Historical information

This silver trophy is named "Sir W. Clarke's Trophy" after its donor. Sir William John Clarke, Baronet, who was a citizen and philanthropist, well known in Melbourne and throughout Victoria. He gave donations to many public projects including Melbourne University and was a patron of many and varied sports. He encouraged the defence services with prizes for competitions among both military and naval forces.

In colonial Australia in the 1880s there was an increase in the size of the colonial military forces, rising from 8,000 in 1883 to 22, 000 in 1885. In 1885 there was a return of unpaid volunteer soldiers, along with a fear of a Russian attack on Australia. As a result, the Sir W.J. Clarke's Trophy was given as a prize in 1885 to Victorian Militia Garrison Battery competition winners, for artillery firing target accuracy. On 12th December 1885, the conclusion of the first artillery competition for Sir W. Clarke's Trophy was held at the Williamstown battery. The first winner of the Sir W. Clarke's Trophy was the Geelong Garrison Battery, with the prize Sir W. Clark's Trophy presented to them in 1886.

In 1887 Warrnambool Garrison Artillery, under the command of Major W.S. Helpman, was the proud winner of the Sir W. Clarke’s Trophy. The contest was held at Point Gellibrand with the trophy formally unveiled at the Warrnambool orderly-room on 3rd August 1887.
In June 1892 the annual competition was held at the Gellibrand battery in Williamstown. The canvas targets were moored at sea and fired upon from three breech-loading guns mounted on disappearing carriages. Each team was allowed 4 shots fired from each of the 3 guns. An article in the Portland Guardian stated that "the Warrnambool team is certainly looked upon as the certain winners." The same article reported that In this particular year the Government withdrew its previous award of 10-pound cash to the men of the winning team, described in the Portland Guardian as a petty economy of the Government. As the Warrnambool Militia Garrison Artillery had won the Trophy, for the third time, they became Absolute Possessors of the prize.


The Trophy is locally significant to the community of Warrnambool for its connection to the Warrnambool Volunteer Rifle Corps., which formed part of the original Warrnambool Garrison to protect the Warrnambool Harbour. The site of the 1888 Warrnambool Garrison and Fortifications is Victorian State Heritage-listed is significant for its intact and operational nature and is one of the best-preserved pieces of Victoria's early colonial heritage.

Physical description

Silver Trophy with lid, on a square, two-tiered timber base, displaying award shields. This is the Sir W. Clarke's Trophy, for the Victorian Militia Garrison Artillery, first presented in 1886. Large, elaborately decorated, silver bowl with conical shaped pedestal, two handles on the top edge of the bowl, matching fitted lid; much of the decoration is three dimensional. Fine, detailed decoration includes a semi-kneeling figure with an upturned face on top of the lid, vine-like handles resting on necks of swans with outspread wings, figures seated on a ridge, two on each side, with ends of limbs hanging over the ridge, two holding lyres, patterns of leaves, flowers and draped ribbons. The base is painted black on the outside, has engraved silver shields around its sides with inscriptions of trophy winners. There is a handwritten, pencil inscription 1887 under timber base.

Inscriptions & markings

Trophy’s front, left shield;
Trophy’s front, centre large shield;
Trophy’s front, right shield;
Trophy’s back, left shield:
“1888 / WON BY / NORTH MELBOURNE / Garrison Battery / Major F.R.Y. Goldstein / Commanding Officer”
Trophy’s back, centre shield;
“1889 / WON BY / WARRNAMBOOL / Garrison Battery / Major W.S. Helpman / Commanding Officer”
Trophy’s back, right shield;
“1890 / WON BY / HARBOUR TRUST BATTERY / Major J.H. Haydon / Commanding Officer”
Trophy’s back, centre shield;
“1891 / WON BY / WILLIAMSTOWN BATTERY /l Major W.H. Hall / Commanding Officer”
Trophy’s right; left shield;
“1892 / WON BY / WARRNAMBOOL / Garrison Battery / Major WS Helpman / Commanding Officer”
In pencil underneath timber base “1887”