“Primus Agat Primas” – First always First

NSW Defence Forces -NSW Detatchment to Sudan – Motto “Primus Agat Primas” 1885 Black over Green

1st Regiment NSW Volunteer Infantry 1890 – Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Green

1st Australian Infantry Regiment 1900 – 1912. Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Green

1st Australian Infantry Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division AIF 1914 – 1918. Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Greena

1st Infantry Battalion, East Sydney Regiment 1930 – 1942. Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Green

2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion, 16th Brigade, 6th Division AIF, 1939 – 1945. Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Green

1/19th Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment. Motto “Primus Agat Primas”. Black over Green


The ancestry of the 1st Battalions can be traced back to the formation of the 1st NSW Volunteer Rifles in 1854. This unit was raised as a direct response to the Crimean War and the possibility of action by Russia against Australian interests. The uniform was a dark green jacket with black facings and black shoulder straps and the trousers of dark green with a bold black stripe. The unit motto was “Primus Agat Primas”. The Regiment was presented with its first Colours by Lady Young and the Ladies of Sydney on the 18th May 1861. Numbers were low due to little interest by the public until 1869 and the Maroi Wars when the unit was renamed “The Sydney Battalion”. Continuous training was first conducted in 1873 in the Richmond area and then later in the Campbelltown area.

A group of volunteer soldiers of the 1st Regiment New South Wales Rifle Volunteers, also known as the Sydney Battalion, formed up in a hollow square on the Victoria Barracks parade ground. The soldiers are all wearing uniforms of Melton Stone Grey Cloth and Infantry Shako’s (hats). The colour of the facings on the sleeves of the jackets identified individual companies. The soldiers are holding the Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle, Third Model, with the Pattern 1853 socket bayonet fitted to the rifle. Inside the hollow square the officer on the left is holding his sword, an 1827 Pattern Rifle Officers Sword which has been drawn from the scabbard. The mounted officer, who is obscured as his horse has moved, is probably the Commanding Officer Major Thomas W. Wingate, and the officer on the right is holding the Regiment’s new colours. The colours were presented to the Regiment by Lady Young, the wife of the newly appointed Governor of NSW, on 18 May 1961, five days before this photograph was taken. The soldier on the end of the right hand arm of the hollow square is a Sergeant Major in the British regular Army, he is wearing a red jacket over blue trousers and a British Infantry Shako. He is probably attached to the Regiment as an instructor. Behind and to the right can be seen a small section of British regular soldiers, possibly the 12th Regiment of Foot.. This albumen print is signed and dated by the photographer, “T. Wingate fecit, May 24/61”. The photographer is probably also the Commanding Officer of the Regiment, and an acknowledged amateur photographer. (Original print held in the collection of the AWM)


Payment for part-time volunteers was approved in 1878 and the Sydney Battalion became part of the “1st Regiment NSW Infantry”. Sub units were raised at Goulburn, Wagga Wagga, Mudgee and Moss Vale. In 1885, a detachment of one officer and seventy five other ranks from the 1st Regiment sailed with the “New South Wales Contingent” for the Sudan and as a result the battle honour “Suakin 1885” was awarded to the 1st Regiment.

The New South Wales Detatchment at the quay, Sydney. AWM

1st Infantry Battalion 1893

1st Infantry Battalion 1893

Twelve officers and ninety one other ranks from the 1st Regiment were part of the force sent to South Africa in 1899. Major Watson, an officer of the 1st Regiment, was the officer who demanded the surrender of Pretoria. The battle honour “South Africa 1899 – 1902” was awarded to the 1st Regiment.


Before federation in 1901 each state (colonies) maintained their own defence force. After federation these forces were merged into the Australian Army and the 1st Regiment became the 1st Australian Infantry Regiment. In 1905 the Governor General Lord Northcote (Honorary Colonel of the Regiment) presented the Colours to the 1st Regiment.

1st Australian Infantry Regiment


At the outbreak of World War 1 many of the experienced officers and men of the 1st Regiment served in the AIF and in particular the 1st Brigade. The history of the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion contains the names of many soldiers who served in the South Africa campaign of 1899 – 1902. The 1st Battalion fought at Gallipoli and in Europe and earned many battle honours but at a very high cost. The Victoria Cross was awarded to three men of the 1st Battalion. They are:

Lt L Keysor, 7th – 8th August 1915, Lone Pine, Gallipoli Turkey
Capt A J Shout, 9th August 1915, Lone Pine, Gallipoli Turkey
Cpl G J Howell, 6th May 1917, Bullecourt, France

1st Battalion casualties were:

Original Battalion strength: Officers 32, Other Ranks 1013 (departing Sydney 18th Oct 1914).
During its 4 1/2 years of active service, 286 officers and upwards of 6,000 other ranks passed through the battalion.

Its total casualties were: 49 officers and 1116 other ranks killed and 111 officers and 2052 other ranks wounded.


In the years between WW1 and WW2 the “1st Battalion East Sydney Regiment” continued training and in 1937 Sydney adopted by charter the Battalion as the “City of Sydney Regiment”. At the outbreak of WW2 the full title was “1st Battalion City of Sydney Regiment”. The 2nd AIF was raised at the outbreak of the war in 1939 and many of the officers, NCOs and men joined up immediately. Many transferred into the 2/1st Battalion, 16th Brigade, 6th Division where they became instructors, officers and NCOs because of their experience.

The 2/1st Battalion adopted the motto of the First NSW Volunteer Rifles, “Primus Agat Primas” and served with distinction in North Africa (Bardia–Tobruk), Greece, Crete (Retimo), Libya, Kokoda, Gona and Aitape-Wewak and were still engaging the enemy when the war ended in August 1945.

2/1st Battalion casualties were:

Battalion strength: officers 42, other ranks 850.
Killed: 263
Wounded: 418
POW: 350 Approx (Battle of Crete – Retimo)

The badge of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps 1949 – 1953

The badge of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps 1953

The badge of the Australian Military Forces 1948 – 1953

The badge of the Royal Australian Regiment 1949 – 1953

The badge of the Royal Australian Regiment 1953

The title “Royal” was granted to the Corps by King George VI and promulgated in ARO 1/49, dated 15th January 1949.


His Majesty The King has been graciously pleased to give his approval to the prefix “Royal” being appended to the title of the Australian Regiment, Royal Australian Infantry Corps. The designations of units of the Royal Australian Regiment will in future be as follows;

1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment

Dated 10th March 1949


Australia raised a force of three battalions in 1945 to be a part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan. They were originally known as the 65th, 66th and 67th Infantry Battalions and were raised from Australian divisions of the 2nd AIF on active service in Borneo and New Guinea. The 65th battalion (1 RAR) was drawn from the 6th and 7th Divisions and was formed on the 12th October 1945. These battalions were re-named the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Australian Regiment on the 23rd November 1948. The prefix Royal was granted to the Infantry Corps on 15th January 1949 by King George VI. The title Royal was granted to the Regiment on the 10th March 1949.

From 1946 to 1948 the Battalion saw service in Japan as part of the BCOF. The Battalion moved to Ingleburn, Australia on the 22nd November 1948.

1 RAR served in Korea in 1952 – 1953 with the loss of 43 killed and 107 wounded returning to Australia on the 24th March 1953 and was reinforced and continued training at the Enoggera Barracks Brisbane. In 1954 1 RAR returned to Korea and for the next two years was part of the peacekeeping force returning to Australia in April 1956.

Service in Malaya during 1959 – 1961 saw 1 RAR on the Thai / Malay border and returned to Australia on the 29th October 1961.

After training in Gallipoli Barracks Holsworthy, 1 RAR served in Viet Nam (1965/66 and 1968/69).

1 RAR served in Malaysia / Singapore 1969 – 1971 and on returning to Australia moved in to Lavarack Barracks Townsville. The Governor General, His Excellency Sir John Kerr, AK, GCMC, KStJ presented the new Colours to the battalion in July 1976.

From 1976 to 1980 the battalion was involved in major exercises and contributed greatly to disaster relief operations in the North Queensland area. The battalion became part of the Operational Deployment Force under the command of Lt Col B Caligari.

The Fiji crisis in May 1987 saw 1 RAR on operational stand-by to assist the evacuation of Australian nationals from the islands. “B” Coy was deployed on the HMAS Tobruk but not called upon to assist.

The battalion supplied a Royal Guard detachment to England as a part of the Bi-Centennial celebrations in 1988. New Colours were presented by the Governor General, The Right Honorable Sir Ninian Stevens, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE on the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Coral.

The United States Meritorious Unit Commendation for service in Vietnam as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (1965-66) was awarded to the battalion on 4th July 1990.

The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation was awarded to 1 RAR in 2015.

The battalion has also served in Somalia, Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and as peacekeepers in many parts of the world.

1st Battalion, The East Sydney Regiment – 1854
1st Regiment of NSW Infantry – 1878

1st NSW Contingent to the Sudan – 1885 – Battle Honour Sudan

1st Australian Infantry Regiment – 1901

1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division AIF 1914-1919 WW1 Battle Honours include Herbertshohe 1914

1st Battalion East Sydney Regiment – 1922
1st Battalion, City of Sydney Regiment – 1937
2/1 Battalion, 16th Brigade, 6th Division AIF 1939-1945 WW2 Battle Honours
1st Battalion Royal New South Wales Regiment (old city of sydney) – 1952/53
1st Battalion and 19th Battalion RNSWR were combined to form the 1/19th Battalion RNSWR – 1967

65th Battalion (BCOF) 1945 – 1948 – 1st Battalion Australian Regiment (BCOF) 1948-1949
1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment 1949 – Today based in Townsville – 1 RAR


The “First Battalion AIF Association” was formed in the early 1920s when the surviving members of the 1st Battalion AIF gathered to meet and renew old friendships (mainly officers) and concluded the whole battalion should be involved. In 1923 the first official meeting was held in Sydney on the 18th October (this was the date the battalion sailed from Sydney in 1914) and this date became the anniversary on which the reunion was held in years to come.

The association became the rallying point in future ANZAC Days and Remembrance Days (11th hour, 11th day, 11th month) and directed its efforts towards the welfare of all members and their families. Over 1000 names were on the association list in 1932. The battle for Pozieres was remembered each year with a service at St Columba Church, Woollahra.

During WW2 the Association set up a comfort fund for the 2/1st Infantry Battalion and when possible sent food parcels to the front and to Britain. Many of the 1st Battalion also served during WW2.

A few months after the 2/1st Battalion had been disbanded in 1945, a meeting was held in the Combined Services Club, Barrack Street, Sydney to form the 2/1st Battalion Association. The meeting was chaired by Major General Eather (former CO) and with the enthusiastic support of all present Colonel P A Cullen (later Major General) was elected as the first President.

The 2/1st Battalion published a journal (First Post) whenever possible, the first being 1940 somewhere in Palestine. The First Post was restarted in 1962 and continues to be published today.

During the 1970s a constitution was drafted and accepted, which clearly sets out that any ex-member of any battalion with the designation “FIRST” may become members if they wish. In 1977 the 1st Battalion (WW1) association joined with the 2/1st Battalion to the mutual benefit of both parties and the “Association of First Infantry Battalions” was formed. The memorial service for “POZIERES” continues to be held in the Saint Columba Church at Woollahra each year where the Regimental Colours of the 1st Infantry Battalion AIF are laid on the altar by the 1/19th Battalion RNSWR. This service continues to this day.

Members of 1 RAR (Korea) joined the association and so began the merging of the members of the three battalions from different eras, conflicts and styles of warfare. Patrons during this time were Major General Pearson, Eather, Campbell and Cullen.

During the Viet Nam war the 2/1st Battalion supported 1 RAR by visiting the wounded in hospital and when 1 RAR arrived back home hosting a dinner in their honour at the Auburn RSL Club on the 25th August 1966.

In the early 1970s 1 RAR members gathered together mainly on ANZAC Day and marched as a RAR composite group. A group of Korean veterans led by Brian Blade and Brigadier David Thompson MC, held a reunion in the late 1970s and it was from this gathering the decision was made to form a 1 RAR Association. This group did not meet again until the 1980’s.

Father Gerry Cudmore (Padre in Vietnam) started a movement to have a reunion on the 20th anniversary of the battalion going overseas in 1965. The venue was to be the old Gallipoli Lines at Holsworthy. A committee was formed with himself, Gus Pauza, John O’Shea, John Hooper, Ray Payne, Bill Kaine and Carey McQuillan to formulate the idea.

A memorial was designed and installed within the Holsworthy Barracks area. A lot of work was done by a few with the reunion being held at Gallipoli Barracks, Holsworthy on the 8th to 10th June 1985.

The 1987 “Welcome Home” parade in Sydney provided an opportunity to form a 1 RAR association. A meeting was held at the VVAA office at Granville and a committee was formed. (President – Carey McQuillan, Vice President – Bill Kaine, Treasurer Terry Loftus, Committee – Ern Ostara and Jack Hawkins)

After the Welcome Home Parade in 1987, an invitation was made by the 2/1st Battalion Secretary (Tiny Saunders) to join their organization or become a branch in Qld. A meeting was held at the Combined Services Club and after some points were agreed to, the proposal was accepted. Brian Blade was elected as the first president (Qld) and during the late 1980s and early 1990s discussions between the 2/1st battalion and ex-members of 1 RAR resulted in the merger of the two associations.

A decision was made by the 2/1 Battalion members to hand over control of the association to the younger members of the 1 RAR group and on the 25th November 2000 the responsibility of control was handed over to the 1 RAR members. A condition of this was the memorial service for Pozieres held at St Columba Church each July must continue. At the Annual General Meeting held in Swansea in 2005 the name was changed to the “First Battalion Association”.

The 2008 reunion in Campbelltown was special for this is the area (Campbelltown / Ingleburn) where all our military (infantry) training began. The NSW Rifles, the 1st Battalion AIF, the 2/1st Battalion AIF and 1 RAR all began their training life in this area.

The “First Battalion Association” is a survivor for as you can see it is still up and running these last 96 years. But we need the support of younger members from Timor, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan and anyone who may have served with 1 RAR.

Mike Waldron
Treasurer / Assist Secretary
First Battalion Association

NB:”Primus Agat Primas” – The First to be First