Britain had a history of encouraging volunteer militia to strengthen their defences and in 1854, at the outbreak of Crimean War, the Victorian Volunteer Corps Act was passed. The volunteer force constituted by a citizen army of part time rifle artillery and engineer corps, which were bonded together by a sense of belonging. The men were unpaid but supplied with a uniform and a fire arm. But doubts about its efficiency and effectiveness in a war situation, led to a Royal Commission in 1875, which suggested its disbandment. But the action was postponed until the Defence Reorganisation Scheme of 1883. The Royal Commission’s suggestions resulted in the replacement of volunteer system with a militia force. The Russian attack scare of the 1885 and the proposed reorganisation by the Royal Commission, resulted in the establishment of the Rupertswood Battery in 1884.
Critical of the lack of colonial defence, Sir William John Clarke, who built the Rupertswood mansion in Sunbury formed the Victorian Nordenfedt battery of horse artillery in 1884 and maintained it at Sunbury at his own expense. It was generally known as Rupertswood Battery. In 1889, it was changed to the Victorian Horse Artillery that comprised of two half batteries. The left was stationed at Werribee Park with the Chirnside family and the right remained headquarters at Rupertswood, with the Clark family.
This unit and many others like it were initially Victoria’s only defence force and were formed to protect the young colony from the possibility of attack from the Czarist Russia. The Rupertswood Battery was made up of 50% local men and 50% Sons of Melbourne Professionals.
The Werribee detachment was dismantled in 1893. The Rupertswood battery however travelled to England in 1893 to compete in the Royal Military Tournaments at Islington and Dublin returning with many trophies. In England they formed escorts for Queen Victoria in her diamond jubilee celebrations and for the Duke of York (future King George V) at his wedding to Princess Mary of Teck. The Rupertswood Battery was dismantled in 1897, a combination of the death of William Clark and lack of Government funding.
In 1897, the Victorian Government presented Sir Williams Widow Janet, Lady Clark, two of the Rupertswood Battery’s Armstrong 12 pounder 3 inch guns as a grateful memento of her husband’s part in establishing Victoria’s defences. There are only a few in existence.
These guns were among the first of its type made of wrought iron breech loading and rifled guns in British Services.
The Guns sat at the entrance to Cliveden, Lady Clark’s City residence. In 1922, the Hon, Russel Clark presented the guns to the people of Sunbury. The army restored it in 1979.
Address: The Village Green, Sunbury VIC 3429
The Sunbury Gun is located at the Sunbury Village Green inside a glass cabin