Before 1870, Australian defence was the responsibility of small British garrisons quartered in the larger towns whose primary purpose up to 1852 was guarding convicts. As time progressed political developments in Europe prompted rumours of war and of attacks on Australia,
encouraging the formation of local infantry companies and artillery batteries from 1801. Such forces came and went in response to perceived threats, and it was only the removal of the British regiments in 1870 that prompted the growth of local defence forces.
Across Australia the colonies raised small detachments of ‘permanent’ soldiers to
replace the British regulars. On Imperial advice, the ‘volunteer’ systems that had
spontaneously grown in the colonies were generally replaced from 1883 by ‘militia’ forces, that received payment for their part time service.
Contents hide



Army Medical Staff Corps

Hobson & Sons Lexington St. London W. According to Cossum c.1855.

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

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.” Those marines not choosing to stay returned to England where the unit was disbanded.

Image thanks to Vanessa Pike Russell

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.

From the Royal Museums Greenwich collection. Fouled Anchor button on 1774 uniform.

From the Royal Museums Greenwich collection. This is a button on a uniform dating from November 1787. The NSW Marine Corps had already sailed, so may have sported the other button.





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.

1808 cartoon of the arrest of Bligh by members of the Rum Corps.

Truth (Brisbane), 4th July 1909 page 11. From an article about “Old Sydney”.

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.

An officer’s shoulder plate. As the designation “102nd” only dates from 1809, these date from after the regiment returned home. Courtesy Royal Army Museum

Miniature in the State Library of NSW collection: Officer of the NSW Corps, William Cox. Note the plain buttons.

William Lincoln (from a British reproduction uniforms manufacturing firm) 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.

“Brass cone shank button. A flat undecorated disk, 17mm diameter, 1mm thick, with the remains of a copper wire shank soldered in place of a central boss.”



3rd Regiment of Foot (East Kent, The Buffs)

From Pintrest: date unknown but the design for 1820s would be similar.

The Queenslander, September 29th 1932 page 27. Two badges of the 3rd Foot.

This regiment left for Australia in 1821 guarding convicts (although it is quoted differently in many sources, including Cossum) and left for India in 1827.


Hobart Town and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser, 10th August 1822 page 2. The earliest Newspaper reference to the Buffs in Australia.

Some images of their uniform button has the dragon facing sinister or dexter. Most don’t have a drooping tail like the one above. See Cossum page 64.

Colonel William Stewart from a 1822 oil painting held in the Mitchell Library, NSW. He commanded the Buffs in Australia and was also the Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales 1825-7. He returned from India in 1832 and retired near Bathurst.


4th Regiment of Foot (King’s Own)

One of these designs may have been worn in Australia. See also

From PIntrest.

Courtesy Cultman Collectables.








The first detachment of the 4th arrived in December 1831 as guards for a shipment of convicts. They left for India during 1836-7. As with many regiments assigned to the tough conditions of the colonies (climate, boredom, rum, deprivation), there were intermittent problems with discipline.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 13th September 1933 page 17.

Detachments of The King’s Own regiment, or 4th Foot, were used as guards on convict ships to Australia from 1832. Detachments were stationed in Sydney, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Swan River (Perth) until 1837, when they sailed for India.

Image from Pintrest. Sorry to not know the origin of this image.

The above article made an error. The Lion of this regiment is passant (walking, with the right forepaw raised) guardant (with its head turned to full face) not rampant (rearing up on its hind legs).

11th  Regiment of Foot (North Devonshire)

11th (North Devonshire Regiment of Foot 1855-1881 by Firmin’s Ltd London

This regiment was garrisoned in Victoria Barracks, Sydney from 1845-1857, apparently being brought in from van Diemen’s Land to control the badly behaved 99th regiment! They returned to England in 1857.

The Courier (Hobart), 10th June 1845 page 2.

12th  Regiment of Foot (Suffolk)

Backmark: Jennens & Co. London

The Sun (Sydney), 13th October 1949 page 34.

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.

See also

14th Regiment of Foot (2nd Battalion Buckingham)

P. Tait & Co, Limerick (Thanks to Noble Numismatics). This button may not date from the deployment in Australia.

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   (Note there are a couple of typos in the article i.e. 1961 and 1968 instead of 1861 and 1868.)

The Queenslander, September 29th 1932 page 27. Cap badges of the 14th.

The 14th regiment of Foot arrived in Hobart, months later than expected, on the 31st October 1866. They Served in Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne before leaving in 1870.

The button can be seen on Cossum page 64, also at

State Library of SA # 18519. Billiard Players from the 14th Regiment of the Foot British Army c.1869.

17th Regiment of Foot (Leicestershire)

This looks similar to that seen on page 65 of Cossum, but was not sourced in Australia. Backmark: Jennens & Co London, which dates pre 1860.

Deployments of this regiment arrived New South Wales as convict escorts from 1830 and were stationed in New South Wales,Tasmania and Queensland. They left in for India in 1837.

The 17th were involved in two documented massacres in 1831 and 1832. They also fought against resisting aboriginals in the Newcastle area in 1835.

21st Regiment of Foot (Royal North British Fusiliers)

From Pintrest, source unknown c.1812, but possibly similar to that used in the 1830s. Note the thistles. This regiment had its origin in Scotland, and would be renamed the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1877. Gwen Squires showed a central thistle surrounded by a motto within a border around the circumfrence as a “pewter, other ranks c.1830-55” uniform button for this regiment.

 This regiment served in New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia between 1833-1839. They then left for Madras, India.

The Sydney Herald, 13th December 1832 page 2.

 Published in the Mirror (Perth), 19th March 1938 page 11. Oh dear. Sorry about the attitude.


28th Regiment of Foot, (North Gloucestershire)

Courtesy of Cultman Collectables. This is similar to Cossum’s example on page 65.








From 1835 the regiment sailed with convict ships to Australia to serve as garrison troops. The headquarters were in Parramatta, but they were also sent around NSW, Queensland and Victoria. Many of the troop took the opportunity to settle in Australia when the regiment was  transferred to India in 1842. Three of the ships carrying them to Bombay ran aground, taking 6 days to get free.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 16th June 1842 page 2.

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales : Lieutenant J.J. Peters, 28th Regiment, 1840.

39th Regiment of Foot (Dorsetshire)


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 Bathurst before leaving for India in July 1832. The most famous member of this Regiment to serve in Australia was Captain Charles Sturt.

State Library SA image B6847. Capt. Sturt c.1850.

Image from Pintrest, no origin or date supplied.









40th Regiment of Foot (2nd Somersetshire)

Backmark: Firmin’s Ld London

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 (Tasmania), 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.

Battle of the Eureka Stockade. J. B. Henderson [1854] Watercolour

Photographs printed between 1940 and 1950 from originals between 1850 and 1900. From Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

46th Regiment of Foot (South Devonshire)

Please let me know if you have a 1813-1819 era button! It may have the number 46 encircled by a belt and topped by a crown.

Courtesy of Cultman Collectables: This button dates from around 1860-1870, so is not contemporary with the regiment’s period in Australia.

The first detachment set off as escorts for convicts bond for New South Wales in August 1813, to replace the 73rd in NSW and Tasmania.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 12th February 1814 page 2.

Whilst in Van Diemen’s Land, they had orders to suppress a gang of bushrangers.

The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas), 12th July 1817 page 1. This was the infamous group originally lead by Mike Howe, he most notorious bushranger in Tasmania’s history.

In 1816, (after crimes such as the murder of a farming couple and theft of pigs), they were required by Governor Macquarie to kill, terrorise and take as prisoners as many aboriginals as possible in the Nepean, Hawkesbury and Grose River valleys of NSW, although that was not the way it was described in the news …

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 11th May 1816 page 2.

The Campbelltown News (NSW), 10th April 1951 page 1.

They left NSW in September 1817 and Hobart in June 1818, bound for India. However, There were still members of the 46th during 1819-1828 bring convicts to Australia.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 28th August 1819 page 3.

48th Regiment of Foot (Northamptonshire)

This is labelled as from 1855-81, but looks similar to that shown in Cossum on page 66.

The regiment sailed for New South Wales as convict escort from August 1817 and stationed in Sydney, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Van Diemen’s Land and Parramatta. They left in 1824 for India.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 2nd August 1817 page 2.

In the 1930s the story was told of a scandal in Sydney; Captain Debussy (or Major O’Farrell) of the 48th regiment fought a duel with Mr Mountstuart (or Fitzurse), badly injuring him, then ran way into the bush. He was shot around 6 years later when troops went to investigate a ‘wild white man’ who had gone ‘native’ and was causing trouble both for the local tribe and for the Australian Agricultural Company. trouble is, there was no mention of it at the time, so maybe it was a mere story!

50th Regiment of Foot (West Kent or Queen’s Own)

Backmark: Jennens & Co. London. This button probably dates from the 1860s

 There were two seperate periods of deployment in Australia. This regiment served in NSW, Tasmania, and Norfolk Island during their deployment from 1833-1841. Two companies left Sydney for New Zealand on a short term mission to rescue some settlers.

The Australian (Sydney), 4th November 1833. They arrived in December with more following later.

The Tasmanian (Hobart Town), 31st January 1834 page 6.

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.”

State Library NSW: Lieutenant Grimes of the 50th Regiment, 1840.

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 in 1869.

Australian War Memorial image #A04590. An officer of the 50th, 1866-69.

The buttons here are by Firmin & Sons, London. Courtesy National Army Museum


For their time in New Zealand:

57th Regiment of Foot (West Middlesex/ The Old Diehards)


The 57th Regiment served in Australia from 1825 until 1832 when they sailed for India in detachments between January and April 1832.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser , 6th January 1825 page 1.

The Telegraph (Brisbane), 8th April 1933 page 11.


This coatee is poignant as it belonged to Captain Patrick Logan, Commandant of Moreton Bay, NSW. He was killed by Aboriginals whilst surveying the area. The 57th served in Australia from 1825-1832.

State Library NSW file #FL580514   c.1825.

The Brisbane Courier, 5th June 1923 page 13.

Sydney Mail, 20th November 1935 page 6.

The 57th were involved with a sad and notorious episode in Sydney. On the 22nd November 1826 two wretched soldiers were “drummed out” of the regiment for theft wearing heavy spiked collars around their necks, attached by chains to their ankles.

Conditions were so bad in the Sydney garrrison that desperate soldiers had been stealing deliberately so as to be drummed out, considering life in the road gangs as better than being a soldier. Governor Darling decided to make a terrible example of Joseph Stubbs and Patrick Thompson. Stubbs was already ill, and died five days later.

From News (Adelaide), 29th April 1954 page 28.

63rd Regiment of Foot (West Suffolks)


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 Pinterest: Labelled as a pre-1855 example.

The West Australian (Perth), 5th June 1951 page 2. Soldiers wearing the uniform of the 63rd Regiment at the Foundation Day ceremony.

From 1829 detachments of many of the regiments serving in NSW would serve in Swan River, starting with the 2nd/40th Regiment.

65th Regiment of Foot (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding)

No backmark.

This regiment brought convicts to Tasmania and Norfolk Island 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.

A member of the 65th Regiment in New Zealand.

For more about the 65th in New Zealand, see

73rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Highlanders)


Thanks to Noble Numismatics.  From 1780 until 1809 it was known as the  73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

The Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser, 19th January 1910 page 34.










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 that lead to the deposing of Governor Bligh.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 31st December 1809 page 1.

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) however 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.

Example of pewter buttons unearthed in Tasmania.

77th Regiment of Foot (East Middlesex)


See also

National Army Museum

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:

State Library NSW # IE1141695 Painting of two officers of the 77th Foot at Hyde Park, Sydney. 1858.

96th Regiment of Foot (Manchester)

Thanks to Noble Numismatics

 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.

The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, 9th December 1839 page 2. However, most of the regiment arrived from 1840-41.

New South Wales

1st Australian Volunteer Horse (NSW)

backmark: Hopson & Sons 1,3& 5 Lexington (a misspelling of Hobson).


The 1st Australian Volunteer Horse were gazetted in NSW on the 1st August, 1897.

The Australian Star (Sydney), 6th August 1897 page 5.

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.

The Scone Advocate (NSW), 24th October 1899 page 2.

1st Regiment of  New South Wales Rifles

Australian War Memorial. No makers mark. 1854-1859

Apart from short lived volunteer associations in 1804-9 that help quell the Irish convict rebellion, this was the first government enacted Volunteer Force, developed in 1854. It was intended to be used in case of internal insurrection or foreign invasion, as the size of the British garrisons were limited, and included a cavalry in a scarlet uniform, artillery in blue and infantry in dark green. The first infantry was briefly known as the Sydney Volunteer Rifles. 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.

1857: Officers of the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps. (from ‘The Australian picture pleasure book.” in the National Library.


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.

State Library of Victoria collection, 1867.

The dimensions along the axes are 26 x 28mm.








Empire (Sydney), 16th October 1868 page 1.

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

Thanks to Noble Numismatics: NSW Artillery 1870-80 by Smith Kemp & Wright, Birmm

Library NSW IE3320792: Sergeant Major of the NSW Volunteer Artillery c.1879.

New South Wales Military Forces,1876-1902


According to the AWM, this General Service button (1870-1880) was sewn onto a volunteers 1887 era tunic, but was removed and replaced with an appropriate silver button, as only permanent and partially paid (Militia) members wore gold coloured buttons and lace. Volunteers wore silver (white metal).






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. Experiencing a limited amount of action, the campaign was abandoned and the forces brought home after only a couple of months and disbanded.

Stokes & Martin Melb. The 5 point star is a design error.

Made by C.Anderson, Sydney. This button has the correct 8 point star.

A NSW Military uniform badge.







“A member of Australia’s first overseas expeditionary force sent to Egypt to assist the British forces in an attempt to recapture Khartoum. The contingent of some 734 volunteers, including 522 infantry, left Sydney on March 3, 1885. for the Sudan. They saw little action and returned on June 18 of the same year.”

“The N.S.W. Artillery made its mark in history when, in 1885, 212 artillery men and six cannon embarked with the Sudan contingent. This officer’s uniform of suede cloth, with gold badge, button, and other apparel, designate him as being a permanent soldier, or regular. Volunteers wore silver badges and buttons.”

On the back of the card: “Undoubtedly the oldest cavalry regiment in Australia, the N.S.W. Lancers was formed in 1885 and named the Sydney Light Horse. The title was changed in 1894 to N.S.W. Lancer Regiment, and this was one of the first to serve in the Boer War. The Regiment also was service in World War I and World War II.”

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.

Paramatta Woollen Mills: courtesy Australian Militaria Sales.

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.

The Cumberland Argus and Fruit Growers Advocate (Parramatta) 15th February 1902 page 4.

New South Wales Naval Brigade/ Naval Artillery Volunteers

Royal Museum Greenwich: NSW Naval brigade button by Firmin

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.

Photo from Wikipedia.

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.

Australian War Memorial collection #306822. Group portrait 1900, Sydney, of the NSW Naval Brigade contingent to the Boxer Rebellion

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.”

Thanks to Noble Numismatics: Naval Artillery Volunteers c.1890 by W.Jones & Co, 7 Golden Square London.

Australian war memorial collection: P02233.001
An officer (in white) and men of the NSW Naval Artillery Volunteers wearing standard Royal Navy uniforms.

New South Wales Volunteers

Thanks to Noble Numismatics.  2 versions of the General Service button of the NSW Volunteers 1870-1880.

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.

“N.S.W. formed its Naval Brigade in 1861. In 1900 the N.S.W. and Victorian Governments sent Naval Brigade contingents to China to help quell the Boxer Rebellion. This rating is fully equipped for that expedition. In 1901 Australia became a Commonwealth, and naval forces, like the military, came under Federal control.”


Her Majesty’s Queensland Navy









Australian War memorial image #P0044.129. Crew of H.M.Q.S. in 1898.

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 Queenslander, 4th November 1882 page 616. A sarcastic report about the start of the naval brigade.

The Queenslander (Brisbane), 28th February 1885 page 325,

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.


The Queenslander, 7th February 1929 page 35. Clock wise from top: HMQS Gayunda in 1899.  Gunboat Paluma aground during floods in 1893. Steam Innace midge in 1890s. Gayunda as a gravel hulk in 1929.

Queensland Defence Forces

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

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

Thanks to Noble Numismatics. Queensland Permanent Artillery 1885-1901.

Staff Sergeant Gorman of the Permanent Artillery. Nice props for the photo, especially the conch shell in the pot plant!

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)

The crown used on button on the left is Prince Albert’s Crown, the Guelphic Crown of the Dukes of the House of Hanover.

It was on the advice of Colonel French in 1884 that standard new uniforms in khaki were introduced with new buttons  struck bearing the word ‘Queensland’ . He stated that “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.”

See Cossum page 22. 1902-3

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).

Lieut. Dowse, Queensland Volunteer Rifles , 1889. He is wearing an older style VR button.


Queensland Scottish Volunteer Corps

Backmark: H.W. Martin London. 1885-1897.

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).

The Brisbane Courier, 16th May 1885 page 5.

The Queensland Figaro, January 1889. A member of the Queensland Scottish Rifles.

Australian war memorial

By 1896 the corps had dwindled. It was briefly revived in 1897.

“Undoubtedly the Queensland Scottish Regiment was one of the most colourful of the Australian Pre-Federation Scottish regiments, the white Soudan spiked helmet and scarlet tunic giving it a very distinctive look. The officer illustrated is of the 1886 period, although the Soudan-type hemet was worm until 1905.”

“When Queensland became a state in 1859 it organised infantry, artillery, engineers and mounted rifle regiments, supported by a small naval force. Volunteer contingents of Imperial Bushmen and Mounted Rifles from Queensland fought in the Boer War. This soldier is a gunner of the Queensland permanent artillery.”

South Australia

Her Majesty’s Colonial Navy

Her Majesty’s Colonial Navy (South Australia) c.1899. See Cossum page 55.


South Australian Militia Scottish Company

SA Militia Forces Scottish Company.

The first Scottish Company, the 2nd Adelaide Rifles, was formed in 1866. The next was the  Scottish Company of the S.A.M.F from 1899-1903, afterwards renamed the SA Scottish Infantry until 1912.

The Mail (Adelaide), 28th July 1934 page 1.A corporal in the Scottish Corps c.1903.

South Australian Rifles/Volunteers

SAV:  Shierlaw & Co Adelaide 1877-1880

Thanks to Noble Numismatics.According to Cossum page 19; the SA Volunteers, c.1860-70. Note the SAV uniforms were not provided until late in 1861.

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:

South Australian Register, 10th November 1854 page 3.


The Mail (Adelaide), 7th April 1934 page 1.

“By 1890 the South Australian Government had organised a very efficient military force. The uniform had changed from the early days and was modelled on the lines of the British line regiments of the time, except that the colour was khaki. Martini-Henry rifles were issued to all non-commissioned ranks.”


2nd Rifles, Southern Tasmanian Volunteers

Thanks to Noble Numismatics: 2nd Tasmanian Rifles by Firmin & Sons

The Mercury (Hobart), 7th February 1862 page 2. This rifle corps may not have lasted for long.

The Southern Tasmanian 2nd existed from 1861 until 1868.

Tasmanian Defence Forces

Hobson & Sons Golden Square w.

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.

Launceston Examiner, 13th July 1880, page 3. The force was formed in 1878 but the uniforms did not arrive until 1880, with some units not receiving them for several years.

The Mercury (Hobart), 27th February 1886 page 2. From an article on the release of Tasmania’s Defence Force Manual.  Uniforms including the above button did not arrive by ship until 1889.

The Tasmanian (Launceston), 11th January 1890 page 24. From an article describing  the new uniforms.

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.

Libraries Tasmania’s Online collection: c. 1890 Tasmanian Volunteer force.

“The Tasmanian Regiment began in 1870. Formerly the Tasmanian Volunteer Regiment, it changed in 1897 to the 1st Battalion Tasmanian Infantry Regiment. In 1911 it became the 93rd Infantry Battalion, and in 1916 was the 40th Battalion of World War 1. The 2nd 40th distinguished itself in Timor in World War 11.”

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

Backmark: C. Pitt & Co 50 St Martins Lane London Charles Pitt & Co operated from 50 Martins Lane from 1875-1895.

 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.

Tasmanian Punch, 26th February 1870 page 6.


Libraries Tasmania SD_ILS:647740.
Major Crowther of the Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery. 1890.

“This soldier is fully equipped for departure to South Africa, to fight alongside members of other Australian Colonial Forces in the Boer War. It is interesting to note his slouch hat turned up on the right side, instead of today’s conventional left side. Khaki had become the accepted service colour at that time.”

Tasmania Volunteer Staff, Medical Staff & Retired Staff

According to Cossum, 1879-1901. Copper with silvered estucheon of the Queen Victoria cypher. (West Australia had a similar button.) Both below are backmarked C.R. Martin Melbourne.

Frosted gilt on gilt.

Frosted silver on brass.



“Attached to this officer’s chest belt is a whistle on the end of a chain, while on his left sleeve he wears crossed muskets, a sportsmanship award. By the year 1860 this volunteer movement was well established and preparations were in hand for the fortification of Hobson’s Bay and Port Phillip Bay.”

In 1858 the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle regiment was formed, of four infantry and two cavalry divisions. This soldier, a Ranger of the Ballarat Volunteers of 1874, has a busby made of sealskin and wears a marksmanship award on his left sleeve. Volunteers were issued with Lancaster percussion muzzle-loading rifles.”

In 1902 Victoria had the second largest force, including the Victorian Mounted Rifles and the Victorian Infantry Brigade and volunteer units.

Permanent Victorian Artillery Corps

Both backmarked Bowley & Co Melbourne, but of differing construction.

W. Moncton Melbourne, 1899-1903.

Stokes & Sons Melb

Lincoln Stuart Melbourne















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


Stokes and Martin Maker Melb

Victorian Artillery Staff

No backmark. Ball button.

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).

Wilson King Williams St, London

If you look at Cossum’s book, the NSW Artillery on page 8 and the Victorian Artillery Staff on page 16 are the same, apart from the quoted manufacturers. This is because the design was copied directly from the British, unlike, for example the  Royal Victorian Volunteer Artillery that had their own design struck.

The backmark relates to the wholesalers of these buttons. Barron & Wilson were cutlers/ironmongers in London from at least 1824 until 1885, when it became Wilson & Son at King Williams Street, London. They were sporting goods/kitchen/hardware merchants. Therefore the button dates post 1884.

If this dating for Wilson is correct, then the button was for the Victorian Artillery, as Cossum dates this design as 1870-80 for New South Wales.

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.

Stokes & Martin Melb 1892-3,

Lincoln Stuart & Co. 1893-1901







Unmarked. 1891-1901. The motto is  ‘Pro Deo et Patria’ (For God and fatherland/country) which a dates it to 1891 or later. As Stokes’ and Martin’s partnership dissolved in 1893, that button presumably dates to a short period around 1891-3.











The Victorian Rifle Volunteers were renamed in 1889 as the Victorian Rangers, and were often drawn from rifle clubs. 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 Age (Melbourne), 10th June 1891 page 7.

Victorian Naval Brigade

Backmark: C. R. Martin Melbourne

Stokes & Sons Melb







The colonies Naval reserve was reorganised in 1885 as the Victorian Naval Brigade until 1901 when the Commonwealth Naval Force was established. The  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.

As well as a double rows of 10 gilt buttons, there are another 3 buttons under the front flaps, and 3 on each cuff. Australian Maritme Museum;jsessionid=B742AA0669DFA8A1D7FBE3A3FD27D648


In 1900 five hundred 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.

Critic (Adelaide) 28th July 1900 page 10. Victorian Naval Brigade going to China.


Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney) 4th August 1900 page 39. Officers of The Cerberus.

Victorian Rifle Regiments

Thanks to Noble Numismatics for the following image.

Victorian Rifle regiments 1880-1890 (per Cossum).

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.

“This soldier’s spiked helmet illustrated here was in vogue, typical of those worn by the British line regiments, and similar to those worn by the German Army in the Franco-Prussian War. The West Melbourne regiment was formerly the 1st Victorian Metropolitan Rifles, and was later to become the first Victorian regiment.”

Victorian Volunteer Service


According to Cossum, 1870-1880, British make.

Thanks to Noble Numismatics. According to Cossum page 9 this is a Victorian Volunteer Service button c.1875. I am puzzled as to why it displays the ‘wrong’ crown.










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.

West Australia


Albany Defence Rifles

Thanks to Noble Numismatics: Albany Defence Rifles 1885-1888.

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

Thanks to Noble Numismatics  c.1903.

Stokes & Sons Melb.








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.

1st Infantry Volunteer Regiment

Tony Earl’s button.

This regiment was formed from the exisiting Perth, Guilford and Fremantle Rifle Volunteers in 1893 and existed until Federation.

The West Australian (Perth), 17th November 1893 p 6.

Boer War Contingents

1st Australian Horse

“Formed in 1897, this distinguished regiment saw service in the Boer war, and the 1st and 2nd World Wars. In 1903 it became the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment (Australian Horse) and, after several more changes, became the 7th Australian Motor Regiment in 1942. This regiment was disbanded in the following year.”

Australian Nursing Service

“Australian women made history when a detachment of nurses was organised and sent to South Africa to tend the wounded. Such a move wa s a victory in women’s fight for equality and recognition of their rights. Illustrated is one of these brave nurses who carried on the wonderful traditions of Florence Nightingale.”

South Australian Contingent to South Africa

SA contingents to South Africa 1899-1902. Cossum page 20.

Western Australian Infantry

From the back of the card: “When British regular troops were withdrawn from Western Australia in 1863 there were only three volunteer units in existence. But from that time the volunteer movement was to grow steadily. In 1899 Western Australia sent troops to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. The officer illustrated is in full dress uniform.’