Remembering our original war
THIS Sunday across Australia there will be many places holding ceremonies to mark Boer War Day to remember and honour this country's contribution to that conflict in 1899-1902, the first we fought as a commonwealth nation.
Australia's contribution to that war went in five waves - the first mostly from the militias, the second from bushmen, the third as Imperial Bushmen (Imperial because the British bore their costs, not Australia), then the draft contingents, and finally the Commonwealth Horse contingents.
The latter included soldiers from the New South Wales Lancers (light horse). They were already in training in England at Aldershot. Seventy-two of these men, including some from the Northern Rivers area, were the first to be landed in South Africa.
The Boer War was a proving ground for the first colonial soldiers who went on to become the Australian Army at Federation in 1901 and fight in the First World War.
More than a 1000 men and Waler horses died in South Africa.
This excerpt from The Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Daily Examiner) on December 23, 1899 reported that military enthusiasm had been aroused on the Clarence and a number of local residents had volunteered for service against the Boers.
Mr Hockey, President of the Grafton Civilian Reserve Rifle Club took names and particulars from those offering their services. The men were to be examined locally and Dr Smith, the Government Medical Officer performed this duty.
One condition of volunteering was that the men could leave on the day's steamer and that their fares would be paid. Those who gave their names and were examined were JJ Wilson (manager of Southampton Butter Factory), T Penrose, HG Dalby, Walter Oakes, T Morrow, W Niland and A Bryon. The first five of these men left on the ship "The City of Grafton" on Friday evening December 22. (These men were the 1st Enlistment of Clarence Valley men for the Boer War).
A crowd of some 2000 assembled on the wharf to see them off, the City Band played and accompanied them to Ulmarra. After some fitting remarks, the men were given three hearty cheers, two rockets were fired and hundreds of pocket handkerchiefs were waved.
Building a memorial
A memorial to honour and commemorate the Australians who served in the Boer War is to be built in Canberra. It will fill a missing link in the chain of memorials that recognise the sacrifices of the many Australians who have served in conflicts since Australia became a nation in 1901.
It is the only major war not to be commemorated in Canberra and the association is seeking support from the public to help raise the $3.5 million needed to complete the project, which features an inscripted wall and four realistic bronze statues depicting a section of Australian mounted troopers on patrol in South Africa.
With the average age of the remaining sons and daughters of Boer War participants now 88 years, it is important to see this memorial finished in their lifetime. Tax deductible donations can be made online http://www.bwm.org.au/donate.