Queen’s Wharf was packed with people on 6 August 1901 when the Lucinda arrived carrying the men of the Fourth Contingent who had just returned from the Boer War in South Africa. The steamer Lucinda had been dispatched earlier to collect them from the Brittanic, at anchor in Moreton Bay.
The Boer War commenced in 1899 as a dispute between the British of the Cape Colony and the Dutch-Afrikaner of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. As it was prior to Federation, volunteers from the Australian colonies travelled in Contingents to support the British. Overall some 16,000 Australians fought in the Boer War. The Queensland Imperial Bushmen, consisting of some 387 men in three mounted rifle squadrons, were the Fourth Contingent to travel from Queensland. They departed with 550 horses in May 1900 and saw service for a year from June 1900 in Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Eight men were killed and five died of disease.
Brisbane was keen to welcome home the men of the Contingent who had chosen to return, including nine officers and 164 non-commissioned officers and men. Their commander, Major Deacon, reported that they had been in some tight corners at times and spent considerable days travelling, being accommodated in tents for only three months of the year they had spent away. The Boer War was fought using guerrilla tactics, where raiders would attack their target and withdraw. Reports provided by the men to journalists on their return clearly indicated that these soldiers had pursued the enemy vigorously.
Although the return of the Queensland Imperial Bushmen was a matter for celebration, public support for the war already was being eroded by reports of civilian casualties and the trial and execution of soldiers Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant from South Australia and Peter Handcock, both lieutenants, in 1902. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902
- Brisbane Courier, 7 August 1901, pp. 5-6.
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