1889 Our Defenders - Victorian Mounted Rifles Scouts


A beautiful print from 1889 by George Rossi Ashton, depicting a scouting group of the Victorian Mounted Rifles.

An illustration from the "Illustrated Australian News" of 1889. The artist was George Rossi Ashton (1857-1942). Ashton was born in England and emigrated to Australia in 1879. A painter and illustrator, he covered many topical events of the period including the capture of Ned Kelly in 1880. He worked for the 'Illustrated London News', the 'Illustrated Australian News' and, from 1888 to 1893, as staff artist for the 'Bulletin'. The younger brother of Julian Rossi Ashton, he returned to England in 1893 with his wife (Blanche Brooke, daughter of George Coppin) and their two sons.

The Victorian Mounted Rifles (VMR) was a regiment composed of Australian forces that went on to serve in the Second Boer War. These men were experienced horse handlers and usually very handy with firearms.

It is interesting to note that the soldiers are wearing an early version of the slouch hat, which was first introduced into the Australian military uniform when the Victorian Mounted Rifles was formed in 1885 by Colonel Thomas Price. In 1890 the various colonies of Australia met to agree on a standard for military uniforms, and the slouch hat was adopted as an official hat for all Australian infantry forces, except for the artillery. Victorian and Tasmanian forces would wear the hat with the right brim held up by a clip or badge (as depicted in this print), with the other states having the brim up on the left. When Federation occured in 1901 the slouch hat was standardised with the left brim folded up and became the official Australian Army hat.

The Victorian Mounted Rifles served (along with many other contingents from the other Australian colonies, as well as many other British Empire forces) during the second Boer War (1899-1902). The experience and training that these troops gained during this conflict proved invaluable when Australia was called on a decade later to help restore peace to the world.

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The notes from the State Library tell us that this image is of "Mounted Rifles Scouts and is a copy of a print published in supplement to the Illustrated Australian News April 6th, 1889."

This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the State Library of Victoria. All prints are reproduced without the HOTPRESS watermarks.

Our team of conservators have worked on a high resolution digital image in order to remove blemishes and artifacts such as stains, mould, scratches and damage caused by the handling of the original. We strive to provide authentic representations of the original work that are suitable for enlargements that retain the tones and character of the original.

All text © HotPress

[1] Wikipedia - Victorian Mounted Rifles

[2] Australian War Memorial - The Slouch Hat

Collections: Australians At War

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