Colonial Forces Study Group (Qld)

Queensland Military History: 1860-1901

Force Structure

The Volunteer movement in Queensland did not develop from the ground-swell of public opion, but rather was created at the instigation of the colony's first Governor, Sir George Bowen. It began as a series of independent companies, nominally linked by a very small centralized staff, and controlled by the Governor as Commander-in-Chief. Initially the volunteers represented just two arms of the service, infantry and mounted rifles, although artillery developed within a few years. The mounted rifles, which had largely attracted the social elite, was not sustainable and collapsed by mid-decade. With no evidence of foreign agression and a luke-warm parliamentary interest, the movement, with its disparate and scattered companies, struggled for almost two decades.

The development of a defence scheme for the Australian colonies from 1877 began to have an impact on the morale of participants, and encourage others to make the committment to the ranks. The movement certainly had its vocal detractors, but with tacit government support in the guise og the Volunteer Act 1878, numbers began to slowly increase. This in turn enabled the linking of the independent companies, and the regimental system took hold. Other arms of service were also established, cadets were recognised as important, and armaments began to be supplied. Following the Defence Act, 1884, the force was composed of three main teirs; permanent forces, militia, and volunteers. A fourt tier comprised rifle clubs, cadets, and the para-military police force. Within the military service a mounted infantry arm was established, while a complete naval force was created, including naval vessels, naval brigades and even volunteer naval artillery.

For the remainder of the century the Queensland Defence Force (Land) and the Queensland Marine Defence Force remained largely unaltered in structure through a variety of political and economic peaks and troughs. The many stories of the individual companies and regiments will be told here.

For further reading:

"The Rising Phoenix; the status of the Queensland Defence Force in 1885."

"A year in the life of the Queensland Scottish Volunteer Corps."

"Splendid little chaps: Fife and drum bands in Queensland's colonial defence forces"



Group of officers from the Queensland Defence Forces. John Oxley Library image#2018
Non-Commissioned Officers of the Queensland Defence Force.  Three stripes, indicating the rang of Sergeant, can be seen on the officer's right sleeves. John Oxley Library image#120609