The National Memorial is now all but complete. It will be dedicated by His Excellency the Governor General in Canberra on 31 May 2017. Use the button below to find out details of the dedication.
The National Boer War Memorial Design was unveilled by the National Patron General David Hurley AC, DSC, Chief of Defence Force in Canberra on 1 March 2012
Up until 1899 for Australians there had been quite fierce fighting in some areas as European settlement expanded across the lands of the Aboriginal peoples, and two minor rebellions on the Australian mainland quickly put down by British garrison troops. Australians had also fought in the Maori wars in New Zealand and, in 1885, New South Wales sent a 700 strong contingent of infantry and artillery, with a small medical detachment, to the Sudan in North Africa. The Boer War was the first full commitment of troops by all the Australian Colonies to a foreign war and with the formation of the Australian Commonwealth on 1st January 1901 it became our country’s first military involvement as a nation.
Australia’s contribution was significant; we suffered casualty numbers which have only been exceeded by those of World Wars 1 and 2. In all, over 16,000 troops were engaged in the Australian contingents and another 7,000 Australians fought in other colonial and irregular units. Possibly 1,000 Australians lost their lives on service in South Africa during the Boer War.
In the beginning there was a preference for infantry units but the value of Australian horsemen was quickly recognised as mounted infantry, due to their capacity to deploy quickly and their ability to match the Boers’ own game. Therefore they were much sought after. With the exception of one field artillery battery and some medical groups (field ambulance, stretcher bearers and some 60 nurses) the Australian forces in South Africa comprised mounted infantry. Along with the New Zealanders, Australian horsemen were unsurpassed as scouts and were greatly valued by column commanders. After Federation the mounted troops which were sent to South Africa included the various Australian Commonwealth Horse units.
Our soldiers, who were truly the first Australian expeditionary force to fight overseas, did Australia proud in the Boer War as they have done in all conflicts since. Informed military commentators saw the magnificent defence of Elands River by Australian and Rhodesian troops as the finest episode of the whole war. The majority of the defenders were Australian bushmen, mainly men from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria with a lesser number from Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. They manfully defended the post against impossible odds for 12 days.
Australians in irregular units took part in both the epic defence and the relief of the Siege of Mafeking and a number of Australians died during the defence of the town. It was a nine man patrol of the Imperial Light Horse, led by Major Walter Karri Davies, arguably the most famous Australian in South Africa at the time, which entered Mafeking a day ahead of the relief column.
In addition to six Victoria Crosses, Australians won many awards for gallantry in the Boer War and were frequently mentioned in the Commander in Chief’s despatches.
The trial and execution of Australian BVC officers ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock without the knowledge of, or any reference to the Australian Government, changed for ever our nation's attitude to the execution of servicemen. In the period since, no Australian serviceman has since suffered the death penalty, regardless of the war-related crime committed.
The sacrifices made by Australia and Australians during the Boer War were very significant. ANZAC Parade, however, does not yet have a Memorial. A site has at last been reserved for it and the National Boer War Memorial Association (NBWMA) formed to design, fund and construct a suitable monument. The NBWMA will ensure that those who fought in South Africa are commemorated in a way that will preserve our heritage and military history for the education and benefit of future generations of Australians.
ANZAC Parade, Canberra stretches from the Australian War Memorial to Lake Burley-Griffin, along a line between the Memorial and Parliament House. Flanking this grand avenue with a gravel marching surface in the broad median, there are memorials of specific focus.
Australian Hellenic Memorial,
These are beautiful structures commemorating the service of our countrymen and our relations with other nations. There is even a memorial to our most respected adversary in Kemal Attaturk, the Turkish commander at Gallipoli. There is no memorial to those who died in the Boer War.
The National Boer War Memorial Association (NBWMA) has secured the support of the Canberra National Memorials Committee and the National Capital Authority A memorial site has been allocated on ANZAC Parade and the conduct of a competition to design the memorial approved.
The NBWMA is conducting a national design competition whilst continuing the necessary fundraising for construction of the memorial This site is designed to provide some details about the War and its place in Australian military history also providing you with the opportunity to contribute to the project costs.
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Text by John Howells, images courtesy the National Capital Authority and the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum.
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