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    Army Museum of NSW - Henry Green

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.

Henry Green - Pillbox Hat

24th January 1830. 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 South Wales.

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 Wales Artillery.5

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.

night exercise

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.

Henry Green's Medals

1896 – 1918. Henry Green retired from the New South Wales Artillery in November 1896 with the honorary rank of second lieutenant.9

Henry Green

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 years.11

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 them all.

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’ military service.

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 – said yesterday,

"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 Victoria Barracks. 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 [2016], 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 website.

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 Biography).

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


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