Training the Forces
An overview of the systems of military instruction used in colonial Queensland
Few of the men who served in the Queensland forces were professional soldiers or sailors, although some did go on to pursue successful and prominent careers in that field. Some had seen service in the British or other European armies. Most had not. These Queenslanders, both native-born and immigrant, were engaged in civilian occupations. For often diverse reasons they were prepared to enter the ranks and undertake service in the colony’s defence forces.
To be a citizen soldier, a man gave up the precious commodity of time, usually a weeknight and a Saturday afternoon spent at the local drill hall, and perhaps a week away from work for annual training. If a Volunteer, he paid for his own uniform and had to meet any other expenses of his company.
The Government provided arms, accoutrements, ammunition, and drill instruction. A short-lived program that rewarded five years continuous service as a Volunteer with a generous land grant, was popular with the Volunteers but not with the government of the day.
After 1885, the bulk of the force were enrolled as militia, rather than volunteers. If a militiaman, a man’s uniform was provided by the Government in addition to a weapon and training. He was also paid an allowance for the hours spent at drill and on parades. The militia were expected to spend more time at training than Volunteers, but both had to complete an annual musketry course to be considered efficient. Volunteer and militiaman alike could be called up for active service within the colony if the Government chose to do so.
While the Volunteers remained on the Queensland military establishment during the 19th century, they did not survive long after absorption into the Commonwealth Military Forces, and those that were left converted to militia.