The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Boer War Day 2022

By Peter Wilmot, President, Boer War Association Victoria

On a glorious Melbourne sunny winter's day Sunday 29 May 2022, 300 attended the 120th Anniversary to honour Australians and New Zealanders who fought in the Boer War and What happened to those who Served after the fighting ended.

The parade assembled at the lower forecourt of ANZAC Parade under parade commander Lieutenant Colonel Murray Duckworth CSM. The parade was led by the 4th – 8th Light Horse Troop followed by the Rats of Tobruk Pipes and Drums Boer War re-enactment group, Flags and banners of the Victorian Boer War Association Victoria, distinguished guests including Scouts, Girl Guides and contingent of descendants.

On reaching the Eternal Flame and the Cenotaph at midday, the service commenced. Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Neil Smith AM Governor Shrine of Remembrance was the Master of Ceremonies. The Commemoration address was given by Brigadier Michael Annett CSC

Twenty1nine distinguished guests had indicated that they would attend. Over the three days leading up to the service 12 were unable to attend through COVID and the flue, this also affected the number in the Light Horse and Band. Those that did attend Lord Baden-Powell sister Wendy Baden-Powell, Commodore Greg Yorke CSC RAN chair, Victorian Veterans Council, The Hon Nick Wakeling MP for Ferntree Gully, Councillor Marcus Peal Mayor City of Port Phillip. Major General Jim Barry AM MBE RFD ED (Retd) and Major General Jeffrey Rosenfeld AC OBE were also in attendance. Mr David Thomson OAM recited the poem “Dear Mother, Pray for me” by Trooper William Abrahams, Dr Robert Webster OAM, the State President of the Victorian RSL, The Ode. Major Tom Purcell represented the New Zealand Defence Force. The Service was lived streamed and can be seen on the Shrine of Remembrance memorial site. The service was reported on Channel 9 news at 5pm and again at 6pm.

What happened to those who served after the fighting ended?

The signing of the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902, officially ending the Boer War.

The return men age range from 16 to 58 years, the younger ones returning to Australia had lied about their age on enlistment to go to South Africa. On transports back to Australia and in Australia the war would cost more lives through sickness, the effects of wounds and suicides. The Kew Asylum just one of a number of places for Insane was the home for those who had mental health affected by war, some would die there. On reaching the Cities and towns that they had come from they were welcomed home with parades, smoke nights, speeches and gifts. The men returned to their normal home life carrying physical and mental scars from the war. Accidents and murder would claim others years later. Homes would be named after actions that had taken place in South Africa, Lieutenant Gartside Victoria Bushmen name his home Eland’s after the siege of Elands River in August 1900.

A number would be discharged in South Africa to start a new life, only to return to Australia years later, while others married and had families there. Others found on their return to Australia that their jobs had been taken forcing them to return to South Africa.

Boer War Memorials were built in towns and cities around Australia where veterans would gather each year. In each state, Veteran associations were formed which helped in the welfare and care of these men. They organised annual dinners, meeting venues, outings, and Boer War Day service at memorials. The other states would form association based on the Victorian model. The declining numbers of veterans continued to march on ANZAC Day.

The South African Soldiers Association of Victoria was formed in Melbourne on 7 February 1908, the branch was finally disbanded in November 1973 when eight remaining members in their nineties met and decided to disband the association. Their Banner takes a prominent place in the Boer War section at the Australian War Memorial.

About 30% Boer War Veterans again enlisted in the First World War, some to die in action. Others winning a number of decorations and reaching high ranks in the Military and civilian positions. A small number less than 4% age in their 60s again enlisted in the Second World War. One was interned at Changi Singapore as POW by the Japanese and survived.

Those that had only South African war service were not recognised as veterans by the RSL, only the ones with world war one service were able to join the RSL.

In the years that followed the Boer War the Australian Government of the day would not recognised their service with a war pension until the late 1930’s. The majority in their sixties was receiving the old age pension, were finally granted five years after World War one Veterans service pensions. Then in 1973 along with the World War one veterans, they were granted free medical attention without a means test. By this time only a few Boer War veterans would be still alive and the SASA association that they had belonged to had closed down.

The Photograph was taken in the Treasury Gardens on the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Boer War where 300 South African Soldiers Association marched along Spring Street down to Melbourne Town Hall in Swanston Street to be entertained in the Lord Mayor’s rooms.

This was followed by a Dinner by the Victorian Branch Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ & Airman’s Imperial League in the presence of His Excellency, The Lieutenant Governor Sir Edmund Herring, K.B.E. D.S.O. M.C. E.D. to the Veterans of the South African War at 6.30 p.m. Monday 10th October 1949.

Reported in the Herald Newspaper Monday 10 October 1949. p3.

They marched in sixes, the lines a little unsteady. Beards, walking sticks and old bowlers showed in their ranks. They were between 65 and 85 years. They marched in mufti with medals jingling. But three or four wore the leggings and spurs, light khaki tunic and trousers they had worn to fight in South Africa.

These man have all passed into history, the like of which will not be seen again.


Lest we Forget

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