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Victorian Colonial Military Forces Units, 1854-1901

The Victorian Colonial Military Forces refers to organized Victorian (non-British) pre-colonial military activity, whether voluntary or professional. They were divided into:

VOLUNTARY, UNPAID:

Naval Brigade (1859-1901) This voluntary, part-time brigade included a large proportion of ex-Royal Navy men. They were trained in infantry and artillery drill, both ashore and on board ship. The Naval Brigade supplemented the small permanent navy. It was divided into Williamstown and Sandridge (Port Melbourne) divisions.

Victorian Volunteer Forces (1854-1884) Became the primary defence force of the Colony after the withdrawal of the Imperial troops in 1870. The first colonial military unit in Victoria (separate to regular British units) was the Melbourne Rifle Regiment, formed in 1854. Cavalry, Artillery, Engineer, Torpedo and Signal units were later established, often as a result of private initiative, with titles deriving from the places in which they were raised. All units were voluntary and served part-time. Disbanded in favour of the professional Victorian Militia Force, funded by the Victorian colonial  government, in 1884.

PROFESSIONAL, PAID:

Permanent Naval Forces (1867-1901) These came into effective existence with the acquisition of HMVS Nelson, an obsolete, Napoleonic era line-of-battleship. More vessels were added later. Permanent Naval Forces personnel were usually supplemented by members of the Naval Brigade.

Victorian Artillery (1870-1901) Made a permanent professional force with the removal of Imperial forces in 1870, this is sometimes called the Permanent Artillery Corps. It provided standing garrisons for fortifications in the colony, and instructional staff for Victorian Volunteer Forces artillery units. It never exceeded 300 men.

Victorian Militia Force (1884-1901) When volunteer military forces were disbanded in 1884 a permanent militia defence force was established in its place by the Victorian colonial government. This force continued until Federation in 1901, when a national defence force was established. 

SEMI-PROFESSIONAL, ALLOWANCES PAID:

Victorian Mounted Rifles (1885-1901) Formed in 1885, companies were recruited in rural centres. Members of country rifle clubs formed a significant component. A small allowance only was paid to members. Mounted Riflemen were required to provide their own mount. Not to be confused with similarly named contingents to the Boer War.

Victorian Rangers (1888-1901) An infantry equivalent to the Victorian Mounted Rifles, the Victorian Rangers were raised in 1888. Members of country rifle clubs formed a significant component. A small allowance only was paid to members. Not to be confused with similarly named contingents to the Boer War.

 References:

National Archives of Australia Fact Sheet 134: 'Colonial defence personnel records held in Melbourne'.
 

 

 

 

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