Boer War

The Australian War Memorial states, ‘As part of the British Empire, the Australian colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. Australians served in contingents raised by the six colonies or, from 1901, by the new Australian Commonwealth.’…’Australians served mostly in mounted units formed in each colony before despatch, or in South Africa itself. The Australian contribution took the form of five waves. The first were the contingents raised by the Australian colonies in response to the outbreak of war in 1899, which often drew heavily on the men in the militia of the colonial forces. The second were the bushmen contingents, which were recruited from more diverse sources and paid for by public subscription or the military philanthropy of wealthy individuals. The third were the imperial bushmen contingents, which were raised in ways similar to the preceding contingents, but paid for by the imperial government in London. Then were then the draft contingents, which were raised by the state governments after Federation on behalf of the new Commonwealth Government, which was as yet unable to do so. Finally, after Federation, and close to the end of the war, the Australian Commonwealth Horse contingents were raised by the new federal government. These contingents fought in both the British counter-offensive of 1900, which resulted in the capture of the Boer capitals, and in the long, weary guerrilla phases of the war which lasted until 1902. Colonial troops were valued for their ability to shoot and ride, and in many ways performed well in the open war on the veldt. There were significant problems, however, with the relatively poor training of Australian officers, with contingents generally arriving without having undergone much training and being sent on campaign immediately. These and other problems faced many of the hastily raised contingents sent from around the empire, however, and were by no means restricted to those from Australia.’