Boer War records – Fact sheet 67
Towards the end of the nineteenth century elements within the South African colonies had become disgruntled with increasing interference in local affairs by the British, who had established a presence in the region from 1806. In 1899 the Boer farmers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, descendants of Dutch settlers, declared war on the British by invading the colonies of Natal and Cape Colony. The war continued for three years, but by 1902 the British had defeated Boer resistance. The 1902 Peace of Vereeniging installed a pro-British civil administration.
Australian involvement in the Boer War
When war broke out the British government called for support from across the Empire. The Australian colonies – with initial hesitation – offered support. Contingents were raised from all colonies and after Federation in 1901 a joint Commonwealth contingent was raised.
There is no agreed figure for the number of Australians who served. Craig Wilcox in Australia’s Boer War: The War in South Africa, 1899–1902 (Oxford University Press, 2002, p. xiii) suggests figures of ‘around 20,000 men and 80 women’, but adds ‘we will probably never know the precise number as many enlisted more than once and those with irregular regiments have never been counted and may not be countable’.
The Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour lists 598 casualties. Six Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their Boer War service.
The National Archives holds many records relating to Australian participation in the Boer War. The majority of these are held by our Canberra and Melbourne offices. Series marked with an ‘*’ are available on microfilm in all National Archives reading rooms, with the exception of the Melbourne reading room.
Defence, Army and returned soldiers records
Records documenting service in the Boer War
For more information
See the National Archives' research guide, The Boer War: Australians and the War in South Africa, 1899–1902 by Craig Wilcox.
The Official Record of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, by PL Murray (AJ Mullett, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1911) includes lists of persons who served in the Boer War. You can also search the website of the Australian War Memorial for details of Boer War service.See also the Australian War Memorial’s information on Researching Australian military service: South African War (Boer War), 1899–1902.