Thursday 13th of February 2003 12:21 PM 
 
 
Australian Forces in the Anglo-Boer War

Colonial Office Despatch of 3 October 1899

Secretary of State for War and Commander-in-Chief desire to express high appreciation of Her Majesty's Government for the patriotic spirit exhibited by the people of Australia in offering to serve in South Africa and to furnish following information to assist organisation of forces offered into units suitable for military requirements:-

Firstly.
Units should consist of about 125 men.

Secondly.
May be infantry, mounted infantry, or cavalry. In view of numbers already available, infantry most, cavalry least, serviceable.

Thirdly.
All should be armed with .303 rifles or carbines, which can be supplied by Imperial Government if necessary.

Fourthly.
All must provide own equipment, and mounted troops their own horses.

Fifthly.
Not more than one captain and three subalterns to each unit. Where more than one from single colony force may be commanded by officer not higher than Major.
In considering number which can be employed, the Secretary of State for War, guided by nature of officers, desires that each colony should be fairly represented and limits are necessary if force is to be fully utilised.
Available staff is integral portion of Imperial forces.
Would gladly accept two units each from New South Wales and Victoria, and one from South Australia.

Conditions as follows:-
Troops to be disembarked at port of landing in South Africa, fully equipped, at cost of colonial Governments or volunteers.
From date of disembarkation, Imperial Government will provide pay at Imperial rates, supplies and ammunition, and will defray expenses of transport back to the colony, and pay wound expenses and compassionate allowances at Imperial rates.
Troops to embark not later than 31st October, proceeding direct to Capetown for orders.



Use the links below to view information on contingents organised State-by-State. These lists are relatively comprehensive. Any input from visitors with knowledge of Australian involvement in the war is welcomed.

Contingents by State: 1899 - 1902
New South Wales Contingents
Queensland Contingents
South Australian Contingents
Tasmanian Contingents
Victorian Contingents
West Australian Contingents

 

It was rather the fashion for Australian soldiers to visit professional studios to have their photograph taken prior to embarkation for active duty. Below are some portraits typical of the South African War era. If you can identify these men, please contact me.
Australian soldier I
Australian soldier II
Australian soldier III
Australian soldier IV
Images courtesy of Craig Renard



ACTIONS OF AUSTRALIAN REGIMENTS

Key to Table 
L
Lancers
MR
Mounted Rifles
MI
Mounted Infantry
AMC
Army Medical
Corps
IB
Imperial Bushmen
CIT. B
Citizen's Bushmen
B
Bushmen
ART
Artillery
ACH
Aust. Commonwealth
Horse
CONST.
Constabulary

UNIT
ENGAGEMENT
UNIT
ENGAGEMENT

1 QMI

Sunnyside (01 Jan 1900)
Relief of Kimberley
(14-15 Feb 1900)

3 QMI

Relief of Mafeking (17 May 1900)
Koster River (21-22 July 1900)
Elands River (4-16 Aug 1900)
(besieged for 13 days)
Rhenoster Kop (29 Nov 1900)

4 QIB

Rhenoster Kop (4-16 Aug 1900)
Pompean Pan (23 Feb 1901)
(Captured De Wet's wagons
and maxims)

5 QIB

Onverwacht (04 Jan 1902)
(defended guns)

6 QIB

Koffeyfontein (13 Jul 1901)
(surprised Boer laager)

NSW L

Belmont Hill (23 Nov 1899)
Graspan (25 Nov 1899)
Modder River (28 Nov 1899)
Arundel (08 Dec 1899)
Stormberg (10 Dec 1899)
Magersfontein (11 Dec 1899)
Colenso (15 Dec 1899)
Slingersfontein (16 Jan 1900)
Paardeburg (18 Feb 1900)

NSW MR

Slingersfontein (16 Jan 1900)
Paardeburg (18 Feb 1900)
Houtnek (30 Apr 1900)
Diamond Hill (11-12 Jun 1900)
(charged enemy)
Palmietfontein (19 Jul 1900)
Relief of Elands River (15-16 Aug 1900)
Rensburg Drift (27 Oct 1900)
(captured Krupp gun)
Bothaville (5-7 Nov 1900)
Capture Potgeiter's convoy (24 May 1901)

2 NSW MR

Doornek (11 Mar 1902)

3 NSW MR

Engage Botha (25 Oct 1901)
(captured documents)
Support NZ's near Vrede (23 Feb 1902)

NSW AMC

Relief of Kimberley (14-15 Feb 1900)

NSW CIT. B

Koster River (21-22 Jul 1900)
Elands River (4-16 Aug 1900)
(besieged for 13 days)

NSW IB

Relief of Elands River (15-16 Aug 1900)
Vlakfontein (26 Jan 1901)
Captured De la Rey's convoy (24 Mar 1901)
(including 9 guns)
Palmietfontein (08 Apr 1901)
(captured convoy of Kemp and Smuts)

3 NSW IB

80 km night march to Wolmaranstad (20 Aug 1901)
Kaultsfont Nek (27 Oct 1901)
engaged Muller's commando)

NSW Art.

Chased de Wet in Hopetoun District (Dec 1900)
Pompean Pan (23 Feb 1901)
(Captured de Wet's wagons and Maxims)

1 VMR

Pink Hill (12 Feb 1900)
Witwatersrand (29 May 1900)
6 Mile Spruit (04 Jun 1900)

2 VMR

Witwatersrand (29 May 1900)
6 Mile Spruit (04 Jun 1900)

5 VMR

Wilmansrust (12 Jun 1901)
(camp rushed by Boers; severe losses)
Geelhoutboom (23 Nov 1901)
Relief of Onverwacht (04 Jan 1902)

3 VB

Koster River (21-22 Jul 1900)
Besieged at Elands River (4-16 Aug 1900)
Rhenoster Kop (29 Nov 1900)

4 VIB

Philipstown (11 Feb 1901)
(surprised enemy)
Pompean Pan (23 Feb 1901)
(Captured De Wet's wagons
and maxims)

1 SA MR

Retreat to Arundel (13-14 Feb 1900)
(rearguard)

4 SA IB

Palmietfontein (19 Jul 1900)
Stinkhoutboom (24 Jul 1900)
(sharp clash near Vredefort)
Relief of Elands River (15-16 Aug 1900)

5, 6
SA IB

Early morning march to capture de Wet's convoy (06 Jun 1901)
Grootvalliers Farm (29 Jul 1901)
(attacked Smuts' commando with fixed bayonets)
Ride 120 km in 22 hours to relief of Bakenlaagte (30 Oct 1901)

3 SA B

Ottoshoop (12 Sept 1900)
Lichtenburg (26 Sept 1900)

1 TAS

Houtnek (30 Apr 1900)

3 TAS IB

Surrounded at Warmbad (01 Sept 1900)
(retire after fierce clash)
Rhenoster Kop (29 Nov 1900)
Chase de Wet in Hopetoun District (Dec 1900)

4 TAS IB

Roodepoort (13 Aug 1901)
(Commandant Erasmus captured)

2 Tas B
Ottoshoop (12 Sept 1900)
Lichtenburg (26 Sept 1900)
1 WA MI
Stinkhoutboom (Jul 24 1900)
Relief of Elands River (15-16 Aug 1900)
(WA troops first to ride in from south-east)

2 WA MI

Diamond Hill (11-12 Jun 1900)
(rout Botha's rearguard)

5, 6
WA MI

Brackpan (15-16 May 1901)

3 WA IB

Koster River (21-22 Jul 1900)
Besieged at Elands River (4-16 Aug 1900)

4 WA IB

Leeuw Kop (03 July 1900)
(saved guns after stiff resistance)
Palmietfontein (19 Jul 1900)

*Aust. Regt.

Jasfontein, Slingersfontein (09 Feb 1900)
At relief of Colesburg (28 Feb 1900)
At occupation of Bloemfontein (13 Mar 1900)
Cross into O.F.S., advance to Fauresmith (15-27 Mar 1900)
Hold last parade, Bloemfontein (06 Apr 1900)

Bushmen

Arrive Beira, travel across to Marandellas to join Rhodesian Field Force and reach Pretoria (Apr-June)
At capture of Pietersburg (08 Apr 1901)

1 Aust Horse

At Paardeburg (18 Feb 1900)

Scottish Horse

Defence of convoy at Bakenlaagte (30 Oct. 1901)

Sth Afr. Const.

Thaba 'Nchu Orange Free State
(15 June 1901)

ACH

Arrive and take part in drives (Mar 1902)
Subjected to attacks as Boers try to break through lines (10 May 1902)

* The Australian Regiment was formed from an amalgamation of the VMR and the SA, WA, TAS Infantry on Dec. 6 1899.




AUSTRALIAN DECORATIONS*
STATE/DECORATION
V.C.
C.B.
C.M.G.
D.S.O.
D.C.M.
M.I.D.
R.R.C.
Total
N.S.W.
1
8
1
24
16
96
1
141
VIC.
1
3
2
12
13
75
1
107
QLD
0
5
3
8
13
60
0
89
S.A.
0
3
0
8
10
42
1
64
W.A.
1
1
0
6
8
59
0
75
TAS.
2
3
0
4
5
34
0
48
Total
5
23
6
62
65
366
3
524
*This table excludes awards to troops not serving with Australian units.

 

SOURCES:
Denton, Kit. Australians at War: For Queen and Commonwealth. (Sydney: Time Life, 1987).
Field, L.M. The Forgotten War: Australian Involvement in the South African Conflict of 1899-1902. (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1979).
Walker, Shirley. 'The Boer War: Paterson, Abbott, Brennan, Miles Franklin and Morant'. Australian Literary Studies 12 (1985), pp. 207-222.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Links

Download a compressed text file of the complete list of Australians who served in the South African War (121kb).
NOTE: these files are in Zip format. Windows users can download WinZip to unzip these files. Macintosh users can download StuffIt

Visitors who are interested in the political, social and cultural background to Australia's involvement in the war should go here.

Anglo-Boer War Study Group of Australia
The Anglo-Boer War Study Group of Australia meets quarterly to share information and memorabilia about the war.

Australian War Memorial Boer War Nominal Roll Database
This roll provides details of those persons who served with Australian units in the South African War. The information it contains is derived from the Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, compiled and edited for the Department of Defence by Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray RAA (Ret.), Government Printer Melbourne, 1911.

Australian War Graves in South Africa - 1899-1902
This project, by the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra, aims to publish the database of burial and memorial locations of Australians who died during the second South African Anglo-Boer War of 1899 - 1902. Also included are biographies, researched by the Society, of selected soldiers from each of the Australian States.

 

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).

Macdonald, Donald. How We Kept the Flag Flying : the Siege of Ladysmith Through Australian Eyes. London: Ward, Lock, 1900.

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.