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RASHLEIGH, Sgt Major Frederick William (c.1839-1914)

RASHLEIGH, Sgt Major Frederick William (c.1837-1914)

Sergeant-Major Rashleigh. (Jubilee History)

Sergeant-Major Rashleigh. (Jubilee History)

Drum Major Rashleigh was, for over 30 years associated with the Geelong College cadets. He was probably born at Falmouth, the son of a Cornish farmer Francis Rashleigh (1797-1887) and his wife, Priscilla Jane nee Thomas (1805-1872). The family appears in both the 1841 and 1851 English censuses and appear to have emigrated to Australian aboard the ship Euphemus which arrived in July, 1853. In an obituary of 1914, the School Magazine, Pegasus referred to Drum Major Rashleigh as being involved in the establishment of the College Cadet Corps in the 1880s. ‘In Later years he used to be more closely identified with the Drum and Bugle Band, and at Battalion Parades, or at the Senior Cadet Camps in Queen’s Park. … For years the Drum Major used to go to the Schools’ Rifle Matches at Williamstown, and nothing could make him prouder than to have his Field Firing Team (generally the Seconds Team) beat our first.’ No one could know the Old Drum Major without respecting his many good qualities. He had all the typical soldier’s sense of duty, and if he had an order to carry out, it would be done - no weather was too rough for him to get targets ready for a rifle practice, even though they were blown out of the frames as soon as they were hoisted. A favourite saying of his was, 'That will be all right, Sir, it will be done,' and as far as lay in his power it was done. It was typical that his last thoughts should be of some work he had in hand for our sister school, and with the last message, 'Tell the Grammar they will find the cartridges all ready,' he passed away.’

Reminiscences published by ‘S’ in 1922 recounted this tale about Rashleigh: ‘Drum-Major Rashleigh, who was for so many years in charge of the College Bugle Band, was a splendid old soldier, with a great pride in the College Corps and his Superior Officer, his fund of stories seemed inexhaustible. One such, which I must narrate, although it may be a 'chestnut', referred to a general parade of the battalion of which the College Corps formed part. The Drum-Major had occasion to ask the rather irascible General Officer-Commanding for instructions as to where he should march the College Band, and received the impatient and not very courteous reply 'Oh, march them to Jericho,' or words to that effect. A startling command surely! Our old Drum-Major was, however, equal to the occasion. Saluting gravely, he replied 'Yes, Sir!, turned smartly to the grinning band, and roared, in a stentorian voice that carried far beyond the limits of the parade ground, 'Band! to Jericho, Ouick Mar-r-r-ch!! ' For some minutes the parade was in confusion, spectators as well as the battalion enjoying the situation immensely.'

Drum-Major Rashleigh served in England, New Zealand and Australia and in 1909, at the time of his 50th service anniversary, he was believed to have been the most senior Drum-Major in the Commonwealth. Geelong Grammarians described him as follows: ‘Served in Maori Wars (NZ). Joined Geelong Rifles in 1859, and appointed Drum Major. Held a similar position at Ballarat for nine years with the Ballarat Rangers. Returned to Geelong to serve as Drum-Major for the Geelong Artillery Band. Drill Instructor to Rifle Corps 1884-1897. Master in Charge of Bracebridge Wilson House. Master in charge of Tuckshop 1907-1913. Married Joanna Josephine Breen (-1923). At least two daughters including Edith Frances who married Frederick Leslie Grant. Died 22 Oct 1914.’ Their second daughter was Kathleen Josephine Rashleigh.

Sources: Pegasus October 1909 p 26; Obituary - Pegasus December 1914 p 26; Pegasus December 1922 p 26; Geelong Grammarians pp 465, 558, 718-9.
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