Home' Army News : March 3rd 2011 Contents Army ANNIVERSARY L
ON MARCH 1 the Australian
Army celebrated its 110th
birthday. The Army has
become one of the most
respected national insti-
tutions in existence and has a richly
deserved reputation for courage, loyalty,
responsiveness, flexibility and effective-
ness. This has not always been the case.
Although Army's formal birthday is
the date on which the new Commonwealth
Government formally assumed responsibil-
ity for the defence of the newly created
Commonwealth of Australia, the reality
of those early years was a nation split by
factionalism, suspicion and residual state
The very Act of Parliament necessary to
create the Army, the Defence Act, did not
pass through Parliament until 1903 and did
not come into effect until 1904.
Its passage was delayed by some mem-
bers of Parliament (MPs) who, being sup-
porters of Irish independence, were con-
cerned the new Australian Army would
be part of a grand Imperial force used for
Imperial (ie. British) purposes.
Others felt the presence of the Royal
Navy made an army unnecessary. Yet others
were concerned that the establishment of a
professional army would threaten democ-
It is almost impossible to imagine some
of the concerns expressed at the time.
James Hume Cook (Protectionist Party)
railed against "'the octopus of militarism",
whose spreading tentacles threatened to
spread in all directions "and grasp with a
power that may eventually crush us."
Labor parliamentarian William Morris
Hughes rejected even a small permanent
force of troops because "while wretchedly
inadequate to repel a foreign invader [it]
is sufficiently strong to overawe on some
occasions -- perhaps on many -- the citizen
in his pursuit of constitutional reform or in
the maintenance of civil right and liberty".
Fortunately, none of these early con-
cerns proved to be sound reasons for delay-
ing the process.
The concern over the use of an inde-
pendent Australian Army did, though,
have an impact on the first 50 years of the
The uncomfortable fact that the Army's
two greatest challenges -- World Wars I and
II -- had to be fought by specially raised,
all-volunteer war-only forces was due
entirely to the restrictions put into the 1903
Defence Act by suspicious MPs.
Despite the views of some of the poli-
ticians of the time, the idea of an Army
was very popular with much of Australian
Before Federation, each of the colonies
had a colourful collection of militia and
volunteer units (of questionable military
Despite this, these volunteers brought
with them the traditions of dedication and
enthusiasm, which became established in
the new Army and have become character-
istics of our Army today.
Army historian RO
Service's origins an
Tools of the trade -- past and present
REPLACING the SMLE was the
L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR), the
Australian version of the Belgian FN
Produced at the Small Arms
Factory, Lithgow, it entered into
service with the Australian Army in
It used a NATO 7.62mm round
and was the standard personal
weapon for Australian soldiers in the
The L1A1 was a reliable and
hard-hitting semi-automatic rifle.
Former soldier LCpl Gregory
Sapper was conscripted into the
National Service in 1966 and served
as an infantryman until 1968.
Mr Sapper used the SLR in
Vietnam and said it packed a punch.
"The SLR would go right through
a tree," Mr Sapper said.
"I found it to be very reliable; it
performed really well in the wet."
The L1A1 is still in service today
for ceremonial use by Australia's
THERE is no other rifle that
occupies such a deep place in
the perceptions of an Australian
soldier as the No. 1 Mk III, Short
Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE).
From the beaches of Gallipoli
to the jungles of New Guinea, the
SMLE distinguished itself by its
ruggedness, rate of fire and stop
Introduced in 1907, the SMLE
est bolt-action battle rifles ever
designed and was easily capable
of achieving 15 rounds-a-minute
of accurate fire when in the hands
of a skilled soldier.
ed in the infantry in
transferring to ordnance in 1953
and ultimately discharging in 1984.
Mr Lewis used the .303 during
his time in the military.
"It was very reliable in a con-
tact situation, the only stoppage
you had was a bent cartridge,
and if you were going into action
you had one in the breach with the
safety catch on."
The SMLE is still a popular
weapon for sporting shooters and
THE ADF's standard individual weapon
is now the F88 Austeyr which replaced
the L1A1 in the late 1980s.
The robust weapon is a derivative
of the Austrian Steyr AUG STG-77
assault rifle and is manufactured under
licence by Thales Australia (formerly
Australian Defence Industries).
When introduced, the F88 made its
name for its reliability, good ergonom-
ics and decent accuracy. It was the first
personal weapon to have an integral
scope, which vastly improved most sol-
diers shooting results.
Cpl Robert Matheson, who enlisted
in the Army in 2006 and is posted to
the School of Infantry in Singleton, said
the F88 Austeyr was mostly a
weapon if looked after.
"In my experience, most stoppages
that occur on the Steyr are the opera-
tor's fault due to them not maintaining it
properly," Cpl Matheson said.
"In saying that, the F88 sometimes
does have stoppages because it has
so many working parts.
"I have never had a stoppage in a
contact that I couldn't rectify quickly.
Frontline combat units now use the
F88S-A1 version with an integrated
Picatinny rail in place of the integrated
optic sight, which allows the attach-
ment of night vision devices and optics.
No. 1 Mk III, Short
Former SSgt Ron Lewis enlist-
h infa ntry in 1951 before
which didn't happen very
"The magazine held
e going in
Short Magazine Lee Enfield
Mk III Short Magazine Lee Enfield
ostly a reliab
Army lifestyle allowed me to gain new skills, make amazing friends, see
all parts of Australia and have a sense of belonging.
PTE YASMIN HAMPTON, DARLING DOWNS DENTAL SERVICES
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