The Australian Army Infantry Museum (AAIM) is the custodian of Infantry Corps history and its customs and traditions. The Museum collection ranges from the colonial armies and their first deployments overseas in the nineteenth century through to today’s twenty first century diggers.
By the time a national School of Musketry was founded in 1911 to replace its colonial and state counterparts, Australians had already fought in several wars earning honours such as “Suakin 1885” and “South Africa 1899 – 1902”. Nevertheless, there was no museum to collect and preserve the Infantry experience of war. The School of Musketry’s first Commandant, Major F. B. Heritage, sought to rectify this. He donated a portion of his personal collection of firearms to the school, which formed the foundation of the School’s Small Arms Collection.
Until his departure in 1922, Major Heritage continued to expand and widen the scope of the collection. In 1921, Lieutenant Latchford, then serving on the staff of the School, secured a quantity of weapons from the Australian War Memorial, consisting of machine guns, grenades and revolvers of Great War vintage, including a number of captured enemy weapons.
With the departure of Major Heritage in 1922 the development of the collection continued under the direction of Lieutenants Latchford and Edwards. Two of the galleries in the new museum are named “Heritage” and “Latchford” in recognition and appreciation of their efforts.
Second World War
Only a few additions to the collection were made during the Second World War. Major J. E. M. Hall, whilst attending a small arms technical course in the United Kingdom, managed to interest the authorities in the school’s collection and as a result, secured a valuable and extensive variety of weapons of Second World War origin.
After 1945, the collection continued to grow into a comprehensive collection of military pistols, rifles, sub machine guns, light machine guns, machine guns, anti-tank weapons and mortars. The museum also acquired a number of prototype and trials weapons with many of these being some of the rarest weapons within the collection.
In 1965, the collection was redesignated the Royal Australian Infantry Corps Museum when the patron, the then General Officer Commanding Eastern Command, Major General T. Daly officially opened the Museum at Ingleburn, New South Wales. The “Daly” building bears his name.
Relocation to Singleton 1973
The Museum was relocated, to Singleton, New South Wales, with the Infantry Centre in late 1973 and officially opened on 15th March 1974, by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler VC. In December of 1998, the Museum came under the command of the Army History Unit and is now an integral part of the Army Museums Network.
The museum serves as a mirror to the corps. It is a place where young soldiers can learn about the history behind the names they are familiar with from high school or perhaps about the military service of a family member. Gallipoli, Passchendaele, Kokoda and Long Tan are all bought to life along with less familiar deployments like the New South Wales Marine Light Infantry deployment to Peking in 1900 or the platoon from 2nd/4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment led by Lieutenant Biederman that helped to keep the peace in Cambodia in 1993.
The display space is divided into two main spaces. The lower floor features exhibitions focuses on the history of operations, from Sudan in 1885 through to our current deployments such as Afghanistan today.
The mezzanine level features the ‘tools of the trade’, that is, the small arms and their associated training aids, how they have changed and developed and how these changes have influenced the tactics, techniques and procedures of the Regiments and Battalions of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps.
Above photographs by John Gollings