Victoria had the third oldest cadet corps in the old British Empire, begun in May 1858 at the suggestion of E. Ross, Headmaster of Korong Public School, although Scotch College boys were regularly drilled by Sergeant-Major Cleary some years earlier. In 1867 Capt Frederick Sargood was given the task of raising from schools throughout Victoria a body of cadets who could assist in a military reception for the Duke of Edinburgh. Only Wesley College and All Saints Grammar, East St Kilda, provided pupils; but at the first annual shooting competition held in 1873 both independent and state schools were represented. In 1885, the cadets were formed into five battalions and when the first public Cadet Corps parade was held in Albert Park on 19 November 1886, the day was proclaimed a school holiday. At the annual rifle shooting competition schools competed for the Sargood Shield, with individual medals awarded from 1894.
The cadets, having survived the depression, lined the route for the opening of the first federal Parliament in 1901. With Federation, the cadets became a Commonwealth responsibility - by 1905 there were 20 070 cadets formed into 10 battalions, six of which were Melbourne based. Inter-school events, such as that on Empire Day 1907 at Werribee Park, paid for by Percy Chirnside, kept competition keen. The training proved useful in World War I, although the Corps languished during the 1920s. By 1939 there were only 14 schools operating cadet corps, rising to 26 by 1945. There was a move towards making cadet corps voluntary after the war, but even so they attracted opposition during the Vietnam War. Eight of Victoria's 12 surviving school-based units are in Melbourne: Beaconhills, Brighton, Camberwell, Ivanhoe, Mentone and Melbourne Grammar schools, Melbourne Boys' High School and Scotch College.