In early 1900 five Aboriginal men from Warangesda Mission, Darlington Point offered their services as scouts to the New South Wales Bushmen Contingent which was to leave for South Africa later that year. [D and B Elphick, The Camp of Mercy  p.26]. Although their offer was not accepted, Dr Dale Kerwin of Griffith University estimates that at least 50 Aboriginal men went to the Boer War as troopers, trackers and stock handlers.

As early as 1993 details of the Darug heritage and enlistment of William Stubbings a trooper with the 3rd NSW Mounted Rifles were published in James Kohen’s The Darug and their Neighbours: The traditional Aboriginal Owners of the Sydney region. Since then new names of Indigenous Boer War servicemen have been sought and researched, together with existing names, in an effort to confirm Aboriginality and service. Research over the last five years by historian Peter Bakker of Hamilton, Victoria  has recently led to more information about the Boer War service of John Robert Searle (enlisted as Robert Charles Searle) 4th Western Australian Mounted Infantry and the discovery of the name of his Aboriginal grandmother, who was kidnapped from the Port Phillip District in the early 1830s.

While Searle has been noted as Aboriginal on some Boer War listings, to date there has been little information about his Indigenous heritage. This has now been traced by Peter Bakker and confirmed in consultation with Searle family descendants and a host of primary and secondary sources, including a rare photograph of John Robert Searle in the possession of a family member, Pat Keenan.

Peter Bakker recently travelled to Albany, WA in connection with his research and his comments, reported in the Albany Advertiser of 24 January 2013, throw more light on his findings. The Advertiser notes that this is not the first time Searle’s service has been mentioned in its pages which 113 years earlier recorded his enlistment and embarkation for South Africa.

Peter Bakker’s research (to be published in full at a later date) is important because by linking his own findings with information from the Searle family it is now possible to name a descendant of the Bunurong people of the Kulin nation of Victoria as an Australian soldier  of the Boer war.

Philippa Scarlett 7 February 2013                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             NOTE .  In ‘Troopers, not trackers ‘published in 1917 in Wartime Magazine No. 81, Peter Bakker and Thomas Rogers  show that there is no proof that 50 Aboriginal men went to the Boer War as trackers and were denied return to Australia.

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  1. Jan James says:

    Frederick David Carnet Mead of Western Australia was given a lifetime Pension by Lord John Forrest for his service in the Boer War. Jan James (Forever Warriors)

    • Colin Renshaw says:

      I have attached some information on this man and will follow up further ins an effort to find his full service details. The attached detail shows service in both the Boer War and WWI. However a quick review of the Boer War medal rolls has not identified him on the award lists and further research is needed for that conflict. This is not unusual as earlier searches for Aboriginal Soldiers identified as serving in South Africa nearly always reveals that they were not named in the award rolls and apparently the majority never received the medals to which they were entitled.

      MEAD Frederick
      (Caranet b.(c)1865, (Whitby Mundijong WA) d.19.12.1931 (Collie)
      (at M.R.N.S 25.8.1923 No 486) son of Robert Mead and Emma Webland (dec’d after 1899)

      marr 1st (New Norcia) 13.8.1899 Sarah (Clara) (Wawaran) Martin b.(c)1864 (Guildford) d.6.2.1912 ( Hospital For The Insane Claremont) (bur R./C.Karrakatta) (of Canning/Guildford) dtr of Henry Martin and Sarah Woolnenan (dec’d prior to 1899) chd; Ada b.1882, Minnie b.(c)1883, Eugenie b.(c)1888, )
      marr 2nd 26.9.1923 Alice Payne b.(c)1878 (at M.R.N.S 15.12.1923 No 492) (Alice Mead nee Payne marr 2nd Yerand Moses)
      ( He was working on the pipe line 265 miles near Bronti 22.1.1901. He was asking about his children who were in Swan Native and Half Caste Mission).
      He was at Wandering in 1904 when he complained about white men serving his mother with liquor.
      He was at Kalgoorlie in 1906 when he applied for a railway pass and
      in 1922 applied for an exemption from the Aborigines Act.
      His children were in the Swan Native and Half Caste Mission in 1901) (Fred stated that Annie Lambagee nee Newell was his cousin.
      Fred’s mother was an American half caste.
      Fred was in the Boer War and Great War.
      He was receiving a War Pension of 1 pound per week in 1930.
      He visited India with Racehorses and rode there for WA.
      He was also involved in the SA Forrest Expedition


      Colin Renshaw
      attached information was found on RootsWeb.

  2. This is great information. Have you read John Maynard’s article on the Boer War in Volume 39 2015 of the journal Aboriginal History.Your research is acknowledged It’s available online.

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