Victor Drury - Lytton Military Camps

I have already written about the encampment of 1884, at Westbrook Station, Darling Downs, and a few reminiscences of later camps at Lytton may be interesting. Colonel George Arthur French, R. A., (afterwards Sir George), came out in 1884 and with Sir Samuel Walter Griffith drafted the Queensland Defence Act of 1884, a most comprehensive measure. It provided for a permanent militia and volunteer force.

“A” battery represented the Permanent Force and was quartered at Victoria Barracks. Colonel French resided in the two storey brick house at the barracks formerly occupied by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. D. T. Seymour, and the officer in charge of “A” battery, Major Jackson, resided in the brick building formerly occupied by Chief Inspector Lewis of the Police Force.

Before the arrival of Colonel French, former volunteer commandants had been Lieutenant-Colonel John McDonnell, Under-Secretary Posts and Telegraphs Department, and father of Dr. Aeneus McDonnell, of Toowoomba, and Lieutenant-Colonel E. R. Drury, the general manager of the Queensland National Bank Limited, Major R. A. Moore, afterwards a Police Magistrate, was the brigade major, Captain Charles C. McCallum, who married a daughter of Dr. Hancock, was adjutant.

Other volunteer officers of note at the time were Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Snelling, Brisbane Manager for the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd., Major Charles Stuart Mein, solicitor, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel, and a judge of the Supreme Court; Major H. C. Stanley, chief engineer for the Queensland Railways; Major J. H. Adams, Captain F. R. Bernard of the Garrison Artillery, who was principal gaoler at Petrie Terrace, Brisbane, and Major G. H. Newman and Captain Joseph B. Stanley who were in the Engineers, Captain A. J. Thynne, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Thynne, was always attached to the volunteer branch of the service.

Captain R. H. Roe, headmaster, Brisbane Grammar School, and Lieutenant Le Vaux, of Indooroopilly State School, were in charge of the cadets. All these citizens devoted a considerable amount of time and attention to the volunteer force, and in those days there was no difficulty in keeping up the strength of the various batteries or companies.

The 1885 and subsequent yearly encampments at Lytton were held at Easter time on the hill near the redoubt. The Garrison Battery and Engineers were quartered at the Lytton Fort. The camp lasted eight days, and there was solid work put in. I was a gunner in the Brisbane Field Battery and we often came home to the camp dead tired.

The artillery officers were Lieutenant-Colonel E. R. Drury Commanding, Major F. H. Webb, Captain Foxton, and Lieutenants Houghton and F. S. Hely. The Moreton Field Battery, Ipswich, was commanded by Major R. B. Scholes, followed by Lieutenant- Colonel H. C. Stanley, and Lieutenant John Donnelly, station master at Ipswich was also one of the officers.

The Moreton Field Battery always came into camp with well trained gun teams. Being in a country district, they were able to obtain a better class of horses, than the Brisbane Field Battery, which in the early days drew its horses from the proprietors of furniture vans and caterers. Sergeant Major Thomas Foreman, of the Ipswich Workshops, was an old non-commissioned officer and another well known Moreton Field battery identity was Farrier Sergeant Mapstone.

During the late 1880s, I was attached to the Moreton Field Battery and became Officer Commanding in 1889. We were quartered at the Old North Australian Hotel and did our gun drill in the yard or streets. We fired salutes in the park at North Ipswich.

I traveled to Ipswich every Friday evening by the Sydney Mail, which then left Brisbane at 6.30pm returning by the Sydney Mail,arriving at Brisbane at 10.30pm. We also had mounted parades on alternate Saturdays.

It was during the time Mr. Patrick Perkins was Minister for Lands that the Defence Force acquired a portion of Queen’s Park, Ipswich, for military purposes, and the drill shed was erected there. Unfortunately at the first parade at the drill shed, one of our gunners fell off a limber and was accidentally killed.

Lieutenant-Colonel C. S. Mein commanded the Infantry and Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Adams was in charge of the Commissariat department. He had as quarter-masters, Captains Ackerley and A. E. Harris. Major Druitt was engineer staff officer and Major Andrew Aytoun, adjutant for volunteer and rifle clubs. Surgeon J. Irving, (Vetinarian) afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel, was always in camp from the early days.

The Mounted Infantry officers included Major Ricardo, Captain R. B. Echlin, and Lieutenants R. Spencer Browne, D. P. White, and D. A. McNeil. Lieutenant Spencer Browne had a distinguished military career and is now a brigadier, having seen service in South Africa and the Great War. I remember him at first as the war correspondent at Lytton Camp.

Captain Echlin had left Southport and his livery stables were taken over by his popular employee Tom Doherty, who for many years looked after Southport visitors either at the stables, or later on fishing excursions. Tom has passed away, but his good widow still resides in Southport.

The medical officers were Lieutenant Colonel John Thomson and Surgeons H. C. Purcell, L. Kesteven, E. Byrne and E. H. O’Doherty. Other names I recall in the 80’s at Lytton were Captains Gartside, Alfred Pain, Kinnaird Rose, Charles Jamieson, and Captain Fryar.

Easter Saturday was always a red letter day at the camp. The Governor, Ministers of the Crown, Members of Parliament, and leading citizens attended the review, and watched the sham fights. River steamers plied between Brisbane and the camp and brought crowds to see the soldiers’ relatives and friends. Many interesting and amusing incidents took place and we always looked forward to the annual camp.

It was at Lytton I first met the late Andrew Fisher when he was in camp as a sergeant with the Wide Bay regiment. Afterwards in Melbourne, we often had a chat over the old Lytton camp days. No one thought than that Sergeant Andrew Fisher would be Prime Minister of Australia. Lieutenant-Colonel Adams was a strict disciplinarian and saw that each battery or company drew their correct scale of rations.

Many an argument took place between the Colonel and the cook’s mate, who had to draw the rations, but the Colonel always won. We used to call him – not to his face- “Major-General Feedem Adams.”

At a sing-song one evening around the camp-fire, one of the boys wheeled an old shin bone into the arena and proceeded to sing “The Old Shin Bone” composed in the camp. A senior officer jumped up and ordered the soldier and his barrow to clear out as he would not allow the Commissariat Department to be held up to ridicule.

Surgeon H. C. Purcell was a very stout officer and swam around the moat at the fort every morning. On one occasion, I was selected to give him a spin. He was a fast swimmer and did the distance but weight told, and I won. The genial doctor “shouted” for my detachment.