12 Feb 2019

Forming a Cadet corps at Newington

Almost 150 years ago the first step was taken towards the foundation of the Newington College Cadet Unit.

The minutes of the meeting of the College Council on 26 February 1869, held at the Methodist Book Depot in George Street, Sydney, record that:

‘On the subject of forming a Cadet corps at Newington, the President was requested to obtain information as to the working of their organization in Meth [sic] schools.’

Nothing further is recorded in minutes of the Council’s meetings until the formation of the Corps in August 1869. We must assume that the President of the College, the Reverend Joseph Horner Fletcher, carried out the investigation and made the necessary arrangements in the intervening months.

At the time of the Council’s request, there were only two school-based Cadet corps in New South Wales. The first had been founded in 1866 at St Mark’s Collegiate School, Macquarie Fields. In 1868 St Mark’s became the re-established King’s School, moving to Parramatta at the end of the year — King’s had closed temporarily in 1864 — and its Cadet unit formally became the King’s School Cadet Corps in August 1868. The second corps had been founded in 1868 at Camden College, a Congregational school in Enmore. Meanwhile, a composite corps based on a number of schools had been formed in Melbourne in 1867, though it was short-lived.

The terse report in the minutes gives no indication of the Council’s motivation. As at many other schools, drill was already taught at Newington, with our first drill master having been appointed in 1865. Drill was regarded as a valuable form of physical education and character building. A Cadet corps was likely seen as a means of furthering these goals.

A Cadet corps would also enable the establishment of a new school sport: rifle shooting. Thus we will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of that sport later this year.

The new Cadet corps were also part of a larger picture. Since the Crimean War, fear of Russian attack had stimulated the formation of volunteer units across the Australian colonies. At the same time, the British military presence was reduced, leading to the decision to remove the last Imperial troops in 1870. Thus providing schoolboys with military training was regarded as a means of preparing for the future defence of the Colony and the Empire.

To mark the sesquicentenary of the start of our Cadet Unit, a history is being prepared. Authored by Old Newingtonian and former teacher, Cadet and Cadet officer, Peter Hipwell (ON 1964), it will tell the story of this great Newington institution.

David Roberts
College Archivist


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