Jervois-Scratchley reports

The Jervois-Scratchley reports of 1877 concerned the defences of the Australian colonies, and influenced defence policy into the twentieth century.

Picturesque New Guinea Plate XLIX (a) - Sir Peter Scratchley KCMG
Sir Peter Scratchley who, along with William Jervois, authored the Jervois-Scratchley reports, which were instrumental in the development of Australia's colonial forces after the withdrawal of the British Army.


From the time of the first settlement in Australia, the Royal Marines, the New South Wales Corps and a succession of regiments of the British Army had been responsible for defending the Australian colonies.[1] With the withdrawal of British garrison troops in 1870 the various colonies moved to establish more significant defences of their own.[2]

To provide guidance, Major General Sir William Jervois and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Scratchley were commissioned by a group of colonies to advise on defence matters. The two Royal Engineers inspected each colony's defences, leading to the Jervois-Scratchley reports of 1877.[3] These were to form the basis of defence planning in Australia and New Zealand for the next 30 years.


A consequence of their reports was that colonial defences were reorganised on one model with slight variations for each colony. Wealthier colonies tended to have a higher proportion of paid permanent soldiers and militia whilst the smaller colonies opted for more volunteers. Given that a large portion of their reports concentrated on sea ports the most visible signs of their influence are the many fortifications from the 1880s and later that may be found at the entrance to the larger ports of Australia and New Zealand. These include:


  1. ^ Odgers 1988, p. 17.
  2. ^ Grey 2008, p. 23.
  3. ^ Dennis et al 1995, p. 163.


  • Dennis, Peter; Grey, Jeffrey; Morris, Ewan; Prior, Robin; Connor, John (1995). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (1st ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553227-9.
  • Grey, Jeffrey (2008). A Military History of Australia (3rd ed.). Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-69791-0.
  • Odgers, George (1988). Army Australia: An Illustrated History. Frenchs Forest, New South Wales: Child & Associates. ISBN 0-86777-061-9.
Colonial forces of Australia

Until Australia became a Federation in 1901, each of the six colonial governments was responsible for the defence of their own colony. From 1788 until 1870 this was done with British regular forces. In all, 24 British infantry regiments served in the Australian colonies. Each of the Australian colonies gained responsible government between 1855 and 1890, and while the Colonial Office in London retained control of some affairs, and the colonies were still firmly within the British Empire, the Governors of the Australian colonies were required to raise their own colonial militia. To do this, the colonial Governors had the authority from the British crown to raise military and naval forces. Initially these were militias in support of British regulars, but British military support for the colonies ended in 1870, and the colonies assumed their own defence. The separate colonies maintained control over their respective militia forces and navies until 1 March 1901, when the colonial forces were all amalgamated into the Commonwealth Forces following the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Colonial forces, including home raised units, saw action in many of the conflicts of the British Empire during the 19th century. Members from British regiments stationed in Australia saw action in India, Afghanistan, the New Zealand Wars of New Zealand, the Sudan conflict, and the Boer War in South Africa.

Despite an undeserved reputation of colonial inferiority, many of the locally raised units were highly organised, disciplined, professional, and well trained. For most of the time from settlement until Federation, military defences in Australia revolved around static defence by combined infantry and artillery, based on garrisoned coastal forts; however, in the 1890s improved railway communications between all of the eastern mainland colonies (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia), led Major General Bevan Edwards, who had recently completed a survey of colonial military forces, to state his belief that the colonies could be defended by the rapid mobilisation of standard brigades. He called for a restructure of colonial defences, and defensive agreements to be made between the colonies. He also called for professional units to replace all of the volunteer forces.

By 1901, the Australian colonies were federated and formally joined together to become the Commonwealth of Australia, and the federal government assumed all defensive responsibilities. The Federation of Australia came into existence on 1 January 1901 and as of that time the constitution of Australia stated that all defence responsibility was vested in the Commonwealth government. Co-ordination of Australia-wide defensive efforts in the face of imperial German interest in the Pacific Ocean was one of the main reasons for federation, and so one of the first decisions made by the newly formed Commonwealth government was to create the Department of Defence which came into being on 1 March 1901. From that time the Australian Army came into being under the command of Major General Sir Edward Hutton, and all of the colonial forces, including those then on active service in South Africa, transferred into the Australian Army.

Colonial navies of Australia

Before Federation in 1901 five of the six separate colonies maintained their own naval forces for defence. The colonial navies were supported by the ships of the Royal Navy's Australian Station which was established in 1859. The separate colonies maintained control over their respective navies until 1 March 1901, when the Commonwealth Naval Forces was created.

Fort Nepean

Fort Nepean is a former defensive facility occupying part of Point Nepean, Victoria, Australia. It was part of a network of fortifications, commanded from Fort Queenscliff, protecting the narrow entrance to Port Phillip.

Fort Pearce

Fort Pearce is a former defensive facility occupying part of Point Nepean, Victoria, Australia. It was part of a network of fortifications, commanded from Fort Queenscliff, protecting the narrow entrance to Port Phillip.

HMQS Gayundah

HMQS Gayundah was a flat-iron gunboat operated by the Queensland Maritime Defence Force and later the Royal Australian Navy (as HMAS Gayundah). She entered service in 1884 and was decommissioned and sold to a civilian company in 1921. She then served as sand and gravel barge in Brisbane until the 1950s, when she was scrapped. In 1958, Gayundah was run aground at Woody Point near Redcliffe, to serve as a breakwater structure.

HMQS Mosquito

HMQS Mosquito was a torpedo boat operated by the Queensland Maritime Defence Force and Commonwealth Naval Forces. She entered service in 1885 and after Federation was transferred to the Commonwealth Naval Forces, serving as a training vessel until she was paid off in 1910.

HMQS Otter

HMQS Otter was launched in 1884 and served as a patrol vessel that served with the Queensland Maritime Defence Force and Commonwealth Naval Forces. She was paid off and sold in 1906, but the Royal Australian Navy requisitioned her in both world wars.

HMQS Paluma

HMQS Paluma was a flat-iron gunboat operated by the Queensland Maritime Defence Force and later the Royal Australian Navy (as HMAS Paluma). She entered service on 28 October 1884, was decommissioned in 1916 and then sold to the Victorian Ports and Harbours Department, who operated her under the name Rip until 1948 when she was retired. She was scrapped in 1950–51.

Henley Beach railway line

The Henley Beach railway line is a defunct railway in western Adelaide, which operated from 1894 to 1957 as the final section of the Grange railway line.

List of ships of the Queensland Maritime Defence Force

In 1884, following the recommendations of the Jervois-Scratchley reports, the Queensland Marine Defence Force was established. To equip the new force, the Queensland colonial government purchased two gunboats and a torpedo boat. Queensland bought eight more vessels to create the second largest fleet in the Australian colonies behind Victoria. With the federation of the Australian colonies, those vessels still in service joined the Commonwealth Naval Forces in 1901 and the Royal Australian Navy when it was formed in 1911. No ship ever met the enemy in battle or fell victim to enemy action despite the fact that most went on too long, albeit in some cases humble, careers in both naval and private hands past World War II.

Military history of Australia

The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.

As British offshoots, the Australian colonies participated in Britain's small wars of the 19th century, while later as a federated dominion, and then an independent nation, Australia fought in the First World War and Second World War, as well as in the wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam during the Cold War. In the Post-Vietnam era Australian forces have been involved in numerous international peacekeeping missions, through the United Nations and other agencies, including in the Sinai, Persian Gulf, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as many overseas humanitarian relief operations, while more recently they have also fought as part of multi-lateral forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, nearly 103,000 Australians died during the course of these conflicts.

Peter Scratchley

Major General Sir Peter Henry Scratchley (24 August 1835 – 2 December 1885) was special commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea 1884–1885 and defence adviser for Australia.

RBL 40-pounder Armstrong gun

The Armstrong RBL 40-pounder gun was introduced into use in 1860 for service on both land and sea. It used William Armstrong's new and innovative rifled breechloading mechanism. It remained in use until 1902 when replaced by more modern Breech Loading (BL) guns.

William Jervois

Lieutenant General Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois (10 September 1821 – 17 August 1897) was a British military engineer and diplomat. After joining the British Army in 1839, he saw service, as a second captain, in South Africa. In 1858, as a major, he was appointed Secretary of a Royal Commission set up to examine the state and efficiency of British land-based fortifications against naval attack; and this led to further work in Canada and South Australia. From 1875 to 1888 he was, consecutively, Governor of the Straits Settlements, Governor of South Australia and Governor-General of New Zealand.


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