The Ballarat Ranger Military Museum and Kirby DSO

About Neil Leckie

Major Neil Leckie, RFD (Ret'd), commenced his military service in 1968 as a National Serviceman at the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Puckapunyal, followed by officer training at the Officer Training Unit at Scheyville, NSW. Commissioned into the Infantry Corps, he saw more than 30 years of service with the Corps. Neil Leckie is an avid military historian with publications to his credit including The Bushmen’s Rifles, a History of 22 RVR (1999) and Country Victoria’s Own, the history of the 8th/7th Battalion (2008). Neil served 10 years as the Executive Officer of 8/7 RVR before retiring in 2011. After retirement he maintained the position of Manager of the Ballarat Ranger Museum. He is also an individual member of MHHV.

The Ballarat Ranger Military Museum was opened in the old Ranger Barracks in Ballarat in 1989. One of the many pieces of memorabilia found in a recent search of the store of the museum was the fascinating poem: ‘Kirby DSO’.

THE BALLARAT RANGER MILITARY MUSEUM

The Ballarat Ranger Military Museum was opened in the old Ranger Barracks in Ballarat in 1989. The Orderly Room, as it was known, was built in 1885/6 just two years into the militia era. The Infantry Volunteers in Ballarat were originally called the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Regiment. They became the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Rangers in 1860 and the Ballarat Volunteer Rangers in 1863 when the ‘effectives’ system was introduced. Surprisingly, it was not until the centenary of the Ballarat unit in 1958 (then the 8th/7th Battalion, the North Western Victorian Regiment), that the Orderly Room, then referred to as the Drill Hall, was named Ranger Barracks.

By the year 2000 the old Ranger Barracks had outgrown its usefulness, and in a sound financial move, the Government sold both Ranger Barracks and Broodseinde Barracks in the west of Ballarat and built the new Ranger Barracks in Alfredton. The new Ranger Barracks was opened in 2003.

When the old barracks closed in 2001, the ‘museum’, technically a ‘Unit Historical Collection’ moved to a disused room in a council building in the Ballarat suburb of Sebastopol. While there was a good display area in this location, it was not a practical location for the museum.

A World War 2 ‘P1’ style hut, believed to have been moved from the Air Wireless & Gunners School at Ballarat Airport to the old Ranger Barracks, had for many years been a Q Store Hut at the barracks. This hut had become the temporary home and Q Store for the Army Cadets at Broodseinde Barracks during the construction of the new barracks. In 2005 this hut was moved to the new barracks and converted into the ‘Ranger Museum’.

The new Ballarat Ranger Military Museum was officially opened by the State Governor and Honorary Colonel of the Royal Victoria Regiment, Professor Richard de Kretser on the one hundred and fiftieth birthday of the current Ballarat Army Reserve unit, the 8th/7th Battalion, the Royal Victoria Regiment (8/7 RVR).

The museum houses a fascinating collection of memorabilia of the various units which have made up that long history of the infantry in Ballarat, along with other military memorabilia from the Ballarat District.

The museum is located at Ranger Barracks, corner of Sturt Street and Ring Road, Alfredton (2km past the Arch of Victory on the old Western Highway when heading west) and is open by appointment. Visits can be arranged by contacting the Museum Manager, Major Neil Leckie, Executive Officer, 8/7 RVR on 0400 573 802. Entry is by gold coin donation.

Open 1.00 – 4.00 pm Thursday and 9.00 – 12.00 4th Sunday

KIRBY DSO

One of the many pieces of memorabilia found in a recent search of the store of the museum was the fascinating poem: ‘Kirby DSO’.

In Collins Street, when me you meet, take off your hat – bend low.

Keep off the grass and let me pass, I’m Kirby – DSO.

I went to war to fight the Boer, plain Kirby I did go;

But shot and shell I dodged so well that now I’m DSO.

Gaze on my face – a God ‘twould grace – look at my lovely mo.

The girls all swear none can compare with Kirby – DSO.

Of men I killed – of graves I’ve filled – I never skite or blow;

But Bob’s success was due, no less, to Kirby – DSO.

I chased De Wet – he’s running yet – caught Botha – let him go.

And De la Rey did run away from Kirby – DSO.

Colonials all, both great and small, are cowards, mean and low.

The only man that’s worth a damn is Kirby – DSO.

In Collins Street, when me you meet, take off your hat – bend low.

Keep off the grass and let me pass, I’m Kirby – DSO!

Lieutenant Mark Thomas Anthony Kirby was born at Knightsbridge, London, on 4 February 1874, the son of Mark Dalton Kirby, late of Windsor. He was educated at Windsor, and at eighteen joined the Victorian Horse Artillery (Rupertswood Battery; Sir William J Clarke, Baronet).

At twenty-three he joined the Victorian Field Artillery Brigade and on 28 December 1899 was selected as one of the officers for the 2nd Victorian Contingent for service in South Africa. He served in the South African War, 1900-2; took part in the main advance under Earl Roberts, through Colesberg, Orange Free State and the Transvaal and was promoted to Captain on the field (23 October 1900); received his discharge from the 2nd Victorian Contingent on 9 May 1901 and rejoined the Field Artillery Brigade.

Captain Kirby returned to South Africa in command of a squadron of the 2nd Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse. He was present at the operations in the Orange Free State, including actions at Houtnek (Thoba Mountain), Vet River and Zand River. He also served in operations in the Transvaal in May and June 1900, including actions near Johannesburg, Pretoria and Diamond Hill as well as in operations in the Transvaal, east of Pretoria, including action at Belfast, and in Cape Colony.

He was Mentioned in Despatches, received the Queen’s Medal with six clasps (Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, SA 1901), and was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order ‘In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa’. The insignia were sent to the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, and presented there. Captain Kirby served as ADC to Major General Sir E T Hutton.

The Argus reported in 1913 that Major Kirby, who was for a long time associated with the field artillery, has been transferred to the unattached list.

Officers of the 2nd (Mounted Rifles) Contingent to South Africa, 1900.

Back: Lt. T. A. Umphelby, Lt. E. S. Norton, Lt. R. S. S. Bree, Lt. J. L. Lilley, Lt. T. H. Sergeant, Lt. E. O. Anderson.

Centre: Col. T. Price, Capt. D. H. Jenkins

Front: Lt. G. O. Bruce, Lt. M. T. A. Kirby, Lt. T. F. Umphelby

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