The Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy and Victorian Gunner Units

The Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy, often referred to as the Mount Schanck, is a long-standing award for the best reserve (or militia/CMF) artillery unit in Australia.

Image from The Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery Customs and Traditions, Christopher Jobson

The Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy was first presented in June 1912 by Mr. W.J.T. Clarke, Esq., of Melbourne for annual competition between field branch batteries of the Australian Field Artillery, Commonwealth Miltia.

The Trophy is now awarded biennially to the most proficient field or medium battery of the Army Reserve

Commendation to 22 Bty on coming second in 1991

This article provides a background of the trophy and when it was won by Victorian artillery units.

The Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy

Instigated in 1912 at a cost of £100, the Mount Schanck Trophy, was originally awarded biennially to the most proficient Field Battery in the Milita, an early forerunner to the present Army Reserve.

In 1910 Lord Kitchener advised on the need for an augmented force and compulsory military service that in the three years 1910-1913 increased the Citizen Forces by 50%. It was in this environment that the Mount Schanck Trophy was donated by William Clarke, the prominent wool-grower and benefactor from South Australia, on the prompting of a Captain W.S.L. Robertson and with the approbation of Major General Kirkpatrick (Inspector General of Military Forces), formalised the offer of a sperpetual trophy the the Minister of Defence, Senator George Pearce.

Courtesy of Gunfire, Newsletter of RAA Association (NSW) Inc. and copied from Cascabel

The Trophy is permanently stored at the School of Artillery. There is a board listing all of the winning units also at the school.

Honour Board at the School of Artillery listing the Mount Schanck winners

The trophy was first won by 19th Battery, Melbourne in 1912. The competition lapsed between the years 1915 to 1925 and 1940 to 1957. Newspaper articles in the National Archives show entries from 1927 in the Brisbane Courier with 111th Howitzer Battery competing and another from 1929 from the (Adelaide) Advertiser with the 50th and 113th Howitzer Batteries competing.

See the RAA Standing Orders 2014 (, Chapter 7, Annex A for more information about the conditions for awarding the trophy (as at 2014) and the recent history (since early 2000’s).

Victorian Units Winning the Mount Schanck

Whilst the above is somewhat hard to read, as best as I can tell, the Victorian units winning the trophy were:

  • 1912 19th Battery, Melbourne
  • In the 40’s and 50’s, some Vic battery’s won it four times (but I can’t make out the details)
  • 1961-62 ‘Q’ Bty, 2nd Field Regt, Frankston
  • 1968-69 3rd Bty, 2nd Field Regt, Brighton 
  • 1974-75 37th Bty, 10th Medium Regt, Colac (?)
  • 1993 22nd Field Bty, Baxter/Dandenong 
  • 1997-98 38th Bty, Geelong

From Cascabel Nbr 39 (Jan 1994) WRT the Mount Schanck Challenge Trophy: “It was last won by a Victorian Battery in 1975 when 37 Mdm Bty, 10 Mdm Regt, under the command of Maj George James, won it at Cultana. This year, 1993, the Mount Schanck trophy was won by 22 Fd Bty under the command of Maj Steve Venn with 38 Mdm Bty, under the command of Maj Jeff Cole, coming 3rd. 22 Bty was also awarded the following prizes: The Pagan Trophy: Best Gun Line, The Gordon Bennett Trophy: Best OP. These are awarded by 2 Div“.

In the 80s and 90s (and perhaps other times) each Artillery sub-unit was assessed in the ARTEP (Army Training Evaluation Program). The ARTEP was designed to test each sub unit against a set of proficiency levels depending on corps and type (reserve vs. regular). Each of the arms (Infantry, Armour, Artillery, Signals etc.) were supposed to be evaluated, but Artillery was the only corps to do so.

The Mount Schank winners were based on the scores from each ARTEP assessment. It was meant to be the culmination of a two-year training cycle (the assessment was on the Annual Camp every two years).

Early Experiences

I recall being a GPO on an ARTEP in the late 80s in 23 Bty and it was a very intense time at the end of the camp. From memory it was a day and a half, but seemed longer. The Regimental Master Gunner assessed the gun line on our deployment and firing skills, with the CI of the School on the hill assessing the FO parties. The RMG decided which of the six gun positions the recce officer had marked would be used and he decided to pick the one way too close to the CP. After a fairly hectic deployment I called that the Bty was ready to fire after one gun was ready. He pulled me up on it and I recited the policy of “the others almost being ready” to which he asked if I was a lawyer in civvie street. We did not win, but came close (apparently).

22 Bty in 1991

The newly combined 22 Bty (2/10 Mdm) was assessed in 1991 and came second. The following image is the framed award and 22 Bty photo.

The BC of the battery was MAJ Carl Wood, BK was CAPT Mike Womack and BSM WO2 Garry Rolfe.

22 Bty in 1993

The batteries were assessed again in 1993 and 22 Fd Bty won the trophy. Unfortunately I can’t find the corresponding award in the memorabilia room. I was one of the FOs along with CAPT (?) Jason Cooke and MAJ Steve Venn was the BC. I know we had BDRs Eccles and Moodie as FO Acks, and I seem to recall GNRs Haysom and Gallager as FO Sigs but can’t be 100% on that. We had an Infantry LTCOL setting up the scenarios and we both missed the 1 round FFE needed in the first mission (we fell into the trap of adjusting one round). For the major mission on the second day, we had to brief the Acks who then went away to adjust and record targets whilst we (FOs) went off the create the fireplan. It was the first time we’d done this and it was pretty intense. Obviously how the hill and the gun line performed was better than the rest.

22 Bty Offr 93

When you win the Mount Schanck you get to look after it and show it off for a period of time. We displayed it at regimental functions, the Gunner Dinner at Victoria Barracks and also on a RAA Div TEWT (officers from Victoria and NSW Regts) held at the Apprentices School at Balcombe (near Bandiana/Wodonga). The trophy came in three parts and was carried inside a huge wooden crate. I ws BK by the time it arrived at the Bty an d charged to look after it. It was a pain to load under the bus and we had the junior Bty Officers “protecting” it including sleeping by it in the Gym. There may have been some incidents of social excitement with the trophy, but as they say “no names, no pack drill”.

In the same year, 38 Mdm Bty came third.

38 Bty in 1997-98

The last Victorian bty to win the Mount Schanck was 38 Bty in 1997-98. I don’t have any more details or stories from then other than the photo below.

Following this we went into a period of intermittent awarding. It was not awarded from 1999-2004, then awarded in 2005, then not awarded 2006-2007, then suspended in 2008 and awarded again one in 2015-16 and then again in 2019 to 5/11 Bty 9 Regt. Much of this time covered the downsizing of batteries, the move to Mortars and the assignment of the batteries to Infantry Battalions. The last entry on the board says it was not awarded due to the formation of 9th Regiment RAA.

It’s great to see the Victorian batteries have featured prominently over the years.

Leave a comment