David Deasey: Australia & the Boer War

David Deasey clears up the myths about Australia’s involvement in the Boer War. (Hint: it’s more than Breaker Morant).

Apart from a few myths the Boer War, which ended just over 110 years ago on 31 May 1902, is nearly forgotten – partly because it is “the war too far”.

Records of the Boer War are difficult to find and access, and were often sparse to begin with. In many cases, the records of official Australian contingents are not complete. Indeed, whole units are missing from the official records, making the first-hand accounts of veterans vital to our understanding.

This was Australia’s first national war, bridging as it did in the colonial period to nationhood. Prime Minister Edmund Barton explained to the nation that an attack on any part of the Empire was an attack on all of the Empire.

It also was the first time that Australian women served in Australian units and the first Australian woman died on active service. When the war was over Australia sent women school teachers to help rebuild the Transvaal education system.

Over 16,000 Australian men and women served in official Australian contingents and around another 7000 served in South African irregular units or the British Army. Approximately 1000 Australians died.

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