zealand, see https://collection.pukeariki.com/persons/12202 (Note there are a couple of typos in the article i.e. 1961 and 1968 instead of 1861 and 1868.)
21st Regiment of Foot (Royal North British Fusiliers)
This regiment served in New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia between 1833-1839. They then left for Madras, India.
Published in the Mirror (Perth), 19th March 1938 page 11. Oh dear.
39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot
The regiment arrived in New South Wales late in 1825. In 1826 a detachment under Major Ralph Darling was sent from NSW with a party of convicts to establish a penal colony where Albany is now situated, before the French could claim the area.
They also served in Hobart and Swan River (Perth) and Bathhurst before leaving for India in July 1832. The most famous member of this Regiment to serve in Australia was Captain Charles Sturt.
40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot
Small detachments were sent to New South Wales to relieve the 48th Regiment via convict ships in 1823. They also served in Van Diemen’s Land, were they were involved in hostilities against the aboriginal people. In 1828-9 the regiment left for Bombay.
In 1853 they returned to Australia and were quartered in Melbourne for the furnishing of companies to protect the goldfields. Some companies of the 12th and 40th regiments were sent to Ballarat in early December 1854 to suppress the miner’s rebellion at Eureka Stockade on the morning of 3 December 1854. In 1860 they went to fight in the Maori Wars.
50th Regiment of Foot ( West Kent or Queen’s Own): 1833-1841 and 1866-1869
This regiment served in NSW, Tasmania, and Norfolk Island during this deployment. Two companies left Sydney for New Zealand on a short term mission to rescue some settlers.
They left for India in 1841. Some of the families of the 50th were shipwrecked on route to India, and rescued in a “wretched condition.”
The regiment returned in 1866, having served in Ceylon then New Zealand, and were stationed in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland before leaving for England.
For their time in New Zealand: http://ellott-postalhistorian.com/articles/50th-Regiment-In-NZ.pdf
63rd (West Suffolks) Regiment of Foot
In 1829 Captain James Stirling and a party of English colonists settled in Swan River as the site of the new colony. A detachment of the 63rd West Suffolks was sent to guard the new capital. This regiment had arrived in Sydney from 1828 and also served in Hobart. It left for India in February-March 1833.
From 1829 detachments of many of the regiments serving in NSW would serve in Swan River, starting with the 2nd/40th Regiment.
65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot
This regiment brought convicts to Tasmania and Norfolk Isaland in 1846 and 1849. They soon went onto New Zealand, where they served until September 1865. Four hundred men accepted their discharge, and remained in Auckland.
For more about the 65th in New Zealand, see https://hicketypip.tripod.com/history.htm
73rd (Royal Highlanders) Regiment of Foot
From 1786 until 1809 this regiment 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.
The 77th (East Middlesex Regiment) of Foot
Two ships bearing the 77th arrived in Sydney Harbour 0n 27th September 1857. However, they were not here long, leaving Sydney for Calcutta in April 1858. It was felt there was need for troops in India, and that “the great majority of the troops in NSW are not required here”.
In there short stay in Sydney, there was some reports of drunkiness and theft, and problems with the local police:
96th Regiment of Foot (Manchester)
This regiment served in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia between 1839-1848, then travelling on to India. A detachment had been sent to New Zealand in 1845-6.
New South Wales
1st Australian Volunteer Horse (NSW)
The 1st Australian Volunteer Horse were gazetted in NSW on the 1st August, 1897.
This cavalry served during the Boer War and was the source for a number of recruits for the new Australian Flying Corps during World War 1.
1st Regiment of New South Wales Rifles
Duke of Edinburgh’s Highland Brigade
The Scottish Regiment was given permission to adopt the Duke’s title, after their service to him on his tour of the colonies in 1867-8. They were the first regiment in Australia to wear the kilt (Black Watch tartan). The Duke was the second son of Queen Victoria, and served as a naval captain.
This full dress uniform was adopted in May 1870. A picture of the uniform button is seen on page 5 of J. K. Cossum’s book “Buttons of the Defence Forces in Australia”.The Australian War Memorial has an example of a sporran from the full Highland uniform adopted in 1870. Dwindling numbers led to its disbanding in 1878. A new Scottish Regiment formed in NSW in 1885 in response to the Sudan War. This regiment existed until 1912 when existing units were absorbed into the new Citizen’s Army.)
New South Wales Artillery
New South Wales Military Forces: 1876-1902
In 1876 the emblem of the New South wales Military Forces was declared; “a lion passant guardant on a cross between 4 stars of 8 points” with a Queen’s (Victoria) crown. The actual button may date from 1880.
In 1885 the New South Wales offered help to the British in Egypt after the death of the hero, General Gordon, and this help was accepted by the British. It was the first Australian Contingent to serve overseas. The flashy uniforms were replaced by safer and more practical khaki uniforms when they arrived in Egypt. The badge on the helmet carries the same design as the universal design of the The NSW Defence Forces, that of a British Lion on a St George Cross embossed with the stars of the Southern Cross. After a limited amount of action, the campaign was abandoned and the forces brought home after only a couple of months and disbanded.
New South Wales Mounted Rifles
The first regiment was formed in 1888 as the New South Wales Mounted Infantry, and renamed in 1893. Several regiments would serve in the Second Boer War. Post war it became a Light Horse Regiment. After multiple renamings and reorganisings, it was disbanded and merged into the new Royal NSW Regiment in 1956.
The Paramatta Woollen Mills and C. Anderson both made these buttons. For interest I have included below a newspaper report of C.Anderson and the Mills both winning a tender for military uniforms, including for the Mounted Rifles.
There was a naval force of one ship, the HMCS Spitfire, from 1854-1859.
The lack of any sea-going ships was not enough to deter volunteers joining the new NSW Naval Brigade in 1863. It was not until the late 1870s that two ships were constructed in Sydney. However, they did have the use of the non-seaworthy HMS Woverine from 1882-1892 as a training ship upon Sydney Harbour.
The artillery of the NSW contingent of the NSW Naval Brigade went to Tientsin in China in July 1900 to help the British suppress the Boxer Rebellion, along with those from Victoria and South Australia.
There existed a “duplicate” force of Naval Artillery Volunteers from 1884 until 1901 when it was disbanded. They had also used the Woverine for training. A newspaper article claimed there was “a great deal of friendly rivalry between the two forces.”
New South Wales Volunteers
The New South Wales Military Forces were created in 1870 after the withdrawal of British forces from the colony. Colonial uniforms followed the style of the British, including the helmets and red and blue uniforms.
The H.M.S. Spitfire was a wooden gun boat, launched around 1855, the first warship built in Sydney, Australia. It was presented to Queensland in 1859 as a gift for its separation into a independent colony. However, it was not considered necessary for the colony to have a naval service at that time.
The Queensland Maritime Defence Forces was initiated in 1883. The gunships Paluma and Guyundah (aboriginal for Thunder and Lightening) arrived in the colony in 1885 to patrol Queensland’s coast. After Federation they were integrated into the Royal Australian Navy. Guyundah was beached in 1958 at Picnic Point as a breakwater.
Queensland’s fleet grew to be second only in size to Victoria’s. At Federation the naval forces numbers about 750, with 250 cadets.
Queensland Defence Forces
The Defence Act of 1884 stated that the Government would now be providing a uniform. A small permanent force was raised in March 1885 with the new uniforms finally ready in March 1885.
Queensland Permanent Artillery
In common with other colonies at that time, a Defence Act was passed in 1884, then a permanent artillery established in Queensland in 1885. In 1899-1900 the name was changed to the Queensland Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery.
Queensland Rifle’s (Volunteers) button
It was on the advise of Colonel French in 1884 that standard new uniforms in khaki were introduced with new buttons struck bearing the word ‘Queensland’ . “The Royal artillery buttons can be used for the batteries here, but in the event of the Imperial Authorities not having general service buttons (VR under a crown) it will be necessary to have a die made and buttons struck off for the other corps.”
This button dates from the short period between King Edward VII adopting the ‘Tudor’ crown and the amalgamation of the separate colonial forces into a Federal service. The separate forces existed up to 1911 in the State of Queensland. After 1903 a button with Edward VII cypher replaced this one.
A photo in the State Library of Queensland collection shows the earlier VR type button of the Queensland Volunteers (see Cossum page 23).
Queensland Scottish Volunteer Corps
In 1885 a Queensland Scottish Rifle Volunteers corps was established in Brisbane. By 1888 their strength was 335 of all ranks. Their full dress uniform was the same as that worn by the Gordon Highlanders (Her Majesty’s 92nd).
By 1896 the corps had dwindled. It was briefly revived in 1897.
South Australian Militia Scottish Company
The first Scottish Company, the no.2 Adelaide Rifles, was formed in 1866. The next was the Scottish Company of the S.A.M.F from 1899-1903, then renamed the SA Scottish Infantry until 1912.
South Australian Rifles/Volunteers
From November 1854, the history of infantry in the colony of South Australia was quite convoluted, with volunteer forces being repeated raised, merged and disbanded. From the Diggers History web site ” The constant raising and disbanding of Militia Forces in the early colonial days, was a direct result of the citizen’s reaction to direct threats to their security. Their numbers rose and fell as these threats were realized and then subsided.”
The first reference to a Rifle corps appears in 1854:
2nd Rifles, Southern Tasmanian Volunteers
The Southern Tasmanian 2nd existed from 1861 until 1868.
Tasmanian Defence Forces
According to Cossum, page 25, this button dates from 1884-1901. This agrees with the backmark, as Hobson & Sons were at 1-5 Lexington Street, Golden Square, West London from 1887-1901. However, please note that the dating in Cossum’s book, whilst correct for the forces, is out in this instance by a couple of years for the actual uniform buttons.
The history of the colony’s defence forces was one of government disinterest, poor or no funding, poorly placed batteries, small permanent force numbers and volunteer units that waxed and waned until the Second Boer War increased interest and support.
In 1874, a government report detailed that only the Hobart and Launceston Artillery Corps remained in the state from a once larger number; the Hobart corps existing in name only, with five officers and no men and “80 stand of arms and accoutrements unaccounted for.” Launceston had a total of 22 men and officers. This small loyal group kept this corp in existence, with no support or recognition, and only obsolete rifles with no ammunition. In the meantime, there were no volunteer forces in the south of the state from 1874 until 1877 when new volunteer rifle groups were raised. These groups dwindled from 1880-1883, then a new Commandant arrived from England. A revival of the forces under this new command seems to have prompted the production of the button above to supersede the previous button. The previous button, according to Cossum, had a similar design but was labelled with ‘Tasmanian Local Forces’. The article below indicates the buttons and other accoutrements arrived from England in 1880 for the Tasmanian Local Forces.
In 1900-01 there were 27 permanent and 2527 volunteers. The batteries were in poor repair, the forces poorly equipped with old, “useless” rifles and were wearing either no uniforms or worn out second-hand uniforms. The State Minister of Defence stated … that it (the forces) had become probably more of a menace to the state than a security.” Even after federation it took several years before issues of pay and uniforms were dealt with.
Tasmanian Rifle Volunteers
In 1878 new volunteer forces were raised after a period of decline in the colony that had left only Launceston Artillery Corps functioning. However, once again the volunteer forces dwindled until a new Commandant arrived from England in 1883, and Tasmanian Defence Forces were raised in 1885. The new uniforms and buttons did not arrive until 1889!
Tasmanian Volunteer & Permanent Artillery
According to Cossum, this button dates from 1884-1901. Whilst volunteer artillery units existed from 1859, the Permanent Artillery was raised on 10th September 1886, so they cannot date from 1884. There was mention in the press of a new uniform for rifle clubs being tendered for in 1889, so perhaps the buttons date from then.
In 1902 Victoria had the second largest force, including the Victorian Mounted Rifles and the Victorian Infantry Brigade and volunteer units. In 1859 there is reference to both a South Australian Volunteer Rifle Corps, and a South Australian Free Rifle Corps, the latter being renamed the South Australian Auxillary Rifles in 1860. By January 1861 a South Australian Rifles Association had been formed from numerous volunteer companies that then existed, and would continue right up to the present. I also have an A.J. Parkes S.A.R. button with a Queen’s crown (i.e. post 1951) so perhaps this is a button of the South Australian Rifle Association
Permanent Victorian Artillery Corps
Royal Artillery uniform buttons have a crown depicted over the cannon and ramrod; this style without the crown was used for the pre-federation Permanent
An Artillery Corps was created in 1870 after the use of British Corps was ceased, and lasted until 1901. (The design was also used later from 1924 for Artillery Association Uniformed Staff in the United Kingdom.)
Royal Victorian Volunteers Artillery Regiment
Victorian Artillery Staff
A similar button to this is seen on Cossum page 16. There is no suggested date, but it does have a Queen Victoria Crown (i.e. pre 1902).
Victorian Cavalry Regiment 1885-1892
The ball type button for both the Victorian Horse Artillery (Cossum p.15) and the Victorian Cavalry Regiment (Cossum p.16) are very similar. In Cossum’s book the first was made by Firmin of London and seems to have a Queen Victoria type crown, and the second made for Bowley & Co, Melbourne, with a King’s Crown, even though it dates from Queen Victoria’s reign. Apart from that, the design is the same so I have some hesitancy in firmly identifying the button in case both troops were supplied with the same/similar buttons.
Victorian Military Forces
This consisted of the Victorian Rangers and the Victorian Mounted Rifles.
The Victorian Rifle Volunteers were renamed in 1889 as the Victorian Rangers, and were often drawn from rifle clubs. The motto is ‘Pro Deo et Patria’ (For God and fatherland/country) which according to the Australian War memorial dates it to 1893 or later. As Stokes’ and Martin’s partnership dissolved that year, that button presumably dates to a short period around 1892-3.
The button is similar to the universal NSW pattern, but with a star instead of a lion in the centre. The motto was adopted in 1875 ‘Aut Pace Aut Bello’ (In Peace and In War). This changed in 1891 to ‘Pro Deo Et Patria’ (For God and fatherland).
The Victorian Navy buttons show an upright Anchor (not tilted/lazy) and a Queen Victoria Crown. Note that the rope crosses over then under the shank on the CR Martin version, but under/over the shank of the anchor on the Stokes version.
In 1900 500 sailors of the NSW and Victorian naval brigades, as well as the SA warship Protector went to China to help suppress the Boxer uprising. Although they arrived at Tiesen too late to be involved in the fighting, they were involved in a nasty suppression of the town of Pao Ting Fu.
Victorian Rifle Regiments
Thanks to Noble Numismatics for the following image.
In 1884 it was decided to replace the Victorian Volunteer forces with a militia (part time, partially paid). The militia was continued until federation. However, most units that existed before 1884 remained in existence.
Victorian Volunteer Service
In 1870 British regiments were withdrawn from Australia, with small numbers of permanent and larger numbers of volunteer artillery and infantry forces taking over protection of the colony of Victoria. In 1884 the volunteers system was replaced with a partially paid (semi-volunteer) militia.
Albany Defence Rifles
Apart from a short lived attempt at a local volunteers force in 1829, it was not until 1861, upon the withdrawal of British troops, that tvolunteers group were formed in Fremantle, Perth and elsewhere.
Western Australian Highlanders
This unit was raised in 1903. It is not clear when it was disbanded, but a new Cameron Highlanders of WA was raised in 1936.