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War and Australia

A selection of resources highlighting New South Wales' involvement in a number of military conflicts during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Visit our new Digital Gallery: War and Australia 

This page will be updated progressively throughout the next few years leading up to the Gallipoli commemorations in 2015. State Records aims to highlight a selection of New South Wales State archives that reflect our involvement in a number of military conflicts including:


World War I: Anzac spirit

This is the image on the other side of the postcard.NRS 13660, probate #4/74161 Anzac is the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula in modern-day Turkey on 25 April 1915. The Gallipoli campaign has been described as the moment of birth of nationhood for both Australia and New Zealand.  The Anzac spirit which has survived Gallipoli included the ideals of mateship, endurance, courage, ingenuity and a larrikin sense of humour. Anzacs - from the trenches of Gallipoli is the first in a number of planned commemorations of the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in 2015. It features the probate records of two soldiers who died at Gallipoli - Thomas Bann and Jacob Allan.

Boer War

Camp of Bushmen's contingent, Kensington Racecourse, Sydney, NSW, c.1900.  Photo Investigator digital id 1254_a011_a011000019r.jpg The war between the British and the two Dutch South African republics - the Boer War - began on 11 October 1899 when the Boers declared war on the British. It lasted until 31 May 1902 when Lord Kitchener and General Botha signed the peace treaty, the Peace of Vereeniging, ending the war.  The first colonial contingents arrived in South Africa between November 1899 and March 1900; the second between December 1899 and February 1900; the third between April and May 1900 and the fourth between May and June 1900. The unification of Australia's defences began following Federation on 1 January 1901. After 1901 additional contingents of soldiers were sent to South Africa to form battalions with squadrons from each state.  These battalions were first numbered as units of the Commonwealth Contingent. Later the entire force was designated as the Australian Commonwealth Horse. The total Australian casualities numbered about 1,400. These included 251 who died in action or from wounds sustained in battle, 267 who died of disease and 43 who were reported missing.


This photo dates from about 1870-90 and could well be soldiers departing for the Sudan (based on military uniform worn).  Digital id 4481_a026_000695In the early 1880s the British-backed Egyptian regime in the Sudan came under threat from local supporters of Muhammed Ahmed, also known as the Mahdi. In 1883 the Egyptian government was sent south to crush the revolt, but instead of destroying the Mahdi's forces, the Egyptians were soundly defeated. On March 29, 1885 a NSW contingent arrived in Sudan, the first time Australian troops fought in an imperial war.

The NSW contingent consisted of an infantry battalion and an artillery battery, totalling 758 men. They left Sydney on March 3 and returned on June 19, 1885.  While the contingent did not fight in any major battles, there were three wounded soldiers and seven deaths from fever or dysentery.