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Australian Armed Forces In Space: 1889

by Peter Schutze

The lists of forces provided by various Space: 1889 products (such as Soldier's Companion) contain some glaring inaccuracies with regard to the lesser Armed Forces, particularly those of Australia. This article supplements the information in Soldier's Companion, and provides a more accurate list for Australian naval assets in 1889.

Colonial Navies

Each Australian colony maintains an independent naval force, which in 1889 consisted of the following vessels.

Colony Name Type

Queensland Mosquito Yarrow-130 Torpedo Boat

New South Wales Wolverine Tornado Corvette (Spanish)

Acheron Lightning Torpedo Boat

Avernus "

Victoria Cerebus Coastal Defense Monitor

Childers Thornycroft 125 Torpedo Boat

Nepean Thornycroft 113 Torpedo Boat

Lonsdale "

Tasmania TB1 "

The classes used are the closest known equivalent provided in the Ironclads and Ether Flyers product and appear in the British or Australian section unless noted.

The Imperial Australian Squadron

In addition to the minor vessels controlled by the separate colonies, there was a fairly large permanent contingent of the Royal Navy based at Garden Island in Sydney Harbor.

1 Nelson-class armored cruiser (Nelson)

3 Emerald-class corvettes (Opal, Diamond, and one other)

In addition, three Osprey-class sloops were paid for and expected to join the squadron during 1889-91.

The Australasian Auxiliary Squadron

Finally, for those whose campaigns extend beyond the year 1889, the Australasian Auxiliary Squadron was established in July 1891 by the "Australasian Naval Defense Act." Passed by the British parliament on 20 December 1887, the act established a force that was jointly funded by the Australian colonies and New Zealand but crewed by the Royal Navy. This force came under the direct control of the Imperial Australian Squadron, but could not be ordered out of Australasian territorial waters.

5 Pearl-class fast cruisers (same statistics as the Mersey protected cruiser) of which 3 were active at any time including the Katoomba.

2 Rattlesnake-class torpedo Gunboats (Boomerang and Karrakatta).

Army Units

Australia could have made an effective field force available to support the Empire if it had been called on to do so. Contrary to the data given in Soldier's Companion, there were fairly effective field forces available of which the 'Light Horse' type units were only a part. For example, in 1885 New South Wales dispatched a 500-man volunteer Battalion of infantry supported by 2 batteries of 5 x 16lb Artillery to fight in the Sudan at very short notice. Due to conditions in Sudan the artillery batteries were re-equipped by the British command with 3 x 9lb field guns each. These forces were organized and embarked on very short notice once news of the strife was received.

The standard formation to be deployed in emergencies was the brigade, which was organized as follows:

2 infantry regiments, each consisting of 2 battalions of 4 companies each.

1 mounted rifles regiment consisting of 6 companies

2 batteries of field artillery consisting of 6 guns each

1 company of engineers

110 medical and supply personnel

All companies conform to the standard Soldier's Companion organization.

In peace time, most colonies had one battalion of full-time infantry available, admittedly based at the fortifications, and at least enough active (and paid) reservists to provide for their mounted rifles commitment as well as the 'Staff' required to fulfill their contribution to the planned brigades.

Fortunately, Australia never faced a threat so a full brigade was never called up, although 8 were planned for and preparations made. The men and equipment were available to fill out these brigades, with most of the men coming from the retired British Army veterans that were settled throughout the colonies.

The Australian colonies at various times also had various short lived units that could best be described as 'experimental' such as the Queensland Black Rifles.

In nearly every emergency involving the British Empire from the early 1800s to the Falklands War (not inclusive) Australian troops have been sent, either as small parcels or (from the Sudan on) as complete units, most notable in the Sudan Campaign and the Boer War. It is very likely that a battalion or more of Mounted Rifles and or infantry would be sent, with artillery support. This is very true of situations such as the Oenotrian War.

By the way, as late as 1891 the Australasian armed forces still used the Martini-Henry rifle.

Last Updated Thursday, 19-Aug-2010 20:20:20 EDT

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