South Australian Defence Forces
The history of infantry in the colony of South Australia was quite convoluted, with volunteer forces being repeatedly 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.”
There was a short lived attempt to establish a volunteer force in 1840 “resplendent in scarlet, piped with blue”. It was embodied in September 1840 but may have drilled only for a few months.
According to Wikipedia, …” it was disbanded in 1851; for the final six years of its existence it had been a force that had existed on paper only.” That may be generous; by 1845 it was already being described as a distant event.
In September 1854, in response to the Crimean War, an Act to raise volunteer military forces in the colony was passed.
Late in 1864 an alteration to the uniform was being discussed. The previous coat was too tight for comfortable drilling, and some suggested scarlet instead of grey, to be the same as the regulars. Many of the volunteers were not keen on scarlet, however …
In 1869 the Volunteer Force was partially disbanded, although the S.A.R.A. was still active. The British Regiments left by 1870, but it took until 1877 for a Volunteer Military Force (part payment) to be properly established. Unfortunately, their rate of pay was lower than in the other colonies. The Rifle Volunteer Force was started soon after in 1879. The V.M.F. was based mainly in Adelaide, and the R.V.F. mainly in the country.
NB: The title of the partially paid volunteers is often written as “Volunteer Militia Force” but was officially the “Volunteer Military Force”. When Parliament suggested changing it in 1881 some of the volunteers objected.
The first small permanent artillery troop was formed in 1889.
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 until 1903 when it was renamed the SA Scottish Infantry until 1912.
Although a naval reserve existed from the 1870s, South Australia had no naval ship (apart from a training hulk for wayward boys from 1876-1891) until 1884 with the arrival of the ship ‘Protector’. That is probably why a bill was passed in parliament that year to establish the SA Naval Brigade. As well, there had been a torpedo station established around 1885, which was a bit hopeful as there weren’t any torpedos (mines) in South Australia. The navy was reduced by half in 1892, however the Protector would serve in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. After Federation she became HMAS Protector of the Commonwealth of Australia Naval Force.
Around 1,500 South Australian men volunteered for duty in the Boer Wars. Just prior to Federation, there were only 135 officers and 2797 other ranks in South Australia’s forces.