The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Captain (Later Major) George Wynne

Captain (Honorary Major) George Watkin Wynne, Journalist come Naval Officer and later Army Officer in the Boer War

George Watkin Wynne was born on 6 August 1872 in Ballarat Victoria. His father, also a journalist, became one of the founding staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph and went on to be the paperís General Manager for 38 years. The family moved to Sydney and George was educated at Sydney Boys High School which was then in the centre of Sydney, near Hyde Park. He had four years experience after leaving school in the mercantile marine before taking up journalism. He was a journalist with the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

He was also a well known sporting identity and in 1891 was credited with saving the life of a man in Sydney Harbour for which the NSW branch of the Royal Humane Society presented him with a certificate. At the time of the China Contingent he was secretary of the NSW League of Wheelmen and had been involved in bike racing for an extended period of time.

His service in the mercantile marine ideally fitted him for service with the Naval contingent to China and undoubtedly he had strong support from his newspaper when he volunteered for the China expedition. The appointment of his and a Sydney Morning Herald journalist (J Wallace) to Assistant Paymaster positions caused political uproar at the time. It is apparent from news reports that no one in parliament had any idea of what the role entailed, so it can be safely concluded that the Premier Sir William Lynne saw it as a matter of political expediency. He embarked 8 August 1900 on board SS Salamis with the contingent. During his China service he not only carried out his duties as a naval paymaster (similar to an army quartermaster) but also sent reports back to his paper in Sydney. He is reported as being a popular officer with Contingent members although his entrepreneurial activities on behalf of the Contingent (and himself), landed him and Wallace in hot water with the French who accused them of extortionate activities. Nothing apparently occurred as a consequence of the accusation. Most of his service was spent with the NSW component of the force on public security duties in Peking. Some of his news reports would be regarded as decidedly Politically Incorrect today. He notes some rough justice handed out to two competing locals.

"Both parties lie considerably, and we ended up matters by flogging the heathen, to show him the extent to which Lee Hung Chang could protect him, and by flogging the Christian for using his alleged Christianity for motives of immediate personal profit, instead of to prepare himself for the hereafter, as all good Christian should. Rugged justice, perhaps, but we have no laws here that require university education, and a lifelong study for their correct administration. We must deal out plain, unadulterated justice, and it gives satisfaction, if not pleasure to all."

In his final comments on the contingent record in China Wynne wrote the following:

@quot;The good behaviour of the blue jackets throughout was complimentarily commented on by Lieutenant-Colonel Tulloch when reporting what the expedition had done. They make home seem fairer than it did when an honest fight with a worthy foe was promised. We now know there is no work here for men, and we are counting the days that separate us from Australia."

The Contingent returned to Australia on 25 April 1901 aboard SS Chingtu.

For his China Service, Wynne received the Queens China Medal and a private decoration issued by US officers in Peking, The Military Order of the Dragon.

On his return he raised a stir in public lectures by suggesting that the Boxer Rebellion was as much about Western money masquerading as missionary work as anything else.

Following his China experience, Wynne volunteered for service with the Commonwealth Contingent to the Boer War in 1902. He was appointed as a captain and quartermaster of the 3 Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse. This unit saw limited service in South Africa most of which was involved in disarming Boer soldiers following the peace. In true journalistic style he photographed these operations. He received the Queens South African medal with the clasps Transvaal and South Africa 1902 for his South African service.

Following the war he became involved in the reorganised cadet training system which was part of the conscription for home service Australia had introduced. He was commandant of cadets in New South Wales from 1905 to 1911 with the honorary rank of Major. In 1911 he was made commander of the Australian Cadet Contingent to the coronation of King George V. As a result he received the Coronation Medal. His cadets won the Gold Cup at Bisley in competition with cadets from Britain and the Empire. Whilst in England in recognition of his work with cadets, Lord Roberts presented him with the Robertís medal or medallion. He was on the CMF reserve officers in New South Wales.


In World War I, even though he was now in his mid-40s he volunteered for overseas service with the AIF. In December 1915 he was gazetted as a Lieutenant in the 7th reinforcements of the 30th Battalion. In July 1916 he was temporarily placed in command of the 5th Divisionís Base depot at Tel El Kebir in Egypt. He joined the 30th Battalion in France in October 1916. Here his age and health began to catch up with him and in early 1917 he was reposted to the 8th training battalion in England. By September 1917 it was clear he was suffering from a serious umbilical hernia problem. In October 1917 he was returned to Australia as medically unfit to further service and was finally discharged as a Captain in June of 1918. For World War I he received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

He died 11 July 1951 and was cremated in a private ceremony.


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