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The British Army in Australia

1788 - 1870

When the Brits first arrived in New South Wales they flew the square Union Flag that represented England and Scotland. By the time they left the Union had increased to include Ireland and the flag had got longer. Details

Australia's military history began in 1788 when four companies of the Marine Corps arrived with the convicts in the First Fleet. Note that after 1820 they became the Royal Marines. They served during these time frames

1788-1791 Sydney & Norfolk Island
1803-1812 Port Phillip & Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania)
1824-1829 Melville Island
1837-1845 Port Essington
1859-1913 Vessels of the Royal Navy on the Australian Station
1862-1870 Somerset, Cape York Peninsular
  • The marines were mostly (not totally) replaced by the New South Wales Corps (later the 102nd Regiment of Foot).

A small militia detachment was raised at Norfolk Island as early as 1788, and again in 1792. Persistent rumours of a rising by Irish convicts in 1800 led to the formation of Loyal Associations. 

No enlargement available These Associations were formed, on volunteer principles, at Sydney and Parramatta to assist, if necessary, the New South Wales Corps. They remained in existence almost continuously until 1810 due to the war with France and the convict rebellion at Castle Hill.

To strengthen the defences of the colony Phillip directed Lieutenant William Dawes to construct fortifications in the harbour and in July 1788 work commenced on a area at Sydney Cove now known as Bennelong Point. 

Two 6-pound guns, taken from HMS Sirius were set up in the redoubt to provide protection to shipping. Later, Fort Maquarie was built on this site.

New Associate site with more detail British Military in Australia


When the British marine forces returned to England in 1790 it was decided to create a special force to garrison the new colony. 

The New South Wales Corps (now known as the Rum Corps) was raised under the command of Major Francis Grose. 

This unit drew heavy criticism for its involvement in the rum trade but proved useful in putting down a convict uprising at Castle Hill in 1804.

After the Rum Rebellion, which occurred on 26 January 1808, the British Government sent Colonel Lachlan Macquarie to New South Wales along with his own regiment, the 73rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Highlanders.

All the officers of the New South Wales Corps were returned to England in disgrace in 1810.

Click to enlarge

During its service, the New South Wales Corps was criticised for the trading activities of some of its officers and their constant quarrels with a succession of naval governors, culminating in the deposing of the Governor, Captain William Bligh RN in 1808. Its military efficiency was such, however, that during the 1804 Castle Hill rebellion involving over 300 escaped convicts and others, a company of the Corps marched from Sydney to Parramatta in about three hours and, after a short rest, spent the remainder of the day subduing the convicts.

Convict / Bushranger era circa 1820-1850.  Convict issue Leather "Scotch" or "Glengarry" cap, government issue to convicts in Tasmania and NSW. Split type with sides that folds down. Interior stamped with B:O and broad arrow.

Also Leg irons, hand cuffs from the same period. 

Also wooden police / guards baton.

In 1809, Colonel Lachlan Macquarie arrived as Governor, and the New South Wales Corps was replaced by his own regiment - the 73rd. Thus began a succession of 26 British infantry regiments, as well as a number of smaller artillery and engineer units, to garrison the Australian colonies until the last was withdrawn in 1870.

Their many duties were sometimes onerous. 

Apart from those connected with the system of convict transportation, both afloat and ashore, they established and maintained the Mounted Police in New South Wales between 1825 and 1850.

 The troops constructed fortifications; attended fires and executions; assisted the police in keeping the peace between rioting sailors, rival election parties and squabbling sectarians. 

They provided guards for wrecks, goldfields, colonial treasuries, quarantine stations, government houses and the opening and closing of legislatures and mounted escorts for gold in transit. 

They manned coastal defences and fired ceremonial artillery salutes. They also operated intermittently against aboriginal resistance in most of the colonies.

<<<Private soldier of the 28th Regiment of Foot in 1835

Some of these regiments also served on active service in New Zealand during the Maori Wars.

 They were also deployed in aid of the Victorian Government during the uprising by gold miners at Eureka, Ballarat in 1854, and again in 1861 in aid of the New South Wales Government during racial riots at Lambing Flat.
Click to enlarge

The 73rd Regiment of Foot (Re-enactment group) showing the uniforms and accoutrements of the Regiment.


A stovepipe Shako; the headgear worn by the 73rd Regiment

A soldier from the Pioneer Section of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (re-enactment) >>>

British Regiments that served in Australia. (and some locally raised Units)

  • These units were all infantry units so in the vernacular of the day the would be called "The 73rd Regiment of Foot, the Royal Highlanders"

    • Variations of dates that Units served are possible to find as they often arrived not as a single unit but in different drafts on different convict ships. This occurred up to about the mid 1840s.

Regt No:

Regiment Name:



Facing colour Loops


Royal Highlanders The 1st Battalion of the 73rd Regiment landed in Sydney on 1 January 1810 and took over duties from the New South Wales Corps (102nd Regiment). It was thus the first of many British line regiments that garrisoned New South Wales for the next sixty years. When the 1st Battalion serving in New South Wales completed its tour of duty in 1814 it was ordered to Ceylon, where it remained until 1821.



dark green square pairs
  NSW Invalid Company 1810 1823 blue  single bastion


South Devonshire The 46th Regiment arrived in Australia to replace the 73rd Regiment 1st Battalion Highland in February 1814,which was then relieved by the 48th Foot The Northamptonshire Regiment in 1817. On the 11th of June 1813 the regiment sailed on board the transport "Preston" for Portsmouth. Following its arrival at Spithead, the Regiment received orders to proceed to Cowes in the Isle of Wight. The regiment embarked on the 23rd of August 1813 on board the transports "Wyndham", "Three Bees" and "General Hewitt" , and arrived at New South Wales in February 1814. Following the Regiments Service in New South Wales and on the 8th of September 1817 the Regiment embarked in three divisions at Sydney Cove on board the "Matilda", "Lloyd" and "Dick"  and arrived at Madras on the 16th of December 1817



Light yellow single square 


Northamptonshire The regiment was raised at Norwich and became known as Chomondely's Regiment.  The regiment was sent to Flanders to be part of the Duke of Cumberland's army but was forced to return to Scotland to be part of the Duke's forces to thwart the Jacobite army's advance into England.  It's first task was the occupation of Edinburgh, which was successful and it remained garrisoned in that city.  It also served in North America at Louisburg in 1758 and was at the capture of Quebec.  The Regiments tour of garrison duties in NSW extended to Van Dieman's Land.  One of the detachments founded the settlement at Macquarie Harbour as a secondary place of punishment for the worst convicts in the colony. 



buff square pairs


East Kent (the Buffs) Divided into four detachments the Buffs were separated. First detachment left Deptford for Sydney in 1821. Second detachment left Deptford for Hobart 1822. The third detachment (The Buffs Head Quarters) left Deptford for Sydney 1823, arriving the same year. The fourth detachment arrived in Sydney in 1824 and were stationed at Port Dalrymple, Parramatta, Liverpool, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Botany Bay and Bathurst . The Regiment reunited and was transferred to Calcutta in 1827.



buff square pairs
  Royal NSW Veteran Companies 1825 1832 blue square pairs
  Royal Staff Corps 1826 1829 blue  


2nd Somersetshire 1823 - 1829 , Tasmania, Sydney . 1852 - 1860, Victoria, South Australia & Swan River.



buff square pairs


West Middlesex Whilst commanding a garrison in Australia, Captain Patrick Logan of the 57th discovered the Logan River and explored great tracts of land. This was in 1826. There are still standing in Brisbane, buildings that were erected by this officer who was killed by the aborigines in 1830 whilst on an exploration expedition. Another officer, Major Edmund Lockyer claimed, for Britain, Western Australia, hoisting the Union Jack at King George Sound on January 21st, 1827.  



yellow square pairs


Dorset shire Arrived in Australia toward the end of 1825. The Regiment saw service in Hobart, Sydney, Western Australia & Bathurst, leaving on July the 5th 1832 for service in India



pea green square pairs


West Suffolk Served in Tasmania, Sydney and Western Australia. Arrived on the Sulphur in June 1829, the commencement of settlement in WA. 



deep green square pairs


Leicestershire Arrived during the latter part of 1830 through to 1831 seeing service in Tasmania , Parramatta & Sydney. The Regiment was despatched to Afghanistan and left Sydney in March of 1836



white single square


King’s Own Arrived 1832 relieved 1837 Stationed at Tasmania, Sydney, Victoria, South Australia, Swan River.



blue single bastion
  Royal Engineers 1835 1870 blue  
  Royal Corps of Sappers & Miners 1835 1857 blue  


West Kent (Queen's Own) Stationed at Sydney,  Norfolk Island & Tasmania .



blue pointed pairs


Royal North British Fusiliers Arrived during 1832 to 1833 seeing service in Sydney (staging only) Hobart, Tasmania & Swan River. Transferred to Calcutta from 1839



blue square pairs


North Gloucestershire Arrived during 1835 leaving for India in 1842 . The Regiment saw service in Hobart, Sydney, Norfolk Island & Victoria.



yellow square pairs


Staffordshire Volunteers 13/11/1836 from Cork the 80th Regiment left for Sydney. This comprised of only the first detachment. The remainder of the detachments leaving Cork on the 18th of December 1838. Detachments were deployed to Norfolk Island and some to New Zealand. Eventually reuniting in Sydney in 1844, the Regiment sailed for India on the 12th of August 1844.



yellow pointed pairs


2nd Yorkshire West Riding The first detachment left Gravesend for Dublin in 1837 on board the "Neptune" sailing for Tasmania. From Tasmania several detachments sailed for Western Australia , Swan River and King George Town. More divisions of the Regiment sailed on the "Runnymede" in 1839. The Regiment left in 1846 to serve in Bengal.



green  pointed pairs


Manchester Regiment The 96th regiment was broken into 26 separate detachments in 1839. These detachments began to arrive in Australia during 1839, with the last detachment arriving in 1841. The headquarters for the Regiment was one of the last detachments to arrive in 1841. Throughout 1839 to 1841 the 96th Regiment acted as convict Guards at several locations. The Regimental Head Quarters of this Regiment was stationed in Windsor in 1841. In 1842 the Headquarters moved to Parramatta and then to Launceston in 1843. The Regiment remained in Tasmania until 1848 sailing to India in January of 1849.



buff square pairs


Wiltshire Regiment (Lanarkshire) First Detachment 99th Regiment of Foot came to Australia as a guard on the convict ship "North Briton" which was bringing convicts out to Tasmania in 1842. Second Detachment 99th Foot Regiment came to Australia as a guard on the convict ship "John Renwick" which was bringing convicts out to Tasmania in 1842.Third Detachment 99th Foot Regiment came to Australia as a guard on the convict ship "Kandahar" which was bringing convicts out to Tasmania in 1842. After serving sometime in the Parramatta area and also Port Phillip, they were sent to New Zealand to engage the Maoris. 1842 saw the 99th Regiment leave Chatham for Tasmania and arrived in Sydney 1843. The 99th was a very unpopular Regiment with the 11th Regiment being bought to Sydney to control the 99th. 1848 The 99th was stationed in Hobart and left Australia in 1856. Stationed at Hobart, Sydney, Norfolk Island, Victoria, Moreton Bay.



pale yellow single square


Rutlandshire In 1843 it was decided that the 58th Regiment ("The Black Cuffs) should take over garrison duties in New South Wales from the 80th which was going to Madras. The 58th provided the guards for 19 convict ships that left London and Ireland for Tasmania or Norfolk Island in 1842-45.In 1845 N.S.W. reluctantly agreed to send the 58th to NZ because of the unrest with the Maori in the Bay of Islands. The regiment stayed in NZ until November 1858 when they embarked for England, the Regiment then consisting of 16 officers and 194 men . Over 300 officers and men had elected to settle in NZ. During the years that the Regiment was in NZ some detachments returned to Australia and some took their discharge before this. In 1933, after many temporary homes, the colours were placed in their final home, the recently (then) completed Auckland War Memorial Museum where they remain.



black single square


North Devonshire  The 1st/11th Regiment (North Devonshire) was garrisoned in the colony from 1845 to 1857. The 99th Regiment was very unpopular in Sydney. It was widely known for its rough and near mutinous behaviour. The 1st/11th Regiment was brought to Sydney from Van Dieman's Land to control the riotous 99th Regiment. The first division of the regiment containing headquarters and three companies, sailed from Chatham aboard the "Castle Eden" in July 1845. The remainder of the regiment followed in the "Ramilies" in August 1845 for Sydney. After service in Sydney they were transferred to Hobart Town, returning in 1846 to restore discipline in the unruly 99th Regiment. The 11th was a popular regiment returning to garrison Sydney in response to a public petition in 1848. The 11th occupied Victoria Barracks until they returned to England in 1857.



deep green bastion squares


2nd Yorkshire North Riding Served in Tasmania & Sydney



white single square


2nd Sommersetshire 1823 - 1829 , Tasmania, Sydney. 1852 - 1860, Victoria, South Australia & Swan River.



buff bastion pairs


East Suffolk 1854: one company of the 1st Battalion which had proceeded to Cork, embarked there on the 18th January in the freight ship "Gloucester" and sailed on 20th for Van Dieman's Land. The second division of the Regiment, consisting of 2 Companies, under Captain Atkinson, embarked at Cork on board the transport "Empress Eugenie" on the 28th July, and disembarked at Melbourne on 6th November



yellow bastion pairs


East Middlesex Served only in Sydney





West Kent (Queen's Own) On their second tour.





Buckinghamshire 2nd Battalion of the 14th Regiment arrived in 1867, seeing service in Tasmania, Sydney, Victoria & Swan River.





Royal Irish The 2nd Battalion of the Regiment arrived from New Zealand in March of 1870 seeing service in Tasmania, Sydney, Victoria & South Australia. The Regiment began its return to England in August of 1870 with the last of the Regiment leaving on the 6th of September 1870



  • Royal Artillery 

    •  #2 Company, 6 Battalion 1843 - 1846. Sydney.

    •  #3 Company, 7 Battalion : Sydney 1856 - 1865 . 

    • #1 Battery : 15 Brigade 1861 - 1868 Melbourne. 

    • #1 Battery, 1 Brigade : 1868 - 1870 Sydney.



<<< This peaked shako is not associated with any Regiment that served in Australia Colonies. However it is helpful in that it is a good clear photo of the type and the type varied little except in colours/s.

above. Shako plate of the 65th (2nd Yorkshire Nth Riding). Photo. Mike Murrie-Jones

Left. Shako of the 50th Regiment of Foot (West Kent) who served two tours of duty in the Colonies of Australia. Photo. Mike Murrie-Jones


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