Forging the Nation - Federation: the First 20 years

The Boer War 1899 - 1902

Just as the six colonies were making their faltering steps towards Federation, they were given the chance to show their commitment to Britain in its war against the Boers for control of South Africa. Contingents of troops left Australian ports from late 1899, and by January 1900 they were involved in major actions. Eventually 16,000 men from Australia volunteered to serve in the war, in which 606 died before the fighting ended in 1902. Six Victoria Crosses were awarded.

Some units were titled Bushmen. In 1902, following Federation, the new Commonwealth Government sent a further eight battalions called Australian Commonwealth Horse.

meeting.jpgFancy meeting you here!
From The Boer War Campaign Cartoons, 1901, by Taylor, pg 10. Collection of the Australian War Memorial.

REL 25972Colonel Mackay's hat.
Kenneth Mackay was Lieutentant Colonel in command of the NSW Imperial Bushmen's Contingent to the Boer War, and later became chief staff officer for the Australian contingents at the British Army Headquarters in South Africa. He wore this slouch hat when commanding the parade at the naming of Canberra in 1913. This style of hat became a national symbol during the First World War: They were made from an abundant local product - rabbit fur. AWM REL 25972