22nd October 2020

Defence Forces of New South Wales – Part 1, 1854-1869

 1st Regiment of New South Wales Rifles

Australian War Memorial. No makers mark. 1854-1859

See  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C245922

Apart from short lived volunteer associations in 1804-9 that helped to quell the Irish convict rebellion, this was the first government enacted Volunteer Force, developed in 1854.

Evening News (Sydney), 27th June 1903 page 3.

Illustration from 1857 from The Australian picture pleasure book : illustrating the scenery, architecture, historical events, natural history, public characters &c., of Australia / engraved, selected and arranged by Walter G. Mason: “A groupe [sic] of officers of the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps”.

It was intended to be used in case of internal insurrection or foreign invasion, as the size of the British garrisons were limited. It included a cavalry in a scarlet uniform, artillery in blue and infantry in dark green. The first infantry was also known as the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps. The original uniform consisted of a dark green frock coat and trousers with black velvet facings and shoulder straps, a forage cap, with the numeral 1 and a bugle as a badge. It performed guard duty at the Sydney mint, and occasional ceremonial duties.

In the beginning, the quality of the officers was a problem as some had no previous military experience. Late, examinations would be required to be an officer. Inadequate drill attendance, absconding and resignations were also a problem. Uniforms were not supplied by the government, and could be expensive. As also happened in England, this forced some volunteers to leave when their uniform wore out, and prevented others from volunteering in the first place. When the perceived Russian threat passed in 1856, the legislature declined to vote for funds for the Volunteers.

In 1859 the volunteer Force was considered a failure, “moribund but not dead”. In 1860, a resurgence of interest (in light of the British troops heading for the the Maori Wars) lead to the formation of a number new corps. The 1st NSW Rifles were amalgamated with these new corps into the NSW Volunteer Rifle Corps.

This is meant to be a c.1855 NSW Volunteer Rifleman, but the colours of the uniform are wrong. The grey uniform was adopted in 1860, following the fashion set by British volunteers.


See Cossum page 5.

The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 7th September 1904. “Parade of the First Regiment”