14 February 2009

Artillery, Sappers and Trains

Artillery. The Republic's artillery arm consists mainly of 3lb Austrian pieces used as battalion guns. The republic also has two batteries of 6lb guns for field artillery and a battery of eight French 12lb guns, captured at Port McQuarie.

When the Republic first took independence, it had no artillery arm. Nor was it considered that one was needed. Most fighting was little more than skirmishes, small affairs that would hardly be mentioned in the reports of a European General. The other consideration was that the most likely enemies were also deficient in this arm. Indeed, the three small cannon captured by the Republic when they freed the Eastern Marches from French dominance were dismounted and the barrels used to make a tasteless (and rather confusing) monument to the Battle of Bulli, which is mounted against the east wall of the Garrison Yards in O'Donnell. The French 12lb guns captured at Port McQuarie were placed in depot at that place, where a lack of attention soon saw the carriages in a poor state.

However, failure to procure contracts in Europe, because the infantry lacked battalion guns, led to the purchase of 26 Austrian 3lb cannon in 1723. As well as the guns, a number of officers and artillerists were recruited from France and Austria. Two guns were assigned to each regiment and volunteers from the ranks were trained in their use. The remaining six guns were used to form a Battery of Support and Training, which is based at Rostov.

Experience in Europe led to the purchase of 14 Austrian 6lb cannon in 1733. These were used to form two batteries, each of six guns, with the remaining two guns assigned to the Battery of Support and Training. One battery is garrisoned at Darwin and the second is garrisoned at O'Connell. Neither battery has seen active service.

At the same time the carriages of the 12lb guns, stored at Port McQuarie, were repaired and the guns used to form a battery. This battery is deployed to defend the harbour at O'Donnell, with a section each properly emplaced on North Head and South Head. They have been used to fire upon an unidentified vessel of Chinese appearance, which turned away, and what is believed to be a frigate of either British or Holy Kingdom service, though both nations deny they have sent ships into Republic waters.

Attempts to forge cannon and howitzers have not proven successful. However, attempts will continue once a new master forger can be recruited. The practice of having the master forger test fire the newly cast pieces, to prove they are safe and may be used, is also under review.

The artillery uniform is a dark blue-grey with black facings, yellow buttons and dark straw small clothes. All belts and leather work are polished brown leather. Officers have gold laced hats and edging to their coat fronts and wear a gold and blue sash around the waist but inside the coat, NCO's are distinguished by gold lace around the collar. The guns are whitewashed wood with polished bronze barrels. Other metal work is painted a dull madder red. Battery drivers are dressed like the men. Their horse furniture is a plain blue shabracque and polished black leather tack.

Sappers: Commanded by infantry officers who have studied the principles of engineering, and who wear their regimental uniforms ("real" engineers being needed for the RNS mines) while attached to the sapper companies, the sappers are used for all the usual engineering duties. Different companies specialised in mining, sapping or constructing defences, but these troops are few and therefore expected to whatever duties are necessary. There are six companies of sappers, garrisoned at Rostov, Kunnanurra, The Springs, O'Connell, Port McQuarie and Tindal.

The sapper uniform is a undyed "black" wool with scarlet facings, yellow buttons and dark straw small clothes. Their head dress is a simple undyed woolen "beanie" and belts are natural leather. The cartridge boxes are worn on the left front, on the waist belt, and are undecorated black leather. Sappers are armed with infantry muskets, sabres and axes.

Trains. The trains, magazines, armouries and depots required by the army are still made up of contracted civilian personnel. While a military train and magazine corps was established (Army Train and Depot Battalion and Naval Chandlers Office) in 1739, claims by various business concerns that they could do the job more efficiently and for less cost led the then Minister of War, Peter Wreath, to disband the organisation and resume the use of a contractor for logistics support. Shortly after the decision was made the Minister resigned from Parliament and took up the position of the director of the company that won the contract.

In the 10 years this state of affairs has existed the contract costs have increased markedly. The contract now costs far more than the upkeep of the Army Train and Depot Battalion and Naval Chandlers Office ever did. Logistics support for the garrisons, regiments and the Navy is so poor that many regiments hire their own trains when away from garrison and when on campaign. Peter Wreath has been challenged to duels by irate officers several times over this matter. However the former Minister (and now very wealthy citizen) is prevented from defending his honour by chronic gout and dyspepsia, reportedly much to his dismay.


  1. Hi Dal
    Don't make the mistake of underestimating the value of good Artillery, there are enough so called "military experts" doing that already.

  2. G'day,

    True, mate. But it's not my mistke, it's the mistake of the pollies running the RNS.

    BTW, your scouts may bring in a report of a station house and sheds being burned along the Murray. Naturally the RNS will do everything they can to catch the perpetrators....