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INDEX
1. FOREWORD.  2. THE NEED. 3. THE CONFLICTS. 
4. THE NUMBERS GAME. 5. FACTS AND FIGURES. 6. THEY ALSO SERVED. 
7. The 1914 -1918 Honour Roll  8. The 1939 - 1945 Honour Roll  9. Main References. 
 

A TASMANIAN GUNNER’S HISTORY.

CHAPTER 1. THE NEED.
Because of the perceived threat of the French invading Australia in the early 1800’s the Imperial Government in England saw a necessity to provide defences for Port Phillip Bay and Van Diemen’s Land, which were seen to be vulnerable under-bellies to the new colonies, and so they decided to establish garrisons at what is now Sorrento in Victoria and at the strategic deep harbour of Hobart.

The garrison at Sorrento consisted of Royal Marines, sent from England under the command of Lt.Col. David Collins, and with a party of convicts to act as labourers, they were to erect and man a fort which would act as a deterrent to an overland invasion.

The Hobart garrison, which was manned from British Infantry regiments that were already stationed in the colonies, saw the establishment of the first artillery defences in England’s southern-most Australian outpost to prevent seizure of the fine harbour which could possibly be used by enemy war-ships as a blockade base.

Between 1854 - 56 the Crimean War had caused ripples of concern which again stirred the colonies into forming local defence units and, in 1858, the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Henry Edward Fox -Young, urged Parliament to approach the Imperial Government with regard to a proposition which stated the need for two companies of Royal Artillery personnel to be stationed at Hobart because of the continuing ‘Russian scares’.
The English Secretary -of -State refused the request, but offered to keep 260 officers and men, from the colonies’ existing infantry regiments, stationed in Hobart at the Tasmanian Government’s expense.
(This was in spite of Sydney’s forts being manned by the 1st. Battery, 1st. Brigade of the Royal (Garrison) Artillery from 1856 until 1870.)

The War Office’s view was that the other individual colonies should be defended by regular British Infantry which would be supported by a local volunteer artillery force.
The Tasmanian Government refused the offer as being too costly and in 1863 made another request to have Imperial military personnel stationed in the capital.
Again the request was refused by London who, at that time, had its hands full with the Second Maori War in New Zealand and was already dragging British regiments from Australia.

However, in the interim, the local colonists had not been sitting idly by as they realised the time had come when they would have to provide their own local defences instead of relying on British troops to be available.

The Volunteers.
In December 1859, a volunteer unit, known as the Hobart Town Artillery Company, was raised under the command of Captain A. F. Smith, formerly of the 99th. (Wiltshire) Regiment.
(The Wiltshires had arrived in 1842 and had remained until 1856, when many officers and men opted to take their termination of enlistment in Australia - where gold had been discovered a few years previously - and opportunities and conditions were considered to be far better than strife-torn and destitute Europe).

On the following June 6th.1860, a meeting was held at the Launceston Hotel on a Wednesday evening at 7 o’clock to discuss the formation of a group that was to be called the Launceston Citizen’s Volunteer Rifle Corps.


However, during the meeting the name was amended, unanimously by those present, to the Launceston Volunteer Artillery Company, after the secretary, Mr. George P. Hudson, read a letter from the Colonial Secretary that suggested members should be trained in the exercise of artillery as well as of the rifle - and history was created when 45 persons took the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria at that meeting.

The Lean Years.
The L.V.A.C. consisted of three companies, each of 50 men, under the command of Captain R.C.D. Home with the other volunteer officers democratically elected by the men themselves.
They paid an initial entrance fee of 2s. 6d., and at the beginning, before government assistance became available, they also supplied their own uniforms and then a monthly fee of 2s. to help defray incidental expenses - annual honorary membership was 2 Guineas (42 shillings) for those interested citizens who wished to be involved on a ‘social’ level.

Under the direction of Colonel Chesney, Royal Engineers, the L.V.A. had worked extremely hard, in 1866, to establish an artillery emplacement at a fort at Cormiston, and armed it with two 8" smooth-bore muzzle-loaders, each weighing 56 hundredweight, which had arrived on the schooner ‘Storm Bird’ on September 13th. of that year.
The fort had been originally designed to repel French or Russian invaders who might venture up the Tamar River towards Launceston, and it was strategically located where the river splits and narrows near ‘Pig Island’ (now known as Tamar Island) with the main shipping channel on the western side and the shallow eastern channel, which was deemed only suitable for smaller boats, all well within range of the two guns.

In the ‘Hand -Book for the Tasmanian Artillery Volunteers’, which was compiled by S/Sgt R. H. Eccleston, (Instructor in Gunnery, Royal Artillery) and published in 1868, a series of range tables were supplied for both the Fort Cormiston Battery and the southern batteries guarding the approaches to Hobart.

It was estimated that to repel an invasion by a vessel with 10 knots manoeuvring speed in Hobart’s Derwent River, it would take 226 men ‘well drilled and of good pluck to be able to stick to their work’ for at least 30 minutes to fire approximately 365 rounds from the 20 or so guns that could be brought to bear by the Queen’s Battery, the Prince of Wales and the Albert Batteries.
(In fact,we have been advised by Mr. Maurice Potter from South Arm, that, the only shot fired in anger from any gun emplacement on the River Derwent was in 1940. After discussion with a local member of the Army  who was stationed at Fort Direction during 1940, who now lives in South Arm, it seems that an American Liberty ship failed to respond to signals from the naval command on the hill at Fort Direction. The shot was fired from number two gun at Fort Direction. It (the shelling) was a thing that was talked about here in South Arm for many years as one returned Serviceman Merv Morley, who is now deceased, was one of the gun crew when all this took place. The other person is Fred Evens who still lives here in South Arm. Fred was at both Fort Direction and Piersons Point 1940 to 1944. - Addenda 4th May 2004.)

Fort Cormiston - with its two gun battery, which could be traversed through 67 degrees to cover the two 1500 yard channels and river flats around Tamar Island - was expected to be able to knock out a smaller, shallow draught gun-boat class vessel (capable of about 4 knots in that area of the River Tamar), in 20 minutes, with as many rounds from each gun.
As the common shell for the 8" gun weighed between 46 - 50 pounds (approx. 20 - 24 kgs.) is would have taken a stout-hearted crew of men to be able to maintain a firing rate of a round per minute - in fact S/Sgt Eccleston’s handbook even gives the expected work capacity per man under several different circumstances as well as a detailed listing of terms, types of ordinance and ammunition, plus drills with rifle and sword which were applicable for the volunteers at that time.

On Tuesday 14th. January,1868, when Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited Launceston as part of his Australian tour, the strength of the L.V.A., Launceston Division, was 101.
The Voluntary Artillery, Launceston division, assembled at the volunteer buildings, St. John-street at 2 o’clock. A detachment of 20 men were told off to fire a royal salute from the Barracks on arrival of His Royal Highness’ carriage at the Sandhill.
The men were put through several manoeuvers. They were then marched back to the Barrack gate, and the gun detachment doubled and saluted the guard of honour............’
(Launceston Examiner January 16th. 1868.)

When the Imperial Government completely opted out of military support for the colonies in 1870, the Tasmanian Government was also placed in the position of not being able to financially assist the volunteer units and, for the next five years, the H.T.A.C. and the L.V.A.C. languished, short of enough funds to maintain their establishments.
By 1870, because of the changed Government policy in regard to the funding, the L.V.A.C. had been reduced to a meagre 25 men - in all!

This small nucleus of volunteers was always struggling to maintain the Fort Cormiston battery and works, as well as to survive financially, without any assistance from the Government or public purse, so they did not really need the added pressure of training to repel invaders that may never come or to provide royal salutes - but train they did!
They could not even afford to hire horses to pull their polished brass howitzers up the steep slopes of Windmill Hill, to fire the annual May 24th. Salute, so they hooked up their drag-ropes and man-handled them up, ‘with indomitable courage and loyalty’, to honour Queen Victoria’s Birthday.

In 1875 the Hobart unit was ordered to disband, but the Launceston Volunteer Artillery, who had consolidated their personnel and had still continued to train and fire their salutes, was allowed to continue by virtue of Governor Francis Aloysius Weld’s solicitation to the Tasmanian Parliament.
Amongst Battery members this period, between 1870 - 1878, was known as ‘The Winter of Neglect’.

It was a true case of voluntary involvement by a band of dedicated men that kept the unit alive - if not exactly kicking!

The Reformation.
During 1877 - 84, an investigation into the colonies defences was conducted by Maj-Gen. Sir William Jervois and Lt-Col. Peter Scratchley and their report, which suggested an immediate start to the up-grading of seaport defences and field forces, resulted in an overall increase in personnel from 9,423 in 1884 to 29,010 by 1901. (The report also recommended that these forces be made up from mainly volunteers with a core of paid permanent men.)

In 1878 the Tasmanian Parliament passed an Act authorising the Volunteer units to be reformed - and, whilst an allocation of available funds would now be made for major expenditures, the troops would be unpaid - of course!
The Launceston Volunteer Artillery, now relieved of some of its financial upkeep burden, immediately increased its strength and re-organised, and was supplied with two breech-loading 12 1/2 pounder guns to form a field section, and two R.B.L 40 pounder jointed guns to form a siege section.

About 1880, the two old smooth bore 8" muzzle-loading guns from Fort Cormiston were sent to England for rifling, but, on their return to the colony, they were never re-mounted as they were then considered to be too obsolete against more modern weapons.

In Hobart, a new field artillery unit, the Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery, was raised under the command of Capt. E. L. Crowther and equipped with two breech-loading 12 pound howitzers and two 32 pounder guns on field carriages.
With this modernisation came more dramatic changes when control of the colony’s defences was handed over to Colonel W. V. Legge, R. A. and an Act was passed which changed the organisation of the Force.

‘Members were asked to sign a service roll for three years and serve under the provision of the Act or retire.
The majority of the volunteers signed and continued to serve, thus ceasing to be Volunteers strictly speaking, although from a standpoint of renumeration they were still so.’

In1885, during the Easter long weekend, the first general exercise camp was held at Mona Vale however, from Easter 1886 (23rd. to 26th.April), the camps were relocated to Ross and continued to be held in that area until 1891 when the Artillery and the Engineers co-joined to hold an encampment at the Alexandra Battery near Hobart.

From 1887 onwards, the S.T.V.A. began to supply detachments of its men to the Alexandra and Kangaroo Bluff Batteries, which were manned by the Tasmanian Permanent Artillery, and the L.V.A. was sending some men south to Hobart for annual training camps at the Kangaroo Battery (as there were no fixed defences in Launceston by that time), and these arrangements remained in force until Federation in 1901.
(The Kangaroo Bluff Battery has now been restored and is open for public inspection.)
The Launceston Artillery had also been exercising it’s own men on voluntary training excursions down the Tamar River valley during the period from 1891 until 1898 when the Easter camps were resumed at Ross.

In 1890, the Officer Commanding, Major George Harrap, had successfully implemented a scheme of recruiting 20 - 25 lads of between 15 - 17 years of age to be attached to the Battery as trainee cadets.
This endeavour to help foster comradeship and discipline, and ensure a supply of trained men for the future well-being of the Battery, was welcomed with open arms by the citizens of Launceston - by 1896 the scheme had proven so successful that the Launceston Church Grammar School officially raised a Cadet Corp, under the command of Lieutenant H. Gillett, which was attached to the Battery on October 8th. of that year, and remained so until the Commonwealth Cadet system was inaugerated some years later in 1911.

It was also during this period, in 1899, that the Launceston Volunteer Ambulance Corps was formed as a paramedic force of 16 men, under the command of Captain-Surgeon Louis S. Holmes and their first volunteer surgeon was (later Surgeon-Major) Dr. J. Lindsay-Miller.
Part of their training involved participation, with Southern volunteer ambulancemen, in the artillery’s annual camps in Hobart for obvious reasons!
The treatment of accidents involving our early volunteer gunners has been documented, and includes the usual type of injuries that were associated with our early corps training during peace-time, such as crushed fingers and toes, explosion burns etc. etc.

Australia’s various permanent (colonial) military units which had been engaged, under Imperial leadership, in the Boer War (which had commenced in October 1899 and would last until May 31st. 1902), now came under the control of the Commonwealth Minister of Defence and the task of organising them into a truly Australian Army was entrusted to Maj-Gen. Sir Edward Hutton.
The Tasmanian Permanent Artillery became the No.13 Company, Royal Australian Garrison Artillery while the L.V.A. provided enough personnel to form the No.1 Tasmanian Battery, Australian Field Artillery and part of the No.2 Tasmanian Battery, A.F.A., known as Launceston Section in accordance with a District Order published on July 31st. 1902.
On August 9th. 1902, the eve of the coronation of King Edward VII, Tasmanian Artillery history was made when Colonel Legge, Commandant Tasmanian Artillery, A.F.A., Launceston Section, successfully petitioned the Federal Commandant, Sir Edward Hutton, in an attempt to gain permission to fire a Royal salute by a battery outside of a district H.Q.

Over the next six years the No.1 Battery was again re-organised into two field sections, each equipped with two Quick-firing 18 Pounder Mark II guns.
The balance of No.2 Tasmanian Battery had been made up from the S.T.V.A., which also provided the personnel to form the No.1 Tasmanian Company, Australian Garrison Artillery, but in about 1909 the Launceston Section, No.2 Battery was re-absorbed back into No.1 Battery allowing the Hobart section to expand into a full battery in its own right.

In 1909 a law was passed in Australia that made history in that, for the first time in any English-speaking country, ‘the principle of universal liability for military training’ became official - this had followed a report by Lord Kitchener that Australia’s army strength should be 80,000, (half for city defence and half to operate as a mobile strike force) and that a Military College for the training of Australian officers should be established as soon as possible.
Kitchener had also recommended that all boys between the ages of 12 and 14 were to drill as 'junior cadets' for a total of 120 hours per year; boys between 14 and 17 would train as 'senior cadets' for 4 whole days and 12 half-days and attend 24 drill nights.
In June 1911, the Royal Military College at Duntroon was opened and on November 1st. 1911, compulsory training was started.
Young men from 18 to 25 years were obliged to serve 16 whole days in the Citizen Forces, 8 days in camp and be in the Reserves for an additional year.
It was not a popular decision - with many prosecutions, fines and gaolings resulting from non-compliance with the 'compulsory' aspect of the Act!
With the advent of the Universal Training scheme the Hobart unit was renamed 16 Battery, A.F.A. and the Launceston unit, 15 Battery, A.F.A.
A concerted growl was apparent heard, from Tasmanian interests,when the Army purchased 150 horses for the two batteries from mainland suppliers when they were told that there were ‘insufficient animals in the state’, by local officers.
 

 Other Artillery Links
INDEX
1. FOREWORD.  2. THE NEED. 3. THE CONFLICTS. 
4. THE NUMBERS GAME. 5. FACTS AND FIGURES. 6. THEY ALSO SERVED. 
7. The 1914 -1918 Honour Roll  8. The 1939 - 1945 Honour Roll  9. Main References.