Brisbane QLD Australia

©2019 by Colonial Forces Study Group (Qld) Inc

Cities and Towns


An estimated 20,000 citizens undertook some form of military service in Queensland in the four decades between 1859 and 1901. It was an era in which the colony of Queensland was responsible for its own military and naval defence.


When separation from New South Wales occurred in late 1859 there was no military force to protect the coastline of the new colony. A force composed of local men who voluntarily undertook regular military training was quickly established. Known as the Queensland Volunteer Force during its early years, it faced many challenges and did not immediately prosper. It was supplemented by British Army detachments between 1861 and 1869, before again being left to its own devices.

During the late 1870s defensive schemes for the Australian colonies were devised by experienced British officers, though each colony had to bear the cost of implementation. The frugal Queensland Government was somewhat tardy, and it was 1885 before the local military achieved the beginnings of a professional edge.  The Volunteers were re-organised across the colony as the Queensland Defence Force.

At its heart was a small full-time force that manned fortifications and provided training and instruction for all others, a large partially paid militia force, and a small force of volunteers who gave their service without remuneration. A new Queensland Marine Defence Force conducted maritime surveys and coastal patrols, and supported Naval Brigade companies in port towns.

Eventually military and naval units were formed in more than forty Queensland towns. There was a higher concentration of personnel from the populated south-east corner of the colony, however many towns along the eastern coast and at inland centres supported their citizens who gave up their time for military training. Rifle clubs, which were established under the Defence Act of 1884, were sometimes formed in towns that did not have a regular defence force unit.

The story of the towns and cities that provided the personnel for the colonial forces is told in the CFSG(Q) publication "A Most Promising Corps: Citizen soldiers in colonial Queensland 1860 - 1903." You can purchase a copy of this publication here.