The Military at Parramatta
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
A talk given to the Parramatta and District Historical Society on 19 September 1962 by Lieutenant Colonel PV Vernon OBE, ED, psc.
I have given my talk this evening the above title:-"glances" because my listeners, depending on their varying degrees or angles of interest in the subject, will notice a lot of gaps.
The troops which have graced this old town are, as you know:-
1. the detachments of a number of British regiments which were stationed here over a period of about 60 years up to 1850, and
The word "detachment" will be used from time to time and I should perhaps explain that it means a portion of a regiment or battalion or other body, which is separated or detached temporarily from the main body, but no particular size is implied for a detachment may vary in strength from 2 or 3 men to, say, a hundred or more, and the size of a detachment is governed by circumstances.
An old building in Macquarie Street used by the R.S.L. Linden House was used in the 1830's and 1840's as a mess house for the junior officers. Senior officers are said to have used a building (standing in 1953) in George Street, on its northern side, on the western side of the picture theatre.
Mr A. Houison, in "A History ofParramatta" published in 1890, states : "The officers' mess house was for many years the residence of the late Dr Pringle and is now owned and occupied by his widow." I confess I do not know where that house stood.
After the British regiments had left Parramatta, which was in 1850, the barracks now known as the Lancer Barracks were leased to the Colonial Government and were used for a while as Police barracks. Mr T. D. Little, author of "Memories ofParramatta in the Sixties" written in 1911 or earlier, mentions : 'The police barracks were in a large walled-in paddock where now stand the District School, Lancer Barracks, etcetera. Trooper Budin, a dashing Frenchman, who fought with Lord Cardigan, and took part in the charge of the Six Hundred, was the idol of everybody. What a great horseman he was! And how excited he used to become as be told the story of that charge!'
Another gleaning from "The Cradle City of Australia" (page 34) is this: 'The terrace of two-storey houses in Harris Street near George Street dates from the 1840's. They were advertised for sale in 1844 when the advertisement refers to them as newly erected. Probably they were erected for use by the military when the old George Street store was tenanted by the soldiery.' Mr Jervis says : "In Lower George Street a collection of small old-fashioned cottages still stands, which were built, probably, to house the wives of the soldiery".
The garrison troops who came with the First Fleet were three (or four ?) companies of marines. While they .ere here they lived under very difficult conditions. Rations were short. There was a meagre scale for the men, which scale was not always available in fact; wives received two-thirds of that scale and children at first one-third, and later one-half, of the ration of a grown man. Owing to the inadequacy of storehouses, substantial, quantities of food were consumed by rats and other pests, while further stores were lost through indifferent packing for the voyage from England. On top of those, there were losses by pilfering. On 1st November, 1789, the full ration was reduced by one-third.
Clothing and footwear were scarce. The rough life here caused a quick reduction in the small reserve stocks, until replacements locally were no longer available.
Those were some of the conditions under which the Marines had to perform their many tasks. Apart from policing and supervising the 600 male and 180 female convicts who had arrived with the First Fleet, the Marines had to assist in the erection of barracks and other buildings and in the construction of roads; they even had to help in the farming of lands in a desperate endeavour to establish the new colony.
The first British troops to be quartered in Parramatta, or Rose Hill as it was at first known, were, then, a portion of this marine force which came out with Governor Phillip.
Their successors were the N.S.W.Corps, raised in 1789, which progressively relieved the Matinee during the years to 1792, and detachments of this regiment would have been Parramatta, no doubt, until 1810 when the N.S.W.Corps was replaced by the 73rd Foot.
The N.S.W. Corps was a much criticised body, yet it should ~e noted that Governor King on several occasions emphasised his approval of the men of this corps and wrote on 1st March, 1802, "the utmost order of regularity has uniformly prevailed amongst the N.C.O's and privates".
The Battle of Vinegar Hill on 4th March, 1804, with which you will doubtless be familiar, gave a small portion of the Corps a chance to prove its military efficiency. There is an account of this incident by J.H.M.Abbott, in which he tells of Major Johnston's part, including the following:
With 2 officers, 2 sergeants and 52 rank and file, Major Johnston set out from the old barracks in Lower George Street (Sydney) at 1.30 a.m. and reached Parramatta a little after 4 o'clock. This is good going, along a road that was only a rough cart track - the distance is about 10 kilometres - and in the uncomfortable uniforms of the day, with their throttling leather stocks. After twenty minutes' rest, Johnston divided his forces, and set off in pursuit of the rebels. By night-fall his detachment, at any rate, must have marched more than sixty kilometres, through half the night and a hot next day. (Major Johnston and his force of about 30 could tackle the 400 convicts with some confidence as the latter were not all armed. It is said they had 26 muskets, 1 fowling piece, bayonets on poles, one pitchfork, one pistol, eight reaping hooks, and 2 swords.)
In 1809 Macquarie was appointed Governor and brought his own regiment, the 73rd Foot. In the same year the N.S.W. Corps became the 102nd Regiment and on 12th May, 1810, left Port Jackson and returned to England via Cape Horn, being the only British Regiment which has circumnavigated the globe. In 1818 instructions were issued to disband the unit.
The 73rd Foot was the first of twenty-five British Line to come to Australia. Do not think that the British Government sent us only a few convict guards. The fact is that the British Government despatched to this country the very flower of the Bri-lsn infantry for the defence ofAustralasia. It sent us regiments fresh from the great battles of the Napoleonic era and officers whose names live in the histories of most of the dominions and colonies, as well as in those of our own; in the histories, also, of the Indian and Napoleonic wars of the end of the XVIIIth and beginning of the XIXth centuries. "Now, any conception of early Australian history which does not pay tribute to the benign effects of military occupation falls far short of realism", says Mr Ellis; "The British soldiers who were sent here in the early decades of the XIXth century were remarkably skilled in the technique of what they were called upon to do, including civil administration". Up to 1850 New South Wales was governed by officers trained in the British Line regiments in accordance with standardised British colonial methods and experience.
The experience of the soldiers who came here had been gained in lands distant from Europe and peopled by backward or barbarous people. They had learned their profession in an atmosphere foreign to modem conceptions of war organisation, since, in the process of conquering any country or pursuing any war at that stage in history, armies stayed in foreign lands for years together, relying on local resources, establishing rule-of-thumb governments over the civilian population within their own ambit. On campaign they fed themselves and often armed themselves locally instead of relying on their industries at home. Because of the time taken in communicating with London, military commanders were apt to be governors and autocrats with almost absolute power when swift action was called for, and to proceed according to necessity or expediency.
Now, remember that Australia was devoid of development and indigenous civilised population. For that reason it was well that military officers sent here were accustomed (as most were) to assessing the nature and productivity of the terrain, to establishing communications with speed and to making the best of the pioneering conditions. These officers, also, were in nearly all cases adventurous. They had a flair for reconnaissance and, like good soldiers, a curiosity about what lay beyond the horizon.
Most regiments sent here were generally fresh, or almost fresh, from long periods of active overseas service. This was certainly an advantage to Australia where tough men were needed; she certainly got tough, adventurous, bold, adaptable and competent men.
The regiments were used to long journeys, both by sea and by land. Some were hardened by tedious, strenuous marches in the jungles of India, or along the mule tracks of Spain and Portugal.
It is interesting to recall, too, that their uniforms were hardly designed for comfort generally, nor for service in hot countries in particular.
Let us now consider briefly some of the regiments which were represented in the town of Parramatta.
The 1st Battalion of the 73rd Foot, under the command of Lt-Col M.C. O'Connell, embarked on 8th May, 1909, at Yarmouth for service in, New South Wales, and anchored in Port Jackson on 28th December, 1809. They came with Governor Macquarie, their former commanding officer.
There seems to be some confusion about the designation of this regiment which has been erroneously referred to as the 73rd (Royal Highland) Regiment. A military history friend of mine, Mr P.H. Bullock, has carried out research on this regiment and I am indebted to him for certain portions of the following information.
The 2nd Battalion, The Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch) was constituted a separate corps in 1786 under the title of 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot. It served with great distinction in India for about 17 years. There it fought Haider Ali, and it twice fought against Tipoo Sahib, his son, and led the storming columns which broke his power at Seringpatam on 4th May, 1797. In 1805 it was ordered .home to England. The reason for this move seems to have been the need to recruit more men, says Mr Bullock; numbers of the men in the regiment at this time appear to have accepted the bounty offered to them to stay in India. The remaining members of the unit were sent home and were stationed at Perth. A draft of 800 men was taken into the regiment, and in 1807 Colonel Lachlan Macquarie was given command.
Early in 1809 the Regiment was re-organised and was converted from a Highland regiment to a normal regiment of Foot; the word "Highland", in brackets, was dropped from the title and so it came to New South Wales as the 73rd Regiment of Foot. At the same time the kilt and other items of Scottish dress were replaced by uniform of normal infantry pattern. Nevertheless, the older members of the Regiment tended to retain, during the voyage out and while in New South Wales, their Scottish customs, which fact may have been the cause o£ confusion over the title.
It remained a normal Foot regiment until 1862, when it became the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot. In 1881 lot once again became the 2nd Battalion The Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch).
The battalion landed in Sydney on 1st January, 1810, and detachments were sent in the course of three months to Van Diem en's Land, Norfolk Island and Newcastle. While out here it was reinforced by volunteers from the old N.S.W. Corps and in 1812 its establishment was raised to 1200 rank and file.
The officers of the 73rd were apparently, keen racegoers, for in October, 1810, they combined with some of the citizens and arranged Sydney's first race meeting, the track being where Hyde Park now is. A three-day meeting was held in the following year and the officers of the 73rd were successful in training the winners of some of the more important races.
The 73rd carried out many important tasks that were of considerable benefit to citizens and defences. For example, early in 1811 a party from the 73rd was detailed to build a road from the Hamlet of Sydney to South Head, and completed the task in ten weeks. This thoroughfare, now known as Old South Head Road, considerably helped in the development of the Eastern Suburbs.
In 1814 the 73rd sailed from Sydney (24 Jan., 24 Mar., 5 Apr) and commenced service at Colombo. Before it left Sydney, Governor Macquarie issued a General Order expressing appreciation of "the zealous and laborious exertion of the soldiers of the Seventy-Third". The 73rd afterwards played an important part in the Battle of Waterloo.
The 73rd was followed by the 46th Regiment, the South Devons, which later became the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. They had helped to conquer Canada, had fought in the American War of Independence at Brooklyn and Brandywine, and had to helped to take Guadelope and Martinique two or three years before they were to sail for New South Wales.
The 46th was used mainly as a guard for the protection of the population and settlers at Sydney and Newcastle against hostile natives, escaped convicts and bushrangers who had become such a serious menace that the settlers in the outlying areas were in constant danger of attack and worked their holdings under the greatest difficulties. There is on record the courage and initiative of Capt. James Wallis of the 46th when his company, while on duty at Liverpool, was detailed to punish hostile natives. The actual punishment was of a mild nature but for the service rendered on this occasion Capt. Wallis' company was rewarded by a gift of 15 gallons of rum by order of Governor Macquarie. Capt. Wallis was afterwards commandant of the settlement at Newcastle where, during his administration, remarkable improvements were made.
The 46th also gave us Lieutenant John Watts, the architect of the new barracks at Parramatta, now known as the "Lancer Barracks".
In 1817 the 46th proceeded to Madras and served in India for 15 years before returning home.
The 46th were followed by the 48th, Northamptons, and then came the Buffs -'Forward the Buffs" - the 3rd Regiment of the Line, the East Kents - among the most ancient of British Regiments. They stem from the old Holland Regiment, formed in Queen Elizabeth's day, in 1572. They had fought in all the great battles of Marlborough's wars from Schellenburg and Blenheim onwards, in the American War, the Peninsula War and at Waterloo. In August, 1821, detachments of the Buffs commenced to embark at Deptford, with parties of convicts, for New South Wales, and thereafter at intervals, according to the numbers of convicts, continued to embark by detachments, the last of which arrived at Sydney on 2fth August, 1823.
Their headquarters was in Sydney, but the regiment was never concentrated here, for detachments were continually "coming and going" from and to various out-stations. The Colony was reported to be in a lawless state, the country districts being infested with parties of bushrangers recruited mainly from the ranks of escaped convicts. So, as well as guarding the prisoners in the recognised settlements, chief of which was Port Macquarie, the Buffs were often called upon to support the police in rounding up these gangs of outlaws.
Between 1822 and 1827 detachments of the Buffs were stationed at Port Dalrymple in Tasmania, at Parramatta, Liverpool, Newcastle, Port
Macquarie, Wellington, Botany Bay and Bathurst. The Regiment was augmented in strength and in 1826 it comprised very nearly 1100 of all ranks. The excellence of the tasks performed by some of the small detachments won the approbation of Governor Darling who issued an order expressing his gratitude for their zeal and conduct.
Conditions of service were hard and discipline severe. The Governor reported of the N.C.O's : "They are in general old soldiers and they perform their duty in a very proper manner". Of the men he wrote : "Their conduct in general is good but there are some individuals who are addicted to drinking which it is difficult to restrain in the Colony. They are clean and healthy". That discipline was severe was borne out by the number of floggings awarded where troops were charged and found guilty of drunkenness or of insubordination and violence while drunk.
One officer, Major A.C. Innes, obtained his release, became a stook breeder and eventually established a sheep station which he called Glen Innes, now a large and prosperous town.
Major de Winton of the 99th Foot (Wiltshires), in his book "Soldiering Fifty Years Ago; Parramatta in the Forties", wrote : "If light duties, pleasant society and a good and inexpensive mess constitute an agreeable quarter, these conditions Parramatta amply fulfilled ... Iftbe customs were light, tbe military duties were still lighter; indeed, compared with those of Chatham they were nominal".
I was pleased to find that the 'TST.S.W. Calendar and General Post Office Directory" for each of the years 1833 to 1837 gives, for each of the regiments in Australia or 'en route' to Australia, the names of all their officers, in order of seniority, dates of their commissions and where they were stationed. Under the heading "Distribution of the Forces", we can read the composition and strengths of the detachments at the various stations ; for example, the 1833 Directory tells us that the headquarters of the 4th Foot were at Parramatta and that stationed there the 4th had : 2 field officers, 3 captains, 7 subalterns, 4 staff, 19 sergeants, 10 drummers and 292 rank and file - total, 337. Their Capt. T .Williams had been assigned to commend the mounted police, which comprised in all 4 officers and 97 others drawn from the 4th and 17th Regiments.
The Directory for 1836 shows the regimental headquarters located as follows: 4th Parramatta, 17th. Sydney, 50th Windsor, 21stHobart Town. The 28th already had a detachment here but most of its strength was on passage out from England. The average strength of the 4th, 17th, 21st and 28th, according to the figures stated in the Directory, was 741 of all ranks, while the effectives of the 50th totalled 686. The mounted police strength is shown as a total of 138. The distribution of the 4th at that period is interesting, viz :
Parramatta (HQ) 317
What a pity that publication of this Directory was not carried on! Time dictates that I must soon cease talking about the British Regiments, so I shall refer to just two more. While quartered in the old barracks in 1846, in the area now known as Wynyard Square, the 99th was not only unpopular with the authorities but had shown signs of mutinous conduct (see Short History of the Military Forces in N.S.W.). So seriously was this state of affairs viewed that the 11th (North Devons) were brought from Tasmania to keep the peace and restore discipline among the unruly element of the 99th. One of the most popular regiments to have served in the colonies, the 11th disembarked at the Quay in 1846 and marched with fixed bayonets up George Street to the Barracks. Tact and firmness on the part of Colonel Bloomfield, C.O. of the 11th, together with the splendid discipline of his regiment, won the day. 'Open at once to comrades in uniform in the name of the Queen" is the command that tradition ascribes to this officer in a moment of crisis. Slowly and sullenly, the order was obeyed. To the surprise of the mutineers, the guard of the 99th turned out and presented arms in soldierly fashion. The fine impression made by the North Devons appears to have been sufficient to quell incipient mutiny and appeal to the best element in the 99th. The amazing fact is recorded that, instead of resenting the presence of the newly arrived troops, those inside the barracks square raised three hearty British cheers in which the women and children joined. Only the ringleaders and some of their following refrained from asking part in this ovation to comrades in uniform. In a short time the good feeling between the 99th and the 11th prevailed and this condition remained until the former left Sydney for duty elsewhere. The 11th was 80 popular and so appreciated by the people of Sydney that in 1848 they were returned in answer to a public petition to have them quartered in Sydney again. This caused them to be the first regiment officially to occupy the newly completed Victoria Barracks.
The Rev. George Fairfowl Macarthur was appointed Garrison Chaplain at Victoria Barracks during 1848. The discipline of the 11th so impressed the Garrison Chaplain that it was to have an important effect later in his life. Some years later when he was running a School at Macquarie Fields, he, having memories (as one-time Garrison Chaplain to the 11th Regiment) of the value of discipline for the development of "carriage, precision, alertness, morale and corporate action", decided that discipline was an admirable adjunct to school training and formed a volunteer corps in 1866 -"The Macquarie Fields Corps". As you will know, after The King's School had been closed this Macquarie Fields School was moved to Parramatta in 1868 and became the King's School, re-founded by George Fairfowl Macarthur. So we can see that the 11th North Devons were the inspiration for the formation of Australia's oldest cadet corps to-day. The King's School Cadet Corps.
The first local volunteers were the two companies of the Loyal Association Corps formed in 1800, each of 50 members one at Sydney under Captain Thomas Rowley, and one at Parramatta under Mr James Thompson. They were disbanded in 1801, but in October, 1802, They were re-instated and were armed, clothed and victualled at Government expense. These volunteers were disbanded finally in June, 1810, following the arrival of the 73rd Foot.
Many years later, when military establishments were depleted by reason of regiments being sent to fight in the Maori Wars, the citizens once again commenced to think of doing something themselves about defence, but it was not until 1854, under the stress and excitement caused by the Crimean War, that public opinion influenced the Governor to sanction a Volunteer Corps to supplement the garrison. And so was formed the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps. There were also formed a company of artillery and a troop of cavalry, but both of these fizzled out in 1856.
Interest in the volunteer infantry waned somewhat, but in 1859, on the outbreak of another Maori War, all available Imperial troops were despatched to New Zealand, leaving he Colony practically helpless in the event of an attack to a hostile power.
As a result of renewed agitation a, more liberal Act was passed in 1860, which allowed drill instructors to be appointed to volunteer units and a capitation fee was granted to provide uniforms and accoutrements. The Sydney Battalion of Rifle Volunteers commenced recruiting and raised six companies in the Sydney area.
At Parramatta. Dr Greenup aroused the citizens to a sense of their responsibility in the defence and protection of their country, and, as a result, in September, 1860, the first enrolments were made in the Parramatta Volunteer Rifle Corps.
According to an article on the unit, in the sesqui-centenary issue of The Cumberland Argus in 1938, 72 were enrolled and the name of every one is given. I have not listed these names but would mention that the first captain was Dr Walter Brown and the first lieutenant was Neil Stewart, while among the others were Mr A. Rouison and also Charles Cawood - the latter was to complete 50 years of unbroken service in the, unit. That is an extraordinary record of service and it would be interesting to know if it has been equalled in Australia «Compare A.E.Taylor of the Lancers». A strength return of 1863 shows that Parramatta then had 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, 1 medical officer, 4 N.C.O's and 64 others - total, 71.
The first uniform, which was at the member's expense, was a dark blue serge coat, white trousers and peaked cap. Arms were Henry rifles and bayonets. The second uniform came in about two years after formation of the corps: "pepper and salt" tweed jacket and trousers and a peeked cap with a pall in front, known as a shako.
The work of turning out polished soldiers from the raw material, says Mr Keith Macarthur Brown in "Medical Practice in Old Parramatta", was left in the hands of Sergeant Cherry of the Imperial Army. He was a striking figure on parade in his scarlet coat, marching to the Domain at the head of about 70 men, all smartly turned out at their own expense in their grey uniform with green facings.
In Febmary, 1861, the ladies of the town presented the corps with its camp colours (flags). The ceremony took place in front of old Government House. The splendour of the parade was greatly enhanced by the presence of volunteer companies from Sydney, Penrith and the Hawkesbury.
For some months drills were carried out twice daily, except on Sundays, at the military buildings in George Street and on the site of the District School.
Some years later the dress was a brown uniform, but in lti97 there was provided in addition a full dress which included a scarlet tunic. From the time the Commonwealth took over in 1903 the uniform was brown.
In 1878 there was a re-organisation of the Volunteers and the Partial Payment scheme (that is) Militia) was introduced. The Parramatta corps was included in the 3rd (Western) Regiment, Volunteer Rifles, which later became the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Parramatta company was transferred in 1892 to the 1st Regiment and a few years later back again to the 3rd.
Under the Commonwealth there have been changes of designation, and the regiment or battalion of which the infantry of Parramatta have formed a part has been known as:
1903, 3rd Australian Infantry Regiment; 1912, 20th (Parramatta) Infantry; about 1918, 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment; 1921, 20th Battalion; 1929 20th/54th Battalion (Parramatta and Blue Mountains Regiment). Infantry have not been raised at Parramatta since the Second World War.
I read that ten members of the Parramatta Company and one ex-member were selected from volunteers for the Sudan War Contingent which sailed from Sydney on 3rd March, 1885. Also, several members served in the South African War. No doubt a good proportion of the Parramatta Infantry saw active service in the Great War but, as you know, the local unit did not go on active service as a unit because only units of the specially raised "A.I.F." could be sent abroad.
The New South Wales Lancers have been associated with Parramatta since 1891 - that is, for 71 years. The beginning of this regiment was the forming of the Sydney Light Horse Troop, as Volunteers, in January, 1885, which was followed during the next few months by the raising of light horse troops at a number of country centres all under the command of Captain M.M.MacdonaId (later Colonel). His active service experience had begun in India years before the British infantry had left Parramatta - in fact, in 1839. The members of theses light horse troops provided their own horses, a condition which applied from start to finish in the Australian Light Horse except in respect of contingents sent overseas; it is necessary that members of part-time cavalry should own and maintain their own mounts as otherwise a percentage of them would get too little experience in the care and handling of horses.
For a while all these troops that were raised in 1885 and 1886 were administered as independent bodies forming the "Cavalry Brigade Reserves", and !n 1889 they - with the exception ofTenterfield-Tabulam which had gone over to the Partially Paid Mounted Rifles - were welded into a normal regiment, under Lt-Col Macdonald, and in 1890 the regiment was placed on the Partially Paid Establishment. The name of the Regiment at that time, by the way, was "New South Wales Cavalry Regiment", and it was actually a regiment of lancers, weapons being lance, sword and carbine. The name was changed to New South Wales Lancers in 1894.
I should like to mention two of the early troops, formed in January, 1886 - Tabulam and The Border - which together formed the Upper Clarence Light Horse. They were founded and led by Captain C.H.E.Chauvel, of Tabulam station. Two of his sons served under him in the U.C.L.H., one being Lieutenant H.G.Chauvel who was later to become one of the outstanding senior commander of the A.I.F. in the Great War, in the position of General Officer Commanding the Desert Mounted Corps whose campaign in Palestine and Syria was a notable and glorious one. Casino Troop replaced the Border Troop in 1887 and in 1888 Tabulam went over to the Mounted Rifles. The troops which formed the N.S.W.Cavalry in 1889 were Sydney, Illawarra, West Camden, Hunter River (Maitland), Richmond River (Casino), and Murrumbidgee.
Against that background, then, was formed the Parramatta, or 'K', Troop in 1891.1 understand that the man behind this was John Sulman, later Sir John Sulman, eminent architect. He canvassed the district for "Starters" and as a result of his spade work there was a mounted parade of prospective recruits in the Park on 6th June, 1891. The adjutant at that time was Captain M.McNeill of the 4th Hussars, who had been lent to the Colony in connection with the re-organisation of the cavalry in 1889, mentioned earlier; in fact, he had been specially selected for the job and proved to be a most happy choice as he adapted himself admirably to local temperament and conditions. He was present, naturally, on the 6th June, 1891, and after he had passed the men's horses they repaired to the School of Arts for the swearing-in. On that day, or within a few days, a total of 53 were sworn in. Three of those sworn on 6th June subsequently commanded the Regiment, two of them going still higher: James Bums, Charles F.Cox and Robert C. Mackenzie. The first captain appointed was James Bums and the first lieutenant was John Sulman; in the following year Mr J.Houison was commissioned (one notes the name Houison belonging to original members of both the Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1860 and of the Cavalry in 1891). Of Colonel Bums, I should not need to tell my present audience much. He was the founder of Bums Philp and Company, a man of great ability, fine character and generous nature, and it was indeed fortunate for the Lancers that he saw fit to give his services to that Regiment. Under him the young Parramatta Troop progressed quickly and was given a particular word of praise in the evidence of Colonel Macdonald at the Royal Commission into Military Service in 1892. Zeal and enthusiasm there were throughout the Regiment and one way, unique among Australian units, in which it demonstrated its initiative was the sending, during the 1890's: of no less than three detachments to England, all at no cost to the taxpayer of New South Wales. These excursions added to the military knowledge and experience of the members and added to the high repute in which the Regiment was undoubtedly held.
The three detachments were :- 'In 1893, a tournament team of 18 all ranks to compete against the Regulars in the main tournaments. In le97, a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Detachment of 33 all ranks. In 1899, a squadron of 106 all ranks under Captain Cox of Parramatta, for six months' training with the Regulars. This squadron, as events turned out, became the first overseas troops to land in South Africa after war with the Boers broke out in October, 1899; Parramatta was represented in each of these three detachments. In the 1893 team Sergeant-Major Weston was placed 1st in Riding and Jumping at the Royal Military Tournament at Islington and 2nd in the Victoria Cross Race at the Royal Irish Military Tournament; Trooper O'Grady, also of Parramatta, Was 5th in Sword v. Lance and 6th in Sword v. Sword at Dublin. The team as a whole did well and its placings include eight firsts.
The members of the Parramatta Half-Squadron in the Jubilee Detachment were: Lieut. Cox, Sgt-Major R.C.Mackenzie, Sgt R.A.P.Waugh, Cpl E.A.E.Houeton, Troopers Harkus, Hillis, Macqueen, Pritchard, Todhunter and Watts, Sgt P.F.O'Grady. While they were in England, the champions of the Colonial detachments, of the Regulars and of the Auxiliaries competed for Empire Gold Medals. The one for lemon-cutting was won by Trooper Ben Harkus, and the one for tentpegging with lance was won by another N.S.W.Lancer, Sgt Charlie Williams of Singleton.
In that same year, 1897, Colonel Bums succeeded to command of the Regiment and regimental headquarters was transferred from Sydney to Parramatta. In 1898 Colonel Bums removed the Band from West Maitland, where it had been formed in 1891, to Parramatta; as many local residents will remember, it was a mounted band up to 1914 -mounted on grey horses, usually with a piebald for the drummer. Only one other regiment had a mounted Band and that was the Australian Horse whose headquarters were at Goulbum. Colonel Bums was most keen for his regiment to acquire some active service experience and, following the return of the Jubilee Detachment and after sounding out his squadron leaders, he offered a squadron of the N.S.W.Lancers for service on the North-West Frontier of India. Though the British Government was keen to accept this offer, the New South Wales Government absolutely forbade it. This frustration led to an alternative - a squadron to train in England with the Regulars for Six months. In the face of local governmental opposition this was arranged and 106 members of the regiment sailed from Sydney on 3rd March, 1899. So far as I know, this venture has no parallel in British military history. To put this scheme into effect the Regiment and its friends, in Australia and England, raised between £4000 and £5000 to meet the expense incurred.
At the end of its training, as war in South Africa seemed imminent, most of the Aldershot Squadron volunteered for active service; on the voyage home the ship put into Capetown and the main body of the squadron landed and was soon in action. It was reinforced by three drafts sent direct from New South Wales.
Now, I have given you a few highlights from the early days of the Regiment, which contributed to the Regiment attaining a very prominent position, but I do not wish to dwell for too long on this one unit in this talk. It weathered several re-organisations under the Commonwealth and in 1936, at
which time its designation was "lst/21st Light Horse Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers)", it was one of the first light horse regiments to be motorised. At that time there was only a troop raised at Parramatta and headquarters were in Sydney again. During the Second World War the Regiment was converted to an armoured regiment and used its tanks in operations in New Guinea and Borneo. Nowadays the entire regiment is raised at Parramatta, its present numerical designation being "Ist/^^"; "1st" to perpetuate the name of the senior light horse regiment of the 1st A.I.F., which fought at Gallipoli, in Egypt and Palestine, and "15th" to perpetuate the name of another A.I.F light horse regiment as its descendant, the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers, was disbanded a few years ago and it was desired not to let its number die out. As you will know, the 1st/15th has been granted the freedom of entry to the City of Parramatta.
I have touched on the local infantry which were raised in Parramatta from 1860 to about 1941, and on the Lancers. There was another arm represented here - artillery. After the Great War the militia. - i.e., the Citizen Military Forces was re-organised on a divisional basis (similar to the A.I.F.). The light horse regiments in New South Wales and Queensland (including the N.S.W.Lancers) were grouped in the 1st
Cavalry Division and the field artillery component of this division was provided by the 21st Field Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery (Militia) raised at Parramatta. Forming part of a cavalry division as they did, the members of the 21st Field Brigade were entitled to wear emu plumes in their hats. They were commanded by, among others. Colonels Jerry Selmes, Harold de Low, Steven Friend and R.S .Coates.
And now a few concluding remarks:-
Ofthe service of British regiments in Australia, it is often difficult to find out much about any particular regiment. Their existence has usually been so long that, in a published history of such a regiment, the Australian interlude is not given cannot be given - much space.
As to our own locally raised units, we do have a large number of unit histories, but they nearly all deal only with one war, be it the South African War the Great War or the Second World War. In addition, we have very fine official histories of our forces in the world wars. But there is a dearth of published histories covering the periods before, between and after the wars, and so the military student does not readily find books which trace the evolution of our military forces, or of units of those forces, over a period of generations, or which link up one period with another. I can think of only two volumes which carry the story of a unit from the days of the New South Wales Military Forces, through the various re-organisations under the Commonwealth, and the wars, to practically the present day - one being, if you will pardon my mentioning it, an account of my own unit, the N.S.W.Lancers, from 1885 to 1960, and one which I have not read and which I think more resembles a handbook - the one published
on the N.S.W. Scottish Regiment. However, I believe a small book on the history of the Royal Australian Engineers has been published lately in Western Australia and there may already be one on the Royal Australian Corps of Signals.
I often rue having neglected to record in writing some of the colourful recollections of old soldiers I have listened to, as now they have passed on and interesting facets of our history may have been lost. One of my wishes is that more persons will feel moved to make the effort necessary to record how others of our cavalry and infantry units have been formed, have served end fought and served again.
British Regiments which had detachments at Parramatta include:
48th Northamptonshire Regiment
"A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MILITARY FORCES IN N.S.W. FROM 1788 TO 1953", compiled by direction of the G.O.C. Eastern Command.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated May 2018
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)405 482 814, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Regimental enquiries call: +61 (0)2 9635 7822