Doubt about Australian Army’s oldest unit birthdate

Recent discussions on certain Facebook pages have suggested there’s doubt over the birthdate of Australia’s oldest, continuously-serving full-time military unit – A Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery.

FILE PHOTO (July 2010): Warrant Officer Class 2 Brett Donaldson, ‘A’ Field Battery, supervises a Danish soldier firing a Heckler and Koch grenade machine gun during a range practice at Forward Operating Base Budwan, Helmand Province Afghanistan. Photo by Corporal Raymond Vance.

These kinds of discussions can get heated in some circles and CONTACT was asked to look into whether or not there was any official doubt over the long-held and annually celebrated A Field Battery birthday – 1 August 1871.

A Defence spokesman told us there actually is some doubt and Army History Unit is looking into it.

CONTACT: Is there some conjecture over the official birthdate of A Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery?

DEFENCE: “Defence can confirm that the Australian Army, through the Royal Australian Artillery Corps and the Australian Army History Unit, has received a draft report that questions ‘A’ Field Battery’s lineage and therefore its unit’s birthday.

CONTACT: Is Army History Unit looking at a possible correction to the date and/or year A Field Battery was raised?

DEFENCE: “Army is considering the research provided in the report, and has identified that there is a need to further interrogate primary-source archival material.”

CONTACTIf the official date is corrected, is there any likelihood of a change to the official birthdate?

DEFENCE: “Army has no plans to change ‘A’ Field Battery’s anniversary.”

CONTACTSpeculation is that one Keith Glyde is researching this issue, possibly at Army History Unit’s behest. Care to comment or confirm?

DEFENCE: The Australian Army History Unit has not requested research by Keith Glyde, nor has any research been conducted at the Australian Army History Unit’s behest.


For the record, A Field Battery, raised on 1 August 1871, is Australia’s oldest, continuously-serving, full-time military unit.

But, 16 Field Battery is Australia’s oldest, continuously serving reserve unit, raised 11 years earlier, on 6 June 1860.

One caveat to this, however, is that 16 Field Battery was reduced in size to a troop in 2013, and amalgamated with Adelaide-based 48 Field Battery to form the 6th/13th Light Battery.

Sourced from Wikipedia





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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

4 thoughts on “Doubt about Australian Army’s oldest unit birthdate

  • 25/03/2020 at 1:20 am

    I think it used to be Queensland Agricultural College Training Unit before Army turfed it.

  • 22/03/2020 at 10:52 am

    FAKE NEWS!!!
    That was the headline on an email I got after promoting this story in Newsletter 115, from a man who went on to say (in giant-sized red text)…
    The Commonwealth of Australia came into being on: 1 January 1901 and that is the earliest date that the Australian Army Unit could have come into being. Prior to this date the Unit must have been a unit of one of the 6 crown colonies, [very possibly N.S.W.] that became the Commonwealth of Australia.
    In the interests of adding to the debate, I simply pass on this man’s opinion (minus the shouting, giant red lettering 😉

    • 22/03/2020 at 1:31 pm

      The New South Wales Artillery Battery was raised in 1871 and its title was changed to A Battery in 1889. In August 1899 Queen Victoria conferred the title ‘Royal’ on the permanent artillery of the New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland colonies; as a result, the Regiments became the Colonial Regiments of the Royal Australian Artillery. Yes, the Royal Australian Artillery was formed before Federation.

      • 22/03/2020 at 2:57 pm

        Thank you Chris.
        May I also rebut the ‘fake news’ by saying that neither I nor the history books ever said the units were the oldest in the Australian Army. I was very careful in writing the story to stick with the nuance that A Field Battery is “Australia’s oldest, continuously-serving full-time military unit”.


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