18th October 2020

Queensland Defence Force

From the Australian War Memorial Collection. Made by Hobson and Sons, London c 1885-1901.

 In 1882 the Queensland Volunteer Forces were in “a very bad state”. In January 1883 the volunteers were organised into the Queensland Defence Forces, with pay for full and half day drill being instituted, although in regional areas there were still unpaid volunteers. There consisted at that time cavalry, engineers, artillery and infantry. In January 1884, Colonel French, the new Commandant, was noted as describing the clothing of the artillery as very bad, and that of the engineers fair, and expressing the hope that the Government would arrange a new improved uniform.

State Queensland Library IE 403022. Sir George Arthur French, 1883. He reorganised the Queensland Defence Forces between 1884-1891 then returned to England. Prior to that he had lead the first version of the Canadian Mounted Police. He returned in 1896 as Commandant of the NSW Military Force until 1902. He also drafted legislation for the establishment of the Australian Defence Force.

A correspondent in the Darling Downs Gazette in April 1884 wrote that “They  (the militia) are very badly dressed- their clothing always seems to have been made for somebody else, generally taller than themselves, which results in their tunics looking more like nightgowns, blue or red as the case may be, very long and very loose, and as a rule showing too much collar. There is also a great variety in the way this dress is put on, and the accompanying accroutrements.” Things were in a bad way! 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.

State Library Queensland, IE154689. Queensland Defence Forces members at Fort Lytton c.1893.

 By 1891-2 there were only 91 permanent soldiers. All colonial permanent and militia forces were merged post Federation, although as this was not an overnight process, Queensland Defence Forces still existed from 1903-1910. On the 22nd June 1911 the last parade of the ‘Redcoats’ was held at the Exhibition grounds during the Coronation Day Parade.

See Cossum page 21.

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