People of the colonial forces
At least 25000 served in Queensland's military and naval forces between 1860 and 1901. This includes those who volunteered for active service in the South African war of 1899-1902.
It was an organisation of impressive size given the population of the colony.
We know quite a few of their names, but there are no surviving personnel records. There are very few muster lists, a record traditionally kept at the unit level. Every day however, we find a few more names in some document or other, or as a result of people inquiring about their relatives.
We do know that the bulk of the forces, like the general population, were made up of English, Scottish and Irish immigrants. There were also Germans, Welsh, a number of Australian born soldiers, and a smattering of other European nationalities. Our knowledge of their occupations is not as extensive as we would like, and we definitely know more about the Officers than we do about the Rank and File.
We would expect that like the general population the men would have been largely Anglican or Catholic in religion with a small percentage of other Christian denominations. From details taken from soldiers who joined the Permanent Force – the colony’s only full-time force – we know that in 1886 half of the men were Catholic and the remainder split between Weslyan and Anglican. This aligns with the fact that half of the Permanent Force at that time were of Irish descent or birth.
Like any organisation the naval and military forces had their share of bad eggs. There were men who committed civil offences such as fraud, or were gaoled for assault or attempted murder. The bulk though, were average citizens, with a smattering of heros, good Samaritans, eccentrics, and innovators.
There were some who were social martinets, politically motivated, and quite a number of politicians served in the ranks at the same time they served in Parliament. In fact there was from the first corps formed in 1860 a veritable tradition of parliamentarians serving in the ranks. No fewer than eighteen members of the Volunteer Corps in Queensland were, or later became, Members of the Queensland Parliament, some holding Ministerial positions of Premier, Attorney-General, Treasurer or Colonial-Secretary. Some of the latter were good, some less so...
For a lot of people history is a black and white affair, of old and faded photographs and half-forgotten stories of little relevance. There are some of us who see it differently, and for us our history is a rich and colourful treasure-trove, waiting to be discovered. Many people feel the same way about their family history. Perhaps your family members served in Queensland’s military or naval forces, and if that is the case, there is a chance we can add a little colour to your stories too.