CADET CORPS (Centenary History)

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CADET CORPS (Centenary History)


The following text is from the Centenary History of the Geelong College published in 1961:

Chapter eleven

'THE FORMATION OF the first College Cadet Corps in 1885 was one result of the "National Cadet Movement", launched in 1884. The College unit, comprising fifty-one boys, had Lieut. Marden, a master, as Commanding Officer, with Lieut. R. H. Morris, another master, and Lieut. Arthur Morrison, the Principal's fourth son, as junior officers. Sgt.-Major Rashleigh was instructor and soon brought the new Corps to a creditable state of efficiency; Brunswick rifles were used for drill and Martini-Henri rifles for shooting practice.

The original uniform consisted of a blue serge tunic and trousers with red pipings and a blue "cheese-cutter" cap with a red pom-pom in front. After one year this was superseded by a dark green tunic and trousers, finished off by a conical helmet with metal mountings and a spike on top. It was not long before this decorative outfit in its turn gave place to the more serviceable khaki.

Early enthusiasm soon waned, numbers fell off-membership being voluntary-and, as Mr. Morrison felt that this was caused by lack of rifle practice, a target was provided on the Barwon not far from the school. Even so, in 1887, there were only thirty-six of all ranks under Lieut. Vasey. The first camp was held that year at Elsternwick, but it was not a success. The following year only twenty cadets attended camp at Langwarrin, but these had a most enjoyable and profitable time.

After a few years, shooting matches were arranged and interest was taken in the annual military sports meeting in Melbourne. A College rifle team first competed at Williamstown in 1880, with moderate success.

The increase in corps strength from forty to seventy-five in the year 1891 indicated a powerful influence at work. It was the new Vice-Principal, Norman Morrison, who interviewed every boy in the school and succeeded in infecting most of them with his own enthusiasm. He brought from Melbourne a crack drill instructor, Sgt.-Major F. H. Hart, and soon had the corps in splendid shape. One of the masters, Mr. T. T. Brown, formed a bugle band. Lieut. Morrison set his mind on winning the Queen's Colours, awarded annually for drill competition among school corps in Victoria. Intense preparations gave the College grounds for a time the appearance of a military academy, but the result was a very close second place, with high praise from the umpire-in-chief.

Shooting now assumed great significance. Promising senior cadets ' were coached at the East Geelong butts or those on the Barwon, while juniors practised in the school yard, firing with Francotte rifles from near the present tennis court site to a target on the south wall of Room A. Look-outs were stationed during firing, but a pupil, Harold Carstairs, had a miraculous escape one day when he absent-mindedly strolled across the range. (He went later to two wars and escaped enemy bullets as he had those of his schoolmates.)

Standards improved in keeping with the intense interest, and in 1893 the senior rifle team gained the coveted first prize, open to all schools, in the matches at Williamstown. In 1895 and 1896 the new Sargood Shield team trophy was won.

The departure of the first contingents of Australian soldiers for the Boer War in 1899 gave great stimulus to all military exercises. By 1901 the Corps had a strength of 115 cadets, including a large drum and bugle band, and swept all before it at the annual rifle matches, winning both the Sargood Shield and the Cumming Cup, while Corporal Gillespie was champion senior shot of the State.

Although the Cadet Corps spent a certain amount of time at drill, with occasional ceremonial parades, shooting in those years was the chief interest. Practice was on Thursday, when the school "chariot" and one or more of Phil. McShane's cabs, loaded to capacity and accompanied by as many cadets as could acquire bicycles, would set off after school for the East Geelong rifle butts. The Skipper was invariably there, usually driving the chariot himself. juniors, too, were catered for on a private range which was established in 1901 in the quarries below Fyans Street, a safer location than the school yard.

In 1902, for the second year in succession, both the Sargood Shield and the Cumming Cup were won by the College, J. F. S. Shannon gaining the prize for champion senior shot. These were great days indeed. So keen became the enthusiasm for shooting, that over 12,000 rounds of ammunition were expended in practice for the matches of 1903, which proved another triumph for College teams, who not only won the Shield, but also secured permanent possession of the Cumming Cup. In the Empire Cadet match, fired for the first time, the College team was second in the Commonwealth. The Sargood Shield was retained in 1904, when Cadet R. W. Littlejohns was individual champion.

With 145 cadets on the strength in 1905, the Corps reached the summit of success when both seniors and juniors won their team competitions, with Lieut. Crawford, Sgt. A. W. Dennis and Cpl. R. L. Dennis filling the first three places. Never before had one school triumphed in such sweeping fashion.

This was the climax of a remarkable era, when shooting was elevated to the top rank in sport and played an indisputable part in the education of all participants. After 1905 there were still many excellent performances, but Melbourne schools, taking up the Geelong boys' challenge, had improved wonderfully, and victories were more widely distributed.

If ever there was a special reason why the College wanted to do well in shooting, it was in 1910. The Headmasters of the Public Schools had given a fine trophy, and established a new match, called, in memory of one who did so much to develop school cadet shooting, "The Norman Morrison Shield." Despite all its efforts, however, the College could not win this trophy, which went to Wesley.

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Just at the time of the College's entry into the Associated Public Schools there were important developments which changed the whole outlook on Cadet work. The most powerful of these was the introduction of compulsory Universal Training in 1911. This scheme, affecting all boys from the age of fourteen years, demanded efficiency in a fixed programme of parades with a syllabus of drill and physical exercises. Boys over eighteen had to serve a period of more advanced work in the Citizen Forces. All of this was a reflection of the international tension in Europe.

Just when the system was beginning to get under way, the long expected war broke out in August, 1914. At school this event had an inverse effect. The scope of training was severely restricted by the removal of younger officers and by shortages of uniforms, rifles and ammunition. For a year or two, when even old rifles were impressed for the use of army recruits, there was endless drilling and marching on the Cow Paddock, with route marches to Ceres and back for the four-hour parades on Saturdays. There were no camps. Some trainees served six or eight years without firing a single shot; with some of the rifles, relics of the South African wars, it would have been a hazardous and unavailing procedure anyway.

In the early 'twenties a flash of interest followed the introduction of a House competition. However, these were years of pacifist trend. The age of entry was raised to sixteen and, later, to seventeen years. The Universal Training scheme was dying, and from 1925 to 1929 there was practically no school Cadet activity.

The year 1930 saw the inauguration of an "Officers' Training Corps", voluntary at first, but soon made obligatory by order of the College Council. Lieut. C. C. Shinkfield was in charge at first, but the command was taken over in 1932 by Capt. R. Lamble, M.C., an Old Boy who had taught at the College before the war and returned to the staff in 1928. Defence authorities, concerned again at European political unrest, were now providing greater assistance, and the unit, 150 strong, took part with distinction in public parades such as the Trooping of the Colour to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI.

The war of 1939 brought again the problem of finding officers and equipment for Cadet units, but this time the interest of the boys was much better maintained. Close order parade ground drill was almost abolished; work was varied with shooting on the miniature range, signals, intelligence, patrols and guerilla exercises. Several camps were held, and in the memorable two-day "Battle of Torquay" the district Volunteer Defence Corps endeavoured to repulse a "landing" by cadets from the College and the Grammar School.

In addition, there was at the College for three years a unit of the Air Training Corps, under Flight-Lieutenant T. Henderson, quite separate from the military body. Senior boys were allowed to join the A.T.C., and eventually a large number of them served in the R.A.A.F.

The brass band, today an essential feature of all parades, came into being at the end of the war. Developing gradually under the tuition of Mr. Percy Jones, it was considered by 1947 one of the finest school bands in camp at Puckapunyal.

At the end of 1947 Major Lamble retired from teaching and resigned his command. His was an unassailable record, spread over fifty years and including the great rifle shooting period at the turn of the century, honoured war service and the building up of the modern Cadet Corps.

His successor, Lieutenant-Colonel H. L. E. Dunkley, D.S.O., M.C., had been an officer of the unit before going to the 1939-45 war. He returned with a first-hand knowledge of modern tactics and weapons, a wide experience of command and administration, and the ability to put realism into training.

Since the war there have been developments which give the Corps a character of its own. Firstly, a revival of inter-school contests found the College excelling in drill and guard efficiency. For seven consecutive years, from 1949 to 1955, the drill platoon won the Smart Shield in State-wide competition, while the guard has been usually well placed. Shooting, too, is of quite high standard.

A great deal could be written about the changes which have taken place through the years in practically every aspect of Cadet work, including administration, syllabus and equipment. Nothing, possibly, has changed more than uniforms. These have evolved from shapeless tunics and trousers, with caps or hats of various designs, through tunic, breeches and puttees, back to a better style of tunic with trousers and gaiters—and summer dress of shirt and shorts. Not all of these outfits combined comfort, serviceability and elegance.

Perhaps the greatest transformation in seventy-five years of history was the adoption of the kilt in 1948. The chosen tartan was that of the Gordon Highlanders, with whom, through the Victorian Scottish Regiment, the Corps is now affiliated. The highest credit must go to Dr. Buntine, who was determined to effect the change, foreseeing correctly what impetus it could give to smartness and corporate pride.

This story would not be complete without some mention of Capt. J. H. Campbell, whose career as Collegian, soldier and officer of Cadets most nearly approaches that of Capt. Lamble. He has served the Corps for the past twenty years, largely behind the scenes, particularly as adjutant and quartermaster. Hundreds of other officers and N.C.O.'s have made their contribution to the work and gained something from it.

Today the College Corps, with a strength of 326, is one of the finest units in the land and plays a large part in the education of its members. Proof of its appeal to boys is found in the yearly applications for positions as sergeant or officer, a number greatly in excess of the vacancies. The training given is in the discipline of body and mind. Those who command and those who obey must learn to exercise self-control, the first step towards responsibility.

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Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 11, pp 86-91.''