Researching Australian military service: South African War (Boer War), 1899–1902


Australian military history overview: Australia and the Boer War, 1899–1902

Nominal rolls

There are a number of lists of names and other information relating to contingents that provide limited information about some of those who served.

The Memorial's Pre First World War Conflicts Nominal Rolls Boer War information has been compiled using P.L. Murray's Official records of the Australian contingents to the war in South Africa 1899–1902 (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1911) as a major source. This book has a brief history of each contingent, lists men serving in each contingent (not all names are included, others are spelt incorrectly), and gives some information about officers. Many men enlisted in Britain or South Africa, and are not within the intended scope of the volume. The volume has no contents list or index.

Other lists of those who served in the Boer War


  • Oz–Boer database
  • Australians serving in the Boer War
  • Boer War Memorial website
  • The General Orders for the colonial (and, after 1901, Commonwealth) Military Forces include troopship information, both for ships going to and returning from South Africa. They usually list units and their officers and, occasionally, have a full embarkation roll of soldiers. The General Orders are in date order, so to find a particular voyage it is necessary to have a rough idea of its dates. P.L. Murray, Official records of the Australian military contingents to the war in South Africa (1911) and Craig Wilcox Australia's Boer War : the war in South Africa, 1899-1902 (2002) may provide some assistance. General Orders are in official records series AWM1 3/19, AWM1 3/20 and AWM1 3/41.

Officers and those who remained in the army after the war

  • "Record of war service" in The military forces list of the Commonwealth of Australia (later titled Officer's list of the Australian Military Forces); the Research Centre holds lists from 1912


  • Rupert Goodman, Our war nurses (Bowen Hills, Qld: Boolarong Publications, 1988)
  • Sheila Gray, The South African war 1899–1902: service records of British and colonial women (Auckland: S. Gray, 1993)

Known unit or contingent

  • There are some unit nominal rolls in official records series AWM1 or AWM3. Search RecordSearch by name of unit or contingent and relevant dates for official records to find nominal rolls held by the Memorial or the National Archives of Australia.
  • Some nominal rolls exist in private papers and these can be found by using Collections Search
  • Search library catalogues for books on specific units, such as George Newbury, The Australian Commonwealth horse (Adelaide: George Newbury, 1990)

Personal service records

As the Boer War spanned the pre- and post-Federation period, personal service records may be held by state Government archives or by the National Archives of Australia. As a general guide, the colonial period records are held in state government archives and post-Federation records are held by the National Archives, although there may be exceptions to this.

If your individual was serving in the Boer War with the forces of another country please see our information sheet Personal service records: countries other than Australia.

Those who died while serving

The Roll of Honour records the names of servicemen and servicewomen who died during or as a result of service with Australian military forces. The Roll of Honour introduction provides detailed information about Roll of Honour eligibility.

The Commemorative Roll lists Australians who died during or as a result of wars or warlike operations in which Australians have been on active service but who were not eligible for inclusion on the Roll of Honour. The Commemorative Roll introduction provides detailed information about Commemorative Roll eligibility.

The Australian war graves in South Africa was created by the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra to support family historians whose field of study takes in the Anglo–Boer War of 1899–1902. It is a searchable database of information from Australian Boer War memorials.

Alexander M. Palmer, The Boer War casualty roll 1899–1902 (Perth: A.M. Palmer, 1999) includes an alphabetical listing of those who were wounded or taken prisoner, as well as those who died.

Where they served

  • P.L. Murray, Official records of the Australian contingents to the war in South Africa 1899–1902 (Melbourne: Government Printer, 1911) has an overview of the service of each Australian contingent.
  • John Stirling, The Colonials in South Africa 1899—1902 (Edinburgh, London: william Blackwood and Sons, 1907) includes a list of Honours and Mentions for each contingent.
  • Craig Wilcox, Australia's Boer War: the war in South Africa 1899–1902 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Medals and awards

Campaign and service medals

  • The Research Centre holds a fragile microfilm copy of Medal rolls and correspondence, Sudan and South Africa (ORMF 0055) documenting the issue of Queen's and King's Medals to soldiers in Australian contingents with an index to the unit. Individuals are not listed alphabetically.
  • Michael R. Downey, "Medal roll for Doyle's Australian Scouts, South Africa, 1902", Despatch 16, 7 (1981): pp. 16175

Honours and awards

  • South African war honours and awards: officers and men of the army and navy mentioned in despatches (London: Greenhill, 1987) is a published source which lists those who received awards for gallantry (not only Australians) and includes citations.
  • Neil and Sylvie Smith, Brought to notice: British held records of Australian rewards for the Boer War, 1899–1902 (Gardenvale, Vic.: Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications, 2000)
  • Honours and awards that have been gazetted are available on the honours and awards database.

Where to look for photographs

  • Collections Search provides access to digitised images of photographs held by the Memorial
  • Trove can search photographs and other images images held by a range of major Australian libraries, archives and other cultural institutions
  • Queenslanders on the Veldt: index of photographs appearing in The Queenslander newspaper of the men who joined up for the war; images may be ordered from the library

Other sources