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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 a treaty, the Peace of Vereeniging. Australia, as part of the British Empire, offered troops from the six separate colonies and from 1901, the new Australian Commonwealth.
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 5th NSW contingent departed between March and April 1901 and consisted of the 2nd and 3rd NSW Mounted Rifles and those troops destined to become the 3rd NSW Imperial Bushmen, plus reinforcements for the Field Ambulance NSWAMC and A Field Battery RAA.
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.
It is estimated that about 16,000 Australians fought in the Boer War and there were about 600 casualties and deaths. Six Australian soldiers were decorated with a Victoria Cross.
In our collection are some general records relating to the Boer War, such as regimental orders and photos of the NSW Bushmen’s Contingent. For records relating to soldiers and nurses who enlisted see the Australian War Memorial.