The Enrolled Pensioner Guards Special Interest Group of FamilyHistoryWA was formed in 2000 by descendants of men who became members of the  Enrolled Pensioner Force (EPF) – it consisted of soldiers who came to the colony of Western Australia between 1850 and 1880, most arriving during the years of convict transportation as Guards on the convict ships. They were soldiers who had been discharged from Military Service, and who on discharge from the army, were awarded pensions.

Towards the end of the 1840s when convict transportation to the Eastern States was coming to an end, the Governor of Western Australia (with the backing of the leading land owners) pressured the British Government to send convicts to Western Australia. This was done with a view to revitalising the economy and to provide a cheap labour force, as labour was in short supply and expensive. As the average citizen was opposed to the proposal on the grounds of public safety, it was initially proposed that any convict sent would be well behaved, have served most of his sentence and be entitled to a ticket-of-leave on, or soon after his arrival. However, over time, the convicts became much more hardened criminals, that necessitated the building of Fremantle Prison.

To ensure the safety of the convict ships it was proposed that each ship would have a guard consisting of men who were former soldiers of the British Army, Royal Marines and the East India Company. T

Thirty seven ships brought 1,243 individual Enrolled Pensioner Guards to Western Australia 1850 to 1874 and another 5 military men already in the State also joined the Enrolled Pensioner Force – so 1,248 men in total:


      • Just over 700 men were Irish 
      • A similar number stayed in Western Australia
      • On average they served 17.5 years in the Army and lived 61 years
      • They were accompanied by over 800 wives and 1,400 children.

Of the men that served in the Enrolled Pensioner Force it is estimated one third were awarded Military Campaign Medals. Records show that where our men received Campaign Medals, many received more than one. The breadth of service, battles fought and achievements by men of the Enrolled Pensioner Force includes the Crimean War, South African Frontier Wars, 1st Anglo Afghan War, the China Way, the Indian Mutiny and includes medals such as the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The Scindian the first convict ship with a Guard arrived in 1850 and the Hougoumont, the last, in 1868. Between those dates thirty-five ships of the forty-three ships which transported convicts to Western Australia had a guard of between 28 and 55 pensioners many accompanied by their wives and children.

At the time Military pensions were not a right. Pensions were only awarded to men of merit who had served for long periods of time, had a good record, were totally unfit for further service or had been injured in the service of their country or contracted a disease in that service.

Prior to 1854, all men enlisting in the British army did so for life and the onus was on the individual to prove he was ill or worn out from long service and eligible for a pension.

The reforms of 1854 saw the introduction of enlistment for a limited period.  After 21 years’ service a private could receive up to 1/- per diem, a corporal 1/3, and a sergeant 1/6. Pensions for the East India Company were awarded from the Lord Clive Military Fund and were comparative to those of the British Army. Pensions for the men who fought in the Crimea were awarded through a fund presumably raised from the grateful public, i.e. “Patriotic Fund”.

During their military careers the pensioners were engaged as troops of the line wherever there was a British Military presence. This included service in India, Greece (Ionian Isles), Gibraltar, Malta, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, Canada, North America, Nova Scotia, New Zealand as well as doing garrison duty in the British Isles.


The list of wars in which the men of the EPF participated and had medals awarded is impressive and include:

    • 1st Afghan War 1839-1842
    • 1st Opium War 1839-1842
    • 1st Sikh War 1845-1846
    • New Zealand Wars 1845-1872
    • 2nd Burmese War 1852-1853
    • Crimean War 1854-1856
    • Persian War 1856-1857
    • 2nd Opium War 1856-1860
    • Indian Mutiny 1857-1859
    • 2nd Ashanti War 1863-1864

As an enticement to volunteer for the Convict guard, each pensioner was entitled to a free passage for himself, his wife and children, employment for a limited period after arrival and to those eligible, a land grant and a two-roomed cottage to which they would be entitled to Fee Simple after seven years occupancy and making general improvements.

How Thomas Grady was awarded the VC

How Thomas Grady was awarded the VC

The land grants varied in size according to location, in rural areas from 10 or 20 acres to one third of an acre in Perth. The areas set aside were known as pensioner villages; the first village established was at South Perth and was a notable failure due to its isolated location on the south side of Perth Water accessible only by boat. Other more successful villages were established at Freshwater Bay, North Fremantle, Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, Toodyay, Northam, York, Kojonup, Greenough, Lake Koojee [Coogee], Willagee Swamp, Perth and West Guildford. Other failures included Port Gregory where the allotments were adjacent to a salt water estuary and those of Kelmscott, Belaring Springs and St. Ronan’s Well which were laid out but never settled.

After the arrival of the Convict Guards in the Colony they were enlisted for a period in the Enrolled Force and performed guard duty at Government House, the treasury, the magazine, the Convict Establishment, convict depots and road gangs as well as attending ceremonial and church parades. From 1862 they were the only Military personnel stationed in Western Australia and as such gave the general public a sense of security needed in a community with a heavy convict presence. Many worked as warders for the Convict Department, in the Police and Water Police forces and in the general workforce in a variety of occupations including shop keepers, tailors, market gardeners, farmers, as well as general labourers. It was often the children of pensioners who reaped the benefits.

After the cessation of transportation to Western Australia in 1868 the role played by the Enrolled Pensioner Force decreased. In 1874 the Colonial Office instructed the Staff Officer of Pensioners to reduce the level of expenditure until finally on the 10th November 1880, the Force was officially disbanded. Guards were still required for Government House, the magazine, and the Fremantle prison and in addition a member of the guard was appointed as an orderly for the Governor. So, as a temporary measure, it was decided to form an Enrolled Guard under the command of the Commissioner of Police to be disbanded on 31 March 1887.


The employment of pensioners in Western Australia had many advantages in that there was increased money flowing into the economy through the payment of salaries and wages.  Expenditure increased with the erection of the Fremantle Prison and the Pensioner Barracks at both Fremantle and Perth as well as roads and bridges, much of it paid for by Imperial funds.

The pensioners were available in times of emergency whether from natural disasters or prison escapes.


They engendered in the population a feeling of security and helped maintain a balance between the number of free settlers and those of the convicts. It was often the pensioners’ daughters, (and sometimes the widows), who provided wives for Ticket-of-Leave men, helping redress what had become a serious problem, namely, the imbalance of the sexes. Western Australia was different from the other colonies in that only male convicts were transported. Although it was possible for a married convict to apply for an assisted passage for his wife and children to be assisted immigrants, the offer was not often taken up.

Many dedicated members have allowed us to build a significant body of research, read:

The Formation of the EPG SIG by Jean McDonald 2003 EPG Gazette 2015
Vale Ron Sutton by Jean McDonald 2009 October EPG Gazette
Vale Jean McDonald – EPG Gazette July 2019

We were initially reliant on F. H. Broomhall’s book The Veterans A History of the Enrolled Pensioner Force in Western Australia, 1850-1880 and the records held in the State Record Office and the Battye Library for research. To access the service records known as WO 97s we had to order reels through the Latter Day Saints Family History centres, a long and painstaking exercise.  Although a work of inestimable value Broomhall, did not cover all the Enrolled Guards who arrived between 1850 and 1868, or the fifty-five men on the Strathmore and Naval Brigade who were sent to bolster the dwindling numbers of the Enrolled Force after the cessation of transportation in 1868.

The publication of M.S. James’s book A Superior Body of Men for the first time enabled us to make a more accurate account of the men on ships for which no list of the guard was available. The additional online publication of the service records (WO97), pension district payment records (WO22) and the Regimental pensioner registers (WO23) enabled us to identify nearly all the men we know came to Western Australia as EPGs.

In order to extend the scope of The Veterans to include all the men of the Enrolled Force and Enrolled Guard and where possible their families, the Ships Project was born in 2011 and has culminated in this web-site.

The project was established under the direction of ‘The Admiral’, Margaret Hickey, who directed a group of researchers known as ‘ships captains’, they set about the task of establishing a list of all the guards on each ship. Furthermore, wherever possible, parents and siblings have been included as well as establishing the spouses and their children.

Many of the pensioners left Western Australia for the Eastern states and New Zealand. Some returned home to the UK, while a few adventurous souls returned to India where they had spent so much of their young life.

The resources and references used to obtain the information presented in the Enrolled Pensioner Force WA website include reference books, national and state records and registers, British Army and War Office documents and other British and Australian government records (e.g. census returns).

The most significant and widely used resources and references to develop and present the information on the website include the following:

  • Barker D. Warders and Gaolers WAGS 2000
  • Broomhall F.H. The Veterans: a history of the Enrolled Pensioner Force in Western Australia 1850-1880 Hesperian Press Western Australia 1989
  • Erickson R. The bicentennial dictionary of Western Australians pre-1829 – 1888 UWA Press 1888
  • James M.S. A superior body of men Authorhouse 2016
  • War Office documents – WO10, WO12, WO97, WO22, WO23, WO100


Other more specific references were also used which are more related to individual profiles. Information regarding these resources can be obtained through using the Contact Form listed under the Contact Us section of the website. In many of the EPF Profiles more information is required and further primary resources will need to be identified (where available). The inclusion of images is anticipated to be ongoing work.

The Enrolled Pensioner Guard (EPG) Special Interest Group of FamilyHistoryWA wish to thank  those  who participated in the long journey (over ten years) in developing and researching the men profiled in  the ‘Ships Project’. The EPG Special Interest Group also express their appreciation to the authors of all cited reference material for their dedicated work in moving the knowledge and understanding of the Western Australian EPF forward.

That assistance often meant long hours delving into indecipherable records and chasing people through the ages and countries they served in. The dedication and participation of cited authors and researchers is appreciated, for without them, the website would not have been possible.

Future contributions of information (once checked) from descendants of EPGs or other interested parties will be acknowledged as resources that enhance this website.

Special thanks go to the ‘Admiral’, Margaret Hickey, who shepherded,  cajoled, bribed and threatened many; and also to the fantastic ship’s ‘Captains’:

  • Pam Anspach
  • Ian Barnes
  • Marjorie Burton
  • Noel Donegan
  • Liana Fitzpatrick
  • Teresa Handcock
  • Margaret Hickey
  • Tom Joynes (deceased)
  • Kaye Kelly
  • John Knowles
  • Ken Lance (deceased)
  • Greg Larsen
  • Jeanette Lee
  • Marilyn McCutcheon
  • Sally Nicholas
  • Diane Oldman
  • Gillian O’Mara
  • Peter Short
  • Beth Smith
  • Glen Stevenson