The Real Perth Volunteer Rifles

The Regiment was originally raised in 1862, but in fact the first indication of any sort of local military force being formed in Western Australia (excluding the resident British unit, the 12th of Foot) was when the then Colonial Western Australian recieved a War Office circular dated 13th July 1859 and published it in their Govt Gazette dated 15th May 1862.

The PERTH VOLUNTEER RIFLES were gazetted on the 6th of August 1863 and its first commanding officers (as quoted in the Govt Gazette) were a Mr Samual Leake Esq, as Captain of Volunteers for the Perth Company and a Mr Richard Price Esq as Captain of Volunteers of the Fremantle company. On the day of enrolment (Perth Co only) the unit contained 3 officers, 95 Other ranks, 13 Bandsmen, 12 Honorary members and 20 Cadets.The unit was issued with 100 new Enfield muzzle loading percussion rifles and they also had, although no one knows how, a Regimental Colour.

The unit prospered through the next few years, numbers rose and fell as is the way with volunteer units. They did drill, parades and camps both alone and with other units. They paraded with the Fremantle Coy for the presentation of their new Regimental Colours in 1862 and also when the Officers of both units were presented with their  Commissions at Government House in 1863. Both companies again paraded in 1864 for Queen Victoria's Birthday and participated in the first annual rifle meet held at Mt Eliza (Present King's Park) with the prizes being donated by private citizens.

All was going well until 1872 when the government of the day experienced a chronic shortage of public funds during a period of financial depression. Amongst other drastic economic measures the executive council decided to withhold the annual grant due the volunteers, which was fifteen shillings per member  per year. Capt Leake protested this decision to no avail and as a result he resigned his commission on the 9th of Feb 1872. The unit members were rather upset about this and decided to call a meeting at the Mechanics Institute to discuss the situation. The meeting was very heated and as a result of this meeting the Govt Gazette of 22nd Feb 1872 carried the extraordinary proclamation that the Perth Volunteer Rifles (also known as the Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers) was disbanded for INSUBORDINATION. Now it was not due to any lack of loyalty to the crown but the ultra-democratic nature of the rules and by-laws which permitted soldiers with a grievance to meet and openly criticise their superiors, the presumed authors of their discomfort. As a result of the disbandment there were only two small mounted volunteer units left both with under 100 members. These units survived the financial crisis only because of the exceptional geneousity of their patrons/commanding officers.

An upsurge in international tension in 1872 revived the volunteer movement in Western Australia. There were alarms in official circles and steps were taken to raise a new corp. Naturally Western Australia was in the fore, and phoenix like a new body arose from the ashes of the defunct Perth Volunteer Rifles. The "firebrands" of the original unit, after adequate apologies and promises of better behaviour, rallied around themselves most of the the personal of the disbanded corps. Progress was rapid and the Govt Gazette of 17th June 1872 authorised the formation of the new unit to be called the Perth Coy of Western Australian Rifle Volunteers. A Mr E Birch was elected Captain of Volunteers.

The unit again prospered as before and went through many changes over the years right up to Federation. The unit went through the following name changes (right) until it was incorporated in to the Australian Federal Army in 1903.

Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers at the Mt Elisa (Kings Park) Rifle Range 1872)

Lt Richard A Scholl  left) and Capt Alfred J Hillman ( right) of the Metropolitan Rifle Volunteers.

Reference: From Captains to Colonels. History of the Western Australian Defense Force. by James Ritchie Grant

Name Changes of the Perth Volunteer Rifles

Perth Co of WA Rifle Volunteers


1st Batt WA Volunteers

10th June 1874-11th July 1899

1st Infantry Regt

12th July 1899-8th Oct 1900

2nd Batt WA Infantry Brigade

9th Oct 1900-1st July 1903

Intergrated in Australian Military Forces as the 11th Regt/3rd Infantry Brigade

2nd July 1903