The Boer War

Featured in

  • Published 20150505
  • ISBN: 9781922182807
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE ANZACS AT Gallipoli have not only eclipsed the greater Australian involvement on the Western Front, but have occluded another war altogether. This is the Boer War – more properly the Second Boer War – fought in South Africa from 1899 to 1902, where our troops actually saw real action in Africa, unlike the Sudan contingent of 1884. There would be some twenty thousand Australians involved, a proportion of the population equivalent to the number who served in Vietnam. And importantly, there are a number of ways the war cast a long shadow over Australia.

It was in South Africa that the distinctive qualities of Australian soldiers were first identified: tenacious fighters able to live off the land, sceptical of military rules and procedures, and in matters of discipline (as a British officer put it) ‘curiously lax’. Even so, the Boer War slipped from public consciousness relatively quickly. Although some two hundred monuments went up across the country, a number were shifted and some disappeared. The national monument in Melbourne – a plinth near the Shrine of Remembrance – is often overlooked even by historians. (A new one is currently being erected in Canberra.) The longer they lived, the more Boer War veterans felt sidelined. Some young people even thought it had been a foreign war.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

More from author

The lost option

Essay MONARCHY IN AUSTRALIA is an idea whose time is past. For some time now the question has been how to convincingly Australianise the British...

More from this edition

The bronzista of Muradup

MemoirNICOLA WALKED WITH his back straight and his shoulders scarcely moving. His upper body perfectly balanced and relaxed, his legs propelled him forward in...

Terrorism and the Cold War

EssayBEFORE THE WAR on terror, there was the Cold War. When the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was formed in 1949, it was frequently...


FictionThe tumult and the shouting dies;The Captains and the Kings depart…Rudyard Kipling, ‘Recessional’ SAM COMES UP to her at work. He’s wearing his favourite shirt,...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.