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7 corrections, most recently by doug.butler - Show corrections

EARLY DAYS IN SOUTH AUS TRALIA.

[By the Hon. B. T. FINNISS.]

Early in March, 1855, the Emperor Nicholas died by one of those sudden dispen-   sations which have frequently shortened the lives of Russian Emperors, and the news

reached Metbourne on the 13th of May. But then was no special reason (or concluding that the war was at an end. On the con trary, the preparations of England were earned on on the most stupendous scale; and on tbe 29th of January of the same year the Empenr had published a manifesto declaring the objects of the war, and expressing his determination to carry it on with vigor. In that manifesto he ordained the formation of a general militia of the empire. The news of the battle of Alma, tbe advance of the allied armies of England and France on Sebastopol; its siege without in- vestment and tte subsequent battles and carnage at Inkerman and Balaklava had stirred up the feelings of the colonists from their inmost depths, which not only showed itself in arousing their military ordor, but ex- tended to the practical sympathy of sub- scribing funds for the relief of the widows and orphans of those who had fallen on the fatal fields of the Crimea. War had been declared against Russia by England on the 28th of March, 1854, and in less than twelve months from that date the career of the Emperor Nioholas.had closed to death. His death was followed by negotiations for peace, and England, in the midst of enor- mous preparations to continue the war, and successful in her operations daring the last oampaign, waa induced to aooept terms which left the powers of Russia without much diminution and England without having gained the objects for which the war was ostensibly undertaken. She had been dragged into war for purposes which seemed unsatisfied, and Russia only gained time for that more serious war, which continually imminent, was only ended by the congress of Berlin ; whilst the ambition of Russian Emperors is constantly threatening a renewal of disturbances in Asia and the East. When the power of the purse is in the hands of an   autocrat, tbe passion of a single man, nursed into madness by the possession of absolute and irresponsible power, is always capable of     dooming millions to suffer the extremities of war and misery. The continuance of tte war of 1854-5 was averted by a peace, the mysterious solution of which may perhaps be found in the reluc- tance of France to continue a contest in which she was pledged to abstain from all acquisition of new territory—a war which only cost her blood and treasure, and which. If contlnued on a greater scale, it was hinted must be carried on under new conditions. The resuscitation of Poland, with a new direc- tion to be given to the war involving the extension of her boundaries to the Rhine at the expense of Prussia, seemed to be the pos- sible requirements of the French Emperor; and hence the ambitious alliance was re- nounced (or the more temperate proposals of Austria, which meeting with a favor- able response from the Emperor Alexander, induced Lord Palmerston to bring the mighty conflict to an immediate close. Im- medtate and temporary— as events have since declared themselves—for the designs of Russia are threateniog renewed operations, and giving rise to the necessity of fresh treaties of alliance, in which as yet England and France have no part. Peace being proclaimed in Europe, there was peaoe in Australia, The first military force of 1855 was no longer called out for training and exercise, and in the year 1856 the military expenditure fell to £3.330. of which sum £2,728 was chargeable to the regular troops; and the cost of the volunteers, due to the payment of three staff officers and four sergeant instructors, amounted to only £601. It remained at a low figure until the year 1860. But although the military ardor of the colo- nists was no longer called into requisition, it waa not long left in abeyance. Rumours of war were afloat, and war clouds hung on the distant horizon. The arsenals of Europe were occupied in preparations for war. The in ventive powers of naval and military engineers were called into requisition to produce iron clad ships of war with artilleryof new and formidable dimensions and structure. Small arms were undergoing a great change. We were disturbed by the American war. North against South, with its elements of danger to other nations. France, the eldest son of the church, as the Popes delighted to style her, occupied Rome with a strong military force in the interests of the Vatican as againat the assaults on the tem- poral power just then reaching their culmi- nation in Italy. The liberation of Italy from the grasp of Austria was rendered memorable by the victory of Solferino, where tbe French Emperor with much mystery paraded his rifled field guns. Prussia and Austria had a sharp and decisive passage of arms, and finally France and Prussia had a death atruggle ostensibly as to what prince should reign over the monarchy of Spain. In this conflict Krupp guns loading at the breech carried destruction into the new batteries of mitraiileus with which the French had hoped to repeat Solferino. The crowning victory cf Sedan and the capture of the im- pregnable fortress of Metz by investment and starvation closed the career of the Napo- leonic dynasty, and left tbe world to breathe   in peace once more; but these events had kept up the war scare in England and in the British colonies. The South Australian Government was driven to take measures to keep up the confidence of the colonists in their means of defence against sudden pre- datory attacks, and recourse was had once more to the volunteers, but this time on a different system, and a less expensive one. The experiment was tried of calling out a body of unpaid men, and the number of 2.000 enrolled themselves for three years on these terms. As this system haa gradually yielded to a more elaborate, a more complete, but at the same time a muoh more costly servioe, I might pass over this period of our military history, but my account would be incomplete if I were not to point out how our present defensive armaments and organisation gra- dually arose out of past experiences. I shall however keep my remarks within the smallest possible compass, as I wish to adhere to my plan of avoiding details, and following out events only which led to general results. After peace had been signed between the allied powers engaged in the Crimean war and Russia, tbe first defensive paid volunteer force, as I have stated, was no longer kept in   employawnt; but the Government, moved by the unsettled state of Europe, made pre- parations to provide for future security. Requisitions had been addressed to tbe Home Government for arms of the newest pattern and best description, since it was thought that troops imperfectly trained should have their confidence kept alive by tbe feeling that the weapons which they might be called upon to use in a defensive war should be at least as perfect as those which might be opposed to them. In this way superior knowledge of the country and its resources would seem to in- duce that equality amongst the combatants which other conditions would otherwise dis- turb. In response to the applications for arms we received the gift from the Imperial authorities of two thousand Enfield rifles, then the most perfect weapon known in the British servioe, and perhaps in Europe. Committees set in the local Parliamment to consider the defences, and every effort was made by the Government to obtain the best advice, and the best assistance. The rifles wen distributed amongst the volunteers with the necessary accoutrements and drill and   training were resumed. Soon the companies, through the exertions of their officers, assisted by oompetent drill instructors mastered the details of company movements, and it was then determined to form a certain number of companies residing in Adelaide or on the lines of railway, or other easy communication into a battalion. This was easily accom- plished, and Lieutenant-Colonel Finniss, who had as captain raised and drilled one of the companies named the Adelaide Marksmen, was appointed to command the first Adalaide regiment. With this organisation there was no difficulty in obtaining a considerable muster of volunteers to celebrate the accession of Her Majesty on the 20th of June, 1860, by a review on the East Park Lands. The Governor-in-Chief Sir Richard       McDonnell was unable to attend on this occasion through severe illness, but Lady McDonnell, like Queen Bess in olden times, undertook to review the colonial forces. As this display was carried into effect under my own immediate command with very little assistance, except in the preliminary drill of the companies, I prefer, on this the first occasion on which the South Australian volunteers of all arms had been brigaded—to use the military term for such assemblies of different arms of the servioe—to employ the words used by the daily press in describing the event, omitting a few passages in the press narrative which would oocupy un- necessary space. The report is as follows :— "The anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to the throne of England was observed on Wednesday last in South Australia by a demonstration of a most attractive character—the review of those gallant volunteers who moved by the troubled state of Europe have been formed within the colony daring the past twelve months." At   abont 1, or half past 1, the volunteers headed by the band belonging to the First Adelaide Rifles made their appearance at the end of Rundle-street, down which they had marched. They crossed tbe park lands in most soldierly style, and in the following order:—The First Adelaide Rifles, the Munno Para East Rifles, tbe first and second Gawler Town Rifles, the Salisbury Rifles, the Port Adelaide Rifles, and the Glenelg Rifles, altogether amounting to 270 rank and file. Other companies were seen marching to the review ground from various directions and spectators in every kind of vehicle and on foot were hurrying to the one attractive spot in front of the grand stand. In tbe course of half an hour the color-ser-

geants had been placed. the companies marched upon them, and the regiment formed into open column in the following order and as near as could be ascertained in the following strength :—The Port Adelaide Rifles, 29; the Mitcham and Glen Osmond, 24; the Ade- laide Rifles, 28; the Munno Para East Rifles, 51; the first Gawler Rifles, 30; the Salis- bury Rifles, 20: the Kent Rifles, 20; the Alberton and Qoeenstown Rifles, 24; the Norwood and Kensington Rifles, 22; the Eastern Suburban Bifies, 35; the Second Gawler Rifles, 38; the West Adelaide Rifles, 32; the Adelaide Marksmen. 27 ; the Glenelg Rifles, 26: the First Adelaide Rifles, 69 rank and file, besides officers and band. In ad- vance of them, and in the direction of Mitcham, were placed the Adelaide Artillery, with 3 guns and 32 men; in advance of them again the Port Adelaide Artillery, with 2 guns and 20 men; and in advance of them all the Reedbeds Volunteers, nearly 40 strong. Altogether the force on the ground reached within a few of 600 volun- teers of all services, and when drawn out presented a very military and imposing appearance. While the com panies were being adjusted so as to form but eight only of nearly equal numerical strength, a process which caused considerable delay, lady McDonnell, accompanied by the Most Reverend, the Lord Bishop of Sydney, the Bight Reverend the Lord Bishop of Melbourne, Colonel Freeling, the Honor- able the Speaker, and Mr. Lyon, S.M., rode on to the review ground. Mrs. Barker, Mrs. Perry, and Mrs. Lyon also arriving in the governor's carriage. The companies havfog been arranged, were wheeled into line, and presented arms to lady McDonnell and party, who cantered along the front, after which they apeedily commenced the manoeuvres of the day. The artillery, both Port Adelaide and Adelaide, were drawn up in the direction of Mitcham, at the extreme south of the land marked out on the review ground, the cavalry flanking it on both sides. After a few rounds had been fired by the artillery the cavalry moved for- ward as if to follow some retiring force, and the Adelaide artillery moved after them in the direction of Glen Osmond—or due south. This they did, it afterwards seemed, with the   view of returning as an attacking and antagonistic force. The Port Artillery took up position at the north end of the parade ground, on the left of the battalion, which had formed into close column, and marched thither from the west front of the review ground, The face of the battalion and the muzzles of the Port Adelaide guns were then towards the direction of the Adelaide Artil- lery and the Reedbeds Cavalry, which were about halt a mile or three quarters away. The first movement which then took place was the throwing out of skirmishers in the direction of the supposed enemy. This was effected by moving forward the two front companies of the battalion, and was very suc- cessfully accomplished. The compact masses were soon sown broadcast over the ground, and soon formed an accurate line about four hundred yards in advance of their battalion, where they oommenced desultory firing, as if an enemy had made its appearance. These skirmishers were sup-   ported by two other companies, who moved out towards them. While the battalion was thus distributed the cavalry began to move up, and the artillery to fire from the south, on which the bugle sounded for the retreat of the skirmishers, who rapidly withdrew to behind the supports and towards the reserve, where it was evident the battalion would be expoeed to a charge ot cavalry in a few minutes. Order was therefore given to the Port Artillery to fire to retard the approach of the cavalry, which they did with great smartness. Meanwhile the companies were formed into a square to receive cavalry, the front ranks kneeling, and the rear ranks standing, according to the usual practice. The cavalry charged, and when within from 50 to 100 yards wheeled and retired, the infantry and Port Artilery blaring out at them, and the Adelaide Artillery responding as if to cover the retreat -of the cavalry and riddle the squares before it could open out. This manoeuvre was repeated four times with very little variation, the cavalry maintaining perfect order, wheeling well, and getting into no confusion, but their pace was slow, far too alow for making an Impression on a square, and they ougbt to have gone up a little closer. When this mock contest had terminated the face of the battalion was changed, and skirmishers were sent out towards the east aide of the review ground, where the artillery were formed on each flank cf the resenes. On the skirmishers re- tiring npon the battalion the whole were opened out into line and fired a volley very smartly, and charged in a manner which did them very considerable credit. These were the principal movements, and the manner in which they were executed is deserving of commendation, when the rawness of some of the men is taken into consideration. The commanding officer (Lieutenant Colonel     Finniss), who, by-the-way, was without the aid which be ought to have had, exerted him self most energetically, and to him great praise is due. ... At the most moderate computation not less than from six to seven thousand persons were present." In the evening a dinner took place in White's Rooms when several speeches were   made. Oapt Blyth, of the 40th Regiment (shortly to command the volunteer forces) and who had bean present at the review, ob served, "He could say from his observation of the volunteers when under review that day that they were very steady under arms, and that was a great matter. It was evident they had very much broken the neck of their drill during the last month, and had pretty nearly mastered every movement. He must say that the line of skirmishers was thrown out un- commonly welL He said that as a soldier." Captain Biggs, the staff adjutant, also con cluded a short speech by "referring to the creditable manner in which the volunteers had been brought through the various move ments in the review of that day, &c." In criticising the movements on the ?20th June 1860, it should be observed, as remarked at the time, that many of the men had not completed their company drill, and consequently could not be relied on in brigade of different arms to carry into prompt effect all the orders and intentions of their commanding offioer as to their relative posts and duties. In the follow- ing year the volunteers were again brigaded under the command, at that time, of Captain Blytb, of the 40th Regiment. who had been appointed colonel-commandant of the whole     volunteer force. They met in review order on the North Park Lands on the 28th June, 1861 and were put tthrough several evolutions. At tbe conclusion Colonel Blyth expressed his thanks in a general order to Lieut- Colonel Finniss and his field officers, to whom the working of the battalion was entrusted, for the efficient and careful way in which every manoeuvre was executed, and to the captains and officers commaoding companies, he said, his thanks were particularly due for the able manner in which, without exception, every company was commanded; and the colonel further testified to the steadiness and soldierlike bearing of the whole force, as well as to the great improvement made in battalion and skirmishing drill since the review of the 9th November, 1860." Without efficiency in the use of the rifles no troops can be of much account. But we find that this part of the volun- teer training had been carefully attended to. The musketry instructions were specially under the direction of the Staff-Adjatant, Captain Biggs,-and the volunteers on the roll were carefully practised at. the butts then erected on the South Park Lands. In a re- turn published on December 2, 1662, in the Government Gazette it appears that the final classification of the Voianteer Force for that year at target practice with the long Enfield rifle, and under the Hythe regulations of 1860, gives the result as follows:—Out of 1,296 officers and men in attendance on stated days there were—219 in the third-class, 406 In the second-clsss, and 671 volunteers in-the first-class. Of the total number, 406 classified as marksmen, and the ratio of marksman to the number classified was 31-32 per cent. On November 20 in the preceding month the total number of volunteers on the roll, in cluding 43 of the Free Rifle Corps were 2,008 of all arms, and 745 of this total constituted the strength of the Adelaide regiment in officers and men. The last volunteer review to which I shall allude was held on the 27th of May, 1863. And here again I shall not hesitate to place on record in these pages the opinions of the press. The Advertiser of the 28th May 1853, reported :—"Wednesday, the 27th of May, was observed as a general holiday by the citizens of Adelaide, it having been fixed as the day for celebrating the birthday of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. The chief feature in connection with the com- memoration of the event was the review of our volunteer troops on the North Park- Lands. If the review of Wednesday did not satisfy, all that we are entirely secured from or prepared to meet an invader, it neverthe- less assured those versed in military tactics that we have the nucleus of a not-to-be- despised army." The Register remarked on the following day, after giving full details, which I shall presently transcribe—" Thus ended the review of May 27,1863, which on the whole was a most successful demonstration and showed that the ardor of the South Australian volunteers is still unabated." {tobecomiiitmi.)

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