Shaun Micallef and the Pensioner Guards

Gerard Foley Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 15:01

The ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ episode about Shaun Micallef, broadcast on SBS on 27 March 2012, featured several State archives in the SRO’s collection, including particular items about the Enrolled Pensioner Force, more commonly known as Pensioner Guards. Micallef's ancestor, Patrick Sullivan, was a Pensioner Guard in WA and the episode revealed little known information about these settlers to Australia in the 19th century.

The Pensioner Guards were military men who had served as soldiers, etc, in the British Empire, seeing service in various places such as China, the Crimea, South Africa, India, Persia, New Zealand and Afghanistan. Pensioned off from the army they were given the opportunity to settle in WA. In the 1850s and 1860s they accompanied the Convicts on the ships that transported them to WA and many became warders, gaolers and police men in the colony. Most also brought their wives and children with them. Upon their arrival in WA they could continue with military duty or remain as settlers and many were granted land in various locations throughout WA.

Being British military personnel the archives that reveal their prior military service, also covering their journey to Australia, are in the National Archives UK. Most of these records have been microfilmed for the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), these microfilms being available in various State Libraries and the National Library of Australia. The AJCP records reveal that many of the Pensioner Guards came from humble backgrounds and a disproportionately high number were Irish.

The archives in the SRO about Pensioner Guards include lists of the Enrolled Guard in 1881 (Series 3638), land applications by members of the Enrolled Pensioner Force 1851-1880 (series1839) and even maps of some of the land grants made to Pensioner Guards, for example this map of part of the York Townsite drawn by FT Gregory in 1851 showing Pensioners lots.

Frank Broomhall’s book 'The Veterans', published in 1989, is a very good source of information about the Pensioner Guards in WA.


Gerard Foley, Senior Archivist