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Volunteer Rifle Corps

We hear there is some talk at Fremantle of forming a Volunteer Rifle Corps. 'Domestic Sayings and Doings', The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, Friday 22 July 1859, p. 2.


The Fremantle Volunteer Rifles was formed in 1861. A public meeting recommended an Infantry Corps of 100, however, with such a small population and employment uncertain that number was never attained. In 1864 there were still only 69 members. The corps was armed with obsolete muzzle-loading muskets. By 1869 there were only 51 members and the group was disbanded on 8.02.1870. It is stated in the Inquirer & Commercial News 30/11/1864, p.2 that photographer Stephen Stout was invited to record the occasion of C.A. Manning's appointment as Captain commanding the Fremantle Volunteer Corps, in a ceremony held at the Parade Ground. It is likely that this is that photograph. Fremantle Library photo #LH001756, 1864.

The building in the background is not the Pensioners Barracks in South Terrace (1853-1950s). It seems likely, or at least possible, that it is the Married Quarters section of the Sappers Barracks, which were on the corner of Henderson and Queen (formerly Doonan) Streets. See the Convict Establishment page for a map showing where this was.


This Fremantle Library photo #E000896 is captioned 'Rifle Volunteers', but it is clearly just the band.

This photo has been expertly enlarged, and placed on a wall of the Army Drill building which used to house the community organisation, the Fly by Night Club, and has now fashionably acquired an 'internet' dot, as Freo.Social.


The Mayor's blog entry supplies the context. The people in the photo rejoice in very impressive titles. On the left is "Triple 1 Three Brand and Communications Manager" Sally Tucker. In the middle is "City of Fremantle Local History Engagement Officer", Stewart Alger. On the right is the donor of the photograph, Andrew Simmonds.


Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers at Mt Eliza, 1872.

A Mechanics' Institute and Library have been established, a Rifle Corps is in course of formation, and an Agricultural Society has been, or is, shortly to be organized. ...
Rifle Corps will consist of about 40 members, and if this little force is organized, Sussex will have set the first example in this colony (the only one which does not possess a volunteer company) of establishing such a corps. At present the Volunteers labour under the slight impediment of having but one rifle between them, but this will soon be remedied, and we believe the active Resident Magistrate has already addressed the Government on the subject. The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 28 August 1861.

Local and Domestic Intelligence
A meeting of about sixty of the townspeople of Fremantle took place on the evening of Friday last, (the Government Resident in the Chair), for the purpose of raising a Volunteer Rifle Corps in that town. A list was drawn, and in the course of a few minutes sixty names were enrolled; and on the following day it increased to 76. It is thought that the Company will have no difficulty in raising their number to 100, which for the present will be quite sufficient. A deputation of those interested waited on Captain Finnerty the following morning, who received them with much cordiality of feeling, and said nothing would give him more pleasure than to devote his spare time to so praiseworthy an object. He said much good would result from the formation of such a corps : it would after a time, become a source of amusement; at first the drilling might appear tedious to many of them, but that would soon wear off. After the interview, the Government Resident addressed a letter to His Excellency the Governor with a view of obtaining His Excellency's approval to the formation of the corps. The excitement prevailing in Fremantle is unaccountable; nothing spoken of but the volunteer movement. Already a suit of uniform has been made as a sample to be produced at the next meeting; it consists of a blue flannel tunic with white lacings, and blue cloth cap with a white band. The volunteers are not alone confined to the younger branches of the community, but are extended to fathers as well as their sons; besides to several of our influential merchants — Messrs. Samson, R. King, and C. A. Manning, who display as much patriotism, indeed more than many of their younger volunteers. As soon as His Excellency's reply has been received, another meeting will be held, when a set of regulations will be framed, and drilling commenced.The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 4 September 1861, p. 2.

Proceedings of a Meeting of the inhabitants of Fremantle held at the Freemasons' Hotel on Friday, the 30th August, 1861, at 8 o'clock, p.m.; Thomas Brown, Esquire J.P., Resident Magistrate, in the chair:
Lionel Samson, Esquire, M.L.C. moved, and Mr Rosser seconded, that, it is highly desirable that a Volunteer Rifle Corps should be embodied in the town of Fremantle. Carried unanimously. Mr Rosser moved, and Mr Fauntleroy seconded, that Mr McBryde Broun be requested to act as Honorary Secretary. Carried unanimously. L. Samson, Esq., moved, and D.A.C.G. Price seconded, that a committee, consisting of Messrs. C. A. Manning, W. R. Fauntleroy, A. Rosser, and McB. Broun, accompanied by the Resident Magistrate, wait upon Captain Finnerty, explaining to him the objects in view, and requesting his aid in carrying out the wishes of the meeting. Carried unanimously. Mr Fauntleroy moved, and Mr Worsley Clifton seconded, that after the interview with Captain Finnerty, the Chairman be requested to place the services of those parties who have this evening given in their names at the disposal of the Government, and to solicit the approval of His Excellency the Governor to their enrolment, under the title of the "Fremantle Volunteer Rifle Corps."
The usual vote of thanks to the Chairman having been unanimously passed, the meeting adjourned. The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 4 September 1861.

Proceedings of an adjourned meeting of tbe above Corps held at the the Freemason's Hotel on Monday, the 9th instant, at 8 o'clock p.m.; Captain Finnerty, commanding Officer, in the chair.
The minutes of the last meeting having been read, it was
Proposed by Mr Rosser, and seconded by Mr Fauntleroy: — That the minutes of the last meeting be confirmed. Carried unanimously.
Proposed by Mr McBryde Broun, and seconded by Mr Samson: — That D.A.C.G. Price be elected Honorary Secretary and Paymaster to the Corps. Carried unanimously.
Upon the roll being called, upwards of 80 members answered to their names and paid their entrance fee of 2s 6d each.
A vote of thanks was unanimously recorded to Mr C. A. Manning and various other members for their handsome donations in aid of the funds of the Corps.
After some conversation on the subject of uniform, Mr Samson offered to import from England, the material required for the dress uniform free of any other expenses than the cost at home and freight to the colony.
Proposed by Mr G. Clifton, seconded by Mr Padbury:— That the kind offer of Mr Samson be accepted, and that a distinct and separate account be kept by the Treasurer of all monies he may from time to time receive on account of this clothing. Carried.
Proposed by Mr Rosser, and seconded by Mr C. A. Manning:— That an instalment of 5s each member be paid monthly to the Treasurer, from the 1st November next, to the uniform fund, to be continued until the sum of £2 bas been subscribed by each member. Carried.
The following gentlemen, with the President and Secretary, were elected members of tbe Committee appointed to decide on the dress and undress uniform; Major Henderson, R.E., Messrs. G. Clifton, Loan, Rosser, Price, A. Francisco, and E. Newman.
Proposed by Mr G. Clifton, and seconded by Mr Samson:— That the thanks of this meeting are due to Mr Rummer for the use of his room, not only on the present occasion, but on all other public occasions, hymuswhen he has so kindly, without any charge whatever, placed the room at our disposal. Carried. Meeting adjourned. The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 18 September 1861, p. 2.

The plans afoot for the removal of the British Army from the Colony spawned a rush of volunteer forces. These early units on the list did not become part of the ‘Commonwealth Forces’. But later units which are too numerous to mention here did become part of the A.I.F. which, of course, stands for Australian Imperial Force - not yet Commonwealth Forces. And we must not forget the six Western Australian Contingents that were despatched to the South African War from 1899 to 1901.

The photograph of William Hymus shows the rather spectacular uniform worn by the Pinjarrah Volunteers headed up by Theodore Fawcett who paid for the uniforms out of his own pocket. Thanks to the invaluable Diane Oldman for the image and caption, and the paragraph above and table below, data from a talk she gave called 'WA's Wild West'.

Sussex Volunteer Rifle Corps
Fremantle Volunteer Rifle Corps
Swan Volunteer Rifle Corps
Metropolitan Volunteer Rifle Corps
Pinjarrah Mounted Volunteers
Wellington Mounted Volunteers
Albany Rifle Volunteers
York Rifle Volunteers
Northampton Rifle Volunteers
Albany Defence Rifles
Plantagenet Rifle Volunteers
Perth Mounted Rifle Volunteers

1861 – 1863
1861 - 1870
1861 - 1882
1861 - 1872
1861 - 1882
1877 - 1882
1878 - 1885
1878 - 1886
1884 - 1899
1885 - 1888
1888 - 1897
1894 – 1897

Prior to Federation, the only Army in WA was a part-time volunteer force consisting of eight infantry companies: two at Perth, two at Fremantle and one each at Guildford, Geraldton, Albany and Northampton, plus an artillery field battery. The total strength was between 500-600.
22.8.1872 Fremantle Rifle Volunteers [became ...]
Nov 1893 "C" and "D" Companies, 1st Infantry Regt.
3.9.1900 2nd Battalion, Infantry Bde.
1.7.1903 "D" and "E" Coys 11th Australian Infantry Regt.
1.7.1912 'T' Coy 86th Infantry
1.10.1918 "A" and "B" Coys 2nd Bn. 16th Infantry Regt. diggerhistory.

References and Links

Stephen Montague Stout.

Digger History: Unofficial history of the ANZ Armed Services.

Grant, James Ritchie c. 1983, Muskets and Drills: An Account of the Volunteer Corps Raised in Western Australia in 1861, Grime's Dyke Publications, [Perth].

Grant, James Ritchie 1988, Officers of the Western Australian Defence Force 1861-1901, John Burridge Military Antiques, Swanbourne.

Grant, James Ritchie 1991, From Captains to Colonels: a photographic account of the development of the WA Defence Force 1861-1901, privately published, Mt Pleasant.

See also: Fly by Night Club.

Garry Gillard | New: 7 May, 2017 | Now: 22 May, 2020