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Military Resources: Home

This State Library of South Australia guide to military related information includes medals, militia and Australian involvement in conflicts. The emphasis is on South Australian resources.



Imperial forces in SA responsible for the defence of the colony. In practice this did not always occur. The numbers were small, regiments changed frequently, their behaviour was sometimes questionable, and sometimes there would be a period of years when troops were withdrawn as they were needed elsewhere.


In practice, 20 policemen handled security matters.


The Royal South Australian Volunteer Militia was formed. It lacked support, money, men, rifles, horses and so on. It collapsed within months.


There was fear of attack from the French or even the Americans. There was a public call for another volunteer force, but it did not eventuate.


The Crimean War invoked fear in SA of invasion.


The Militia Act was passed. It gave the Governor the power to raise a force of 2000 men if needed- volunteers first then conscripts if necessary- but it was never acted upon.


Volunteer forces were approved. They were known as the Volunteer Militia Force- the VMF. Units such as the Adelaide Rifles were raised, but petered out after the Crimean War ended.


Napoleon was a perceived threat. This led to the creation of volunteer Rifle Units such as the Port Adelaide Rifles, 1st Adelaide Rifles, Adelaide Marksmen, Brighton Rifles, Edwardstown Rifles, Gawler Rifles, Glen Osmond Rifles, Glenelg Rifles, Mitcham Rifles, Nairne Rifles etc.


Era of the South Australian Rifle Association. It runs Rifle clubs like a military organisation. Rifle clubs become a sort of a reserve army.


All Imperial troops withdrawn to fight in New Zealand's Maori Wars for 3 years.


Scottish volunteer unit raised in SA.


The last of the Imperial troops leave SA.


SA government forced to make some decisions on defence. Fort Largs, Fort Glanville and Military Road are built. A 3 gun steel cruiser is purchased to patrol our waters, and a small permanent force is established.


1,169 South Australians volunteered and served in South Africa fighting in the Boer War. There were originally six colonial contingents, then after Federation as members of three composite Commonwealth battalions.


The ship Protector sent to China for Boxer Rebellion. Over 100 South Australians served.


Defence becomes a Federal responsibility. There is a major reorganisation of forces.


10 July King George V grants the title of 'Royal Australian Navy' to the Commonwealth Naval forces.

Compulsory military training for young men is introduced, but they could not be made to serve overseas.


During World War I, the AIF is raised from volunteers. Two referendums on conscription were held, but both failed.


The tradition of part time soldiering continues.


31 March the Australian Air Force is established. 13 August approval to use the 'Royal' prefix is granted.


Compulsory military training is abolished.


Compulsory military training for 21 year olds is reintroduced for home defence.


The 2nd AIF is raised from volunteers. The 2nd AIF batallions from SA consisted of 2nd/10th, 2nd/27th, 2nd/43rd and 2nd/48th. The definition of 'home defence' changed to mean overseas service.

There were no conscripts for Korea, Malaya or Borneo.


Conscription is introduced for Vietnam.


PRG 280/1/19/140. View more information about this image here. You may order a high quality photographic copy.
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Australians have a rich military history, participating in many conflicts as part of our British heritage and then in our own national interests. The State Library of South Australia is one of a number of Australia-wide repositories, including the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial, that contain information on the men and women who served our country. Our extensive reference collection also supports these records in providing the context behind the conflicts and an understanding of the conditions faced by the troops who became part of the global stage of warfare.


This LibGuide concentrates on how to find people, and is not an exhaustive history of the conflicts.

Background reading

The following books are available to read at the Library and will provide you with some helpful background information.