The Enrolled Pensioner Force

In 1850, as a part of its emigration policy, the British Government  began  send parties of military pensioners to Australia  Retired soldiers were generally recruited and were encouraged to accompany and oversee convicts on their voyages to Western Australia although some pensioners travelled to Western Australia on other ships as well.  Overall, 1100 guards  made the journey to WA.

The pensioners were not retained as permanent convict guards after the voyages and in many cases their families travelled with them. Generally they sought a work among the free settlers in the colony, but were always on hand to help in case of an outbreak among the prisoners. To encourage them to stay in the colony, they were offered an allotment of ten acres of land which they could select and lease for seven years and then own freehold. As an extra incentive, a gratuity of 10 was given to each of them and they were promised the use of convict labour to help clear the land. Nearly all of the pensioners accepted the above offer and many pensioner blocks were still owned by their descendants at the beginning of the first World War.

When the Governor of Western Australia wrote to England seeking re-inforcements for his garrison of regular soldiers he found that owing to political unrest in Europe all he was offered was a suggestion to make use of the military pensioners in the colony and enrol them as an auxiliary force to the existing regular soldiers.

Accordingly, Captain John Bruce, who had arrived in the colony with the second detachment aboard the Hashemy, was appointed Staff Officer to the newly established Enrolled Pensioner Force and at one time the unit numbered over 600 men. They assisted the line companies in the various garrison duties and finally assumed all responsibilities when the last of the Queen's troops left Fremantle for Hobart on March 8, 1863.

At one time around 300 rank and file pensioners were continuously employed and in 1863, building of the large pensioner's barracks was begun at the head of St George's Terrace in Perth. When they were completed the barracks contained 120 rooms, a hospital, magazine, and other facilities.

The Enrolled Pensioner Guard uniform consisted of dark blue/black trousers with a scarlet stripe down the leg; knee length dark blue frockcoats with facings of red (collar) dandified epaulettes and a regulation shako. Sadly none of these uniforms remain. (see Fremantle Prison Replica)

After Captain Bruce was appointed Commandant in Western Australia, Captain C. Finnerty took over as commander of the pensioner force and held that position until 1872 when the then Commandant, Colonel E.D. Harvest, assumed direct control of the pensioners.

In November 1880 the Enrolled Pensioner Force was abolished and a new unit called the Enrolled Guard was formed from among its members. It was placed under the command of Captain M.S. Smith, the Superintendent of Police. The final parade of the Enrolled Guard was held on March 31, 1887on which the unit was disbanded.

Sgt Thomas Kelly - Enrolled Pensioner

This gentleman is an ancestor of Bombadier Bell of the PVRAR 1860. He is typical of the type of ex soldier that came to WA

Thomas Henry (Joseph) Kelly was born in or near the town of Dunlaven, in the county of Wicklow, in the year 1817. On the 2nd of Febuary 1839, at age 21, he attested for the 53rd Regiment of Foot as a private (1222). He is described on enlistment as being 5'8'', with a fresh complexion, dark eyes and brown hair.

In 1841 his military career took a dive with him being courtmarshalled for desertion, convicted and sentenced to 28 days confinement and a loss of 155 days service. He was confined from the 10th December 1941 to 13th of January 1842.

 After his release he transferred to the 10th Regiment of Foot on the 1st of April 1842. Interestingly this was under a new enlistment number (1721).

From this point on he seemed to be able to avoid military disipline.

He was promoted to Corporal on the 19th of April 1849 and then Sargent on the 8th of January 1851.

On the 31st of March 1859, his cancelled service (155 days) was restored. At this time his conduct and character were described as good.

His military career came to an end on the 28th of May 1860 when the Regimental Board declared him unfit for service on medical grounds. His disability being described "impaired use of both eyes, the result of Amarinosis which was said to be constitutional and not to be traced to intemperance or vices" His age was given as 42 years on the 10th of July 1860. His discharge came after 21 years in India. He fought in the Punjab Campaign (Shiek Wars), the Seljuk Campaign, and the Indian Mutiny were he received the clasp for the defense of Lucknow. Amazingly despite all his military service he never received even the slightest wound.

Thomas Kelly left military life with the following decorations:

  Punjab Campaign Medal (2 clasps)

  Seljuk Campaign Medal

  Indian Mutiny Medal (Lucknow clasp)

  Good Conduct Medal

Sgt Thomas Kelly and his wife Catherine Anne (nee Farrell) arrived in WA on the 29th of January 1862 on the Lincelles. They were accompanied by the 3 surviving of their sixteen children:

   Mary Anne:

  William Henry:


Thomas and Catherine took up residence in the Perth Pensioner Barracks and in 1864 were allocated land in South Perth, Loc.sub95, 5acres. This land now forms part of the Royal Perth Golf Club.

After his discharge from the Pensioners Guard he took up a land grant, Swan 926 (100 acres) at South Wannamal in 1872. The family mudbrick homestead was built on this land close to Longbridge Gully, a permament water supply. The homestead was known as Greenhills. 

He then added Swan 1222 (1000acres) and Melbourne 396 (10 acres) in 1975. In 1883 Thomas Kelly sold Swan to George Shenton and then purchased Melbourne 781 (20 acres) in 1884. A graziers lease of 3000 acres (A72) held for a while but lapsed for unknown reasons in 1890.

Thomas Kelly died of liver cancer in Guildford in 1888. He is buried at St Mary's Church, James St, Guildford at plot #69.


The picture (left) depicts two British infantry officers c1860s. One (left) is dressed in regulation scarlet tunic, dark blue trousers with welt and shako. The other (right) is dressed in the undress frock coat and forage cap.

This photo could hypothetically simulate the meeting of a Perth Volunteer Rifle Officer and an Enrolled Pensioner Officer in this period. The picture does depict nicely the undress frock coat worn by the pensioners.The main diference would be the scarlet facings on the collar,epaulettes and cuffs.



Two main muskets saw servive with the Pensioners. Inially it was the Pattern39/42 Musket and later the Snider Breechloading Rifle.

Musket Pattern 39 or 42 with rammer, bayonet (17" triangular socket), scabbard, muzzel stopper, cap with chain

Rifle musket, pattern 1866 (Enfield-Snider ) - with cleaning rod, bayonet (17' triangular socket), scabbard, muzzle stopper, snap cap with chain

Nipple wrench (without cramp for men, with cramp for corporals, Sargents Tool for sargents)

Clothing, Necessaries, Accoutrements and Appointments

Boots (Blucher pattern) Black

Shako  Pattern 1855, Black with regimental shako plate, No Hackel

Sash, crimson, worsted (for sargents/Officers)

Trowsers, blue (navy blue with 1/4" red welt)

Frock Coat (double breasted, with brass buttons and red regimental facings Collar Only)

Greatcoat (grey kersey)

Badges, good conduct

Badges, shooting

Expense pouch, black (1855 pattern), with zinc oil bottle & 20 rounds

Belt, black (cartridge box sling)

Belt, waist, black

Frog, bayonet, black

Locket, Union (waistbelt buckle, with regimental crest)

Pouch, (cartridge box - black leather, 50 rounds)

Pouch, for percussion cap, black

Sling, musket, black

Whistle and chain for senior NCO's and Officers