So long as the garrison of regulars remained at Adelaide there was no particular inducement for the pioneers to burden themselves with the additional responsibilities of becoming soldiers themselves. Yet have you ever known or heard of any British settlement, no matter how small, which did not elect a mayor and raise a volunteer force? When the time came for the British Government to remove the regular garrison, the South Australian volunteer force was established. This took place on the conclusion of the Maori War, which was followed by the peaceful settlement of the native question in the north island of New Zealand. The British Government decided to withdraw all regular troops from New Zealand and Australia then, feeling assured that the colonists, who had already given the best and strongest evidence and proof of their capacity to direct the affairs and develop the resources of the immense territories entrusted into their hands, were more than capable of raising and organizing military units on lines best adapted to their own economic and political requirements. Thus it was that at the time the regulars were withdrawn fairly efficient volunteer forces had come into existence.
The South Australian Government retained the services of some of the regular non-commissioned officers as instructors, and of some of the officers for staff duties. At the time I joined the staff some of these were still going healthy and strong. Well I remember Major Williams, our staff quartermaster, Captain Powell, our cavalry instructor, Sergeant-Majors Ryan and Connell, infantry instructors, two of the best. They were with me then, they were under me for years; they never wavered in their zeal, nor had I once, in our long association together, ever to find fault with them or their work, not even in later days, when the holders of the public purse set the pruning knives clicking and the military vote suffered so severely as to necessitate much extra work on the part of those who remained on the staff.
The growth of the colony steadily continued, never halting, though occasionally bad seasons checked its progress. In the 'seventies South Australia was fully established. Adelaide was becoming a rich and populous city, the capital of a great territory. A stupendous pioneer work, the overland telegraph right through the continent from Adelaide in the south to Port Darwin in the north, had been completed, some 2,000 miles through unoccupied country. The Burra-Burra copper mines had given forth their store of the copper. The Moonta and Wallaroo district was still richer in that precious metal. Even now there appears to be no end to the wealth of metal lying below the ground waiting for the pick of the miner. Millions of acres of wild bush land had been turned into rolling grass plains on which millions of sheep browsed in peace. In the settled districts along the Northern Railway line to Port Augusta paddocks after paddocks of smiling and rustling wheatfields waited for the harvesting machines each autumn time.
The question of the advisability of establishing the Defence Force of the colony on a sounder footing was taken up by the Government, which came to the decision that it would be in the best interests of the forces to appoint a regular Imperial officer, thoroughly efficient and up to date, who should be entrusted with the reorganization, administration and instruction of the Defence Department and the forces under its control. This decision met with all-round approval. Politicians, Press, members of the then existing forces and the public generally all concurred. A request was sent to the Imperial Government, asking for the services on loan for five years of an officer possessing the qualifications referred to. The selection fell on Lieut.-Colonel (now Major-General) M. F. Downes, R.A., C.M.G., who is still alive and well in Melbourne, and whose constant friendship I have had the privilege of enjoying from the date I first took up my duties under him. He lost no time on his arrival in carrying out his instructions, and submitted a scheme for the Government's approval. The general lines of his scheme were as follows: The military forces were to consist of (a) an efficient administrative and instructional staff; (b) a number of regular (permanent) artillery units to man the forts and maintain them in a state of thorough efficiency; (c) a force comprising all branches of the service, inclusive of departmental and non-combatant corps on a partially paid system; (d) the maintenance of a volunteer force to meet the requirements of outlying districts; and (e) the encouragement of rifle clubs.
The only part of this scheme which requires some little explanation is the partially paid force, the backbone of the scheme. General Downes proposed that instead of the three months' continuous training carried out by the Militia at home, the partially paid units should be paid by the day, the maximum number of days being fixed by Act of Parliament. Eight hours a day or over constituted a full day for purposes of pay; up to four hours, half a day; and two hours or less, a quarter day. A proviso existed that a few days of continuous training in camp should take place each year. The original number of full days in the year first approved of was, I think, twenty-four, and the rate of pay 5s. a day. Whole holidays, of which there are a good many in the colonies, were available for full day, half-holidays and Saturday afternoons for half-day, and all evenings for quarter-day parades. By the time I joined the general's staff his system had been in force for over three years, was giving satisfaction to all concerned, and similar conditions of service were later on adopted in every one of the Australian colonies.
The itinerary for the half-year ending June 30, 1882, which General Downes had approved of, kept me continually on the move. The days in between my journeys in the country were fully occupied with the compilation of reports and other administrative duties. It was all a new experience to me. I travelled hundreds of miles. The residents in the outlying districts offered me every hospitality. Horses, of course, were always available. Kangaroo and wallaby hunts, shooting and fishing parties, were arranged to fill up the time in spare days. The wild turkey is indeed a wary bird; he wants a lot of stalking, especially in the open salt bush plains. An ox or cow was often made use of to approach this knowing bird. It was considered an excellent day's sport if we bagged a brace or two.
Six months sped by. Then came the day when the general informed me that the Government had approved of the raising of the Regular (Permanent) Artillery unit. Fort Glanville had been completed, the guns mounted, and the contractors had handed over the fort to the Government. I remember the general's kind words to me so well. He told me he was pleased with my work, that he had reported upon my success as staff instructor to the volunteer force, that he had recommended me for the position of Lieutenant Commanding the Permanent Artillery unit, and that the Government had approved.
So at last I had got appointed to my own branch of the service—once again I was a gunner. I took up my residence at the fort, where there was barrack accommodation for about thirty men and quarters for one officer. Within three weeks I had got together a first-class lot of young men, and the general came down to inspect us. An efficient gunner is not made in a day, no, nor even in a year, so that for months I had little time for play. In addition a most interesting and difficult piece of work came my way. The fixed defences, recommended by Sir William Jervois and General Scratchley, consisted of three forts, one not far from the mouth of the Port River, a second one approximately half-way between the mouth of the river and Glenelg, and the third one near Glenelg. At that time there were not sufficient funds to undertake the completion of the whole scheme. The centre one, Fort Glanville, was considered the most important, and had therefore been constructed first. The plans for the other forts had been prepared at the same time as those for Fort Glanville.
The coast from Glenelg to the mouth of the Port River is very low, a continuous ridge of sandy dunes fringing a beautiful sea beach from which the waters recede far at low tide. The mail boats anchored in the open roadstead; passengers landed at the Semaphore jetty, cargo being placed in barges and towed up the river to Port Adelaide. It was a most unsatisfactory arrangement, and many have been the times that I got wet through when meeting the steamers. In particularly rough weather baskets had to be used to get on or off the ship. When it was too rough and dangerous passengers had to be taken on to the next port of call. For years the question of providing proper harbour accommodation had been before successive Governments, but the vested interests at Port Adelaide and other political reasons had successfully blocked the project. About the beginning of 1882, however, a company was formed, which acquired a large frontage to the sea from the boundaries of the Semaphore northwards to the mouth of the Port River. This company obtained the right to construct a harbour. It was called the Largs Bay Company. It built a first-class up-to-date hotel on the foreshore, constructed a fine jetty, and a railway leading into Port Adelaide, with the view of diverting the landing of the passengers from the old Semaphore Government jetty to Largs Bay. All this will probably be of little interest to you, except that it supplies a reason for the influences that were brought to bear on the Government to construct No. 2 Fort. If the outer harbour was to be constructed, its protection was necessary. Hence I was instructed by the general to revise the original plans of the Fort and adapt them to the new fortress guns, which had superseded those existing at the time of the construction of Fort Glanville. To plan forts, to obtain the widest scope for the fire power of their guns, is fascinating work to a gunner. I revelled in it, and in a few weeks I was ready with the revised plans. The plans were approved of, and the contract was let for its construction. Largs Bay Hotel then became my headquarters.
The time came when the building of the Largs Fort was advanced enough to push on with the mounting of the heavy guns, which on arrival had been stored at Port Adelaide, some three miles away. The hauling of the guns and carriages and their assembling and mounting was excellent instruction to my young gunners. In revising the plans of the Fort I had made provision for barrack accommodation for a larger body of men.
Fort Glanville has now for some time past been dismantled. The proposed fort near Glenelg was never built, though two 9.2 inch B.L. guns, which were imported at great cost as the result of the Russian scare, are still lying buried in the sand hills on the proposed site.
POLO, HUNTING AND STEEPLECHASING
While busy with my professional duties I found time to amuse myself as well. My friends at the club had put my name up as a member. I was soon elected. You will doubtless smile when I tell you what happened the first time I entered the club as a full member. It had been a very hot day. A visiting team of polo players from the western district of Victoria had battled hard in the afternoon against the Adelaide team. The good game of polo in those days was in its infancy in Australia. A few enthusiasts in Adelaide and some in the wonderfully rich western district of Victoria, the De Littles, Manifolds, Blacks and others who owned thousands of acres of as good country as there is in Australia, kept the game going. An inter-colonial match was arranged. Lance Stirling, now Sir Lancelot, and President of the Upper House, Arthur Malcolm, a thorough sportsman with a keen love for practical jokes, and the two brothers Edmund and Charlie Bowman, were playing for Adelaide. The old veteran, Dave Palmer, St. Quintin, Para Hood and one of the Manifolds represented the western district of Victoria.
It was the custom to celebrate all such occasions as polo matches, big race days, Hunt Club meetings, by holding dinner parties at the club, often attended by fifty or sixty of the younger members, with a sprinkling of the older sports, who thoroughly enjoyed the vivacity and exuberance of the younger men. These were dinners to be remembered, full of joyous spirits, where many amusing incidents used to occur. As the hours of the evening grew late and the early morning approached the fun was at its height. I happened to choose this very particular night for my first visit to the club after my election as a full member. I knew what was going on, and, though I thought it better to avoid going there that night, an irresistible feeling came over me and I succumbed to it. So, at about eleven o'clock I made my appearance. It had been a long time, in fact, not since I had left Melbourne, that I had had a real jolly night. I had held the bit particularly tight between my teeth during my time in the police, and I did feel inclined for a jollification. I got it all right. I was greeted all round with the heartiest welcome. Congratulations on my appointment were showered on me, and in a few minutes I was as recklessly enjoying the fun as they were. While the large dining-room was being prepared for an obstacle race cock-fighting held sway. An amateur orchestra with improvised instruments, coal-scuttles, pots and pans, hair-combs and other similar objects was playing in the back court of the club, in the centre of which there was a fountain. Some enterprising member had offered a prize to anyone who hopped twice round the narrow parapet, surrounding its basin, without falling in, while keeping time to the music. It certainly was difficult to follow the strains of that band. From a very slow and dignified movement the music suddenly broke into the quickest time that ever any tune was played. The result was fatal to the hopper. A bath in the fountain followed. The prize was not won that night. And so the frolic ran on till the early hours of the morning.
I felt somewhat sorry for myself when I turned up next day at the office. I didn't feel much inclined for work, and I waited patiently for noon to strike to make my way to the club and a large whisky and soda. Lunch-time approached. I began to notice that several of the older members were looking serious and were not so affable as usual. The secretary asked me to step into his office. I did so. He, too, was looking serious. He told me that it had been reported to him that I had on my very first visit, as a member of the club upset the whole place, that my good old friend Mr Hamilton, who lived at the club, had complained bitterly of the noise and disturbance, and was going to ask the committee to cancel my election and practically have me turned out. He himself had been forced to call a special meeting of the committee to deal with the matter. I sat, quiet and sad, by the side of the old fountain. Every now and again one of the chief offenders of the night before would, as he passed me, sympathize with me in my trouble. My misery did not last long. Two or three members of the committee entered the secretary's office. Presently the secretary beckoned me to his office. Round a table sat three members of the committee. In the centre of the small table was a magnum of champagne and a small bucket of ice. In silence the glasses were filled up. The oldest member of the committee, still as serious as a judge, handed me one. They each helped themselves. Then he spoke: "We have asked you to come here this morning"—and then a smile came over their faces—"to welcome you to the club and to say how happy we are that you have got your appointment." Thus ended my anxiety, and a few minutes later on the magnum of champagne. I had certainly had my leg pulled.
In view of my duties in connexion with the construction of the new fort I moved to the Largs Bay Hotel. Standing by itself mid-way between the two forts at the shore end of the jetty, the hotel had been completed and opened with much rejoicing. Mr. Hixon was its first manager. No expense had been spared by the company in making it not only comfortable, but luxurious. The winter months were just beginning; there was no attraction to the seaside, and there were but few residents. The monotony of living there was varied two days each week by the arrival of the inward and outward bound mail steamers, that was all. But I was too busy to worry about pleasure; the training of my men at Fort Glanville and the supervision of the construction of Fort Largs kept me busy five days of the week. Saturday and Sunday I devoted to sport and pleasure. The polo season ended with the autumn; hunting began with early winter.
Had anyone told me in the days when I used to be carried into the boats on the good old ship Waipa that within a couple of years I would once again be enjoying playing polo, following the hounds and steeplechasing, I would not have believed them. Yet so it was. The hunting season coming on, I at once set to work to get a couple of good mounts. Good Mother Luck was, as usual, again on my side. A friend of mine, Leonard Browne, who owned Buckland Park Station, about twenty-five miles from Adelaide, offered me one of his station horses. We named him Buckland. He was the soundest and best jumper I ever threw my legs across. He was even better than "Kate Dwyer." For two seasons he never gave me a fall. I have, for a wager, put up a sheet of corrugated iron six feet long by two and a half feet wide, leaning it slanting against a rest, in the middle of a paddock, and, jumping on Buckland's back, I would ride him straight at it. He never bothered to go to the right or left of it. The old horse would take it in his stride and sail over it without rapping it. Wire fences were child's play to him; he got over them just as easily as he negotiated post and rails.
Satan, a thoroughbred I bought after a selling race at Morphetville, was my second string. He had broken down in his near foreleg during the race. He was only three years old, jet black, sixteen hands one, and as handsome as paint. I had named him Satan. I had by this time been asked by the general on several occasions to accompany him as his staff officer at such times as he was making his inspections, and I thought it would be well for me to have a decent charger. The general liked a good horse. Satan was just the horse. I had him for some twelve years. I schooled him to jump, and he took to it very kindly. Many are the miles of road travelling he saved me when later on we were busy with field manoeuvres, by his jumping capacities. Satan was not a "Buckland," but he seldom failed me. So it came to pass that I was able to enjoy many a good day with the hounds on Saturday afternoons; then a good dinner, the theatre, and afterwards a little fun and light-hearted supper and frolic at the club till the early hours of Sunday morning.
What a crowd of real good sportsmen lived in Adelaide in those days! Perhaps the oldest and most respected of the professional sports was Mr. Filgate. Then there was Seth Ferry, who had ridden many a hard race in his life; Saville, as clever with his pencil as he was as a trainer—brother-in-law, I think, of Leslie Macdonald, who afterwards managed Wilson's stud at St. Albans, Victoria, and on Wilson's death became an owner himself, and a successful one, too. Revenue won the Melbourne Cup for him, and several other good horses have in late years carried his colours to the front in first-class races. Leslie Macdonald is still a very well-preserved man, a first-class sport, and a good companion. Tom Power was another good trainer, and Johnny Hill, who trained Auraria, the Melbourne Cup winner. The pride of place amongst breeders was then taken by Sir Thomas Elder. The stud farm at Morphetville left nothing to be desired. The renowned chestnut, Gang Forward, and a big-boned bay horse named Neckesgat were the lords of the harem. Some twenty brood mares, descendants of the best strains of thoroughbred stock, had been brought together, and many a good horse which played about as a foal at Morphetville's beautiful paddocks afterwards won classical races.
Sir Thomas Elder was at this time fairly on the wrong side of fifty. He was a bachelor. He and his brother-in-law, Mr. Barr Smith, were the heads of that well-known firm, Elder, Smith and Co., which was interested in many important concerns, and, inter alia, represented the P. & O. S. N. Co., mail contractors to Australia. This company's ships called in at Adelaide once a week, the incoming and outgoing mail in turn. Sir Thomas usually invited the captain to his house during the steamer's stay in the roadstead.
They used to tell of him that though he took the greatest pleasure in the Morphetville stud, he knew but little about horses. Sir Thomas delighted in taking his guests through the paddocks, his manager close beside him. "Now there," Sir Thomas would say, "isn't that a fine horse? Now, Mr. Ellworthy, just tell us all about him." It was generally a her. But when he came to White Arab stallion Mr. Ellworthy's services were not required. Sir Thomas's partner, Mr. Robert Barr Smith, might well be named the Grand Old Man of South Australia. He died at a very ripe old age—a charming personality, a shrewd man of business, a most generous citizen whose gifts were munificent, and equalled only by those of his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas. Mr. Barr Smith's principal home, Torrens Park, some six miles from Adelaide, situated at the foot of the hills, was always open house to his friends. I can never forget the many happy days I spent there, and who, of the many who were privileged to be their friends, can ever forget the charming personality, the sweet ways, and the generous nature of Mrs. Barr Smith?
My pen runs away with me when I think of all my kind friends in those happy days. But let me not forget one family, the Bakers of Morialta. The Hon. John Baker was one of the first citizens of Adelaide to appreciate the value of the Mount Lofty ranges as a home during the summer months. He took up some hundreds of acres in what was at that time bush country up the heights to the north of Mount Lofty. I do not know whether Norton's Summit, in the neighbourhood of which he purchased the land, was so named when he built his comfortable home at Morialta. The entrance gates into that beautiful domain are just past the village which bears the name Norton's Summit. The Hon. John Baker was a politician, but he was also a sportsman and a horse breeder. I think I am right in stating that he bred that good horse Don Juan, which started the "King" of Australian bookmakers, Joe Thompson, in his triumphant career. Not to know Joe Thompson in those days in Australia meant not to know Australia. He was the leviathan of the turf, or at least, he became so, and a keen sportsman he was, too. Of all sports horse racing has always the pride of place in Australia, though others flourish there.
To Mrs. John Baker, Mr. Baker's widow, I owe a deep debt of gratitude. From the time I first arrived in Adelaide she made me welcome at Morialta. Her eldest son, who later on became Sir Richard Baker, President of the Legislative Council of South Australia, was a good sport and a true friend of mine up to the time of his death.
I believe that it was his father who established the first pack of hounds in South Australia. The kennels were at Morialta. At the time I am writing of, Allen Baker, a younger brother of Sir Richard, was Master. I was his best man on his marriage day. I remember it so well, though it was so long ago. He was quite nervous about the whole thing, as he called it, the evening before. I tried to cheer him up. He told me that he particularly wished the clergyman to cut the service as short as possible, and I was on no account to let him "make a speech." I duly warned the clergyman in the morning, and he took the hint. I fortified Allen with a small bottle of champagne just before the ceremony, which took place at the church at Mitcham. He just got through it, and, as soon as he got out of the church, he jumped up into the four-wheeled dogcart that was waiting for him and, taking hold of the reins, with his pretty bride beside him, drove away as happy as a bird. His nervousness had disappeared.
Perhaps the most enjoyable event of the year in Adelaide was the occasion when the Hunt Club Races took place. The meeting was held at the close of the season, and a right merry meeting it was too. It was a huge picnic, winding up with dinner and theatre parties, dances, and good old suppers. I had nothing good enough to win any race. Buckland was a sure jumper, but not fast enough. Satan's foreleg would not stand training. However, one never knows one's luck in steeplechasing, so I sent Buckland to Leslie Macdonald to be trained, and promised myself a real ding-dong jumping day over the big sticks at Morphetville—and I had it, too. The two principal races were the Drag Cup and the Hunt Club Cup—the former about two miles and three-quarters, the latter about four miles. A maiden steeple, a hurdle race and a hunters' flat race filling up the programme. The best horse at the meeting that year was named Albatross, a jet black, curiously enough, and the property of a good sport, Mick Morris, a Government stock inspector. Albatross had been heavily backed to win the double, the Drag and Hunt Club Cups. I think it was Bob Turner who rode him in the Hunt Club Cup. He had bad luck opposite the grand stand, for he struck the wall hard the second time round and unseated Bob. The race was over as far as Albatross was concerned, and so were the double wagers as far as Mick Morris and his friends were concerned. But Mick and his pals meant to get their money again by backing Albatross straight out for the Drag Cup. Bob Turner had been badly shaken by his fall, and was unable to ride again. Morris asked me to ride him. I had already ridden old Buckland in the Maiden Steeple and Hunt Club Cups some six miles, without being near winning, so I thought I would oblige Morris.
Unfortunately, Albatross being top-weight had a heavy impost to carry, some 13 st. 4 lb. I rode only about 11 st. 6 lb. in those days, so I had to put up some two stones dead weight. The saddle was a heavy, old-fashioned hunting one, and taking it for granted all was well I jumped on Albatross's back in the saddling paddock and jogged quietly down to the starting point. There were some eight starters. Down went the flag, away we went, and I took Albatross to the front. He was a fine jumper, but he had one fault; he was inclined to run down his fences, and squirm a little when jumping. We went once round the course. We were coming to the wall for the second time just in front of the grand stand and Albatross was moving like a bird. I let him just "gang his ain gait"; nothing behind me could force the pace. He led the field easily, and I felt more than confident that the race was mine. But you never can tell. He came to the wall. He had to shorten his stride in taking it, which made him squirm more than usual. I felt something go; it was my left stirrup leather. The clip holding it to the saddle had been left open, and the wrench of my left leg as Albatross jumped had pulled the leather out. I managed to keep the stirrup iron hanging on to my foot with the end of the leather trailing on the ground as we galloped on. I had hopes I might recover the leather, and by holding on to it with my left hand make some use of it. It was not to be. In my efforts to pick up the leather I had to slow Albatross down. This enabled the other horses to close up to me. There was only one thing to do—let the stirrup go and set Albatross sailing again. This I did. At the next fence—a stiff log one—I was nearly jerked clean off. I had forgotten I was riding with only one stirrup, and, as Albatross swerved in jumping, I all but fell off on the near side. It struck me that if I did not get rid of the other stirrup I would probably be thrown soon, so I got rid of it. I now found myself with about a mile and a half to go, some ten real stiff fences to negotiate, and riding without stirrups. I quite well remember my memory harking back for a moment to the old days of the riding school at Woolwich when old Dan, our riding master, used to call out, "Cross stirrups," and "Take care" and "'Old on." Well, it was a case of "'olding on" on Albatross for the rest of that journey. It was soon over. Albatross sailed along. I couldn't hold him, but kept in on the course. Young Farr on Peter came after me. We raced together at the last fence. Over we went; both landed safely, but I was beat. Farr, sitting comfortably on Peter, led me past the post. The only consolation I had was that I had not been responsible for saddling Albatross. My good old friend Michael Morris, though he had lost his money, thought I had put up a real good fight, and gave me a present of a handsome hunting-crop to remind me of my ride on that good horse Albatross. We had a glorious winding up to that day. The Hunt dinner at the club, a large theatre party, and a dance. Indeed, I was glad when I got to bed at the end of it all.
On the close of the hunting season followed the polo season. It was arduous work to play polo in the heat of the summer, but it could not be helped. The first polo ground was in the park lands inside the Victoria race-course. Now the Polo Club owns a clubhouse and a tip-top ground not far from the city. Ponies were rather difficult to get in those days, and when you did get them there was very little opportunity to train them. It was with difficulty we managed to get one practice game a week with full sides. Several of the members of the Polo Club lived in the country, and it was difficult for them to spare the time to come into town for a game; besides, it was a fairly expensive game. Still, we battled away against all difficulties, and the game of polo was kept going in South Australia while the richer and older colonies of New South Wales and Victoria practically dropped it.
Of recent years polo has become a favourite pastime throughout Australia, especially in many country districts, and after the War will doubtless become one of its national games. At the close of the hunting season I had turned out Buckland and Satan for a long spell, and picked up four or five ponies. I got some stables put up at Fort Glanville. The splendid beach at low tide afforded an excellent practice ground. The season moved along all well; we had only one severe accident. The game in those days began by placing the ball on the ground half-way between the goals. A player from each side was selected to gallop at a given signal from the goal posts to the ball. On the particular afternoon of the accident the two players selected were Tom Barr Smith and George Hawker. By some accident the two rode straight at each other; the ponies met head to head. There was quite a loud report. It was the cracking of the skull of one of the ponies. The pony had to be shot, but no particular harm was done to the riders. As a result of this accident it was decided to alter the rules of the game. This was done, and there was no more wild galloping to start the game. After trying several ponies, I was successful in getting hold of two real good ones. One was a light, cream-coloured mare, descended from a Welsh Taffy imported sire. I called her "Creamie." She was a flyer. The other, a well-bred little bay, which I named "Kitty," I bought from the Governor's A.D.C., Captain Williams.
The polo season closed with a race meeting, just as the hunting season did. The chief event was the Polo Club Cup. I felt fairly confident that I had that year's cup in my pocket. For some six weeks before the races I had sent Creamie and Kitty to Mr. Ellworthy at Morphetville, who had kindly undertaken to supervise their training. As the result of trials Creamie proved much the faster. Not only that, but she started breaking watch-records. The day of the races came. I had promised Allen Baker, the Master of the Hounds, to have the mount on Creamie. A real good sportsman, Stephen Ralli, was to ride Kitty. I was too heavy myself to tackle the weights. Creamie was made favourite at even money. Kitty started at 20 to 1. Off they went to the post. I think Lance Stirling was starter. There were about eighteen starters. Creamie was next but two to the rails. I had backed her for quite a lot of money, and had told all my friends that I could not see what other pony could beat her. They all put their money on. I had not a sixpence on Kitty. Well, down went the flag. I was in the grand stand with my glasses fixed on the starting point. The first thing I saw was one of the riders turning a somersault in the air. It was Allen Baker. I of course at once lost all interest in the race. I put down my glasses. Down the course came Creamie leading the field riderless. Then I heard the shouting: "Kitty! Kitty wins!" and before I realized it, she had won. Yes, Stephen Ralli had won the cup on Kitty for me. I had lost L300.
My recollections of the introduction of cash betting, as opposed to the system of booking bets "on the nod" in the betting ring on Australian race-courses, are as follows: Not long after my first appointment in Adelaide the annual big racing meeting was held by the Adelaide Racing Club at their course in the park lands, east of the city. Large numbers of the best-known bookmakers from the other colonies were as usual in attendance. Their voices were hardly what could be called musical. As a rule each one gave his own voice some peculiar note, so that their would-be clients could spot their whereabouts in the ring. The result of this chorus was unique as a musical phenomenon.
I think it was the Cup Day. It was fine overhead and hot, yet a charming day. The race for the Cup was next, and the ring was settling down to business. Suddenly, amidst the general uproar, a fine-sounding voice, true and melodious, was heard intoning what at first sounded to most people a church hymn. But it was not a church hymn. It was a new method of shouting out the odds, attracting attention to an exceedingly well-got-up gentleman in a grey frock suit, patent leather boots, white spats, grey gloves, tall white hat, and a flower in his buttonhole. A new bookmaker had made his appearance. He informed the crowds in song that he betted "only for cash," not "on the nod"—"I pay on the winner, immediately after the race." It only wanted an organ to accompany him. It was quite amusing to watch the remainder of his brethren in the ring. At first they looked about for the songster; then they laughed; and then set to work fairly to howl him down. It was no use; he managed somehow to make his dulcet notes heard. The new arrival before the end of the day was well known. His experiment had succeeded; it had been a first-class advertisement, and he gathered in many clients.
He left Adelaide for the sister States. Some time afterwards an amusing story went the round of sporting circles. Whether true or not I know not. Here it is. The committee of one of the most important bookmakers' clubs in Australia had occasion to adjudicate on a charge laid against him for conduct which it was stated rendered him an undesirable member of the club, to the honorary membership of which he had been admitted. The committee, after inquiry, decided to request him to see them, inform him of the charge that had been made against him, ask him if he wished to refute it; if not, it was their intention to cancel his membership. His answer was reported to be as follows: "The charges made against me practically accuse me of behaving like a blackguard. Well, I can be a blackguard—probably a bigger one than any of you are or can be, but however that may be, there is one thing I can be, if I like, but which none of you can ever be, and that is a gentleman. Good morning; I am returning to England to-morrow."
THE RUSSIAN SCARE AND ITS RESULTS
Sir Frederick Sargood had been appointed Minister of Defence in Victoria. He had evidently been impressed with the success that had attended the experiment made by the South Australian Government when they had decided to ask the Imperial Government to lend them the services of a regular officer to command their local troops. He decided upon a similar course of action, but he went a good deal further than the South Australian Government had done. He was determined to do the thing well, and he did it. He asked the Imperial Government for the loan of officers to fill the following positions: (a) Commandant; (b) Adjutant-General; (c) D.A.G. for Cavalry and Infantry; (d) D.A.G. for Artillery; (e) O.C. Engineers; (f) Chief Instructors for Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery and Engineers.
Amongst the senior officers selected by the War Office for these posts were the following: Colonel Disney, R.A., Lieutenant-Colonel Brownrigg, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, R.A., Major Fellowes and Captain Ernest Rhodes, R.E., brother of Cecil Rhodes.
It was rumoured at the time that Sir Frederick had come to the conclusion that he had undertaken rather a serious contract in importing such a lot of officers. How was he to protect himself against such an array of military talent? He was a most enthusiastic volunteer. He was besides a very able business man. All Australians know the firm of which he was one of the partners, Butler, Sargood and Co. His military knowledge, however, was naturally very limited, and no doubt he felt it would be difficult for him to battle against the more than heavy demands which the new military directorate would probably make upon the Government. It happened, however, that General Downes' period of service with the South Australian Government was approaching its end, and Sir Frederick hit upon the happy idea of securing him for the position of Secretary to his Department. The general's ripe experience in the conduct of the South Australian forces and the success that had attended his efforts in that respect rendered him well qualified to give good advice to the Minister in charge of the Department. General Downes accepted the appointment.
At the time of the Imperial officers' arrival in Melbourne a Charity ball was being held. The wives of the new officers bought tickets, not with the intention of going themselves, as they thought it was just an ordinary charity affair which would not be patronized by the best people. So, instead of going, they gave their tickets to their servants and sent them. If they had taken the trouble to ask about the ball they would have been told that these charity balls were attended by the nicest of the nice—and they would, of course, have been there themselves. The lady correspondents of the society journals were naturally awaiting their arrival as excellent subjects for their pens, and were not slow in discovering the absence of the good ladies as well as the presence of their servants. Naturally they felt indignant. The fact was soon whispered among the guests, and some were unkind enough to look upon the incident almost in the light of a personal insult. Society was quite disturbed, and hints of boycotting the offenders were spread about. However, full explanations were quickly made, and the incident was forgotten.
Amongst the recommendations made by Sir William Jervois, who had left South Australia early in 1882, and had been succeeded by Sir William Robertson, brother of Sir Hercules Robinson, was the acquisition of an up-to-date gunboat as a beginning of a limited but efficient naval unit for the defence of South Australia. At this time the Colonies of Victoria and Queensland had started naval units of their own. Victoria had quite, for those days, an imposing little fleet, the flagship of which was the old Cerberus. The Colony of New South Wales had not deemed it necessary to start a fleet on its own. Sydney was the base and headquarters of the Imperial warships then attached to the Australian station. Consequently they felt more than fully protected from the point of view of naval defence. The South Australian Government gave effect to Sir William Jervois's recommendation, and a gunboat, christened the Protector, built by the firm of Sir William Armstrong, Newcastle-on-Tyne, was selected, and left England on its outward-bound voyage. The citizens of Adelaide were much interested in its arrival. This vessel, which was still in commission two years ago, served for many years as a training ship for the members of the Naval Reserve. On the occasion of the taking over of the Defence Forces of the several colonies by the Commonwealth Government, the captain of the Protector became the senior naval officer of the Naval Defence Forces. Captain William Cresswell was afterwards appointed First Member of the Naval Board of Control in the Commonwealth, promoted to admiral, and knighted. Curiously enough, he spoke Spanish. He had been born in Gibraltar, not far from Jerez. His sister was for many years head of the Post Office, in fact, Postmistress-General at the Rock.
Sir William Jervois's son, my Woolwich mate, had taken on the duties of Adjutant-General on the departure of his father. He was completing the term of his engagement at the time when General Downes left for Melbourne. Pending the arrival of Lieut.-Colonel J. F. Owen, R.A., he was acting Commandant, and I became, for the time being, acting Adjutant-General.
It was then we had a surprise. One morning the look-out station people at Glenelg sighted columns of heavy smoke, evidently issuing from large craft making towards Glenelg from the entrance to the Gulf. The fact was communicated to the shipping and customs authorities at Port Adelaide. They replied that they had no notification of the intended arrival of any steamers, and none were expected. The people at Glenelg became quite interested, if not excited, and flocked to the jetty and the Esplanade. The excitement spread to Adelaide, and many curious people took train for the seaside suburb. After a time the hulls of three large vessels gradually appeared above the horizon. Many were the telescopes directed at them, and very considerable the surprise when it was seen that the vessels in question were men-of-war, but not British. There was nothing to be done but to await their arrival. In due time they arrived off Glenelg and anchored close where the mail steamers usually lay when calling there. They were flying the Russian flag. All was bustle and excitement when they were seen lowering their boats.
In the meantime the customs authorities had reached Glenelg in their steamboat from Port Adelaide, and were awaiting instructions from the Government as to what action they were to take. They were instructed to carry on as usual, in the same way as when any foreign men-of-war visited the port. The Customs House officials, accompanied by the Port Health Officer, proceeded to the flagship. They were met on board with all due courtesy, and the admiral expressed his wish for permission to land and pay his respects to the Governor and the Government of South Australia at such time as it would be convenient to them to receive him. On the return of the Customs House boat the Health Officer reported that all was well with the ships, and that he had granted them pratique. The admiral's message was as soon as possible conveyed to the Government. His request was, of course, acceded to, and a representative from the Premier's office sent on board to place himself in touch with the admiral. The official visits duly took place during the afternoon. What reasons, if any, were given by the admiral for his sudden appearance off the coast of South Australia I never was told. As far as I know they were never made public, if given. Where had they come from?
It soon became evident that the officers and crews were to be treated with the ceremony and courtesy it was customary to offer to distinguished visitors. The admiral had given it out that the visit would be a short one. There was to be an official dinner at Government House, the usual reception by the Premier and members of the Government, and official calls; and the residents of Glenelg decided to hold a ball in their honour. Great was the excitement, especially amongst the young ladies, at the prospect of meeting such a large number of naval officers. Previous to their departure the admiral and officers of the ship gave an official dinner and an afternoon reception to the chief residents. Then up went the anchors and away they steamed. Where they were going was not made known to the public, as far as I know. This unusual event took place early in 1885.
While the visit lasted the excitement attending it had kept the people's minds fully occupied, but after the departure of the ships people began to think what would happen if, instead of coming in a friendly capacity, the men-of-war had arrived with hostile intentions. To put it very shortly and to the point, it would have meant practically the surrender of Adelaide. There were no fortifications at Glenelg. Though the guns on board the ships had not sufficient range to shell the city itself, the distance being too great, yet they could in a short time have played havoc with Glenelg, and it may be doubted whether in those days the Government and people would have preferred the destruction of Glenelg to coming to some terms with the enemy. This gave rise to much thought.
Immediately afterwards what became popularly known as "the Russian Scare" took place in Australia. Our Government instructed the acting Commandant, Major Jervois, to mobilize our military forces and to take up their war positions without delay. They further gave instructions to make a final selection of the site for the construction of the Fort near Glenelg, the immediate preparation of the plans, and the acquisition of the land required. A cable was dispatched to our military adviser in London, then General Harding-Stewart, to place at once on order the armament for the fort, which it had been decided should consist of two 9.2 and two 6-inch breech-loading guns, mounted on hydro-pneumatic gun-carriages, the latest up-to-date ordnance approved of by the home government for coastal defence purposes throughout the Empire.
The mobilization was duly carried out. A couple of days after the concentration of the forces had been completed, and the night before the arrival of our new Commandant, I met with a severe accident. An infantry camp had been formed at Glenelg to protect the main road to Adelaide. Major Jervois had arranged for an alarm to take place early the next morning with a view of testing how far the commanding officers of the several zones of the defence had grasped their respective duties. The Governor had paid a visit to the infantry camp at Glenelg that afternoon, and had remained to take a light evening meal at the officers' mess. It was a stirring time. Jervois and myself were the only two staff officers available. We had the assistance of three or four of the instructional officers. Within three days the whole of the members of our forces were assembled at the war stations as provided for in our Defence Scheme, covering the probable enemy landing places from Glenelg along the coast to the mouth of the Port River and the approaches to the city.
After satisfying myself that the officers entrusted with the defence of the Glenelg zone understood their instructions for the alarm, I started off riding down the coast towards Fort Glanville, intending to visit the commanding officers in charge of the other sections, with the same object in view. Our horses, my own and those of my orderly officer, had been put up at the Old Pier Hotel at Glenelg. It was dark when we mounted, and, knowing the townships well, I cut across several vacant allotments instead of following the road. Suddenly I felt—as I was cantering across one of these allotments—as if the devil himself had gripped my face. I remembered no more till about a couple of hours afterwards my senses came back to me. My face was quite a picture. Some person had put up a clothes-line during the afternoon across the vacant allotment. The clothes-line happened to be a piece of fencing wire. I had cantered right into it and it caught me just above the upper lip and below my nose. That I have, since that day, been blessed with a nose of my own is quite a miracle. I can assure you that when I got hold of the tip of it I could lift it quite easily from my face.
Some kind doctor attended to it at the Pier Hotel, and, with the aid of many stitches and good old sticking-plaster, dressed the wound temporarily. The rest of my face was swollen and I was sore all over from bumping the hard ground, as I fell, when I was dragged backwards off my horse by the wire. However, I was much too anxious to get on with my work to cry "Halt." I couldn't ride, but I ordered a buggy from the hotel and moved on. As I reached the commanding officers of the successive sections along the coast I created somewhat of a sensation. I was not surprised. I presented a sorry figure, at any rate as far as my face was concerned. However, I satisfied myself that they had mastered their instructions, and that they would carry them out to the best of their ability.
When nearing Fort Glanville I left the main road, which ran just inside the sand-dunes and was in a very bad condition, for the beach. The beach was good going. Arriving close to the fort I struck inland by a track between the dunes. I felt happier; in a few minutes I would reach the Fort. But my troubles were not over by any means. The young fellow who was driving me was a stranger to those parts. I was not sure myself of the track we were taking. It was the custom to spread seaweed on the track over places where the sand was too loose and the going too heavy. As we moved along it we came to a particularly dark spot. The lad hesitated to drive on. I couldn't see very well. I took the dark spot to be a patch of seaweed, and told him to go on. We had taken the wrong track. It was not a patch of seaweed, but a big dark hole, and into it horse, buggy and our precious selves fell. Extricating ourselves from the mess, satisfying ourselves that no bones were broken, shaking out the sand from our ears and hair and off my poor nose and face, I walked off to the Fort to get assistance for my mate and the horse and buggy. I hadn't been long in my quarters when the bugles sounded the alarm, and the commanding officer of the troops attached to the Fort, who had been kindly attending to my numerous bruises, left me to carry out his duty. I got my old Irish servant to mix me a strong whisky toddy (I don't remember ever in my life having a drink which I enjoyed so much) and went to bed.
I was glad to hear next morning from Major Jervois, who came to see me, that the commanding officers had successfully carried out the task set them. He was much amused at my personal appearance. Two days afterwards Colonel Owen arrived. I was patched up enough to be able to ride, and accompanied him on his first tour of inspection. He had the unique experience of arriving in his command and finding the whole of the forces of the colony assembled together in the vicinity of his headquarters, Adelaide. Two more days and the scare was over. The troops dispersed to their respective districts.
It was about this time that an event happened which greatly agitated the social life of Adelaide. The wife of a Victorian country resident had arrived in Adelaide and had taken a house in the city. She was good-looking and charming. She appeared to be quite well off. Her house became a pleasant resort. She entertained well. She delighted in giving excellent supper parties. She was quite a Bohemian. Her invitations included young and old, married and single. After a short time she told her friends that she had got divorced from her husband and that she intended to make Adelaide her home for a time.
One of the leading young men fell in love with her—or at least thought he did—and went so far, she gave out, as to ask her to be his wife. It was evident to those who knew him well that if he had asked her to be his wife it had probably been after one of the jolly supper parties. At any rate, if he had done so, he soon repented and told her so. She was not to be denied, so she took steps to bring a breach of promise action against him. Not content with this, she set to work to worry him and his friends as well. In fact, she succeeded in worrying him so much that one day, in an ill-advised moment, he made a complaint to the police to the effect that the lady in question really kept a house to which they should pay special attention. The police had to take the matter up, but they found it difficult to get sufficient evidence to prove their case. Finally, one night, after one of the supper-parties, a hansom cab driver who had been ordered to call for one of the guests arrived at the house drunk and created a scene. It was the opportunity for the police and they laid a charge against her.
The case came on before the court. Evidence was given against her, and she was called upon for her defence. She quietly told the magistrate that as she had been charged with keeping a certain house she would ask for time to prepare her defence. She further said she was preparing a list of names of the married men, well known in Adelaide, who had often been her guests at her supper-parties, and that she felt sure that when the magistrate read the names on the list he would never convict her. We bachelors had a joyful time at the expense of the married men. As the case had been adjourned for three days, there was a long interval of suspense for many of them, wondering whether their name would appear in that "black list." The morning came when the case was to be resumed. To the surprise of all and the extreme joy of the married men in particular, she failed to appear in court. Inquiries were made by the police, and it was found that she had left Adelaide the previous evening. Who had made it worth her while to disappear was never known. She had, however, made out the list, which the Police Commissioner received that afternoon by post. I got a look at it myself afterwards privately, and I was wicked enough, I suppose, to be sorry that it wasn't published.
THE SOUDAN CONTINGENT
A few months later Mrs. Barr Smith proposed to open the new theatre and ballroom which had been added to Torrens Park. Private theatricals and dances were to be the chief attraction. She wished me to take the leading part in the opening play and coach the others. I knew that I would have to give more time, than I could really spare, to make it a success. Further, there was always the possibility of some untoward event happening which at the last moment might prevent me from taking my part and probably breaking up the show. My scruples were, however, overcome by my hostess's kind insistence. We set to work, and all went happily until three nights before the date on which The Jacobite was to make its first appearance. The first dress rehearsal was to take place. Clothed in our beautiful garments we had sat down, a merry party, to dinner. On the whole I was fairly satisfied with my company, and felt that with a couple more dress rehearsals it was probable that the show would be a success.
At that very moment Nemesis was ringing the hall bell. In a few minutes the butler informed me that an orderly wished to see me. In the hall he handed me an official letter, marked "Urgent and Confidential." I opened it. I have never had such a surprise in all my life. The document was a dispatch from Lieutenant Hawker, the officer in charge of the men at the Fort Largs, stating that he had given some orders to the men that afternoon and that the majority of them had refused to obey.
Here was a pretty kettle of fish! From the very day of the raising of the force some three years before there had not been a single instance of insubordination of any sort. Occasional cases of overstaying leave had been about the most serious offence that had taken place. And, lo and behold! without any warning, without the slightest suspicion that anything was wrong, here was actually a "mutiny." To leave Torrens Park at once and say good-bye to The Jacobite was my duty. I gave the butler a message for Mrs. Barr Smith, and she kindly came out of the dining-room into one of the drawing-rooms. Then I showed her the dispatch. I tried to convince her that it would be better not to postpone the performance, but to get somebody else to take up my part. As all arrangements had been completed, and the opening night was so close at hand, she thought we would get on all right if I only promised to turn up on the opening night.
There was a feeling at the back of my head that I had been devoting more time than I should have done to play. Had I not made up my mind when General Downes had told me of my first appointment to the staff that nothing should divert my thoughts from my work? The fact that the social obligations I had undertaken would necessitate frequent absences from my command should have weighed with me more. Such were my thoughts. Then there came back vividly to my mind some words of advice which my kinsman General Gordon, of Khartoum fame, had given me when I first joined at Woolwich. Talking to me one day, he told me that there were three golden rules of life which if adhered to would lead on to success. These rules were, first: "Never allow your pleasure to interfere with your duty." Second: "Never allow your duty to interfere with your pleasure." Third: "Never try to force a woman to give you anything more than she wishes." I thought of these things and decided that no matter how much annoyance I caused my good friends, there was to be no more playtime for me till I could indulge in it without any qualms of conscience as to the fulfilment of my duties. I succeeded in inducing one of the professors of the university to come to the rescue, which he bravely did, and the performance took place without me.
I reached Fort Largs late that night after a twenty-mile drive. I had made up my mind to leave the men alone till the early morning, when as soon as the time came for the early morning parade I would order them myself to fall in. They were all in the large barrack-room ready dressed when the time came for the usual early parade. I walked into the room accompanied by the lieutenant and the sergeant-major, and called out "Fall in, men"; they went straight out on to the parade ground and fell in. The back of the trouble was broken straightway. It was evident to me that its cause was in a misunderstanding, probably of a personal character, between the lieutenant and some of the older men, who had induced the younger soldiers to join them in the action they had taken, as they afterwards informed me, so as to bring matters to a head. The incident was inquired into and the evidence fully convicted the two ringleaders. They were tried by court-martial, sent to prison and dismissed from the force. So ended the first and last case of insubordination that took place during the many years that I commanded the Permanent Artillery. However, the event had been of use to me, as it had reminded me of General Gordon's golden rules.
The action taken by Sir Frederick Sargood in importing the Imperial officers to Victoria was resulting in a very considerable improvement in the military forces of that colony. They were following on the same lines as South Australia as regarded their constitution; a very much higher standard of instruction, a better supervision of detail, and competent inspection contributed to this much-desired result.
Let us see what was going on in New South Wales. The Officer Commanding the Forces was Major-General Richardson, who had been in the regular forces, had retired, and had been appointed Commandant some years previously. The organization of the military forces of "the Mother Colony" was being brought into line with that of Victoria and South Australia. The other three colonies, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, had been gradually following the lead given by the others, though, as in New South Wales, they had not as yet imported Imperial officers to take command.
Towards the close of 1884 the course of our campaign in Egypt was running anything but smoothly; in fact, the military situation was very serious and critical. Throughout the Empire a strong feeling of apprehension was rife, but it was left to New South Wales, the Mother State, to be the first of England's children to make an offer of material help. Who first conceived the idea is not recorded, but the credit of crystallizing and giving it effect belongs to the late the Hon. John B. Dalley. This was not actually the first occasion on which Australians had offered to fight alongside English regular troops, for, at the time of the Maori War in New Zealand, volunteers from New South Wales and Victoria had raised units and joined in the fighting. But such action on their part had been looked upon as only natural. New Zealand was their next-door neighbour, really a sister colony, and it was to the best interests of Australia that she should be freed from the native menace.
The offer to send troops from the southern to the northern hemisphere was quite another affair. The thought which inspired that offer could not have arisen from any feeling of selfish interest. It was really the outward sign of the affection and love for the Old Country and home inherited by the colonists. Indeed, the rising Australian generation realized what a glorious and magnificent heritage the Mother Country had so generously and freely entrusted to the care of the early pioneers, their forbears. From the day when the first Englishman set foot in Australia and the first settlement was founded, right up to the year 1884, when the offer was made, no enemy had ever threatened Australia's shores.
Australians rejoice that theirs is the only "virgin" continent in this world. From the day of its birth there had not been a drop of blood shed on its soil in the strife of war. No other country can make so glorious a boast. Yet it is true. It is not to be wondered at when, for the first time for a considerable number of years, a British army was reported to be in peril, Australia offered to share with them the burden and heat of the day. The British Government received the offer in the spirit in which it was made. It conveyed to Australians that it fully recognized the feelings of patriotism and unselfishness which had prompted the offer, and accepted it. A contingent composed of one battery of field artillery, one battalion of infantry and a field ambulance, was organized and equipped, and left Sydney Harbour in white troopships, carrying with them the best wishes of all.
As a result of communications between the South Australian and the New South Wales Governments it was decided to send two of the transports via Melbourne and Albany, with a promise that they would call at Adelaide if time permitted. Later on we heard that the troops would divert from the direct route, Melbourne to Albany, and would pass through Backstairs Passage into the Gulf of St. Vincent, continuing their journey through Investigator's Straits. They would have no time to steam up St. Vincent's Gulf to Adelaide, but they would "cry a halt" for a couple of hours, taking shelter in the smooth waters of Hogg's Bay on the north shores of Kangaroo Island.
This was as much as they could do to fulfil their promise within their scheduled time. We arranged to proceed to Hogg's Bay in the Protector to wish them good speed. The Government issued invitations for this historic trip. Then the news arrived that the troopships were timed to reach Hogg's Bay at one o'clock in the morning. Fortunately the moon was nearly at its full. The Protector, with its valuable cargo on board, including myself, left Port Adelaide in the afternoon. The Government had taken on board several tons of fruits then in season, as well as a plentiful supply of fireworks. The worthy commander of the Protector arranged the speed of the ship so as to reach Hogg's Bay just prior to the hour at which the troopships were expected. It was a glorious night, a calm sea. Presently the two white troopships loomed up in the offing, entered the shelter of the bay, and dropped anchor. There were no gun salutes, of course, but from the decks of the Protector soared hundreds of rockets. With bands playing the Protector made a tour round the anchored troopships. Cheers upon cheers rose from her decks, and, before their echoes could be heard, a thousand voices on the troopships cheered in response. Immense flares on shore lit up the sky, and the calm surface of the sea seemed as if on fire. It was an inspiring sight, and one not to be forgotten. The tour round the ships being concluded, boats were lowered from the Protector and visitors conveyed to the troopships.
Farewells took place. Though tempered by the personal regrets of those who were being left behind, their good wishes for their more fortunate comrades were genuine and straight from their hearts. One last toast, "Her Majesty the Queen"; one last song, "Auld Lang Syne." Back to our boats and on board the Protector. The noise of the windlasses weighing the anchors was heard as the last of us reached the Protector's decks. The troopships' whistles resounded deep on the midnight air. The engines pulsed; the troopships moved and gathered speed. The strains of "Rule Britannia" filled our ears, then ceased, as the white ships, phantom-like in the haze, gradually disappeared. We arrived back at Port Adelaide in time for breakfast.
We will not follow the contingent's history and its doings in Egypt, but I will quote a passage from Lord Wolseley's dispatch dated June 15, 1885:—
"The Contingent's work has been so satisfactory that I trust that the noble and patriotic example set by New South Wales may, should occasion arise, be followed by other colonies."
Lord Wolseley's hopes have been fully realized.
A TIME OF RETRENCHMENT
The term of office of General Owen began with the passing of the "Russian scare." The finances of the colony were for the time being undergoing a period of depression. Economy had to be enforced, and General Owen's first instructions from the Government were to recommend ways and means of effecting reductions to meet the decrease in the military vote. Major Jervois's period of service as adjutant-general came to an end about this time, and the Commandant was informed that it was not proposed to have him replaced by another officer from England.
It was not practicable to carry on the administration without some qualified officer to assist the Commandant with his duties. The inspections of the country units by the Commandant at least once a year were necessary under the provisions of the Defence Act. During the periods of his absence on inspection tours the presence of a qualified deputy at headquarters was necessary. To overcome this difficulty he asked me if I would undertake the duties of adjutant-general in addition to those as Officer Commanding the Permanent Artillery. My answer was that I would do my best. So it came about that in some three years from my first appointment I had reached the position of practically Second-in-Command. The fulfilment of my vision seemed to be coming more quickly than my wildest dreams ever expected.
To carry out retrenchment is ever an unpleasant and thankless job, and the first six months of our new regime was no exception to the rule. If you remember, the military forces of the colony comprised no less than four separate systems—the Regulars or Permanent Artillery, the partially paid force, the Volunteers, and the rifle clubs. Each of them was serving under different regulations. Each also had its own interests to safeguard, and each its staunch supporters. As the pruning knife began its work, so, violent opposition arose from those to whom it was being applied. Presently, as the knife kept on moving, dissatisfaction became general. The supporters of each system wished for the retrenchment of the others and the maintenance of their own. This, of course, was specially the case with the partially paid and the volunteer forces. The first claimed that, with their greater efficiency, if the numbers were somewhat increased the colony would have a more reliable force than if the Volunteers were retained. On the other hand, the Volunteers claimed that, with more instruction and drill, they could be depended on to fight all right if the necessity arose, and the saving made by abolishing the pay of the partially paid forces would accomplish all the economy desired by the Government.
Shortly afterwards the annual session of Parliament opened, with the usual "floods of talk." Members who were really concerned for the forces were up and fighting in the interests of the special system of retrenchment they advocated; the Government were disinclined to stick to their guns and insist upon the question being one for the Government to deal with. The result was the common one in such cases—the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the conduct of the forces for the past year, and make such recommendations for retrenchment as the Commission should deem advisable. With the very limited staff at my disposal the strain became very severe. In addition the Commandant's temper did not improve with these happenings. He was a bachelor, and had not the opportunities a married man has of forgetting official troubles when enjoying the comfort and happiness of his home. However, we pulled through, though the Commission sat for some considerable time, during which no amount of returns seemed to satisfy its cravings for information. The report of the Commission was by-and-by duly printed and submitted to the Government, which promised to lay it before Parliament on a suitable date for the information of Members, and after that the Government would make the opportunity for the fullest discussion by the House.
With the close of the year 1888 would come the completion of General Owen's three years' agreement with the Government. This agreement set out that at the end of three years the term of service could be further extended by two years by mutual consent.
Month after month passed away. The Commission sent in its report. When it was discussed in the House no final conclusion was arrived at. A second Commission was appointed, and by the time its report was presented to the Government and the House met, General Owen's term of three years was coming to a close. It is not to be wondered that the condition of the forces was unsatisfactory, their numbers reduced, recruiting stopped, equipment wearing out, schools of instruction held only at rare intervals. It was a disheartening time for all of us. Enthusiasm lacked, and the officers and men were sick at heart.
As it was expedient for General Owen to notify the Imperial Government as to his future movements, he thought it advisable to approach Mr. Playford, then Minister of Defence, on the subject of the two years' extension. The Hon. Thomas Playford, popularly known as "Honest Tom," had been brought up working on his father's market garden, which was situated in the hills not far from Morialta, the home of the Bakers. He was a great, tall, powerful, heavy man, much above the average size. At their interview General Owen referred to the terms of his agreement and diplomatically sought to discover whether the Government were agreeable to the two years' extension. As I have pointed out, the general's term of office had not been too happy a one. The report of the Commissions and the discussions in Parliament had given rise to a considerable amount of friction and many adverse comments in the Press. Mr. Playford pointed out to him that as Parliament was to be prorogued before Christmas he thought it advisable not to settle the question for the time being. He suggested that the general should reopen it after the prorogation. The Government would then be in recess, and as the House would not be sitting, no disagreeable questions could be raised by members. By making no final decision before the prorogation he, as Minister, was in a position, in case questions were asked, to reply that nothing had been decided, and that the matter was under the consideration of the Government. The general told me about this interview, and, talking it over, we came to the conclusion—especially as Mr. Playford had suggested to the general not to press for an answer just then—that he wished to reopen negotiations after the prorogation of the House, and that it was his intention to agree to the extension.
Parliament was prorogued. The general then sent an official letter to Mr. Playford, reopening the matter, concluding with a statement to the effect that if the Government were agreeable he, on his part, was prepared to carry on. He received no acknowledgment of his letter, but he did read next morning in the papers a statement, evidently inspired, to the effect that "the Commandant, General Owen, had notified the Ministerial head of the Department that he was willing to continue his duties for two years if the Government so desired. The Government, however, did not see their way to meet the general's wishes." I shall never forget that morning. The general came to the office in his uniform. As a rule he wore plain clothes unless he was on some special duty. I was not surprised at the state of mind he was in. The paragraph, on the face of it, and in the absence of any acknowledgment of the general's letter, and considering the tenor of their interview early in December, appeared to be in the nature of a direct insult, almost premeditated. I sent off an orderly to the Government offices with a letter from the general requesting an interview with Mr. Playford as soon as possible.
The answer came back that the Minister was ready to see General Owen at once. Off went the general. I returned to my room, sat down, lit a pipe and began to think. It was not long before I heard him return. I didn't wait to be sent for. I walked straight into his room. He was in such a temper that he could hardly speak. I felt that his interview must have been a very painful one. So it had. It had not been long. He told me the only few words that had taken place. The general appeared to have made some remark to the effect that it seemed to him that if the paragraph in the newspapers had been supplied by the Minister, or with his approval, such action was a direct insult, not only to himself personally, but also to the uniform he had the honour to wear.
The answer the general received from Mr. Playford fairly astonished me. It was something to the effect that "if the general had asked to see him to insult him, the sooner he left the room the better, or he would kick him out." Nothing would suit the general for the moment but to send for the representatives of the Press and give them an account of the interview. I succeeded in altering his mind, and suggested that he should see the Chief Justice and the Governor first, and obtain their advice as to what action he should take.
This he did, and, as far as I remember, the unfortunate incident was never made public.
The general made his plans for returning to England at once. General Owen subsequently filled many important appointments. He was selected some years afterwards as Commandant of the Colony of Queensland. He was determined to get back on the South Australians and show them that there were other people in the world who appreciated his services, even if Mr. Playford and Co. had not done so. He afterwards commanded the artillery at Malta, and for a time was Acting-Governor of the island. Later on he held the position of president of the Ordnance Committee, the most scientific committee that I know of in our service.
Years later on it fell to me to have a tussle with Honest Tom when he was Minister for Defence in the Federal Government. About this more anon.
Immediately the general informed me of his decision to leave for England, the first thought that naturally came to my mind was, "Who is going to succeed him as Commandant?" I took steps to find out whether the Government had communicated by cable to England for a successor. They had not done so. That they had not taken any action in the matter seemed to me to point to the fact that the unfortunate words uttered in the interview which had ended so unhappily had not been premeditated by the Government; otherwise, one would think, they would have taken some steps to secure a successor. I bethought myself of our old Commandant, General Downes, then secretary to Sir Frederick Sargood in Victoria. I knew personally, from conversations that I had had with him during my visits to Melbourne, that the duties he was performing were not congenial to him. I at once wrote to him confidentially, told him of the catastrophe that had overtaken us, and asked him straight whether he was willing to take up the command in South Australia again if it was offered to him. He answered, "Yes, certainly, if it is offered." I couldn't possibly approach Playford in the matter. Playford, according to the general's account, had been much too rude to my Commandant.
But there are always ways—quite straight, not crooked—of approaching those in power. Sufficient to say that the Government decided to offer the appointment to General Downes. During my conversations with those who had at the time the reins of Government in their hands it was suggested to me that I should be a candidate for the position. What an alluring prospect! Was my vision to come true so quickly? Though my work under General Owen had given him full satisfaction, and I had a good hold of all the senior commanding officers, I felt that it was too early in the day for me to accept so heavy a responsibility. I could afford to wait. Hence my suggestion to the Government to reappoint General Downes.
An interval of some two months took place from the time of General Owen's departure and the arrival of General Downes from Melbourne. During this period I was appointed Acting Commandant, and I took my seat in that very chair in which General Downes had sat on the day he told me of my first appointment. The vision had been temporarily fulfilled. It was to be confirmed later on.
The first task I set to myself as Acting Commandant was to make a very close examination into the state of our finances. The official financial year closed on June 30.
The annual continuous camps of training were held during the Easter holidays. I determined to strain every effort to hold a record camp, at which every member of the force should be present. As soon as I was satisfied that I could carry out my wishes I wrote to General Downes, asking him to arrive in Adelaide, if suitable, the day after the troops had assembled in camp for their annual training, when I would hand over the command to him. All went well. I selected a site at a place called Keswick, near the Black Forest, just west of Adelaide. It was the locality that had been fixed upon in the local defence scheme for the assembly of the troops in case of invasion. We had a full muster. The general arrived and took command. He was welcomed by the officers and men alike. My responsibilities for the time being were over.
The success of General Downes's previous term of command was a big factor in assisting him to obtain support from the Government and the public at large, and a somewhat generous increase in the military vote was made available. His first request to the Government was for the assistance of an Imperial officer as adjutant-general to relieve me from the onerous double duties I had fulfilled for three years during Owen's term of office. The Government concurred at once. A cable was sent home. Within a few days the general was notified that Major Lovett, Somersetshire Light Infantry, had been appointed and was sailing at once from London for Adelaide. On his arrival I handed over to him my duties as adjutant-general.
General Downes was fully aware of the six years' work that had fallen to my lot since the fateful January 2, 1882, the day on which he had notified me of my first appointment. He had, of course, watched from Victoria with keen interest our difficult and troublous times for the three years past.
With his usual forethought and kindness he suggested I should apply for six months' leave. I thanked him heartily and sent in my application.
It was approved.
Oh, what joy!
MY VISION FULFILLED
My voyage homewards on the Valetta was indeed a contrast to the three months spent on the good old clipper, the Waipa, on my way to New Zealand.
I had arrived in New Zealand in November, 1879, as you know, with practically nothing before me but a determined and firm resolve to make good somehow, without any assistance except that which I could give myself. Within ten years I was returning home, with a record of service of which I could be proud.
Within those ten years I had held the position of Acting Commandant of an important colony, with the temporary rank of full colonel, and was going home with the rank of major. If I had remained in the good old regiment I would have been fortunate if I had got my captaincy within that period. But what about the knowledge and experience I had gained, not only as a gunner, but as a staff officer, and, yet more, as an officer charged with grave responsibilities in the administration and command of troops, organized and maintained on lines differing totally from the hard and fast methods governing our Regular Army, but eminently suitable to the economic conditions of the healthy young colonies whose citizens were true to the core at heart in their patriotism and were ready to make many sacrifices to maintain the might of the Motherland?
For seven years my home had been in Adelaide. My friends had always cheered me on in my work. If the exuberance of youth, good health and the happiest of surroundings—all friends, and no foes that I knew of—had not made my life happy, the fault would have been my own. I am moralizing—the one thing I have been trying to avoid all through my tale. What really is in my mind is to point out to any youngster who reads this, and whose future suddenly becomes blurred and may appear hopeless, that if he relies on his own self, gives his truest instincts fair play, and determines to beat his bad luck and give to himself his best, he will more than likely succeed, as it was my good fortune to do.
Now let us get back on board the ss. Valetta, on the moonlight night when she weighed anchor off Largs Bay and I bade "adios" to the many friends who had accompanied me on board, and who, re-embarking on the Customs launch, followed the vessel down the gulf till the evening shades hid them from our sight. The five weeks spent on the Valetta on the homeward trip were indeed enjoyable. First, the weather was fine all the way. I do not think we had one really rough day. The ship was full; not an empty berth. A "land boom" was on at the time; there was plenty of money about, and most of the passengers were well-to-do men taking their families home to have a good time. Land booms I have heard described as speculations in land, owing to which men with, say, a few hundred pounds quickly become possessed of as many thousands (on paper, not in land). Presently the boom cracks, the thousands disappear. I am sorry to say that this actually happened later on to several of our passengers.
We arrived at Brindisi, and thence went overland to Calais; then Dover and good old London. What a pleasure it was to get back to the old club, stay at the old hotel, sit in the little balcony at Morley's, gaze at Nelson's monument, and walk round the old haunts! After a few days' stay in London I went home to Wardhouse.
I had undertaken only one official matter to inquire into during my absence on leave. It was to report upon the method then in vogue for the supply of warlike material to the colonies. This method was as follows. An officer, at that time General Harding-Stewart, retired, was acting as military adviser and inspector of warlike stores to the several colonies. When any of the colonies ordered rifles, guns or other requirements, he procured them in London, working on commission. No doubt he meant well, but at the time I left Adelaide there were hardly two heavy guns alike in any of the colonies. A climax had been reached when New South Wales ordered two 10-inch muzzle-loaders similar to the two which South Australia had mounted at Fort Glanville. The New South Wales guns were supplied by the same firm. They arrived in Sydney and were mounted at Middle Head Fort. I visited Sydney at the time they were being mounted, and found that their calibre differed from the South Australian guns by a fraction of an inch, so that the ammunition was not interchangeable. As a matter of fact, there were but few guns of Imperial pattern in the whole of Australia; we were armed mostly with experimental guns of private firms.