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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENTS | BOER WAR

FIRST WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

1ST WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED INFANTRY

  • Original strength: 130
  • Subunits: one infantry company including machine-gun section/one mounted rifle squadron only
  • Commanding officer: Major H. G. Moor then Captain F. M. W. Parker
  • Left for South Africa: 7 November 1899 on Medic
  • Service: November 1899 - October 1900 in northern Cape Colony including defence of Australian Hill (9 February 1900), Free State, and Transvaal including battle of Diamond Hill (11-12 June 1900) and reverse at Palmietfontein (19 July 1900); part of Australian Regiment November 1899-April 1900, converted to mounted rifles December 1899, joined to 1st NSW Mounted Rifles April-October 1900
  • Fatal casualties: five killed or died of wounds including Moor, one died of disease
  • Decorations: two DSOs (H. F. Darling, Parker), five DCMs (J. Barry, J. E. Burley, R. Corkhill, P. M. Edwards, H. Force)
  • Returned: 29 December 1900 on Orient
  • Useful sources: correspondence by Moor (State Records Office of WA, 1496 1947/99), Messer scrapbook (Battye Library, 926A/12), West Australian 14 August 1900 p. 5, Campbell History of Western Australian Contingents (1910)
SECOND WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

2ND WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED INFANTRY

  • Original strength: 103
  • Subunits: one mounted rifle squadron and, briefly, one machine-gun crew
  • Commanding officer: Major H. L. Pilkington then Captain S. Harris
  • Left for South Africa: 3 February 1900 on Surrey
  • Service: March - November 1900 in north-west Cape Colony, Free State, and east Transvaal; some of contingent part of Australian Mounted Infantry Brigade November 1900 - March 1901
  • Fatal casualties: none
  • Decorations: one CB (Pilkington), two DSOs (J. C. De Castilla, S. A. Oliver)
  • Returned: 8 December 1900 on Woolloomooloo, April 1900 on Tongariro
  • Useful sources: second contingent correspondence (state Records Office of WA, 751/38-42, 48-9), F. W. Bretag letters (Australian War Memorial, PR86/126) 
THIRD WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN [CITIZEN] BUSHMEN

  • Original strength: 116
  • Subunits: one mounted rifle squadron only
  • Commanding officer: Major H. G. Vialls
  • Left for South Africa: 14 March 1900 on Maplemore
  • Service: April 1900 - April 1901 in Rhodesia under Carrington, west Transvaal including skirmish at Koster River (22 July 1900), and under Plumer in northern Transvaal including battle of Rhenoster Kop (29 November 1900), great De Wet hunt, including charge at Wolwekuil (14 February 1901), and advance on Pietersburg; amalgamated with Victorian Citizen Bushmen in 3rd Bushmen Regt
  • Fatal casualties: two killed or died of wounds, two died of disease
  • Decorations: one CB (Vialls), one DSO (R. R. C. Vernon), two DCMs (T. H. Angel, W. A. George)
  • Returned to Australia: 28 May 1901 on Morayshire
  • Useful sources: third contingent correspondence including reports by Vialls (State Records Office of WA, 751/53-55), B. F. C. Toy scrapbook (Battye Library, PR2447)

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN NURSES

  • Original strength: 11
  • Commanding officer: Superintendent M. A. Nicolay
  • Left for South Africa: mid March 1900
  • Service: April 1900-c. 1901 in Cape Colony, Free State and Transvaal
  • Fatal casualties: none
  • Decorations: none
  • Returned to Australia: unknown
  • Useful sources: file on nurses (State Records Office of WA, 1496, 47/00)

FOURTH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

4TH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED INFANTRY (IMPERIAL BUSHMEN)

  • Original strength: 132
  • Subunits: one mounted rifle squadron only
  • Commanding officer: Major J. Rose
  • Left for South Africa: 8 May 1900 on Manhattan
  • Service: June 1900 - June 1901 as part of 4th Imperial Bushmen Regt in Cape Colony including skirmish at Stinkhoutboom (24 July 1900) and under Plumer in northern Transvaal including battle of Rhenoster Kop (29 November 1900), great De Wet hunt, and advance on Pietersburg and into east Transvaal
  • Fatal casualties: three killed or died of wounds, none died of disease
  • Decorations: none
  • Returned to Australia: 20 July 1901 on Britannic
  • Useful sources: J. Wood notebooks (Battye Library, 3102A), Campbell History of Western Australian Contingents (1910)
FIFTH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

5TH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED INFANTRY

  • Original strength: 221
  • Subunits: two mounted rifle squadrons
  • Commanding officer: Captain H. F. Darling
  • Left for South Africa: 6 March 1901 on Devon
  • Service: April 1901 - April 1902 in east Transvaal under Walter Kitchener including defeat at Brakpan where three dead (16 May 1901); amalgamated with 6th WA Mounted Infantry May 1901 - April 1902 under Major J. R. Royston
  • Fatal casualties: six killed or died of wounds, three died of disease
  • Decorations: two DSOs (A. J. B. Brown, E. S. Clifford), one DCM (J. G. Dale)
  • Returned to Australia: 29 April 1902 on Columbian
  • Useful sources: A. Hammond letters (Battye Library, 4795A), T. A. Kidd diary (Australian War Memorial, 3DRL/3525), Campbell History of Western Australian Contingents (1910)
SIXTH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

6TH WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED INFANTRY

  • Original strength: 228
  • Subunits: two mounted rifle squadrons
  • Commanding officer: Captain J. Campbell
  • Left for South Africa: 10 April 1901 on Ulstermore
  • Service: May 1901 - April 1902 in east Transvaal under Walter Kitchener including defeat at Brakpan where five dead (16 May 1901); amalgamated with 5th WA Mounted Infantry under Major J. R. Royston
  • Fatal casualties: 10 killed or died of wounds, four died of disease
  • Decorations: one VC (F. W. Bell for rescuing comrade 16 May 1901), two DSOs (P. J. Daly, H. B. McCormack), one DCM (A. P. Abbott)
  • Returned to Australia: 29 April 1902 on Columbian
  • Useful sources: F. W. Bretag letters, O. Techow diary (Australian War Memorial, PR86/126 and 3DRL/2235), Campbell History of Western Australian Contingents (1910)

Recommended Reading

Below are a number of titles that people interested in the Boer War may find both enjoyable and useful in furthering their understanding of the war.

The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham

This excellent book is a full scale history of the war that is based on first-hand and previously unpublished sources ranging from the papers of the various leaders to the recollections of survivors from both sides.  Thomas Pakenham is a noted historian and author of many books and this one reads exceedingly well.

Scapegoats of the Empire (aka The Bushveldt Carbineers) by George Witton

This book is an account by George Witton, one of the Officers charged along with Peter Handcock and Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant for the murder of Boer prisoners.  Both Morant and Handcock were sentenced to death by firing squad which was carried out on the 27th of February 1902.  Witton was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour for his involvement in the affair.  Judge for yourself the guilt or otherwise of the parties but nevertheless, this makes for a compelling read.

Commando by Denys Reitz

This is an excellent book telling the story from the Boer side.  Denys Reitz saw service at the age of 17 when the war broke out in 1899 – he initially was not allowed to serve because of his young age however President Paul Kruger granted him special dispensation.  This is a very personal account of a young man who fought to the bitter end and who was present at the signing of the Treaty of Vereenging.  Reitz later went on to fight on the British side on the Western Front in the First World War.

From the Front A.B. (Banjo) Paterson’s Dispatches from the Boer War

Many people do not realise that the famous Banjo Paterson served as a special War Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Argus.  This book is a collection of his dispatches from his time there where amongst other things he was shot at, attached to the Medical Corps, spoke to Boer farmers and prisoners of war as well as meeting noted people of the day such as Rudyard Kipling.  This book provides a useful insight as to how Australians felt about serving in the Boer War and their attitudes to the Boers.

Education Resources

The BWMSWA hopes to soon be able to provide education resources on our site.  In the meantime please find below useful links to facts and materials on the Boer War:

Australian War Memorial - https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/atwar/boer

National Archives of Australia: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/explore/defence/service-records/army-boer.aspx

National Archives of Australia - http://guides.naa.gov.au/boer-war/introduction.aspx

British Broadcasting Corporation - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/boer_wars_01.shtml

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