The Defending Victoria website was first created in 1997. It is frequently updated.
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The first armed force stationed in Victoria was a detachment of Royal Marines.

They guarded the abortive first attempt to colonise the Port Phillip District by
convicts in 1803-4. The settlement was at today's Sorrento (now a bayside suburb
of Melbourne). The detachment consisted of William Sladen, 1st Lieutenant;
J. M. Johnson, 2nd Lieutenant; Edwin Lord, 3rd Lieutenant; three sergeants,
three corporals; one drummer; one fifer; and 39 Privates. Lieutenant Governor
David Collins was himself a Lieut.-Col in the Royal Marines. For a variety of
reasons, not least being lack of fresh water and constant skirmishing with
Aboriginal warriors, the settlement was abandoned in 1804.

In addition to the British Regiments, and detachments of British Regiments, that
served as garrisons in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat, senior British Officers
with particular skills as defence experts helped plan the bayside and coastal defences
of Victoria.

Melbourne was in the 1860s the headquarters of the Australia and New Zealand
military command. For a year or two in the early 1860s, Melbourne was the
headquarters of the Royal Navy's Australia Station. A battery of Royal
Artillery was stationed in Melbourne between 1861-1866 (with some short

The British Regiments sent to Australia had a nominal strength of between 800-1000.
Detachments of each regiment were spread out among the Australian colonies. At
the Eureka Stockade in 1854, detachments of the 12th and 40th Regiments were part
of the Government force. Believing re-inforcements were necessary, Governor Sir
Charles Hotham requested that the detachment of the 99th Regiment, then in Hobart,
Tasmania, be sent to Victoria.

Below are the British Regiments that served in Australia after the permanent
European settlement of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales (now
Victoria) began. Detachments of most of these regiments served in Victoria.
Colonial governments were expected to pay half the cost of maintaining them:
  • 4th (King's Own) Regiment 1832-1837
  • 50th (Queen's Own West Kent) Regiment 1833-1841
  • 28th (N. Gloucestershire) Regiment 1835-1842
  • 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment 1837-1844
  • 51st (King's Own Yorkshire) Light Infantry 1838-1846
  • 96th Regiment 1841-1848
  • 99th (Lanarkshire Volunteers) Regiment 1842-1856
  • 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment 1844-1847
  • 11th (N. Devonshire) Regiment 1845-1857
  • 65th (2nd Yorks, N. Riding) Regiment 1846-1849
  • 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment 1852-1860 2nd tour
  • 12th (E. Suffolk) Regiment 1854-1861*
  • 77th (E. Middlesex) Regiment 1857-1858
  • 50th (Queen's Own West Kent) Regiment 1866-1869 2nd tour
  • 14th (2nd Battalion Bucks) Regiment 1867-1870
  • 18th (2nd Battalion Royal Irish) Regiment 1870
* The 12th and 40th Regiments went to Taranaki, NZ in 1860.
[Sources: Montague, Ronald Dress & Insignia of the British Army in Australia & New Zealand 1770-1870,
Lib. of Aust. Hist, NSW, 1981 -- and I. MacFarlane research]
Many of the British Regiments were sent to Australia before undertaking a tour
of duty in India. As can be discerned from the list above, the Land Wars in New
Zealand (then known as the Maori Wars) in the mid-1840s and 1860s denuded the
SE Australian Colonies of British troops.

In late 1841, Ensign Samuel Rawson and 8 privates of the 28th Regiment were
part of a small party at Westernport, Victoria, including Aboriginal trackers,
which captured murder suspects Robert Timmy Jimmy Smallboy (`Bob') and Jack
Napoleon Tunninerpareway (`Jack'), two Aboriginal men from Van Diemen's Land
(Tasmania). Bob and Jack, after conviction at Melbourne, became the first people
to be publicly hanged in Victoria in January 1842.

The men of the 28th Regiment involved in the capture were robbed of the
opportunity to witness the execution. The Regiment was withdrawn from Australia
in December 1841. They were replaced by a detachment of the 80th Regiment under
Captain Charles Lewis. They, in turn, were replaced by a detachment of the
99th Regiment, which in 1846 created a stir when nine privates absconded.
They were never found.

    It was suspected that they were aided by settlers desperate for labourers.

The book of Common Prayer presented to
Colour-Sergeant Thomas Farr of the 99th
Regiment. The prayer book and a handsome
bible were presented to him by the senior
students of St James's Grammar School in
Sydney in 1848 as 'a token of respect'. Farr
died in Tasmania in 1858.
Photo proudly provided by his descendants
in New Zealand, Trevor and Dyan Farr.
Wm Prayle's discgarge certificate

Private William Prayle's discharge certificate. Prayle served 16 years with the 40th Regiment. He enlisted with the regiment on 15 December 1840 at Chelmsford, and was discharged at Melbourne on 26 January 1857. He was of 'very good' character and possessed three good conduct badges. Certificate supplied for Defending Victoria by proud descendants Kathryn and Paul Lucas of Queensland.


In 1859, nearly 170 acres of land was reserved for military purposes. On it was built Victoria Barracks. `A' Block, built of bluestone, was ready for occupation by 1861. The Barracks, which still stand in St Kilda Road opposite Government House, Melbourne, was headquarters for the Australian Military Command until the withdrawal of British forces in 1870.


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