Fremantle Stuff > Organisations > Enrolled Pensioner Force

Enrolled Pensioner Force


This photo is attributed to Alfred Hawes Stone and is to be found in a collection of photographs from an 1868 album that he presented to his daughter on the occasion of her marriage in that year, and that was made available to SLWA for copying in 2015, and is captioned (not by the photographer himself) as showing the Enrolled Pensioner Force (page 136, approx.) The Library added the date c. 1868 to its own caption on the webpage.

It has, however, been suggested that the British Army infantry officers in the photograph are not in fact pensioners, so it is somewhat mysterious at the moment. It's also not known where the photo was taken. The sign painted on the top of the door reads 'Adjutant's Department', so it was probably at a military barracks somewhere, and, if in WA, in Perth rather than Fremantle. Stone and others did add photos from elsewhere to these albums, so this one is neither necessarily taken in WA nor indeed taken by Stone.

The Enrolled Pensioner Force consisted of soldiers who came to the colony of Western Australia between 1850 and 1880, most arriving during the years of transportation as guards on the convict ships. They were soldiers who had been discharged from military service, and who, on discharge from the army, were awarded pensions.

The barque Scindian brought the first convicts to Western Australia in 1850, and with them a number of Enrolled Pensioners.

When transportation to Western Australia began in 1850, former soldiers and marines were recruited and encouraged to accompany convicts on their voyages to Western Australia. The influx of Pensioners and their families would result in an increase in the Western Australian population of over 2000 people.

The Pensioners were not retained as permanent convict guards after the voyages and in many cases their families travelled with them. Generally they sought work among the free settlers in the colony, but were always on hand to help the civil authorities if necessary.

To encourage them to stay in the colony, they were offered allotments of land which they could select, lease, and own, subject to many conditions. Nearly all of the Pensioners accepted the above offer, and many of these blocks were still owned by their descendants at the beginning of the first World War.

When the Governor of Western Australia wrote to England seeking re-inforcements for his garrison of regular soldiers he found that owing to political unrest in Europe all he was offered was a suggestion to make use of the military pensioners in the colony and enrol them as an auxiliary force to the existing regular soldiers.

Accordingly, Captain John Bruce, who had arrived in the colony with the second detachment aboard the Hashemy (1850), was appointed Staff Officer of Pensioners to the newly established Western Australian Military District and at one time the unit numbered over 600 men. They assisted the line companies in the various garrison duties and finally assumed all responsibilities when the last of the Queen's troops left Fremantle for Hobart on 8 March 1863.

The Enrolled Pensioner Guard uniform consisted of dark greyish-brown trousers with a scarlet stripe, and frock coats with facings of red and yellow.

Commanders of the Pensioners, with dates, are as follows (thanks Diane Oldman).

11 Nov 1854 to 4 Nov 1870 Lt-Colonel John Bruce
5 Nov 1870 to 14 Aug 1871 Major Robert Henry Crampton
15 Aug 1871 to 14 Aug 1872 Captain Charles Finnerty
15 Aug 1872 to 17 Nov 1880 Lt-Colonel Edward Douglas Harvest

Captain Edward Metcalfe Grain was Commanding Officer of the RE Corps, 29 August 1859 to 27 April 1862, but not Commandant of the Pensioners.

Lt-Colonel Edward Fox Angelo was Commandant of the Western Australian Defence Force, 3 June 1882 to February 1886, when he was appointed Government Resident (administrator) at Roebourne.

As at 19 November 1880, the Enrolled Pensioner Force was abolished and a new unit called the Enrolled Guard was formed from among its members. It was placed under the command of Captain Matthew Skinner Smith, the Superintendent of Police (who happens to have been a Crimean War veteran, like Finnerty and Angelo) and the final parade of the Enrolled Guard was held on 31 March 1887.

Prison warders were also employed to oversee the convicts during the voyage and after they arrived in Australia. These men were employed by the Convict Establishment of Western Australia and in many cases travelled with their families.

After 1842 all Imperial Military Pensioners with the exception of Royal Navy and the HEIC Marine Pensioners had to be ‘registered’ on the roll of the Royal Hospital Military Pension District in which they resided or chose to reside. A Staff Officer of Pensioners administered these Pension Districts. The fittest of these men, and those younger than 55, could be chosen to be ‘enrolled’ in what was termed Local Companies or Local Force.
These men were known as Enrolled Military Pensioners. They could be called out for to assist the Civil authorities and had to attend twelve days military exercises annually. For this they were paid Enrolled money (Broomhall: 21, 125) They also had to attend under arms every Sunday for church parade. For the period these men were enrolled they were subject to the provisions of the Mutiny Act and Articles of War.
An example of a Warder who was also in receipt of a military pension is John Richard Gray (after whom Graylands is named). He was in receipt of a Temporary Pension of 8d. per diem for three years and would have had to be ‘registered’ or ‘enrolled‘ which was the usage of the day (as we now enrol in a class or activity) on the Ipswich Pension District roll then on the Chatham District Roll. He could not be ‘enrolled’ in the ‘Local Force’ as he was employed a Warder, so could not satisfy the terms required for service in the Local Force. Nor could he be a Military Pensioner once his pension ceased. However, he became a Military Pensioner in 1880 when he was in receipt of his Deferred Pension of 5d. Margaret Baddeley, personal communication, published here by permission.

From 1850 to 1868, in which year transportation ceased, 9,721 convicts were landed at Fremantle. ...
As an offset against the influx of the criminal element the convict system was the means of introducing about 2000 persons consisting of military pensioners with their wives and children. A contingent of those time-expired soldiers came out as guards over the prisoners in every convict ship. A large number of them were retained in the enrolled force to guard the convict establishment and others became warders or policemen or entered into other pursuits. Many of them were veterans of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, and others were comparatively young men who had been invalided home from India early in their military career. On the whole they were a valuable addition to the population; numbers of them accumulated property, and many of their descendants are to be found occupying prominent positions, both in private and official life. ...
The Barracks Green, now the oval, was used as a parade ground for both pensioners and volunteers ...
Under an agreement with the British Government the convict establishment and the convicts were handed over to the colonial government in 1886. The Comptroller General of Convicts and all the organised machinery disappeared and the local prison system took its place, the few remaining convicts becoming ordinary prisoners until they completed their terms. In 1888 the enrolled pensioner force was disbanded and thus the last phase of convict administration automatically came to an end and the colony became the land of a buried past and a brilliant future. Hitchcock: 34, 45, 67.

References and Links

Broomhall, Frank H. 1989, The Veterans: A History of the Enrolled Pensioner Force in Western Australia 1850-1880, Hesperian Press rev. ed. (MS orig. 1975)

Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

James, M.S. 2016, A Superior Body of Men, Authorhouse. [Adds further biographical information to the history of the military pensioners who were either discharged in the Colony of Western Australia, came as guards on the convict transports, or immigrated freely to the State.]

Mather, F.C., 'Army pensioners and the maintenance of civil order in early nineteenth century England', Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research.

Ring, M., 'Military Pensioners', in The Companion to Tasmanian History, ed. A. Alexander, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania (online version, 2006).

Many of the Pensioners were Crimean War vets, qv.

Wikipedia page for the Scindian.

WAGS page for this SIG.

Enrolled Military Pensioners Force, at - no longer maintained

Photo (top) possibly by Alfred Hawes Stone, c. 1868, SLWA 6909B/141.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 October, 2015 | Now: 19 March, 2017