Alfred Blannin was born on 5 September 1842, the son of William and Kate (nee Phillips). He had a long involvement in the colony's still infant volunteer defence forces. The Victorian Military Forces list of 1883 states that Blannin first enrolled on the 10 January 1864.
He first appears in the Victorian Government Gazette (VGG) for his appointment to the rank of Lieutenant with the Collingwood Victorian Volunteer Rifle Corps in late 1870, suggesting he had served the past six years rising from the lower ranks to the rank of Sergeant, from which he was promoted. (VGG, 11 Aug. 1870, p. 1200)
His rise through the Volunteer forces can be traced for the next twenty years through the gazettes. Three years after his appointment to Lieutenant, he was promoted to Brevet Captain of the Collingwood Corps (VGG, 29 Aug. 1873, p. 1528), before attaining the position of Acting Captain in early 1880 (VGG, 27 Feb. 1880, p. 485).
As Honorary Secretary to the Victorian Rifle Association, and at the invitation of General Shaler, President of the National Rifle Association of America, Blannin accompanied the Victorian Rifle team to England and the United States in 1876. The team consisted of some of the best competitive shooters in the colony, drawn mainly from the volunteer defence forces: Lieut. T.T. Draper, Maj. Joseph Thomas Sleep, J.J. Slade, Serg. Daniel Gee, Capt. H.J. King, J.S. Lynch, Capt. J. M'Garvier Smith and Capt. B.J. Wardill.
Blannin's candid and whimsical account of the trip was documented the following year under the unwieldy title of 'Hasty Notes of a Flying Trip with the Victorian Rifle Team to England and America in 1876'.
Blannin's interests extended beyond his military involvement. The State Library of Victoria holds several pages of undated sheet music published in Melbourne by Furlong, Dixon and Co for which Alfred Blannin is credited as the author of both lyrics and music. The piece, 'Am I Unforgiven still?' is an arrangement for voice and piano.
In mid 1883, Blannin was appointed Acting Captain and Brevet Major of the Carlton Corps (VGG, 6 July 1883, p. 1579), though the appointment was short lived, and just over six months later he was appointed Major of the 1st or West Melbourne Battalion of Victorian Rifles (VGG, 1 Feb 1884, p. 469). The promotion to Major of the Victorian Rifles appears to have been initially on probation, as the rank was confirmed in the Gazette in September the same year (VGG, 12 Sept 1884, p. 2651).
With the establishment of the Victorian Military Forces in the late 1880s, Blannin maintained his rank of Major (VGG, 3 June 1887, p. 1460), but retired only a few years later in the middle of June 1889 - one suspects - on the grounds of poor health (VGG, 7 June 1889, p. 1833). He died at his residence, Alfred House, in Evelyn Street, East Melbourne on 5 December, aged only 47, and was buried the following day in the Melbourne General Cemetery.
The Argus (6 Dec. 1889), p.1.
Blannin, Capt. A (1877). Hasty Notes of a Flying Trip with the Victorian Rifle Team to
England and America in 1876, Melbourne.
The State Library of Victoria also holds papers relating to Blannin at MS 10219.