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The Boer War: Australians and the War in South Africa, 1899–1902


Appendix 5: Further reading

There have been two phases of writing on Australians and the Boer War. The first, which ran its course by 1912, saw a spate of memoirs of active service, some personal apologias, at least one account of an Australian suburb's contribution to the war, and an 'official record' of the service of Australian contingents. P L Murray's Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa (Government Printer, Melbourne, 1911) was unique in its use of official military sources, notably nominal rolls and officers' reports. The result was not an Australian official history despite earlier plans that one be written, but a 600-page condensation of readily available official sources. The value of the book today is in what it has preserved, especially where the original documents which Murray used have been lost or destroyed. The book's limitations, though, are severe. The nominal rolls give no more than name, rank and whether killed, wounded, died, injured or fallen sick. The extracts from officers' reports almost never include passages referring to routine patrol work, health, discipline or morale. Nothing useful is offered about British units and forces with which Australian units served, and there are no notes indicating the source of any material used in the book.

The second phase of writing on the subject, which included academic and non-academic strands, began in the 1960s. The academic strand at first was largely interested in whether Australians had been manipulated into war by the imperial government. This question informed the first chapters of L M Field's The Forgotten War: Australian Involvement in the South African Conflict of 1899–1902 (Melbourne University Press, 1979), which sought to treat events and attitudes in Australia during the war as well as the experience of active service. Field's book was the first, and to date the only, book-length academic synthesis of the subject. Field displayed great interest in the commitment and service of the first four waves of contingents, but regrettably squeezed the story of the other two waves into just one chapter. The non-academic strand had been most famously concerned with Breaker Morant, the subject of several books from F M Cutlack's Breaker Morant (Ure Smith, Sydney, 1962) to Kit Denton's Closed File (Rigby, Adelaide, 1983). The most productive non-academic writer on Australia and the war, R L Wallace, has published two books: The Australians at the Boer War (Australian War Memorial and Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976), based largely on soldiers' letters, and The Circumstances Surrounding the Siege of Elands River Post (privately published, Sydney, 1992). Wallace consulted private records in South Africa for the first book and some War Office records in London for the case study, and has treated the experience of Australians in non-Australian units as well as those in the better-known Australian ones. In these respects he has shown more imagination and initiative than academic writers.

Below is a list of further useful writing:

  • Abbott, J H M, Tommy Cornstalk, Longmans, London, 1902
  • Austin, R, The Australian Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Zulu and Boer Wars, Slouch Hat, Rosebud, Victoria , 1999
  • Bassett, J, 'Turning point: Australian nurses and the South African War', Journal of the Australian War Memorial, no. 13, October 1988, pp. 3–8
  • Burness, P, 'The Australian Horse: A cavalry squadron in the South African War', Journal of the Australian War Memorial, no. 6, April 1985, pp. 37–45
  • Calder, W B, Heroes and Gentlemen: Colonel Tom Price and the Victorian Mounted Rifles, Jimaringle, Melbourne, 1985
  • Carnegie, M, In Search of Breaker Morant, Shields, Armidale, 1979
  • Chamberlain, M, 'The characteristics of Australia's Boer War volunteers', Historical Studies, vol. 20, no. 78, April 1982, pp. 48–52
  • Chamberlain, M, 'The Wilmansrust Affair: A defence of the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles', Journal of the Australian War Memorial, no. 6, April 1985, pp. 47–55
  • Chamberlain, M, The Australians in the South African War 1899–1902: A Map History, Australian Army History Unit, Canberra, 1999
  • Connolly, C N, 'Manufacturing "spontaneity": The Australian offers of troops for the Boer War', Historical Studies, vol. 18, no. 70, April 1978, pp. 106–17
  • Connolly, C N, 'Class, birthplace, loyalty: Australian attitudes to the Boer War', Historical Studies, vol. 18, no. 71, October 1978, pp. 210–32
  • Coulthard-Clark, C D, No Australian Need Apply: The Troubled Career of Lieutenant-General Gordon Legge, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1988
  • Davey, A, Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers, Van Riebeeck Society, Cape Town, 1987
  • Dennis, P and Grey, J, The Boer War, Army, Nation and Empire: The 1999 Chief of Army/Australian War Memorial Military History Conference, Australian Army History Unit, Canberra 1999
  • Green, J, The Story of the Australian Bushmen, Brooks, Sydney, 1903
  • Hill, A J, Chauvel of the Light Horse: A Biography of General Sir Harry Chauvel GCMG KCB, Melbourne University Press, Carlton Vic., 1978
  • Pakenham, T, The Boer War, Wedenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1979
  • Lee, E, To the Bitter End: A Photographic History of the Boer War 1899–1902, Viking, Harmondsworth UK, 1985
  • Lloyd, C & Rees, J, The Last Shilling: A History of Repatriation in Australia, Melbourne University Press, Carlton Vic., 1994
  • McLachlan, R, Index to Australian Contingents to South Africa, privately published, 1984
  • Nasson, B, The South African War 1899–1902, Arnold, London 1999
  • Reay, W T, Australians in War: With the Australian Regiment from Melbourne to Bloemfontein, Massina, Melbourne, 1901
  • Souter, G, Lion and Kangaroo: Australia 1901–1919, the Rise of a Nation, Collins, Sydney, 1976
  • Stirling, J, The Colonials in South Africa 1899–1902, Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1903
  • Wilkinson, F, Australia at the Front, Long, London, 1901
  • Wilkinson, F, Australian Cavalry: The NSW Lancer Regiment and the First Australian Horse, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1901

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