‘Let us go’ … it’s a ‘Blackfellows’ War’: Aborigines and the Boer War

Aborigines and the Boer War

Author/s (editor/s):

John Maynard

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Find this publication at:
the publisher's site

There remains much mystery, misconception and myth surrounding the history of Aboriginal involvement with the South African Anglo-Boer War (hereafter Boer War). Unquestionably, Aboriginal men did go to South Africa and play a part, but the numbers, identity and background of these men remains sketchy. The war in South Africa remains itself somewhat the forgotten war. Jim Davidson has reflected that its memory ‘slipped from public consciousness relatively quickly … Collective Memory of the Boer War was soon swamped by the Great War’.1 In this study I reflect on some of the known and unknown stories and experiences of Aboriginal people during the Boer War. What were the living circumstances of Aboriginal people in Australia leading up to and during the Boer War and did this have any impact? Did Aboriginal people and communities support the war in South Africa? What do we know of the Aboriginal men that went to South Africa? Why were they there? How did they get there and did they get home? Whilst acknowledging the lack of archival sources,2 I will address or reveal some of the complexities of these issues through this article.

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