The Claremont College Miniature Rifle Club


Why someone did not get shot!


During the decades before the Great War (WW1), tensions were rising across Europe. What would be the Australian response to an attack on the British Empire?

Adventurous, exciting, and glorious illusions of battle, and the idea that cadet training would prepare boys for war, were central beliefs fostered among the cadet corps of the public and private boys’ schools of Sydney before the Great War. Boys had to learn to shoot straight.[1]


The British Empire was portrayed in red and known as the Empire on which the sun never set.

It is very odd, however, that Claremont Girls College had a Miniature Rifle Shooting Club from 1905. On Empire Day, 24 May, every Claremont pupil and teacher was given the Empire Badge. The girls played tennis and other sports: including the first recorded rifle-shooting competition. In 1907, again on Empire Day, Minnie Stubbs and Ruby Storey won prizes for shooting. Later that year several girls went shooting in the basement of Randwick Town Hall.

This Club coincided with the establishment in 1907 of the Sydney Ladies' Miniature Rifle Club (1907-1919). An identical club had been established in Brisbane in 1901.


In 1901 the Queensland Ladies’ Miniature Rifle Association held the first full-bore Ladies Matches in Australia

The Claremont Club held meetings every Friday afternoon: the shooting went on to 9:30pm. Club membership embraced the Principal, Miss Fullerton as President, teachers, the College Captain Queenie Stubbs, and several students including Ruby Storey, whose father David Storey was also a member. On 5 December 1907, the end of year ‘break-up’ was celebrated by a shooting competition won by Claremont student Miss Janie Hey.


Curiously the Claremont Club was associated with the National Defence League, (NDL) a South Australian anti-Labor Party organisation which became a national political party called the Liberal Union. The NDL founded a branch in Sydney in September 1905. It preached universal compulsory military training for boys and adult men and the establishment of an adequate and effective system of national defence. Randwick was at the forefront of this movement and was long associated with rifle shooting. The NSW Rifle Association organised its first annual match at the Randwick Racecourse in September 1861.[2] In 1891, the Randwick Rifle Range was developed near Maroubra Junction.

Not to be outdone by the boys, Claremont College formed its own chapter of the Defence League, indicating its affiliation with the conservative professional, political, farming and business class which dominated the parent body.[3] Miss Fullerton was the president of this chapter.

While the girls learned to shoot, this club was not training them for the army. However, they may have been preparing to help the Defence League to protect Australia from the feared depredations of industrial and social strife by the ‘socialists; of the Labor Party: further evidence that the masculine tasks of battle were not beyond the capabilities of girls, no longer regarded as frail, at least with a rifle in their hands.

These girls celebrated Empire Day with the same vigour as the boys, singing Soldiers of the King as heartily as did the opposite sex who joined the cadet corps in their schools thus making the transition from the masculine dream of athleticism to the reality of militarism.

The Claremont Club was active into the 1920s, but no longer at Randwick Town Hall. The shooting was in a classroom in Claremont House. The girls fired at a target pinned to a wooden block. As one old girl commented:

“I often wonder why someone did not get shot coming in the front gate, as some of the shots were wild and wide of the mark, but some of us became quite proficient.”

One girl thought the club was formed because of the Russian scare. What scare?, you may ask. There was no threat from Russia in 1905 when the Rifle Club was formed.[4] This changed after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917: once again the threat of international socialism may have coalesced with the supposed challenge of unions, communism and the Labor Party in the 1920s. The girls were largely unaware of the politics surrounding the Club: they enjoyed shooting, as many of their brothers did at Sydney’s private boys’ schools.


[1] For example, at Newington College, 632 ex-students volunteered for the Great War of whom 110 were killed in action. The Shore School produced 261 servicemen, of whom 29 died in the Great War.

[2] In Sydney 1903, a match was held at Randwick on 26 May between Australian and Japanese sharp shooters. It was a ‘running man’ match, with 13 men a side at 300 yards firing as many shots as possible as the target ‘ran’ for 50 yards, with bull’s-eyes counting for five and other hits for four. The Japanese were outclassed, scoring only 170 against the NRA of NSW’s team score of 285.

[3] The nationalist Labor man, Billy Hughes was also a supporter of the Defence League.

[4] There was a view that “the Commonwealth has no force at present (1904) powerful enough to resist invasion,” (SMH, 29 August, p. 6.) however, the Russians suffered an embarrassing loss to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

Vic Branson
1 August 2022