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Military Historical Society of Australia - Victorian Branch

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The Rifle Club Movement and Australian Defence 1860-1920

The early Volunteer rifle companies formed in some parts of Australia in 1854 and in a second wave from 1860 were de facto rifle clubs.  With the formation of militia units in most colonies of Australia in 1883-1884, civilian rifle clubs began to gain steadily in popularity.  The Boer War caused a rapid expansion – in Victoria alone by 1902 nearly 20,000 were members of rifle clubs. 

While each colony – then State – developed rifle associations of very different character, by the time universal military service was introduced throughout Australia from 1910, rifle club members were asked to contribute more.  They formed part of Australia’s mobilisation plans.  In 1914 however, and the formation of the 1st AIF, the need for rifle clubs to help defend Australia was almost nil.  In 1920 senior generals back from war tried to disband the movement altogether.

MHSA Victoria Branch member Andrew Kilsby is writing a PhD on the subject through the Australian Defence Force Academy@UNSW.  He would be very pleased to hear from any members who may have any records or information pertinent to the period in question regarding the structure, role, and composition of the rifle club movement in Australia.

Andrew can be contacted through the Branch Secretary at