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Chamberlain, Max & Droogleever, Robin. (eds)The War With Johnny Boer: Australians in the Boer War, 1899-1902.

Chamberlain, Max & Droogleever, Robin. (eds)The War With Johnny Boer: Australians in the Boer War, 1899-1902, AMHP, The War Book Shop, ( 13 Veronica Place, Loftus NSW 2232, 02-9542-6771 Sydney, 2003. illus, maps, glossary, bibliography, appendices list units deployed, index, 631 pages, $59.00.

It is a delighted to see the publication of The War with Johnny Boer by Max Chamberlain and Robin Droogleaver. Max is well known to Sabretache readers for his Boer War expertise. Robin is also an expert on the subject. He edited Banjo Paterson's despatches from South Africa in From the Front. The editors received assistance from the Anglo-Boer War Study Group which includes a number of MHSA members.

The main actions of the Australian Colonies in the Boer War are illustrated by letters, diary extracts, memoirs, and newspaper reports. The editors have given preference to unpublished letters and diary extracts and make use of correspondence published in newspapers. Some of the material will be familiar but this is to ensure good coverage of the main actions involving Australians. All the writers except three are Australians and include soldiers, medical staff, nurses, war correspondents and other civilians.

This work is primarily a research source rather than a history of Australian involvement in the Boer War but it covers all the main Australian action. Part one of the book has some vignettes to cover service life from enlistment, the voyage to South Africa, various aspects of service in South Africa and finally the return home.

The bulk of the book is reminiscences of those who were on campaign and under fire. The second part is set out chronologically with a brief introduction covering the geographical and military context. The chapter on Northern Transvaal (September 1900) cover the action at Warmbaths (1 September 1900). It is subtitled the most highly decorated action of the war for an Australian unit resulting in 2 VC and 2 DCM awards. The chapter includes extracts from letters sent home by Captain R C Lewis and Trooper N Banks-Smith which were published in The Mercury, Hobart. The VC awards were to Trooper J H Bisdee and Lieutenant G G E Wylly of the Tasmanian Imperial Busmen.

For Bethlehem on 7 July 1900 the Letters of 124 Sergeant Thomas Mitchell of the 4th South Australian Imperial bushman were used. His letters for each day from the 5th to the 9th of July are quoted. I worked with a descendent of Mitchell in the early 1980's when she showed me an exercise book into which his letters had been copied. It is nice to see some of the letters in print.

I found the appendix on bibliography and sources most useful particularly the list of letter writers and diarists by unit. For instance Mitchell of the 4th South Australian Imperial Bushman is one of 13 writers for that unit including Lt E T Leane who served as a Colonel in World War I.

Congratulations to Max Chamberlain and Robin Droogleaver for an excellent book which I highly recommend.
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Author:Staunton, Anthony
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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