Saturday, 26 May 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 21 - Military

Prior to Federation a series of colonial military forces were established. British soldiers had been stationed in Australia during the convict period which ended in 1868.  During the 1850s small local military forces were first recruited. The Australian War Memorial website provides an overview of the development of volunteer militia in the states during the colonial period. The State Library of Victoria has an online guide about the Voluntary and Militia Forces in Victoria.
James Campbell Thom
My great grandfather, James Campbell Thom, was an officer in the Second Infantry Regiment in New South Wales in the 1890s. This regiment of volunteers was established in 1860. Newspaper reports show James' involvement in the voluntary forces. He had become a second lieutenant on 20 February 1890 and was promoted to captain on 1 June 1894. Two years later he was promoted to the position of major. (Sunday Times 24 May 1896). At 32 James was considered to be the youngest major appointed in the New South Wales forces.

Photograph of officer's full dress tunic 2nd Infantry Regiment New South Wales (AWM).

Military badge of 2nd Infantry Regiment New South Wales (Digger History).

In 1893 James became Solicitor for Railways in New South Wales so when the New South Wales Railway Volunteer Corps was established in 1897, he was seconded from the 2nd Infantry Regiment to become the major commanding the new unit.

The Evening News 6 January 1897 described the formation of the new volunteer corps:

The Governor in Council has approved of the establishment of the N.S.W. Railway Volunteer Corps, to consist of two companies, each of one captain, two lieutenants, one color-sergeant, four sergeants, two drummers or buglers, four corporals, and eighty-six privates, being 100 in a company. There will also be an 'officer commanding,' and a staff-sergeant from the Permanent Staff as instructor. 
The New South Wales Railway Volunteer Corps disbanded in 1899. (Year Book of Australia 1909)

James was just one of many men involved in the variety of volunteer forces formed at this time in each state. 

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