10/27 Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment

History

 

The history of the infantry in South Australia is a very confusing one due to the pre-Federation system of volunteer forces within each state, and several Army re-organisations before, and after Federation. The history of the Regiment represented on these pages is by no means in full detail and is designed as a brief introduction to the history and traditions of the Royal South Australia Regiment.

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Our Early History 1860-1914
The Royal South Australia Regiment dates back to the local militia unit created as a defence force for the colony of South Australia on 4th November 1854. A general order was published on that day directing the South Australian Volunteer Militia Force be organized into two battalions was to be known as the Adelaide Rifles. Each Battalion was to consist of a commanding officer (Lieutenant-Colonel), six Captains, Lieutenants, and Ensigns, and six companies of 50-60 troops, each with three sergeants and corporals. Training was commenced in late 1854 and by 2nd August, after 36 days part-time, the Battalions were deemed "trained" and were sent to their civilian jobs until called up. These battalions were disbanded in 1856, probably in response to the evaporation of the threatened invasion of Australia by Russia at the conclusion of peace in the Crimean War.

Later, it was deemed necessary for the colony to be able to defend itself, and so the Volunteer Force was re-formed in 1859 and numbered 14 Companies. By 1860 there were 45 Companies consisting of 70 officers and nearly 2000 other ranks! On 26th April, 1860 the Adelaide Regiment of Volunteer Rifles was formed. By 1862, the strength of this unit had reached 770 all ranks. Due to poor co-ordination, training and musketry, the Battalion was disbanded in March 1866, and re-formed in May, 1866 after the South Australian Government brought down "The Volunteer Act" (1865-6) which divided the standing Military Force into Active and Reserve Forces. The first Scottish unit appeared around this time (1866) in the southeast of South Australia.

City Rifle Company 1864

 

On 16 November, 1867 the Adelaide Regiment of Volunteer Rifles was renamed the "Prince Alfred's Rifle Volunteers." Unfortunately this regiment was disbanded shortly afterward. The Scottish Company became the "The Duke of Edinburgh's Own" on 18th November the same year.
With the outbreak of war in France in 1870, the Governor of South Australia saw fit to address the defence issue of South Australia. Sir James Ferguson submitted a plan to create two 500-600 man Battalions, two batteries and four troops of cavalry. This proposal met with little favor from the politicians except a few who saw it as a solution for the State's unemployment situation. But it was finance that finally curtailed any further expansion of the South Australian Militia Forces.
    However 1875-77 saw renewed interest in the defence of the State. Fear of Russian expansion into Australia as a result of the expansion of the Russo-Turkish War saw vigorous campaigns by the press and various community members to raise the defence force once again. And in 1877 the South Australian Volunteer Military Forces were re-established. This saw the raising of the Adelaide Rifles (consisting of 10 Companies) in May 1877. However political wrangling between the Acting Administrator and soon-to-be Governor, Sir William F.D. Jervois and the Honorable Premier John Cotton saw the constitution and organisation of Military Forces caught, but not stopped. Soon the Adelaide Rifles consisted of 21 Companies, and on 4 July 1877, it was decided a second Battalion would be formed by splitting the original Battalion in half. This second Battalion took over the companies from Mount Gambier, Unley, and Port Pirie together with the Duke of Edinburgh's Own of Prince Alfred Rifle Volunteers.

Adelaide Rifles 1878

Training intensified in 1878 due to the Russo-Turkish War, and to the possible invasion of Australia by Russia, but this threat was short-lived, and the training was reduced, and the second battalion disbanded.
In 1885 the second Battalion was again raised, consisting of the same sub-units as before. The Regiment of Adelaide Rifles was as follows:
1st Battalion CO LTCOL Lewis G. Madley: 2nd Battalion CO LTCOL Frank Makin; Their Uniforms were scarlet with green facings; and the Regimental Motto was "Union Is Strength." (A third Battalion was raised in 1889, but was reabsorbed into the other two Battalions in 1895.)

10 Battalion Corporals 1885

Up to 1896, the Regiment trained together only once a year, at Easter. In 1889, a further reorganization of the Regiment, brought the second Battalion's strength to 8 Companies in 1900.
The constant raising and disbanding of Militia Forces in the early colonial days, was a direct result of the citizen's reaction to direct threats to their security. Their numbers rose and fell as these threats were realized and then subsided.


10 Battalion Officers 1908

 

In 1901, a major reorganization of the Armed Forces of a newly Federated Australia saw the Regiment change names to 10th Australian Infantry Regiment, the second Battalion became South Australia Infantry Regiment, G Company became South Australai Scottish Infantry (Mount Gambier), and H Company Scottish became G Company (Scottish) South Australia Infantry Regiment.

10 Battalion 1909

 

During the war in South Africa (1899-1901), members from various South Australain Regiments served as volunteers with the Australian contingewnt. As a result of this, and in recognition of their service, their Regiments were presented with their King's (now Queen's ) Colors. In 1910, Lord Kitchener presented a compulsory military training scheme asc a part of the Defence Act of 1910. The resultant Force became known as the Australian Citizen Army, and was raised by compulsory military training for men over the age of 18. The Units were raised progressively, and so by 1912, there were nine Infantry Regiments in South Australia, numbered consecutively from 74 to 82.
South Australia itself became the 4th Military District, commanded by Colonel H. LeMesurier. Again Battalions were re-numbered. South Australia Infantry becoming 74th Infantry Regiment covering the south-esat of South Australia to the Victorian border. The 74th Infantry was to be commanded by LTCOL Walter Dollman (later distinguished as the CO 27th Battalion AIF during the First World war). It was decided between LTCOL Dollman and COL Lennon Raws (CO 10th Australian Infantry Regiment that the 74th Would take over the King's Color for South Africa Service.
The Battalions remained 10th and 74th Up to the outbreak of War in Europe. 10th was the first to sail from Adelaide, in Nov 1914, and the newly raised 27th Battalion was to follow early in 1915.

 

Further helpful Information:
It is important to remember that the Royal South Australia Regiment (RSAR) as such, did not exist before 1960. When raised in 1960 as 1st Battalion, RSAR, it was responsible for maintaining the traditions of those South Australian infantry units that preceded it. These units were;

  • The Militia infantry units were pre WW1.
  • The 1st AIF Battalions from South Australia, consisting of 10th, 27th, 43rd, 48th and 50th Battalions, raised (formed) in 1914, and were all disbanded in 1919.
  • The 2nd AIF Battalions, consisting of 2nd/10th, 2nd/27th, 2nd/43rd and 2nd/48th, raised in 1939 and all disbanded after WW2.
  • The militia Battalions continued between and after the wars.
  • It should be noted that the RSAR does not represent four other infantry units in which South Australian soldiers served, but whose HQ's were in other states, principally Western Australia and Tasmania. These units were 12th, 16th, 32nd and 52nd Battalions.

    The association of the RSAR with units listed above, stems from the Army re-organisation of 1921, where the militia units, whose history was aligned through to the volunteer forces pre-Federation, were aligned with and retitled to the 1st AIF units that had been disbanded in 1919. The alignment was arbitrary, an example of which is the 50th Battalion, which, although a split of the 10th Battalion in WW1, was aligned with the 80th Wakefield Regiment, whose members served in South Africa, hence the rationale for this unit having that Battle Honour.

    It is important not to confuse the militia battalions in existence during WW2, with their respective namesakes of the 2nd AIF. The 2nd AIF was raised independently of the militia, adopting the unit numbers of the state militia in existence at the time. The 27th Battalion SA Scottish, not to be confused with the 2nd/27th Battalion, served in the South West Pacific, and was the only SA militia battalion to serve overseas. None of the other militia battalions saw active service overseas. Militia battalions served as home defence battalions: the 48th Battalion, not to be confused with the 2nd/48th Battalion, served as an anti-aircraft unit on mainland Australia during WW2. When 1st Battalion, RSAR was subsequently split into 10th and 27th Battalions, the individual battalions of the RSAR adopted the lineage of the respective battalion.

    10th and 27th Battalions were linked on Sunday, 29th November 1987 to form 10th/27th Battalion the Royal South Australia Regiment, or 10th/27th RSAR.

    Photographs on this page are used with kind permission of the Royal South Australia Regimental Collection, displayed at the Army Museum Keswick Barracks, South Australia.