Clubs and Volunteer Organisations

Adelaide Junior Musicians Club

No makers mark.

The Adelaide Drum and Fife Band made its first public appearance in December 1932, and first performed interstate in 1936. Newspaper articles seem to indicate that the “Adelaide Drum and Fife Band” and “Junior Musicians Club” were parts of a combined entity. See


Ambulance Services

Several Australian States still rely on St John Ambulances as the government appointed service; West Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. In Victoria and Queensland, the service had its origin with St. John. In New South Wales it started as a community based service, but would amalgamate with St John Ambulance Brigade. See also St John entry.


Civil Ambulance Service

Stokes & Sons Victoria. 1950-1962

In 1883 a branch of the St John Ambulance Association was formed in Melbourne. Like in Brisbane, the beginnings were humble and funding an ongoing problem. In 1887 six litters were placed at police stations for use. In 1899 the first horse drawn ambulance, and in 1910 the first motor vehicle were used.

From the Melton Civic Library, image # FL134, c.1895.

The Herald (Melbourne), 29th May 1916 page 10. Most patients provided no payment for their transportation.

In 1917 the Civil Ambulance Service had four motor and three horse wagons. The service was in debt but was appealing for funds to buy another ambulance. The government did not support the service until a significant influenza outbreak in 1918. The extra funding allowed an increase in staffing to 85 drivers and attendants, with 16 horse and motor vehicles. Country services began in 1923.

The Argus (Melbourne), 10th February 1927 page 9.

The Argus (Melbourne), 23rd August 1938 page 3. An outbreak of “infantile paralysis (polio) that year had place strain on the service.”

It 1954 a new “two way” radio communication was installed. Until then the officers had to ring from a public phone to let the dispatcher know they had successfully received the radio message!

The Age (Melbourne), 12th February 1947 page 5. A radio dispatcher at work.

In the 1980s the Metropolitan Ambulance Service was formed from the merger of smaller services. In 1997 rural services were consolidated. The services were further merged in 2008 into Ambulance Victoria.



New South Wales Ambulance

St John Ambulance Brigade

In 1895 the first ambulance, the Civil and Transport Brigade, was established: in a borrowed police station, it was manned by two permanent officers with hand-held stretchers. Horse drawn ambulances were introduced in 1899 and motor driven in 1912. Radio communication started in 1937 and an air service in 1967. The Maltese cross, as shown on the button, became the official symbol in 1920. The service was renamed the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Service the following year.


Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade

A. J. Parkes Brisbane

Ambulance services in Queensland date from 1892, but it was not until 1991 that 96 various services were amalgamated into the Q.A.S. under government control. The use of the Maltese Cross originates from the Badge of the Colony of Queensland. Queen Victoria favoured this emblem due to her concern for the sick and injured. The Colony Badge with this cross was adopted by many organisations within the Colony

The First Decade.

1892: The City Ambulance Transport Brigade started in the rooms of the Brisbane Newspaper Company with only a collapsible stretcher as equipment to transport patients on foot!

1893: A donation of £5 or more constituted life-membership. The service was raising funds to buy a litter.

1895: Many patients who used the service offered no payment. The litter’s wheels were on the point of collapse,  two new litters were required, as were new uniforms. The brigade consisted of a superintendent, three bearers and some assistant bearers. A branch was opened in South Brisbane. In November they were able to move out of the newspaper offices into their own office in Elizabeth Street. The Government offered to subsidise the brigade an amount equal to public subscriptions, which allowed the brigade to pay all arrears of wages.

1896: The service was now available at anytime, day or night. There were 6 permanent staff and 9 honorary bearers. If South Brisbane residents did not supply sufficient funds, the branch would have to close.  Lord Lamington became patron of the brigade. A branch in Gympie was suggested. First aid lectures were commenced. Funds were being raised to buy a Bath chair. Work had increased necessitating increasing the permanent staff to eight.

Detail from photo #2967/11 in Queensland State Library. Two men pushing a bath chair.

1897: A sulky was purchased. A branch was opened in Maryborough. The brigade was to be brought under the provisions of the Hospital Act. New headquarters were purchased in Wharf Street.

1898: Two more sulkys were purchased. A brigade badge was registered. Insuring staff against accident was considered.

1899: The brigade oped three sulkies, 3 horse, 7 litters, 3 stretcher and  one invalid chair. The staff were now totaled 23.

1900: Branches were to be opened in Townsville, Biggenden and Charters Towers. The city brigade was now called the Metropolitan Ambulance and Transport Brigade. The debt incurred in building new facilities had been cleared.

1901 Branches was opened in Rockhampton, Ipswick, Cairns and Warwick.

1902: A Branch in Toowoomba was opened. During the previous two years 20,951 “calls” were responded to and 70,086 miles traveled. Permanent staff in the  Brisbane headquarters now numbered 25. They were concerned about a reduction in government support.

State Library of Queensland image #66929354. Officers on a buggy with a wheeled litter attached. 1898.

Athenaeum Club, Melbourne

No backmark.

The Athenaeum Club was founded in May 1868, making it the second oldest in Melbourne, as a meeting place for ‘the purpose of providing a suitable place of resort for gentlemen belonging to the various professions, the civil service, and those connected with trade and commerce, who are recognised as having literary, artistic, or scientific tastes, or who may be otherwise considered eligible as members of such an association”.  The club was joined by men who shared scientific and literary interests . There were evenings devoted to music, literature and science. It was first owned by entrepreneur  J.G. Knight. The club’s earliest house was at 26-28 Collins Street East, the second, from 1891, at 290-292 Collins Street.

State Library Vic # H39357/46, Architect’s drawing of New Athenaeum Club, 1886-7.

The third and present site, from 1930, is at 83-87 Collins Street. The new building included a swimming pool, squash courts, hairdressing salon, gymnasium and masseurs room, billiard room, card rooms, bars, dining rooms and accommodation. The top floor was for servants quarters. Presumably it was these servants who wore uniforms with these buttons.

The Age (Melbourne), 14th June 1930 page 12.

The new building, for the first time, included a dining room where members could invite their wives and women friends. Up til then, women were not even allowed to enter the club. However, there was no intention of allowing them to be members.The Athenaeum ceased to be a proprietary club when the Moorhead family sold it to its members in 1918. It is now composed mainly of professional and business people. It is still a ‘gentlemen’s only’ club. If they are truly ‘gentlemen’, it is time they did something about that. It is also hypercritical, in that it is named after Athena, goddess of wisdom, who’s image appears on the building and button. She couldn’t be a member!

From the Facebook page.

Boy Scouts

See also “Geelong Try Boys Brigade”.



Scouting in Queensland started in October 1908, only 9 months after the publishing of Baden Powell’s famous book. Four separate patrols were started by church leaders of boys groups. In 1909 they joined into a State organisation.

A. J. Parkes Brisbane

A. J. Parkes. Scouting buttons in both hollow and solid back types.

State Library Qld (Image Number  Lord Baden Powell meeting Patrol leaders in Queensland, 1911.


South Australia

Various scouting  troops started in 1908 in this state.


New South Wales

No backmark

Scouting in NSW also started in 1908. As the troops formed independently, there resulted in several separate associations. It is now predominantly a branch of Scouts Australia.


Unspecified Scouts

We have not seen a Scouts Victoria button; perhaps they only used unspecified buttons. Let us know (and send a picture) if we are wrong!


Stokes & Sons

L to RA. J. Parkes Brisbane, A. J. parkes, unmarked


Girl Guides

Plastic Girl Guides and Brownies buttons, no backmarks.

Guiding groups formed  around Australia from 1909-1920, and formed a national organisation in 1926. Prior to 1996 girls aged 5-7 years were known as Brownies.

State Library SA Guides and Brownies, 1930.


The Melbourne Club

Stokes & Martin. 1867-1893.

The Melbourne Club was formed for “gentlemen” in November 1838, after only  4 years of Melbourne’s European settlement.

Port Phillip Gazette(Vic), 5th January 1839 page 3.

Technically, a gentleman was a member of a family with a coat of arms, but more broadly it included those those families owned landed estates in England, Ireland and Scotland. It initally met at John Pascoe Fawkner’s hotel, but moved into a purpose built building in 1859.  It was the premier social institution in terms of power and prestige. It still does not allow female membership, however there is the neighbouring female only ‘Lyceum Club’.

State Library Victoria image #1697750. 1892-1900.


Pipe Bands

See also the N.S.W. Pipe band on the Government uniforms page.

C. Hemsley Sydney


Small: Parkes. Large: Stokes Melb.  Are gilt buttons for band leaders?

Unearthed at old Sheridan factory site.

Royal Aero Club of New South Wales

Backmark: Angus & Coote Ltd. This is what happens when you don’t pay for a good diesinker to design your button! A very awkward and cramped flying kangaroo!

From a 1936 yearbook.

Thanks again to Cam Smith.

In 1914 some officers at the Point Cook base of the newly formed Australian Flying Corps established the Australian Aero Club. In 1920, after the interruption of the war, a New South Wales section was formed. Under the leadership of Colonel Oswald Watts, they became heavily involved in air safety, including airworthiness, safety standards and pilot training.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12th November 1919 page 11.

The Daily Telegrapgh (Sydney), 23rd May 1921 page 5. Unfortunately,, Watt drowned in the surf, aged only 43 years.

The Labour Daily (Sydney), 1st August 1935 page 4.

The Royal title was bestowed in 1935. Unfortunately, the club was placed into receivership during the 1990s, only being re-established in 2023 as a not-for-profit organisation.

The Australian Woman’s Weekly, 1st April 1981 page 11.

Sporting Clubs

Brighton Yacht Club

Stokes & Martin Makers Melbourne. The button dates from 1876-1893.

This club was established in 1875 as the Brighton Sailing Club, becoming the Brighton Yacht Club by 1876. The first Club House was built in 1877. In 1924 the Royal Warrant was granted.


Derwent Yacht Club

No backmark. It looks and feels like plastic, but because of the dating, is more likely to be horn, a natural plastic.

 The first¹  Tasmanian Yacht Club started in 1859 but failed by 1861. In 1874 the Derwent Sailing Boat Club was formed. It was renamed the Derwent Yacht Club in 1876.

The Mercury (Hobart), 13th October 1876 page 2.

In May 1880 a second club, unhappy with the existing one, started under the name Derwent Sailing Boat Club. It would in time absorb the rival. It was renamed the Derwent Sailing Club in 1884, the Derwent Yacht Club in 1899, then finally the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in 1910.

The Australasian (Melbourne), 14th November 1908. Opening of the Hobart yachting season.

The Mercury (Hobart), 30th September 1940 page 5.

There were/are also the Derwent Model Yacht Club and the Derwent Sailing Squadron, suggesting how fractured and political the Tasmanian sailing community must have been!

1. There was a single reference to a Derwent Yacht Club in 1833.


Holdfast Bay Yacht Club

Critic (Adelaide), 4th December 1907 page 6.
Guests at the Holdfast Bay Yacht Club’s opening.

Critic (Adelaide) 4th December 1907 page 6.

The Holdfast Yacht Club was established in 1883. In 1998 it merged with the Glenelg sailing Club to form the Adelaide Sailing Club.


Huntingdale Golf Club

Stokes & Sons Melb. The horn on the button is a nod to the club’s  site origins as a hunt club.

Formed from a club started in 1896, the club opened in 1941 on the site of the old Melbourne Hunt Club in East Oakleigh.  Huntingdale has hosted the Australian Masters since 1979.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 10th October 1948 page 22. Jim Ferrier playing at Huntingdale.


Melbourne Cricket Club

Spare button from MCC blazer worn by Dr Ian McDonald c.1958-1980, backmarked Stokes. Images used with kind permission from the Australian Sports Museum.

The first cricket match was held on Saturday 17th November 1838, with five men also meeting to form the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Port Phillip Gazette, 10th November 1838 page 3.

Port Phillip Gazette, 24th November 1838 page 3.

Quoted in The Age, 3rd December 1938 from a publication 30 years prior.

When building of the Hobson’s Bay Railway required the club’s ground in 1853, they were granted land in Richmond Park, to be their permanent home.

Illustrated Australian Mail (Victoria), 18th January 1862 page 40. “The grand cricket match between the All England Eleven and Eighteen of Melbourne at the MCG from the 1-4 January 1862. The first test match was held during the 1866-67 season.

The Australian News for Home readers, 20th December 1866 page 1. A match was to be held between ‘The Whites’ verses the ‘Aborigines of Victoria’. One player, Sugar, (standing to the immediate left of the white captain ) died before the match. They were described as “formidable opponents”.

The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne), 30th July 1881 page 252. A new pavilion was built , with the foundation stone laid by Prince Albert Victor (Queen Victoria’s grandson) on 4th July 1881. It replaced the original wooden members’ stand.

The MCC activities, apart from cricket and football,  have included clubs involved in rifle shooting, lawn bowls, tennis, baseball and lacrosse.

Bowls at the MCG in 1921.

The Grandstand of the MCG for the Austral Meeting of the Melbourne Bicycle Club, 1898.

Referee (Sydney), 8th December 1938 page 16. Note the club monogram on the cap, as on the button.


Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club

Sheridan, Perth

Established in 1896 on the banks of the Swan River in Freshwater Bay. It received the Royal prefix in 1935.

Western Mail ()Perth), 15th November 1923 page 24. The Club premises. New premises were opened in 1925.

The West Australian (Perth), 21st December 1925 page 12.

The West Australian (Perth), 11th November 1929 page 18.


Royal Melbourne Golf Club

Backmark Stokes.

The club was established in 1891 and received the Royal prefix in 1895. It is the oldest continuously existing golf club in Australia. (There were previously short lived Melbourne Golf Clubs in 1854 and 1888.)

The Argus (Melbourne), 27th May 1891 page 6.

The Australasian (Melbourne), 11th July 1891 page 19. The first meeting of the new club on 4th July 1891.

It started on rented land in Caulfield, then moved to Sandringham as the original land was being sold for housing. This land was later sold with the club moving again to the current location of Black Rock (the ‘West Course’) in 1931. A second course in Cheltenham (the ‘East Course’) was begun in 1929.

Leader (Melbourne), 1st August 1891 page 37. “The Ancient Game of Golf.”

The Australasian (Melbourne), 23rd October 1897 page 25. Intercolonial golf tournament.


Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron

See under the listing for the St Kilda Yacht Club.


Royal Motor Yacht Corp

Kitchener, Sydney.                                  Stokes & Sons, Melbourne  

The RMYC has operated from Pittwater since 1926. For their history see

From the club website.

Sydney Sportsman, 26th April 1927 page 16. Hugh ward and his wife in the Royal Motor Yacht Club races.


Royal Perth Yacht Club

The Perth Yacht  and Boat club was established in 1876, although the club claims on its website to have existed since 1865. I can find no confirmation of this, however regattas had held since 1841.

All these buttons are pre 1953 (King’s Crown).

The post 1953 design, with Queen’s Crown and upright anchor.


The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth), 7th June 1876 page 3.

The West Australian (Perth), 30th October 1952 page 15.

The original club house was opened in 1889. The following year the Royal prefix was granted by Queen Victoria, and the club  became known as the “Royal Perth Yacht Club”. A new club house was opened in 1953.

The West Australian (Perth), 5th November 1953 page 31.


Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club

Stokes & Sons King’s Crown

Tony Earle’s button from the VBCC magazine, May 2015. A. Hordern & Sons Sydney. QV crown.










In 1856 the first yachting club was formed in Sydney; the Mosquito Club. In October 1867, with the Prince about to visit, the club reformed to become the Prince Alfred Yacht Club.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 16th October 1867 page 4.

The Royal Sydney and Prince Alfred clubs’ yachts formed a guard of honour when the HMS Galatea sailed through Sydney Harbour. In 1911 the club was given permission to use the prefix ‘Royal’.

Crowds waving the HMS Galatea goodbye. Illustrated Sydney News, 22nd February 1868 page 1.

In 1919 the club moved to the less crowded waters of Pittwater, and stayed there until selling the land for a pretty penny in 1970. A second club house had previously built in the 1960s and was now the club’s sole location.

Royal Queensland Yacht Club

No backmark. 1902-1961

The club started as the Brisbane sailing Club in 1885. It was renamed the Queensland yacht Club in 1894 and gained the Royal title in 1902. Queen Elizabeth approved the name change to Squadron in 1961.

From the Queenslander Pictorial supplement, 25th October 1919 page 27.


Royal Sydney Golf Club,  Sydney

Amor Sydney

Club Logo








According to the club’s website ( the first club house consisted of a couple of rented rooms in a cottage. The second clubhouse was built in 1897. It was at the official opening of this facility that it was announced that the club had been allowed the prefix “Royal” by Queen Victoria. The third club house was built on the site of the current facility in 1903 but burnt down in 1920.

The Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser, 12th April 1905 page 922. #4 Shows the original clubhouse, #5 the second club house, and # 3 the third clubhouse.

By 1919 the membership numbered almost 1,500. After the fire a larger building was built and opened in July 1922. Further renovations have been necessary due to another fire, however this allowed for increased membership.


Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron

Backmark: J. W. Reynolds & Co., 50  St Martins Lane London C. 1865






As this club has been “Royal” since 1863, it is likely that there have been a variety of club buttons over the years.

Libraries Australia ID 52539290. Sir Dudley de Chair at the opening of the Sydney sailing season, Sydney, 19 October 1924.


Royal Yacht Club of Victoria

Pre 1886, when the Royal prefix was granted.

No backmark.

Established as early as May 1853 as the Victorian Yacht club, it is one of the oldest in Australia. It received the royal title in 1885.

The Australasian (Melbourne) 3rd June 1905 page 29.The new premises in St Kilda.

Weekly Times (Melbourne), 24th November 1906 page 9. “The run home.”


South Australian Yacht Club

The South Australian Yacht Club began in November 1869 on the Birkenhead side of the Port River.

The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide), 18th November 1869 page 2.

The Illustrated Adelaide News, 1st December 1876 page 1. Opening of the season.

In 1890 they received the Royal warrant, becoming the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron, so this button dates before then. In 1901 the Semaphore Club merged with the RSAYS, with the old Semaphore club site sold in 1927.

In 1923 the squadron was forced to move to the “Outer Harbour” by the Harbour’s Board. This was not a pleasant place and facilities at the new location were poor.

During WW2 most racing and sailing was suspended. Some members served in the local Naval Auxilary Patrol. Post war a new mooring basin was dredged for the Squadron, and facilities finally improved from 1959 onwards.


St Kilda Yacht Club

In  1876 a group of sailors established the St Kilda Sailing Club, changing to the St Kilda Yacht Club in 1884.

The Age (Melbourne), 21st October 1876 page 7.

Weekly Times (Melbourne), 27th September 1884 page 6.

Whilst the club’s website claims the name change was due “the desire to place the Club in a premier position”, I think it was actually because the former club of that name had folded! The news article below shows that a St Kilda Sailing Club and a St Kilda Yacht Club had co-existed. The Original S. K. Y. C. was already  existed in September 1875, before the Sailing Club, so they couldn’t use the name until the first folded or merged with them.

The Age (Melbourne), 10th May 1883 page 6.

State Library Victoria image #a02517. c.1911

In May 1924, King George V granted the Royal title.

Geelong Advertiser (Vic), 31st May 1924.

Their venue was used for yachting events during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.  A further name change followed; becoming the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron in 1961 upon merger with the St Kilda 14 Foot Sailing Club.

The Argus (Melbourne), 31st October 1955 page 5.


Volunteer Organisations


Australian Red Cross Society

K. G. Luke Pty. Ltd. Melbourne

Stokes & Sons Melb

K. G. Luke Melb

Originally the British Red Cross Australian Branch, it was established in 1914, just 9 days into WW1. It provided services including knitting socks, rolling bandages, gathering information on the dead and missing and burial places. It sent civilian nurses to France. In WW2 it cared for the sick, injured, maimed and their dependents, ran hostels and provided contact with POWs. Most of the volunteers at that time were unmarried women.

It continues to provide humanitarian aid, both local and international, and community services including blood supply services. See also Red Cross Rest Home below.

WW2 Australian Red Cross Uniform – Hat & Tunic


Campaigners for Christ Volunteers


In 1936 a group of businessmen and Christian laymen in Melbourne and Sydney formed Campaigners for Christ. During WW2 they were given permission to serve the forces by setting up “Everyman’s Huts” (and later Everywoman’s) for refreshment and entertainment. The staff wore military style uniforms and hold honorary Officer status. These services were funded by donations. They still support the military today.

It has been suggested that this is a button for the Victorian Corps of Comissionires, but a different design exists in the Geelong RSL. See


Collingwood Fire Brigade

The stag head is featured on the Collingwood family crest. This may date post 1880. No back mark. Shank missing.

Late in 1854 a series of meetings to establish a fire brigade was held in the district of Collingwood, which was “extending its boundaries so rapidly as to bid fair very soon to rival the city itself in point of size “. Like many fire brigades of the era, it was to be supported by an insurance company.

The Argus (Melbourne), 17th January 1855 page 5.

By the end of the second year two stations had been built, one at the corner of Smith and Webb Streets, the other midway along Johnston Street. By 1860 there were two Collingwood brigades, a Collingwood Volunteer and an United Insurance Company Collingwood Fire Brigade.  On 18th June 1860 the volunteer brigade resigned due to a dispute with the insurance companies, and the assets were sold. However, by  1876 there were once again two rival Collingwood Brigades. By 1878 there were four! In 1878 the council forced them to amalgamate as four units of the Collingwood United Fire Brigade. However, jealousy and squabbling continued for years. In 1889 there were still disputes between insurance company and volunteer brigades in Collingwood.

Collingwood was declared a city in 1876. The button may date from after 1880, as that is when the Collingwood City Council paid for a copy of the crest to be sent from London.


Geelong “Try” Boys Brigade

In 1897, inspired by the Melbourne Try Boys Brigade’s work in helping disadvantaged boys, a group of Geelong businessmen, lead by Charles Shannon (1841-1922) decided to provide a safe haven for poor working and street boys to undertake entertainment, education and other activites in the evenings.

Geelong Advertiser, 1st September 1897 page 1.

It was to prove very successful and popular. From 1909 until 1993 it was associated with Victorian Scouting. The Brigade continues its work today.

The badge above was probably a membership badge, produced by Stokes & Sons. The owner says it was his grandfather’s, and is heavy. I presume the attachment on the back is to fix the badge through a button hole. The number 337 on the back is a mystery; it is not a number for silver content. It dates between 1897-1962.

Geelong Advertiser, 14th July 1927 page 1.


Red Cross Rest Home

Bridgland & King, Melbourne

 Rest homes were built with money raised by the community. According to the National Trust:

Rest homes were built because there was nowhere for the soldiers to convalesce in the military hospitals other than on the verandahs or dining rooms and the men apparently soon became bored with these options. Rest rooms provided billiard tables, pianos and gramophones; they were centres for men to read and write and the Caulfield rest home had an excellent library. They offered the chance to see friends, play games and have morning and afternoon tea. The men were able to learn important skills such as wood carving, leather tooling, spinning, painting, raffia work and stitchery. It was thought these skills would enable them to supplement their pensions. The articles they made were often sold to raise more funds for the Red Cross. These pastimes were vitally important for the men’s physical and mental health. In 1919 the Rest Home was being enlarged to include a pavilion for sick nurses (The Age 24 March 1919, p8).

‘No.1 Red Cross Rest Home, at Prince’s bridge. Published in The Australasian, 1st April 1916 page 60.

But who made the buttons?

The original Bridgland and King were Charles Everest Bridgland and Percy John King, the same P. J. King of the famous firm. The partnership started in 1893 as engravers of brass plates and general work, in Little Collins Street. The partnership dissolved in 1899 with King continuing alone.

Published in The Age, 6th August 1903 page 18.

The usurpers may have been the firm advertising as located at 378 Post Office Place (Lt Bourke Street) and offering the same services. They advertised heavily over the coming years, and were responsible for some uniform buttons.


Richmond City Fire Brigade.

No backmark. Squashed loop shank. c.1883-1891.

 The original Richmond Fire Brigade was established around 1852, being one of the oldest in the Melbourne district. It received its first engine (water pump) and ‘appurtenances’ in 1855 from insurance companies. In 1865 it was reported that there was both an old and new brigade. Five years later in 1870 the Volunteers (the old) were disbanded due to council interference . In 1871 the ‘new’ brigade organised by the council managed to put out a fire in St Stephen’s Church without spoiling the recently purchased organ! However, this brigade did not last long and in 1872 there was a “newly formed” Richmond Fire Brigade. In 1874 this consisted of 12 paid firemen. As they were paid per fire attended, coincidentally there seemed to be an increase in the number of fires! As this was costing the council a lot of money, the council changed the brigade to be partly staffed by volunteers. The number of fires dropped off! However, there was resentment from the volunteers that they were not being paid as were their professional colleagues. Therefore the brigade was re-reformed as volunteer only.

In 1883 the Richmond City Fire Brigade was first mentioned, operating along with the Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade. I’m not sure if the volunteer unit existed after 1889, but the ‘City’ brigade existed until the formation of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria: View of Richmond looking north, taken from the old fire bell tower, taken by G.R. Reid.

St John Ambulance Brigade

The Brigade has it’s origins in 1877 when the Order of St John (a  British chivalric order dating back to the Knights Hospitaller in the 12th century) founded an association to provide first aid training, and later,  volunteers capable of providing medical assistance at public gathering and during emergencies.

Stokes Vic







Millers Ltd.

St John Ambulance teaches first aid, and provides emergency medical services, primary staffed by volunteers. The first local branch was established in Melbourne in 1883. The first ambulance brigade was at Glebe, New South Wales, in 1903. The title St John Ambulance Australia was adopted in 1987.

The St. John Ambulance Association, horse and covered cart outside the Eastern Hill Fire Station c.1901. State Library Victoria


Volunteer Fire Brigade

No backmark. The motto is Honi soit qui mal y pense. It was made for un-named fire brigade(s) in Melbourne, 1880s.

“The United Fire Brigades Torch-light Procession.” Leader (Melbourne), 3rd June 1882 page 5.


Volunteer Women’s Army Auxillary Corps

On page 71 of “Buttons of the Defence Forces in Australia” by J. K. Cossum, printed in 1988, is an image of a button bearing the letters VWAAC.

The Farmer and Settler (Sydney), 28th March 1918 page 8.

Table Talk (Melbourne), 16th May 1918 page 22. The first parade held at Victoria Barracks on 17th May 1918.

Australian War memorial, image HO2386. The VWAAC march down Bourke Street on Comfort Fund Day in July 1918.

Bendigonian, 14th November 1918 page 11.

The corps was formed under the control of the Commonwealth Defence Department. They aimed to welcome home returned soldiers and help with repatriation. They helped sell YMCA fundraising buttons, prepared “welcome home” suppers and met returning soldiers at railway stations. Apparently there was some disparaging comments about the corps, which they found insulting. The British version, of which Queen Mary had been the commander-in-chief, had approximately 10 thousand serving in France in 1918, working as cooks, clerks, waitresses, bakers, driver mechanics, assisting the Royal Flying Corps, sail making, as fitters and turner, etc.

The Lone Hand (Magazine), 2nd September 1918 page 415.


Young Australia League

Stokes & Sons MelbourneThe YAL was founded by John Joseph (Jack) Simons (1882-1948), a West Australian businessman, newspaper publisher  and politician.

The advance Australia (Magazine), 11th October 18910 page 228.

The ‘Young Australia League’ was renamed in 1905 from the ‘Young Australia Football League’ which had been started in Perth and Fremantle that same year to promote the Australia code over other codes as part of a broader nationalist agenda, with a broadened interest covering literature, literature, debating, band music, sport and theatrical performances, and well as outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. They believed in “Education through Travel” and organised tours for West Australian school aged boys. After WW1 branches were started in other States. In now operates only in West Australia.


Y.M.C.A. (A.I.F.) World War 1

Australian War Memorial item #RELAWM05467.001

On Cossum’s book page 71 is a button depicting an inverted triangle superimposed by a rectangle containing the letters ‘YMCA”. According to the AWM,  the Australian YMCA rented the Aldwych theatre in London from 1917-1919 as an accomodation, dining and entertainment centre for members of the Australian Imperial Forces; this banner comes from that theatre.

The Aldwych Theatre, AWM image #5637

The YMCA were also responsible for other resources for the benefit of AIF troops, including Greenhill House. Activities included providing writing paper for letters home, film showings, libraries, religious services, concert parties, folk dancing and educational lectures. 

They  provided services to troops on the war front.

State Library Victoria: image #1785924.

Cowra Free Press (NSW), 21st March 1917 page 4.

They also provided rest homes and clubs in Australia for returned soldiers.

Punch (Melbourne), 20th November 1918 page 18.


Women’s National Emergency Legion

Cam Smith

The Telegraph (Brisbane) 25th January 1939 page 1.

It provided first aid and other training to allow women to help with the war effort, and was an  auxiliary of the Department of Defence. Despite being a civilian organisation, it adopted military style uniforms and ranks.  Around 1940 they became affiliated with Britain’s First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.)

State Library Queensland item item: 99284843402061: Members in 1943.

Following the outbreak of the Pacific War members were attached to U.S. units as drivers and clerks. Some watched for mines for the Naval Corps and some with the Volunteer Air Observers.