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Proformat News
No: 43
September 2009
September Seminars
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SA colonial military heritage Pt 1
The researcher interested in the military history of their South Australian family will need to identify the appropriate regiment/s their ancestor was involved with. This in turn will lead to a greater understanding of the role played by the person concerned in their day-to-day military life. Such an approach will ensure a better understanding of one’s past.

In South Australia, military history occurs in three phases.
  • The first involves the British garrisons based in South Australia from the earliest days of settlement.
  • The second stage covers that relatively short period when the South Australian Colonial Government were responsible for the military.
  • The final and present stage covers the period of the Commonwealth of Australia when the Federal Government took over responsibility for defence.
  • In this issue:
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    Feature article
    SA colonial military heritage


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    In undertaking this research use family sources such as birth, death or marriage certificates, stories of particular battles, diaries, photos, medals and uniforms to narrow the search to when, where or what event took place.

    Always note these features of army records which are usually applicable in your research, namely:
  • Regiments have remained the basis by which the army maintains records.
  • Officers and Other Ranks (Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers) are the main groupings into which records are divided.
  • Officers’ records are easier to search as so much is provided about them; they are a smaller group and they were organised alphabetically much earlier.
  • The British Garrison era 1836–1870
    British troops arrived in South Australia with the very first settlers and remained in the colony until their final withdrawal in 1870. These garrisons were headquartered in eastern colonies and usually were represented in Adelaide by a company only.

    The regiments involved included:
      Royal Marines 1836–1838
      1/96th Regiment of Foot (A Company) 1841–1846
      99th ((Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot 1846 (pictured adjacent)
      11th Regiment of Foot 1845–1857 (pictured below)
      1/12th Regiment of Foot 1854–1863
      2/40th Regiment of Foot (A Company) 1852–1860
    In the period 1863 to 1866 Imperial troops were diverted to the Maori Wars.
      2/14th Regiment of Foot 1866–1867
      50th Regiment of Foot 1867–1869
      2/14th (the Buckinghamshire) Regiment of Foot 1866–1867
      50th (the Queens Own) Regiment of Foot 1867–1869

      Cavalry—no regiments served in Australian colonies.
      Artillery—some detachments of the Royal Artillery Regiment served in Australia to 1870 including 7th Battalion (3 Company) from 1856
      Engineers—various corps served in every colony
      Other Corps represented included: Commissariat Department, Ordnance Corps, Medical Corps, Chaplains Department and Pay Corps.
    Resources and how to access them
    Apart from the specific resources based on regimental museums and the like, there are a range of general references that may assist the researcher.

    The National Archives Kew
    Muster rolls and pay lists give the enlistment date, movements and discharge date of all soldiers in the British Army. They can be used to trace the service of soldiers who were not discharged to pension. However, to trace a man’s movements by way of the musters, you do have to know his regiment.

    Regimental musters, from the early 18th century onwards, were taken every month or quarter (frequency varied over the years). They were used for pay and accounting purposes. The musters are now bound together in annual volumes for each regiment, and are held in WO 12. The first entry for a recruit usually gives his age, place of enlistment and trade.

    Description Books give a description of each soldier, his age, place of birth, trade and service, and are in WO 25/266-688 . They are arranged by regiment, in alphabetical order of soldiers’ names. The overall dates are 1756 to 1900, but for most regiments there are volumes for the first half of the nineteenth century only.
    Hart’s Army List (officers only) was an unofficial list, produced between 1839 and 1915. It is useful because it contains details of war service from 1839, which the official lists did not do until 1881. A full set, together with Hart’s own papers can be found in record class WO 211.
    Records of service of officers fall into two main groups —those compiled by the War Office (WO 25) and those compiled by the regiment (WO 76).

    Records giving personal information about an army officer were created routinely at various stages in his career: upon the granting of his commission, his promotion, his resignation or his being placed on the half pay list. Provision of an authentic baptismal certificate was mandatory for those in government service: membership of the established church implied loyalty to the crown. As a result there are many baptismal certificates for army officers in the War Office records. The main sets for the period of interest are in WO 32/8903 to WO 32/8920.

    There is a raft of records relating to army officer pensions but since none of the men serving in SA achieved officer status there is little point expanding on this matter.

    State Records of SA
      GRG 48/5/2: Despatches from the SA Colonisation Commissioners to the resident Commissioner, Adelaide pp105-106 lists Chelsea pensioners resident in SA
      GRG 122/4: Commissariat (Control Office) Statements, returns and abstracts 1841–1849
      British War Office Military Pensioners in AJCP CO reels only pertaining to SA
    State Library of SA

    The library holds research notes RN25 RN118 covering organisation of forces 1840 to 1930. The library also holds other military records, including enlistment nominal rolls.
    Government Gazettes record some material that may assist although a lengthy search may be necessary as the information will not necessarily be personal.

    National Archives of Australia Adelaide Office

    This office has a limited collection of colonial military material including:
      D1051 Torpedo Station Magazine North Arm (15 folios) 1847–1980; 1858–94
    Flinders University of SA Library

    This library holds the full AJCP (Australian Joint Copying Project) set of mircoforms and you will need to access this series to view WO (War Office) material relating to SA. The handbook is held in the Central Library Reference Collection (Call Number: 994.005 A924h)
    It is possible to purchase the appropriate AJCP handbooks from the National Library online. These handbooks are an essential guide for users of the microfilm:
      Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook Part 2: Colonial Office $14.00
      Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook Part 4: War Office $5.00
    A brief summary of what will be found in the War Office material is outlined in the following paragraphs. The material in the Colonial Office records is not as clear cut to locate.

    Muster rolls and pay lists (WO 12)
    The muster lists were compiled quarterly and have been arranged in yearly volumes . Officers are listed by rank while the soldiers are listed alphabetically. These records can be useful in establishing dates of enlistment, discharge or death although these events may be beyond the scope of reels held specifically as part of the AJCP collection. The collection covers the period immediately prior to departure for Australia, the period of duty in Australia and New Zealand and the period immediately following their departure from Australia. The first entry for each soldier should indicate his age, while the last entry should show his birthplace, non-military occupation and his enlistment date. Other informative documents include the paymaster’s declarations, stoppages of pay for imprisonment or time in hospital. Each pay sheet shows the number of days each soldier was entitled to pay, where he was stationed at the time of the muster and how he was employed if other than on normal guard duty. Many early rolls are not easy to read. However tracing a soldier’s records over the period he was enlisted provides a very good picture both of his military and personal life.

    Monthly Returns (WO 17)
    The Returns are numerical summaries of regiments. These provide, on a monthly basis, information about when a particular regiment was stationed in the colony and make it possible to pinpoint the time of arrival more exactly and to determine the location of troops. If information about the soldier’s regiment or family detail is unavailable, knowing the colonies in which he was stationed is useful as regiments posted to SA were usually headquartered in eastern colonies. Returns are available for all Australian colonies 1854-1865.

    Embarkation and Disembarkation Returns (WO 25/3502); reel 1303
    These show officers’ names—not all regiments that served in Australia are listed.
    Muster Master List General’s Index of Casualties (WO 25/1342); reel 1302
    These may show the date of a soldier’s discharge, death, desertion or transfer which may be unavailable any other way.

    Out-Pensions Records, Royal Hospital Chelsea (WO 22)
    There are a variety of records in this series. One of greater interests to SA researchers is the official proposals regarding discharge of troops in Australia and New Zealand which is on Reel 1506.
    If you can access a film reader it may be possible to order the appropriate film/s via an interlibrary loan. You can even request printouts of some material, the current cost being $13.50 per fifty pages from a single film.

    Several useful books are available on the subject:
      Allan Box; A Soldier in the Family: A Source Book for Australian Military Genealogy: The First Fleet to the Gulf War, 1994.
      Ronald H Montague; How to Trace your Military Ancestors in Australia and New Zealand, 1989.
      Peter Stanley; The Remote Garrison: The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, 1986.
      Graham Jaunay. Researching South Australian military ancestors, 2004
    The histories of the regiments can be found by trawling through the information at the well known web site, Land forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth.

    In the next issue we will look at forces raised within the colony such as the Adelaide Lancers in 1883 as pictured adjacent.
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