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This was written in 1945

Plans are being made now for the Australian Army of the future. It is more than interesting at this point to cast a glance back. Take, for instance, the Victorian units. What quaint pictures are bought to view as we turn over the pages of our short history.  

Tasmania, 1902. Launceston Volunteer Artillery, siege gun section: 40 pounder Armstrong B. L. Siege guns at Paterson Barracks, Launceston. Two of those guns were issued to the battery in 1884 and were in use until the disbandment of the siege section in 1900 (donor: Major General J. S. Whitelaw AO CBE)

Nearly ninety years ago men with luxuriant, dashing whiskers were drilling with Snider and Martini-Henry rifles and smoothbore muzzle-loading guns in preparation for an attack on Australia by bearded Russians! In those days the little brown man from Japan was not thought of other than as a cheerful and acrobatic personality.  

One reads and hears a lot about "crack" regiments of the past, notably those connected with the artillery arm, but how many today know anything about "Sargood's Kids", "Stubbs' Bulldogs", the "Ham and Beef' battery and the "Rupertswood" battery of Horse Artillery, all well known regiments of early Victoria. 

These were the men of other days, the great-grandfathers of the A.I.F.  

Tasmanian Artillery Badge, pre Federation

Victoria early began a military system, which, when the importance of the then colony increased, became sufficient to meet any aggression. Fate was kind, for although from time to time there had been many premonitions of international trouble in which Victoria might have been involved, the nearest clash of arms was the Maori War of 1860.  

In 1854 three field artillery batteries were raised under a Volunteer Act the Metropolitan, East Melbourne and St. Kilda batteries, members of which were dressed in a blue uniform with scarlet facings. By 1874 the St. Kilda battery was commanded by Major (later Sir) Frederick Sargood, who in the course of time became a lieutenant colonel, and in the Victorian Legislature became Mini­ster for Defence. It was he who sponsored the changeover from the volunteer system to the militia system in 1883.  

Click to enlarge The St. Kilda battery was reputed to be the "crack" battery of the time and also the best dressed. 

They had the large brass letters "SK" (for St. Kilda) on their shoulder straps, but to the "boys" of those days the interpretation quickly became "Sargood's Kids" alluding, of course, to the name of their commanding officer. 

And proud they were of the nickname!  

In 1870, the war between France and Germany, and the possible contingency that England might be drawn into it, caused considerable anxiety in the public mind and steps were taken to establish a corps of permanent artillery in Victoria. This corps consisted of seventy men including all the drill instructors who, for some strange reason, were classed as artillerymen. For many years the corps under the command of Captain Stubbs, a retired officer of the British Army, held pride of place among the land forces of the colony. They rejoiced in the sobriquet of "Stubbs' Bulldogs", which, far from insinuating any bullying aptly combined their tenacity and the name of their esteemed leader. But among the eyes focused on the corps were those of the Chief Commissioner of Police. After each man had given full proof of his efficiency as a soldier his services were claimed in order to complete the establishment of the Victorian Police Force.  

Victorian Artillery

"Stubbs' Bulldogs" were condemned by the Victorian Treasury as a serious waste of public money because they appeared to exist simply for training policemen at great expense. In a severe retrenchment, much to the regret of the military authorities, the Government ordered their disbandment in December 1880. One officer and twelve men were retained for military works.  

Perhaps the most notable regiment of the gay days of the eighties was the Victorian Horse Artillery known to everybody in those days as the "Rupertswood" battery, an appellation they carried to perpetuate the name of the house of their sponsor, Sir W. J. Clarke, at Sunbury. 

Their original formation goes back to 1885 when approval was given for the formation of a section of a Nordenfeldt Battery in connection with the Victorian Cavalry. 

In 1889 this battery, was converted into the Victorian Horse Artillery, under the command of Major (later Brigadier-General) F. G. Hughes with headquarters at the Sunbury house of Sir W. J. Clarke, who, at his own expense, maintained the unit.  

About the same time Mr Chirnside undertook the maintenance at Werribee of a half-battery on similar lines, armed with 12 pounder field guns. These batteries were composed of the cream of Victorian amateur athletes, and were very soldier-like in their bearing and neat in their dress which was similar to that worn by the famous batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery, the only difference being that they had a white helmet instead of the familiar Busby. 

The "Rupertswood" battery was indeed a fine body of men. Their drivers could handle a team of horses in many difficult manoeuvres not seen today. It was really a sight to see them disentangle one of the horses which overstepped the traces of a gun team the horse artillery driver of those days was indeed a man to himself and the "Rupertswood" battery contained many of them.  

Of course the other Colonies had Artillery Batteries as well

<< Lt Col NSW Field Artillery 1886

Qld Permanent Artillery 1890 >>

How many people know that there was once a bullock battery in Victoria? On 20 July 1890 the Government of Victoria approved of the formation of a battery of artillery at Hastings, and of its being designated "The Hastings 40 Pounder Battery, Victorian Rangers". This battery, sometimes called in error the "bullock battery", was formed through the energies of Colonel Teddy ("Battleaxe") Otter. The personnel of the battery must have been recruited from men with the vocabulary necessary to handle the unemotional animals yoked to the guns. The unit was, in fact, a position battery for the protection of Western Port, and took the place of earthworks for the defence of that locality. It had an establishment of fifty-four all ranks.  

Victorians of their day always referred jokingly to the battery as the "cow battery". It was commanded by Major Ham and from this fact it earned the popular sobriquet of the "Ham and Beef" battery. The members of the battery wore uniform similar to the garrison artillery arm, except that the material was of khaki cloth instead of blue; khaki helmets with brass ball and mountings were worn and also the "pillbox" forage cap. It would be doing the Hastings Battery an in justice if the name of their sergeant major (Jack Creaney) were not mentioned. He knew the men, he knew the guns and one might even say the bullocks. He used to say that there were no words of command laid down for the bovines, that was left to the driver.

Taking into consideration the scanty population of the district at the time this battery was in existence, it is interesting to record that it's strength always exceeded its establishment. Men of the old "Ham and Beef" Battery were a fine lot and were skilful and speedy in their work.  

R. K. PEACOCK (V.P.A. and R.A.G.A.) from AS YOU WERE! 1946 by the AWM



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