Friday 20th of December 2002 09:36 AM 

'For the Empire Right or Wrong': Australian Military Involvement in the South African War (1899-1902), the Homefront and Visions of Australian Militarism

Whatever happens in the Transvaal, Woodcock and Co., Petrie's Bight, will be to the front this season with the choicest of British Tweeds.

Advertisement in The Courier (Brisbane), September 18, 1899.

The colonies were federated whilst at war for the Empire. Australian troops were burning their way across the veldt of defiant Boer Republics and Bluejackets kept an imperial vigil in China as the Australian public half-heartedly cheered Federation. The enduring myth of the time is of a nation in the flush of Federation, anxious to commit politically and martially to the Empire, and of a public in a frenzy of British race patriotism. This essay will challenge some of the dominant assumptions that inform the historiography of this era by seeking to derive meaning from the 'silence' of the majority and by drawing attention to the tenuousness of historical accounts based on the views of vocal minorities.

Whilst it is relatively easy to ascertain the views of politicians and prominent members of the community at the time, it is much more difficult as Connolly has noted, to establish an accurate profile of public mood, since treatments of popular opinion face "potentially crippling methodological difficulties"1 especially when the surviving records echo the opinions of an outspoken minority. Most historical studies to date have not 'adequately related opinion to social structure',2 rest their assumptions on sources derived from a select portion of society and for the most part, ignore the likelihood that a majority of people may have 'merely acquiesced in the ideology of imperialist spokesmen.'3 The The Empire United? From Punch arguments of the time concerning defence and extra-territorial deployment were the realm of articulate Úlites and it follows that hypotheses which rest on the records of these debates of the few largely ignore the probable ambivalence of the majority, occupied, as ever with more tangible concerns. Militarism, as Encel has pointed out, as a value system which 'ranks military institutions and ways above the ways of civilian life'4 has always been relatively frail in the English-speaking countries.5 It is difficult to consider militarism in Australia at Federation without acknowledging its relation to the constitutional democratic tradition, and, perhaps more importantly, its debt to the regional politico-social context. It would be to overlook the complexities of 'a nation emerging within an imperial framework'6 attempting to address regional issues which seemed to enjoy little prominence in the Mother Country. It would be to disregard also the ambiguities of feeling toward the Boer War and the Rebellion in Australia at the time.
What little enthusiasm the public demonstrated for involvement in China was to a large degree informed by the racial stereotypes of the goldfields and the 'Asian scares' of the 1890s. The parliamentary response, however, was for the most part enthusiastic, insomuch as the situation was seen to have obvious implications for Australian security. Influenced perhaps by the remoteness of the conflict, many politicians had been initially 'dismayed at the prospect of a military commitment in South Africa',7 although the same could not always be said of the general public and much of the media, who commonly displayed the 'strong military spirit'8 Lord Brassey boasted of in his cables to Joseph Chamberlain. It would be a mistake however, to take this 'spirit' at face value. The Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition has continually attempted to refashion the 'institutions of war to make them lose their peculiarly military characteristics.'9 In Australia, the depth of the civil-military tradition made the conservative military virtues of 'hierarchy, loyalty, order [and] patriotism'10 as important in the social sphere as in the military. Seen in the context of late Victorian Empire, this 'strong military spirit' and its implicit values was more likely a 'social reflex' than a genuine indication of a popular enthusiasm for war.

It is difficult to judge to what extent popular enthusiasm for Australian involvement in the Boer War and the Rebellion can be derived from the public displays of the time. The Boer War has been touted as an example of overwhelming Australian support for the 'new imperialism' of the late Victorian age and many historians have gleaned from the huge parades and patriotic editorials a mood of popular enthusiasm for war and imperial military conquest that may not have existed beyond the moment, and for a variety of reasons.
On January 17 1900, 300 000 people turned out in Sydney to cheer the second New South Wales contingent to the war in South Africa.11 An extraordinary situation indeed considering that in Melbourne early the next year, only 100 000 people half-heartedly cheered Australian Federation and then marched off to the beach.12 Perhaps it was the holiday, the martial majesty of New South Wales' finest or simply the reaction of a public 'easily deluded by noise and spectacular display'.13 In any case, no such eruption of public sentiment had occurred in Australian history to date.14 Similarly, the crowd of 20 000 which saw the contingent to the Rebellion off at Woolloomooloo was out of all proportion to the small contribution and the reality of Australian involvement in China, distorted by accounts of parliamentary zeal and popular enthusiasm. The 'groups of cheering citizens'15 who sang the Bluejackets off to subdue the Boxers hardly reflected the experience of the contingent, who arrived in time to 'capture a number of mules and rescue some European missionaries.'16
While the crowds speak of a definite public enthusiasm, it would be a mistake to take these outpourings at face value and assume that 'imperial and military sentiment ran so high that resistance was futile' and that 'support wasoverwhelming at all levels of the community and at all stages of the conflict'.17 The veracity of the assertion, as Connolly has noted, that latent public support for the war was relatively widespread and opposition comparatively impotent, has tended to 'gloss over many complexities'18 and suggests that 'a vocal minority spoke for the overwhelming majority of Australians who left no record of their views'.19 It can be argued that the imperial festivities and patriotic gatherings of the time were as manufactured as the initial colonial political response, since the imperialist 'spokesmen' pressuring the colonial parliaments were often behind the rallies. Similarly, it is more than likely that the pomp and splendour of the occasions may have been the reason for the high attendances rather than concerted support for the imperial cause, especially considering the parades were often declared holidays.20 In Queensland, up to 25 000 people commonly attended the farewells of the first contingents to the Boer War.21 It is almost certainly true that many of the people at these pageants supported the war in some fashion, but these spontaneous displays of enthusiasm were almost certainly motivated as much by a desire for entertainment and a fascination with things military, as by imperial sentiment. The reverses at Stormberg, Colenso and Magersfontein in the 'Black Week' of December sparked a genuine but transient rise in popular support for Australian involvement in the war, although the demoralising effect of a defeat inflicted on the British military machine, in whom the faith of the colonies was invested, should not be underestimated. Accordingly, this upsurge in public support can be attributed at least partially to increased agitation on the part of imperialist activists and the conservative press.22

With a few notable exceptions, the mainstream press was if anything a veritable showcase of support for involvement in South Africa and China.23 Editorials rarely extended beyond a buoyant patriotism and pronounced imperial loyalty. These newspapers were, however, indicative of a select social group, 'the middle classes' dominant Úlite',24 whose best interests lay in fostering the 'new imperialism', given free expression in the poetry of the imperialist bard Rudyard Kipling.25 The major tenets upon which this almost evangelical imperialism rested were those of the cultural and economic expansion of the British race, which naturally implied military conquest. The editors of these papers were 'men at the pinnacle of their profession, and the major advertisers upon whose patronage they depended were the city's businessmen.'26 The papers relied on a British cable service for their international content and editorials were often simply pirated from British correspondents and given a local bent.
In Queensland the Brisbane Courier, puffed with imperial military pride, reminded its readership that 'The Contingent is taking with it the colony's good name',27 and implored its members to 'bring back what is dearer than life. It must be ready to do everything that British soldiers have done, and if need be, die to the last man.'28 Indeed, the Courier remained true to the last, lamenting the delays in 1902 in despatching more troops to South Africa and advising Federal ministers acidly to 'hasten preparations, the backwardness of which is making us the laughing stock of Europe and the Empire.'29 The situation differed very little in rural areas where the existence of smaller papers depended on the patronage of local businessmen and influential pastoralists.30 In Barcaldine the Western Champion ran a three-week column denouncing the 'weak patriotism' of the Labour Member for Rockhampton,31 and then settled down to 'bringing its readers the facts'32 from the war. Despite a more cautious approach to affairs in the 'Far East', the conservative press rallied in support of the subjugation of the 'heathen Chinee [sic]'33 in 1900. The Sydney Morning Herald witnessed the departure of the Protector 'bound upon her worthy mission of upholding the name of the Land of the Golden Fleece',34 affirming 'the loyalty of Australia's sons'.35 In Victoria, the press rushed to Britain's side. The Age, traditional organ of the middle-class angrily defended Britain's decision to go to war with the Boer, 'the rankling thorn in the side of a great Empire,'36 and declared that 'the disease must be cut away.'

Only war can do it. Therefore it is they who most love peace who welcome and promote this war as the readiest means of securing such a peace as a free man can live under.37

In the same breath, the Age's indignant defence of the Empire settled convincingly to a patriotic resignation, presumably indicative of the laconic bushman-soldier, as it witnessed the farewell parade of the Victorian Contingent, reminding or perhaps trying to convince its readers, that the procession was the 'visible embodiment of our people's patriotic ardour.'38 It was not to be a parade of militaristic glory, but a 'farewell demonstration to soldiers who go to the front at the call of duty,'39 a sense of duty by which 'great empires are builded [sic] up,' and by which the 'courage and constancy of the race'40 are marked. The Melbourne Argus lauded those who attended the farewell parade of the Contingent, a 'perfectly honest and sincere demonstration',41 to assert the 'readiness of Australia to assist the Empire with blood and treasure.'42 There is an important subtext to this oft-mentioned 'readiness': a desire for the tentative national self-image of the 'nation of 'battlers', all individuals, facing great odds with courage and swagger',43 to be tried and tested, under fire. For the Australian mind, bushfires and droughts were readily turned to shot and shell. The 'idealised bushman of the 1890s'44 was easily 'translated to a military setting',45 and it seems that despite the overshadowing potency of the Anzac myth, the national fable of the civilian-soldier had its beginnings on a South African veldt idealised by the mainstream press.

Much of the well-documented opposition to involvement in the war came from the nationalist press, the Labour Party and the ranks of the Australian labour movement, although it is not clear to what extent this stance was reflected in the ranks of the working class, as always, mostly indifferent to overseas wars. The economic depression of the 1890s had 'profoundly disorganised the labour movement[so]the working-class base for anti-war activity was very weak'46 They participated in the celebrations of the first contingents and cheered the relief of Mafeking, but 'did so only anonymously and probably from a variety of motives'47 Those of the working-class who attended rallies and meetings, usually organised by imperialist 'spokesmen', were almost certainly attracted more by the opportunity for an outing and a sense of pride in the colonial troops, than an approval of the explicit imperial sentiment behind the rallies.

The labour movement argued its case in local terms, although it is clear that it drew 'impetus from the very much greater division over the war in Britain itself.'48 The anti-war stance was echoed in most of the trade union journals and labour organs throughout the country. Whilst this sentiment was rarely distinctly anti-British, except amongst the Australian Socialist League and sections of the Irish clergy, who regarded Britain as a foreign power, the labour organs unequivocally denounced expansionist imperialism. Attempts by imperialist spokesmen to brand anti-war activists as unpatriotic and to make 'loyalty' the primary criterion of public office were largely unsuccessful and there is no evidence of any anti-war or pro-Boer member ever losing a seat for their views. In New South Wales most of the men who ran the three labour newspapers, The People and the Collectivist, the Sydney Worker and the Barrier Truth were 'studiously loyal',49 but simply opposed the war and Australian involvement. They maintained that the war had been started by the Rand capitalists50 and was fundamentally unjust, but concentrating on the more tangible consequences 'stressed the argument that working-class people would suffer as governments made the exigencies of war an excuse for shelving social reform.'51 For the Brisbane Worker the war was 'unjustifiable and entirely unnecessary'52 and more evidence of the Foreign Office's complicity in Rhodes' dream to paint Africa red 'from the Cape to Cairo.'53 Its pages overflowed with anecdotal evidence of the 'real' motives for enlistment in the contingents and it cited a variety of injustices visited on the working man by the moneyed classes and the economic climate as the primary reasons for the rising subscription to the contingents.54

The response of the general public and the media in Australia was echoed rather more ambiguously in the halls of parliament throughout the war. In spite of the marked reluctance of the colonies to commit to the war and a stubborn desire for Australian contingents to serve in their own right, the abiding myth is that of an Australia which 'possessed neither a defence nor a foreign policy of its own'

and consequently its defence efforts and whatever seemingly independent role it played in international affairs were mere adjuncts to the work of the British navy or the British foreign office.55

It follows then that many historical studies have derived a universal support for the extra-national deployment of troops amongst Australian politicians from this myth, ignoring to a large degree the often tentative but prevailing opposition amongst Labour members, and the modest response to British requests. Closer scrutiny of the political atmosphere at the time reveals an attitude to military affairs characterised by economic and political expediency, colonial rivalry and a resignation to imperial duty, and not by unbridled enthusiasm for empire or conquest.

Immediately prior to the formal declaration of war in South Africa in 1899, colonial authorities in Australia had reacted gingerly to British suggestions that they contribute small contingents to serve in South Africa, eventually proposing that a combined contingent of 2000 men be raised. The issue was complicated further when Britain rejected the proposal. Chamberlain had planned for colonial contingents to be distributed amongst British units and more to the point, his 'main concern at this stage was with appearances.'56 There had been, however, no shortage of unofficial volunteers from the Australian colonies.57 Premier Dickson had offered (during the parliamentary recess) a unit of over 200 mounted men in July, to which the Foreign Office - familiar with the vagaries of colonial politics - reacted agreeably, viewing the offer as a promising precedent for the involvement of the other Australian colonies. Eventually the British government, eager to have an Australian presence in South Africa, agreed to defray the full cost of a contingent of the New South Wales Lancers, then training at Aldershot at their own expense. The government conceded, setting a hesitant course which the other colonies were soon to follow.58 By 6 October all of the colonies had offered contingents, subject to parliamentary consent.59 Amongst the militia and permanent forces, the expected pool of recruits for the war, enlistment was well below the levels envisaged by Imperial and colonial authorities. Second contingents were raised after Black Week and later units, the Citizen's Bushmen and the Imperial Bushmen were raised in 'response to public support in 1900' and to meet the 'pressing need for mounted troops in a campaign in which mobility was the key factor.'60
Parliamentary opposition to Australian involvement in the war decreased significantly after the British setbacks of 'Black Week' in December 1899. Certainly the 'spontaneous' support requested by Chamberlain of the colonial governments did not come until after the implications of these reverses had sunk in. Even those members who had previously expressed their strong opposition to the war fell largely silent after these reverses, frightened into silence by an unexpected blow to the imperial status quo. Accordingly, the extension of German and French interests in Africa and Asia had not escaped Australian attention: the fear of the implications in the Asia-Pacific region of a Franco-German alliance as the Empire reeled 'under the too vast orb of its fate'61 may well explain the relatively spirited response to Britain's request for aid in China.

If the initial response to the Boer War in the colonies was hesitant, that of the colonial governments to British requests for a naval contingent to China was not. Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia readily volunteered naval contingents to help quell the Boxer uprising in June 1900. The colonies, on a par as far as contributions to the war in South Africa were concerned, seem to have been motivated in part by inter-colonial rivalry. Victoria, in a paroxysm of patriotism virtually threw its naval force at Chamberlain. New South Wales, despite concern that their commitment to the Boer War may have been 'taken as a precedent for frequent participation',62 in imperial wars, hastened to ready its men for departure. On 8 August 200 men from Victoria and 260 from New South Wales sailed in the transport Salamis from Sydney, accompanied by South Australia's Protector.63

As the war in South Africa dragged on, the conservative press and jingo spokesmen laboured to buoy an increasingly ambivalent public. The long war did not conform to the romantic ideals of battle held by many Australians and by 1901 the ebullient editorials of the Age and the Argus had been replaced with a one-page daily column titled simply 'Boers and British'.64 After the large welcome to the first returning contingent, parades were noticeably empty and festivities were replaced with meticulously contrived patriotic meetings in hired halls. This sense of disappointment with the war was echoed amongst the ranks of returned soldiers. Extended periods in the saddle and intermittent engagements hardly conformed to the notions of warfare they had departed with. Regardless of the enthusiastic public response to their return, burning farms and rounding up Boer women and children led to widespread dissatisfaction with the war amongst Australian troops. Ironically, by 1901 Australian contingents were oversubscribed and men were being turned away from service in South Africa, although 'most of the 16 000 who joined up were land-owners, clerks and unemployed workers'65 who may well have been trying to escape the ennui of life in late Victorian Australia. In Henry Lawson's words, 'off for a spree'.66

If British authorities imagined that the colonial contribution to the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion in any way presaged Australian willingness to participate in an Empire-wide defence union they were mistaken. Joseph Chamberlain, impressed by colonial responses to the war, tested the previously tepid colonial waters and suggested in 1900 the establishment of a permanent imperial council to 'co-ordinate the defence policies of the far-flung dominions of the Crown.'67 The Australian response was congenially lukewarm. Despite their historical willingness to involve themselves in imperial wars, no part of the Empire 'was more likely to disagree tirelessly and publicly with British police on any and every aspect of imperial defence.'68 Colonial leaders were loathe to agree to participation in any permanent defence co-operation beyond the Pacific, since the outcome was ostensibly a permanent Australian contribution to imperial defence and,

similarly if they accepted representation on an imperial council charged with broad defence functions they might find themselves with an obligation to defend all of the empire under all circumstances.69

This fear of the sacrifice of Australian interests to imperial executive continued to characterise Australian policy concerning defence matters for decades to come. There was also a growing acknowledgment that the 'fundamental conflict of view over priorities in defence and diplomacy between the colonies and the Mother Country'70 should inform any decisions regarding the size and make-up of the Australian military and the extra-territorial deployment of Australian troops in the future.

How then, and to what end, did Australia (wholly concerned at Federation with curtailing military expenditure and keeping its troops out of imperial scuffles) by 1914 boast an army of 45 000 men (expected to reach 130 000 by 1920), a modern ocean-going navy, and a military aviation school?
The decade between the end of the Boer War and the Great War saw Australia riven with heated debates on the place of the military in the nation and Australia's security in the region. As Australia welcomed the last contingents home from South Africa, the 'storm centre' of world politics seemed to be moving to the East.71 Australia's experience in China had lent a note of integrity to the rising apprehension of the 1890s. The 'sleeping giant' was waking and existing fears of an Asian immigration invasion, stemming from the experience of the goldfields, now extended to the military sphere. Similarly Japan, hitherto regarded as a 'completely harmless and rather curious nation, whose men waved fans and whose women wore kimonoswas rapidly elevated by success in [the Sino-Japanese] war to the rank of "menace"'72 at around the same time.

Between 1902 and 1907 a number of international incidents cemented Australian fears of the extension of Japanese hegemony in the Pacific. The disparate strands of a national policy found in the form of lectures, political speeches and debates, informed by the notion of Asian threat were to be consolidated in this period. 'They had been brought together into a systematic analysis,

which gave coherence and meaning to Australia's strategic position. And it was this analysis which was to underpin and to sustain the Commonwealth government's new defence and foreign policy.73

In 1902 the race for Anglo-German naval parity led Britain to negotiate an alliance with Japan, allowing its capital warships to be withdrawn to European waters, and leaving Japan to 'safeguard' its interests in the Pacific. This alliance did little to allay Australian fears, since Japan could easily have utilised 'Britain's preoccupation with European affairsto extend its hegemony in the western Pacific.'74 Combined with a British reluctance to heed Commonwealth submissions for Australian dominion over the archipelagoes guarding the approaches to Australia,75 this alliance, renewed in 1905, significantly heightened tensions in Australia. Accordingly, Japan's willingness to intervene in the domestic policies of other nations caused no little concern in Australia. Japan's interference on the west coast of the United States on behalf of Japanese subjects and a number of attempts to pervert diplomatically, key sections of White Australia legislation fuelled Australian fears. Government began to take the views of military advisers more seriously.

At the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905 Japan smashed the Russian fleet, establishing itself as the major military power in Asia.76 The Australian response was mixed. Those who had feared the extension of Russian dominion in the Asia-Pacific region looked upon it as the lesser of two evils. Most regarded it as evidence of Japan's military might and aggressively expansionist imperialism, and urged further naval and army expansion. Of these commentators, the most notable was Alfred Deakin, primary architect of Australia's defence policy to 1910, who commented in an interview with The Herald soon after the battle that Australia could 'no longer depend on its isolation for security.'77 For Deakin and a number of other politicians,78 Japan represented a significant threat to Australia, 'not because of racial differences or immigration problems',79 but because of its program of martial aggrandisement, designed to expand Japanese interests in the Asia-Pacific. Deakin's comments were taken seriously enough for them to be published in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers in the same year.80 Taking into account the inherent difficulties in pinpointing focal changes in public opinion and governmental policy, it is clear that it was in this period (1905-1908) that Australia for the first time 'came to entertain seriously the fear of invasion'81 and began to embark on a program of considerable military expansion. It was at this time also that a number of citizen's pressure groups were formed with the object of promoting national service and the nationalist press began to agitate in earnest.

Whilst few refuted the 'Asia threat', more moderate observers baulked at proposals of compulsory training and national service 'with its attendant old world evils of militarism and a large officer hierarchy.'82 The argument often took the form of political and economic expediency: training would be a drain on a public purse strained by recent depression and in any case, the White Australia legislation was sufficient to solve the more realistic problem of an Asian cultural influx. However, it had another more subtle racial dimension. In the event of war, the argument ran, training deficiencies would be counterbalanced by the 'natural ability' of the bushman-soldier, the product of 'a superior racial heritage nurtured in a favourable environment'.83 They proposed the continuation of the voluntary defence system adopted in the cumbersome Commonwealth Defence Acts of 1903 and 1904.84 Other commentators dismissed the 'natural ability' argument as anachronistic and proposed the government initiate a program of national service and military expansion, in line with Britain and in response to other powers 'alien in ideals as well as racearming on a gigantic scale'.85 Reinforced by a number of citizen's groups86 and a plethora of 'scare' literature,87 these theorists managed to transform the notion of Asian invasion into a national paranoia in the years extending to the First World War.

Perhaps the most vociferous proponent of national service was the ultra-nationalist The Lone Hand, which published prolifically on the 'Asian threat'. The journal rejected arguments that Japan's commitments in China and the western coast of the Pacific, - '[that] Japanese pond',88 - would be more than adequate to stem any further southern expansion. 'It is inevitable that Japan cannot stop short in her progress. Without the control of the Pacific, of which she is the strategic centre, Japan's position would be precarious'.89 The Lone Hand, whilst taking care to distance itself from the jingo overtures of the mainstream press, made great use of the notion of duty and couched it in racial terms. Australians had a duty 'not only to ourselves, but to our race, to keep this continent free from alien invasion.'90 The Lone Hand and other proponents of national service had their way when compulsory peacetime military training was legislated for in the Defence Act of 1909.91 Despite pressure from citizen groups and significant absenteeism from compulsory training, Australia had over 200 000 men under arms by 1914 and the third largest military expenditure per head in the world.92

The participation of Australian troops in the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion did little to increase public or governmental enthusiasm for ongoing Australian involvement in overseas wars. Neither campaigns vindicated popular ideals of military glory or encouraged public willingness to vote for any significant military reforms in the first years of Federation. Certainly, it had little to do with the pronounced increase in military expenditure and the program of martial expansion initiated after 1905. It is evident that the voices of vocal minorities have formed the context of the historiography of this era, although it is not clear to what extent these voices reflect the views of the silent majority. However, it is clear that between 1902 and 1914, the divergence of British and Australian views on defence and diplomacy, the withdrawal of British naval power from the Pacific and the resulting fear of an Asian military threat led Australian governments to debate and eventually institute, a program of national service and significant military expansion, for the most part unopposed by a public previously characterised by a distinct distaste for militarism.

The right of Robert Wotton to be identified as
the author of this work has been asserted
by him in accordance with Section 77 of the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.



1 Connolly, C.N. 'Class, Birthplace, Loyalty: Australian Attitudes to the Boer War.' Historical Studies. v18, (1978), p. 210.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid
4 Vagts, A. A History of Militarism: Civilian and Military. (New York: The Free Press, 1959), p. 116.
5Encel, S. 'The Study of Militarism in Australia' in Van Doorn, J. ed., Armed Forces and Society: Sociological Essays. (Paris: Mouton, 1968), p. 128.
6Mordike, J. An Army for a Nation: a History of Australian Military developments, 1880-1914. (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1992) p. 53.
7Ibid., p. 62.
8Ibid., p.53.
9 Encel, The Study of Militarism, p. 128
10Ibid., p. 129.
11 Sydney Morning Herald, (Sydney), 18 January 1901.
12 Age, (Melbourne), 2 January 1901.
13 The Lone Hand, (Sydney), 01 October 1908
14 Meaney, N. A History of Australian Defence and Foreign Policy: the Search for Security in the Pacific, 1901-14. (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1976), p. 36.
15 Nicholls, B. Bluejackets and Boxers: Australia's Naval Expedition to the Boxer Uprising. (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986), p. 7.
16 Barclay, G. The Empire is Marching: A Study of the Military Effort of the British Empire, 1800-1945. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976), p. 36.
17 Penny, B.R. cited in Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 210
18 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 210
19 Ibid.
20 This synopsis appears in many recent works on Australian history. See Healey, 'War Against War' in Burgmann & Lee. Staining the Wattle: A People's History of Australia; Meaney. A History of Australian Defence; Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty.
21 Brisbane Courier (Brisbane), October-December 1899.
22 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 215.
23 Truth (its circulation of approx. 120 000 rivalled that of the Age), Bulletin, Grenfell Vedette, National Advocate, Cooma Express, Tweed Herald
24 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 211.
25 Perhaps the best example of this is Kipling's poem 'The White Man's Burden'. It characterises that peculiarly British notion of a resignation to the 'civilising' duty which accompanied the expansion of the Empire.
26 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 211.
27 Courier, (Brisbane), 1 November 1899.
28 Courier, (Brisbane), 1 November 1899.
29 Courier, (Brisbane), 1 January 1902.
30 Despite a widespread support amongst country newspapers, there were a number that opposed the war at different times: Orange Leader, Gundagai Independent, Barrier Miner,(Broken Hill) Grip (Grafton).
31 Western Champion, ( Barcaldine), October-November 1899.
32 Western Champion, ( Barcaldine), October-November 1899.
33 Nicholls, Bluejackets and Boxers, p. 25.
34 SMH, 11 August 1900
35 Ibid.
36 Age, 27 October 1899.
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid
39 Age, 28 October 1899.
40 Ibid.
41 Argus, 28 October 1899
42 Ibid.
43 Walker, ' A Man Never Knows his Luck in South Africa', in Rutherford, A. & Wieland, J. eds., War: Australia's Creative Response. (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1997), p. 16.
44 Kent, 'Bean's 'Anzac'', in Rutherford & Wieland. eds., War, p. 27.
45 Ibid.
46 Chris Healy, 'War Against War', in Burgman & Lee, eds., Staining the Wattle: a People's History of Australia Since 1788 (Melbourne: Penguin, 1988), p. 212.
47 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 216.
48 Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 56.
49 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 216.
50 This argument often assumed racial overtones. The Rand capitalists were commonly portrayed as Jewish overlords using cheap Black labour, excluding White workers from the labour market.
51 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 217.
52 The Worker, (Brisbane), January 27 1900.
53 SMH, October 19 1899.
54 The Worker, January 27 1900.
55 Meaney, N. A History of Australian Defence, p. 1.
56 Grey, A Military History, p. 55.
57 Military authorities and their political masters were, as in England, often at loggerheads over defence policy and military issues. Most of these unofficial offers were made by officers (often English) without the approval of colonial governments.
58 Dennis, Grey, Morris, Prior & Connor, eds., The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 106.
59 Grey, A Military History, p. 56.
60 Ibid.
61 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 40.
62 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 214.
63 Barclay, The Empire is Marching, p. 36.
64 Age, October 1900-May 1902; Argus, December 1900-May 1902.
65 Connolly makes the point that New South Wales' 6000 man contribution to the war was quite modest in comparison to the other Australian colonies and New Zealand, especially considering the Premier's admission that many of the men who enlisted in the contingents late in the war 'did not have jobs'.
66 Connolly, Class, Birthplace, Loyalty, p. 222.
67 Ibid.
68 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 41.
69 Ibid.
70 Ibid., p. 39.
71 Ibid., p. 49.
72 Shepherd, J. Australia's Interests and Policies in the Far East. (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1940) p. 7.
73 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 121.
74 Ibid.
75 Ibid.
76 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 121.
77 Herald, 12 June 1905, cited in Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 122.
78 J. Page, Labour member for Maranoa spoke on the issue, relating the Russo-Japanese War to Australia's defence needs. McLean, deputy prime-minister in the Reid-McLean coalition commented openly on the threat that Japan presented to Australia. Similarly, McCay, defence minister , addressed the problem by proposing an extension of Australian military power to counter a potential Japanese threat to Australia. (Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, pp. 125-127).
79 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 122.
80 Ibid., p. 123.
81 Meaney, A History of Australian Defence, p. 123
82 McKernan & Browne, eds., Australia, Two Centuries of War and Peace. (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1988), p. 148.
83 Ibid., p. 149.
84 Ibid., p. 157.
85 Sen. G.F. Pearce, 'Democracy and Defence', The Lone Hand, (01 March 1913), p. 366.
86 In September 1905, the National Defence League was formed in Sydney. The League was formed in order to pressure the government for the institution of a national militia and was supported by a number of influential politicians. The Immigration League was founded in the same year with the aim of encouraging the immigration of Britons and other White Europeans.
87 The Lone Hand published nearly 50 articles on the 'Asian threat' between 1908 and 1914.
88 The Lone Hand, 01 December 1908.
89 Ibid.
90 Ibid., 01 March 1913.
91 Browne & McKernan, Two Centuries of War and Peace, p.157.
92 Ibid.

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Visitors who are interested in the military involvement of Australia in the war should go here.

Further Reading

Abbott, J.H.M. Tommy Cornstalk: Being Some Account of the Less Notable Features of the South African War from the Point of View of the Australian Ranks. London: Longmans Green, 1902.

Breaker Morant and the Boer War. [sound recording]. Sydney : A.B.C., 1981.

Brown, John. "Boers' Worst Enemies." Military History. (Aug 1993): pp. 55-60, 90. Per.
(Ref: Australian mounted troops)

Breaker Morant. [videorecording] / producer Matt Carroll ; director, Bruce Beresford. Hendon, South Australia: South Australian Film Corporation, 1980.

Bufton, John. Tasmanians in the Transvaal War. Hobart: Loone, 1905.

Denton, Kit. Closed File. Adelaide: Rigby, 1983. 160 p. DT935D46.
[Ref: Research on the executions of Australian irregulars Harry 'Breaker' Morant & Peter Handcock in 1902 for the murder of enemy troops and a German missionary.]

Field, L. M. The Forgotten War: Australian Involvement in the South African Conflict of 1899-1902. Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1979.

Gow, R & G. Boer War 1899 - 1902: Mafeking to the Manning, Letters from the Front. Wingham, NSW: Manning Valley Historical Society, 1999.

Green, Rev. James. The Story of the Australian Bushmen. Sydney: W. Brooks, 1903.

Harvey, Len. Letters from the Veldt: an Account of the Involvement of Volunteers from Queensland at the War in South Africa (Boer War), 1899-1902. Hervey Bay: R & J McTaggert, 1994.

Hetherington, L. 'Postscript to Mutiny: James Steele at Deniliquin, 1902', Sabretache XXXVI, 1995, pp. 22-25.

Ian Holder. Interviews with Boer War veterans [sound recording]. [Brisbane: s.n.], 1977.
[Interviewees: Fred Thompson, Alfred Ingold].

Hoy, Anthony. 'Counsel for the Breaker'. The Bulletin. April 4, 2000, pp. 34-36.
* Short exploration of the life of J.F. Thomas, counsel for 'Breaker' Morant and Harry Handcock (includes a rare photograph rescued from a rubbish dump, of Thomas standing at the grave of Morant).

Murray, P.L. (Pembroke Lathrop), ed. Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. Melbourne: 1911?
[compiled and edited for the Australian Department of Defence].

The New South Wales Contingents for South Africa : Being a Pictorial Record of the Organisation of the Colonies' Forces for Active Service, and the Scenes of Unparalleled Enthusiasm Marking Their Departure for the Front. Sydney: New South Wales Bookstall Co., 1900.

Pedlar, D. 'Dogs and Other Macots' Sabretache XXXVI, 1995, pp. 30-33.
[This article is concerned with animals mentioned in connection with the New South Wales Citizens' Bushmen, particularly the dog, "Bushie". Bushie is described on the reverse of a photograph in the author's possession as, "The first dog officially sent to the South African War". ]

Reay, W. T. Australians in War : with the Australian Regiment from Melbourne to Bloemfontein. Melbourne: Massina, 1900.

Ridpath, John Clark. The Story of South Africa. Sydney: Oceanic Pub. Co., 1899-[1901]
[See Vol II War in South Africa.]

Stirling, John (John Featherstone). The Colonials in South Africa. Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1907.

Sutton, Ralph [ed]. For Queen and Empire: a Boer War Chronicle. Sydney: New South Wales Military Historical Society, 1974.

Sweetman, J.P. 'Hands Up! Hands Up! You Karkee Devils! The Vaal River Piquet - Four West Australians, Prisoners of the Boers'. Sabretache XXXVII, 1996, pp. 26-33.

The Transvaal War : a Souvenir of the Queensland Contingent for Service in South Africa. Brisbane: Gordon and Gotch, 1899.

Wallace, Robert L. The Australians at the Boer War. Canberra : Australian War Memorial, 1976.

Wallace, Robert L. The Circumstances Surrounding the Siege of Elands River Post : a Boer War Study. Wollstonecraft, NSW : R.L. Wallace, 1992.

Wilkinson, Frank. Australia at the Front. London: Long,1901. DT931.5A8W54.

Witton, George R. Scapegoats of the Empire : the Story of the Bushveldt Carbineers. Melbourne: Paterson, 1907.