History of The Naval, Military and Air Force Club of South Australia
The history of the Naval, Military, and Air Force Club of South Australia has been well-documented in the book "The Club - Martial and Mufti" by David Brook, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who served in the 20th century . Following the Crimean War and the withdrawal of British troops from the Colonies, South Australia and its neighbours recognized the importance of strengthening their defences. They passed legislation to create a local militia force, though enthusiasm for this effort varied based on international perceptions. In 1877, with the Russians seemingly gaining power again due to the Russo-Turkish War, the Governor requested the assistance of a suitably qualified Imperial Officer to reorganize South Australia's Military Forces. Lieutenant Colonel Major Francis Downes of the Royal Artillery was chosen for the task and established an "Officers' Club" in 1879 to provide training, lectures, and professional development for full and part-time officers. All officers were required to be members of the Club, initially known as "The Militia Officers Club of South Australia."
In the early 1880s, there were several "Military Clubs," and it is difficult to pinpoint the location of the Club that became our Club's antecedent. However, it is believed that it took up residence at the South Australian Hotel on North Terrace in 1887. The Club moved to rooms at the Selbourne Hotel in Pirie St between 1891-2 before returning to its previous premises, where it remained until 1896, when the Club's activities were suspended due to financial difficulties. The Club was "resuscitated" three months later, in early 1897, and returned to its former premises, even though members of the Club and several early Presidents continued to feature prominently in official visits and events .
During the Boer War, forty-four members of the Club served in South Africa across various South Australian and Commonwealth contingents raised during its course. Colonel James Rowell, a prominent member of the Club, commanded the 4th South Australian Contingent to the South African War, and two of his sons and a nephew served, establishing a prominent South Australian military dynasty. The dynasty was later reinforced by his son, Sydney Fairbairn Rowell, who became one of Australia's great wartime leaders and Chief of the General Staff .
Captain Samuel Grau Hubbe was a notable casualty, killed in action on 12 September 1900 . His father, Uhlrich, one of the Club's members, was a lawyer from Hamburg and co-author of the Torrens Title system of Land Titles administration. During World War I, 126 members of the Club served, and among the casualties was Captain Herman Hubbe, son of Samuel Hubbe, who was killed in action in South Africa . Herman was killed by artillery fire on an approach march to Pozieres at nearby Contalmaison in July 1916. Samuel Hubbe's wife and Herman's mother, Edith, was the first woman in South Australia to achieve a University degree and famously ran a school on Statenborough Street in Leabrook.
The Club relocated to the Mutual Life building on Grenfell Street in February 1902. It commemorated the First World War service by its members on a large memorial on the fireplace in the Gallipoli Room. The memorial honours the hundreds of members who served and those who joined the Club upon their return from Active Service. Club members served in every unit raised in South Australia and many more as the War progressed .
Prominent members of the Club include but are not limited to:
Colonel James Rowell
- Club President
- You can find more information about him at this link.
Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Price Weir
- Commanding Officer of the 10th Battalion
- His medals are displayed in the Club's Medal Room.
More details about him can be found here.
Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Stan Watson
- A Life Member of the Club until his death in 1985, aged 97 years.
His medals are also housed in the Club's Medal Room.
Additional information about him can be found here.
Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Harry Nott
- The Regimental Medical Officer of the 10th Infantry Battalion.
He purchased 'Landunna,' the present-day home of the Naval Military and Air Force Club of SA Inc, at 111 Hutt St, in 1923 upon returning from London.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Rowell
- Commanded the 3rd Light Horse at Gallipoli.
- The Club possesses a magnificent high-resolution framed photograph of 'The Leaders of the Light Horse' that includes him.
Unfortunately, Frank Rowell died of peritonitis after being wounded at Gallipoli was buried at sea.
More information about him can be found here.
These individuals have made significant contributions and have interesting military histories associated with them, as outlined in the provided links.
1. Brook, D. (1999). The Club - martial and mufti. Naval Military and Air Force Club of South Australia.
2. "Hubbe, Samuel Grau". SA Memory. State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 25 November 2019.