Training youth for peace and preparing them for war

Today the Australian Defence Force Cadets (ADF Cadets) is a well-known organisation but have you ever wondered how the cadet movement began in Queensland? In 1884 William Henry Halstead was a newcomer to Queensland and, shortly after his arrival, was admitted into the public service as a teacher. There is an entry for William Henry Halstead in the Index to Teachers 1860 – 1904 which leads us to information about his appointments in the Public Instruction Department. After a few months in the colony of Queensland, William became the Head Teacher of Coorparoo School in 1884. He stayed at Coorparoo School until 1899 when he opened East Brisbane State School as its Head Teacher and retired from there in 1922 aged 65 years.

Item ID 987862 – Register of teachers
Item ID 987862 – Register of teachers

However the three Rs weren’t Halstead’s only focus. He was also a founding officer of the cadet movement in Queensland

An article in The Brisbane Courier (12 August 1911, page 5) titled “A Founder of Cadets” discusses the influence that Lieutenant-Colonel W.H. Halstead, referred to as “the father of the cadet movement in Queensland”, played in the formation of the school cadet movement. Halstead’s involvement in the establishment of the Teachers’ Volunteer Corps in 1893 helped to begin the State School Cadet Corps in 1897. He subsequently attended, as a representative of Queensland, a 1906 conference in Sydney to develop a new scheme for cadet training. The outcome of this conference was the emergence of the Commonwealth Cadet Corps.

The Education Office Gazette (August 1907, page 144) outlines the new cadet regulations that included:

  • Cadet corps may be formed in schools where there are not less than fifteen eligible boys.
  • Each boy must have the written consent of his parents or guardians to become a member.
  • No boy shall be enrolled unless he is 4 feet 6 inches in height, twelve years of age and also physically fit.

There are further details about cadets, cadet regulations, female instructors and conferences in the general correspondence of the Public Instruction Department.

Queensland State Archives Item ID997062, Correspondence
Queensland State Archives Item ID997062, Correspondence

As for Halstead, the Education Office Gazette provides many references to his work with the school cadet movement before and after the First World War. Discussed in the 1915 Executive Council Submissions and Minutes – Public Instruction Department (1915/225) was the fact that William Henry Halstead was on Military Leave from his post as Head Teacher of East Brisbane School. In the Education Office Gazette 1917, W.H. Halstead is still listed as one of the Public Instruction staff who are working with the expeditionary forces. However Halstead never went overseas, tasked with assisting military personnel in Queensland.

National Archives of Australia has a digital copy of Halstead’s military officer’s record of service – NAA: J1795, 3/177. His progression through the ranks is clear:

Captain (provisional) – 1892

Captain – 1893

Major – 1897

Lieut.-Colonel – 1908

Colonel – 1921

When Halstead retired from teaching his retirement function was covered by several newspapers. In the Brisbane Courier it was reported that the Governor’s speech acknowledged that “Colonel Halstead had rendered valuable services to his country and the Empire in the double capacity of training youth for peace and preparing them for war”.

From his will file we learn that William Henry Halstead died at his home in Ellis Street Kangaroo Point on 10 November 1950 aged 93 years.

The bourgeoning cadet system that William helped establish in the state of Queensland is now called the Australian Defence Force Cadets (ADF Cadets) and there are three branches: Australian Army Cadets, Australian Air Force Cadets and Australian Navy Cadets.

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you for this interesting article. My own grandfather, Alex Cunningham (1877-1974) was strongly influenced, I believe, by W.H. Halstead as his teacher at Coorparoo State School in 1889, and later signed up as a member of the 4th Queensland Imperial Bushmen in 1900. A comment by Captain Halstead, reported in “The Brisbane Courier” of Tuesday, 4 March 1896 page 4 refers to Halstead’s beliefs and has relevance to the blog. While attending a meeting of the Teachers’ Volunteer Corps in Toowoomba, Halstead was quoted as saying “every teacher who turned out in uniform to attend drill was going good work for the Volunteer cause. The example thus set by the teachers was bound to foster among the lads of the colony a respect for the Volunteer and Defence Forces, which would bear good results in the future. That so many “lads” volunteered from the Toowoomba Grammar School for the South African conflict a couple of years later bears testament to Halstead’s efforts.

  2. Adrian Read

    A great article summarising WH Halstead’s contribution! And a heart-warming comment from Mary. “The Colonel”, as William Halstead was known by the family, held long and positive influence for generations and well past his death. He is revered within the family. In part, he was one of the motivating factors for my own (currently ongoing) ‘militia’ service as his great-great-grandson.

    I understand WH Halstead sought to volunteer for service in the South African war, but was ‘denied’ by his wife, Sophie, due to his responsibilities to around 5 children at that stage. By the outbreak of the First World War he was too old to be considered for overseas service and instead supported the local garrison preparing troops for service.

    The Colonel lost one son on the Western Front (only one served), and 2 grandsons in the Second World War (one bomber command, one infantry), with a further serving grandson (fighter command) dying in a motorbike accident a few years after the war. The last grandson served in Vietnam and passed only 3 years ago.

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