Objects of special interest – Pillbox Cap.
The object photographed below is a 19th century "Pillbox" cap named after small
cylindrical containers in which medical pills were once sold. The cap is included in the
Museum's colonial exhibition.
The owner of the cap was Henry Green, a former British Army soldier who in 1871 was
the first person to enlist in the New South Wales Artillery.
C1829. The son of John Green and his wife Eleanor, Henry was born at Seaford, East
Sussex on the south coast of England.1
1847. A labourer by occupation and by then aged 18 years, Henry Green enlisted in the
British Army on 1st December 1847 at Eastbourne, East Sussex. He enlisted as a gunner
in the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
1854 - 1860. The military service record for Henry Green shows that he spent five months
abroad in the "Expedition to the East", that is, during British operations against Russian
forces in the Crimea. The British operations were from September 1854 to March 1856.
After six years as a gunner, Henry Green was promoted on 21 January 1854 to the rank
of bombardier. His next promotion was to corporal on 9th May 1855 and then to sergeant
on 26 January 1856. He remained a sergeant until his discharge from the British Army
almost 13 years later.
From September 1857 to February 1860 Henry Green served at Bombay, now Mumbai,
in western India. Part of this period included the Indian rebellion against domination of
large parts of India by the British East India Company.2
1861. The United Kingdom Census for 1861 shows that Henry Green, Sergeant, Coast
Guard Brigade [Coast Brigade, Royal Artillery] and then aged 31 resided at Cardiff,
Glamorganshire in Wales with his wife, Susan Green, born C1832 at Marylebone, London.
1868 - 1871. Henry Green was discharged from the British Army on 15th December 1868
at Swansea on the south-west coast of Wales. Swansea was also recorded as his
intended place of residence after discharge. Later, he and his family migrated to New
1871 – 1874. On 1 August 1871 the Governor of New South Wales proclaimed the
raising and embodying of a Permanent Military Forces battery of artillery to be known as
the New South Wales Artillery and two companies of infantry to be known as the New
South Wales Infantry.3
The first soldier to enlist in the New South Wales Artillery was Henry Green who was
appointed as Battery Sergeant Major with the rank of Staff Sergeant.4 He was the only
senior member of the battery with previous experience as a gunner.
Initially located at Dawes Point adjacent to where the south pylon of the Sydney Harbour
Bridge now stands, the artillery battery later became known as 'A' Battery, New South
The first guns used by the battery were four brass 9-pounder SB (smooth
bore) guns and two 24-pounder howitzers.6
Although having a field artillery role, the main task of the New South Wales Artillery during
its first three years was to install heavy guns for the defence of Sydney Harbour.
1876 – 1877. In 1876 an additional battery was established to form an artillery brigade,
with Henry Green as the Brigade Sergeant Major. In 1877 a third battery was also
established as part of the brigade.
1885. On 3 March 1885 a contingent of two infantry battalions and a battery of artillery
of the New South Wales Military Forces embarked at Sydney to join a British expeditionary
force in the Sudan to fight rebel Sudanese forces.
The embarkation marked the first time an Australian colony would send a military force
overseas. Warrant Officer Henry Green was among those who embarked.
The contingent disembarked at the Red Sea port of Suakin in north-eastern Sudan on
29 March 1885. Although drilled for its intended role, the artillery battery did not engage
the enemy and the whole British force was withdrawn from the Sudan in May 1885. The
New South Wales contingent arrived back in Sydney on 19 June 1885.7
1887. On 24 August 1887 Susan Ellen Green (d.1912), daughter of Henry and Susan
Green, married William Holmes (1862 – 1917)8 at St Mathias Anglican Church, Paddington, New South Wales.
1896 – 1918. Henry Green retired from the New South Wales Artillery in November 1896
with the honorary rank of second lieutenant.9
In retirement, he resided in Mill Hill Road, Waverley (now Bondi Junction), just 3 km east
of Victoria Barracks, Sydney.
Henry Green passed away at his residence on 30 May 1918, aged 89 years.10
The following year, on 7th November 1919, his wife, Susan also passed away at the age of 89
Both are interred at Waverley Cemetery.
On the high ground in the south-eastern sector of Victoria Barracks, Sydney are two
Norfolk Island pine trees planted in 1952.12
One of the trees commemorates Henry Green and the other commemorates his son-in-law, William Holmes.
In 1975 Henry Green's grand-daughter, Ida Colbourne Green (1902 – 1991), donated his
"Pillbox" cap, medals, a technical notebook, a personal record book and a photograph of
him to the museum.
A newspaper article headed “Museum gets oldest soldier’s memorabilia” by journalist
James Cunningham provides a fitting conclusion:-
"He was the oldest NSW soldier of
When the roll was called up yonder in
Victoria Barracks in August, 1971
Sergeant-Major Henry Green was,
literally, number one.
That was his number in the State’s
first permanent military force, raised
when the last troops of the old British
garrison departed Sydney, leaving
behind them a faint fragrance of rum.
Sergeant-Major Green of the Artillery
finally faded away in 1918. He got a plot
in which to rest in Waverley Cemetery.
And his family got his black-and-gold
pillbox headgear, a splendid photograph
of the 187 cm sergeant-major on
horseback, his technical notebook and
his proud Personal Record of 50 years’
Yesterday, Miss Ida Green, 73 year old
grand-daughter of Sergeant-Major
Green, gave the whole collection to the
Australian Army’s Sydney headquarters
in Victoria Barracks.
Along with ancient swords, uniforms,
medals, letters, record books – and the
reputed ghost of an old soldier – they will
form part of a military museum in the
long-unused jail at the barracks.
Miss Green, who lives in Mill Hill
Road, Bondi Junction – in a house next
door to that once occupied by her grandfather –
"I remember the sergeant-major well. He was a huge man with whiskers.
I am quite certain that he would be
happy to know that his things were going
back to the Army that he loved.”
Sergeant-Major Green served for 20
years in the British Army before he came
to Australia. His son-in-law was MajorGeneral
Holmes – after whom General
Homes Drive was named – who was
killed in World War 1.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Swifte,13
Chief Army Public Relations Officer in
NSW, is organising the museum. When it
opens next year it will tell the story of
He said: "I’m delighted to get the
oldest soldier in our collection. It wouldn’t
have been complete without him."14
1. British Army service record for Henry Green which is also the source for mention in the
main notes of all personal occurrences affecting him as a British soldier.
Seaford Monumental Inscriptions Group website (St Leonard’s Anglican Church Burial
Ground, Section ‘A’) for the names of Henry Green’s parents.
2. Note on Sudan Nominal Roll - Australian War Memorial website.
3. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 9th August 1871, p. 6).
4. Military Forces in New South Wales: an introduction, Part 1, 1788 – 1904, 3rd edition
(edited by Ralph Sutton, Ken Thompson and Bill Storer), the Army Museum Sydney
Foundation, p. 45. Also, Richard Cubis, A History of 'A' Battery New South Wales Artillery
(1871-1899), Royal Australian Artillery (1899-1971), Sydney, p. 17.
5. In 1899 'A' Battery New South Wales Artillery became 'A' Battery, New South Wales
Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. (National Library of Australia - TROVE, The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW,
8th September 1899, p. 3).
Today , the sub-unit is known as 'A' (Gun) Battery, 1st Regiment, Royal Regiment of
Australian Artillery and is based at Enoggera, a north-western suburb of Brisbane,
Queensland and is the oldest organisation in the Australian Regular Army. The battery is
equipped with M777A2 lightweight towed howitzers. (Australian Army)
6. A Field Battery Association – Newsletter October 2008, p 9. The Royal Canadian
Artillery Museum photographic gallery provides a very good image of and details for the
9-pounder SB gun.
7. The Sudan (New South Wales Contingent) March-June 1885 – Australian War Memorial
8. William Holmes resided with his family at Victoria Barracks, Sydney until his marriage to
Susan Ellen Green in 1887.
A citizen soldier who rose to the rank of major general and who commanded the 4th
Australian Division during the First World War, William Holmes died on 2 July 1917 from
wounds caused that day by German artillery fire. At the time, General Holmes was
escorting the Premier of New South Wales, William Holman (1871 – 1934) on a tour of
the Messines battlefield in West Flanders province, Belgium. (Australian Dictionary of
9. National Library of Australia - TROVE. (The
Evening News, Sydney, NSW, 23rd November 1896, p. 5).
10. National Library of Australia - TROVE.
(The Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 31st May 1918, p. 4).
11. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 8th November 1919, p. 12).
12. National Library of Australia – TROVE. (The
Australian Women’s Weekly, 6th August 1952, p. 15).
13. Lieutenant Colonel Lenthal Burnum (Tim) Swifte (1924 – 1986).
14. The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 9th October 1975, p. 10.
Prepared by: K.J. McKay, July 2016