Colonial Forces

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Colonial records - 1826 to 1901


The first military establishment in Western Australia arrived in 1826 when a British infantry detachment of the 39th Regiment anchored in King George’s Sound and established a military post and small settlement at Fredericks Town (now Albany).

The Swan River colony was established in 1829 and a detachment of the British 63rd Regiment of Foot arrived with the fleet of settlers. Detachments of one or two companies from a further six British Infantry Regiments garrisoned in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) travelled to Western Australia until 1869. They had originally arrived in Australia as convict guards and during their time here, they established over thirty military posts from Albany to Shark’s Bay. From 1850 the 20th Company of Royal Sappers and Miners and officers from the Royal Engineers supplied ‘Instructing Warders’ to oversee the public works by convicts and solve a labour shortage in the Colony. Thus there were around 1100 officers and men from British Regiments in Western Australia continually from 1826 to 1869. Many came with wives and children, others married and started families here. Over 160 men took their Army discharges here and settled in WA permanently. More details on these British soldiers can be found on the following page. Just click on the blue link. British Army in Western Australia.

Between 1861 and 1901 there were a number of local volunteer Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery corps created and disbanded. More details on these corps can be found on the following page. Just click on the blue link. Colonial Volunteer Corps.

The strength of the Western Australian forces on 31st December 1900 was 135 Officers and 2561 other ranks. Some of these men were involved in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War and the remainder were based in Western Australia.

The Colony of Western Australia did not have its own Navy. There were a handful of men with small sailboats who volunteered to assist the British Navy, if Fremantle Harbour should ever need protecting, called the Naval Artillery Volunteers.

On 1st January 1901 Western Australia became part of the Federation of Australia and and the Commonwealth Ministry of Defence became responsible for all of the Colonial forces. The Defence Act was legislated in 1903 and the men then became part of the Citizen Military Force.



Second Anglo-Boer War - 1899 to 1902


The Second Anglo-Boer War began on 11th October 1899 and ended on 31st May 1902. It began when the Transvaal declared war on Great Britain and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. There were approximately 9 months of battles and then another 23 months of guerilla actions.

There were 4 waves of Contingents sent overseas.
1. Mounted Infantry
2. Bushmen
3. Imperial Draft Units
4. Australian Commonwealth Horse

Western Australia was still a Colony in 1899 and raised its own contingents to send to support Great Britain. The volunteers were drawn from the Colonial Units as well as new volunteers.

The first unit of men raised was the 1st Contingent of West Australian Mounted Infantry. Then there were the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Contingents of the West Australian Mounted Infantry.

923 men were sent from Western Australia as part of these Contingents but many others paid their own passage and joined British or South African units. The records on this site may pertain to them and those who joined from other Colonies of Australia. 11 nurses were also sent from Western Australia and their records are indexed on the Medical Services page.

After Federation in 1901, the defence forces became a Commonwealth of Australia responsibility and were named Australian Commonwealth Horse.



Colonial records and 2nd Anglo-Boer War records can all be accessed via the alphabet tabs below.