Belmore Park, in the centre of Goulburn, has not one but three War Memorials none of which relate to the most commemorated war of all, World War I. The most impressive of the memorials here is the one commemorating those who served and died in the Second Boer War. The others are an Honour Roll, honouring those who served in World War II and subsequent wars up to and including Vietnam, and a National Servicemen’s Memorial remembering all the National Servicemen from Australia who served between 1951 and 1972.

Remembering the Forgotten – Boer War Memorial

The South African or Second Boer War (1899–1902), which ended with the Treaty of Vereeniging and the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies, engaged a large numbers of troops from many British possessions right across the world, including Australia, and Goulburn.

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Seeing this Boer War Memorial, gleaming in the sun and beautifully located among the flowers in the centre of Belmore Park reminded me how the Second Boer War was very much a coming together, not under ideal circumstances, of Empire. It was the last great war restricted to British Empire participants but, ironically, Australia’s first war as a nation, following Federation in 1901. On visiting this memorial for the first time I recalled visiting the Boer War Memorial, not many months earlier, in my home-town of Enniskillen (Northern Ireland), on the other side of the world. My visit also reignited memories of my 2014 visit to the tiny island of St Helena, in the mid-Atlantic, and how it had hosted a significant number of Boers in prisoner of war camps during the war.

Today few commemorate, write about or speak of the Boer War and it has become rather forgotten about. Even here in Goulburn the 2013 (Boer War) service of remembrance was the first in almost 100 years and though it was intended that it mark the beginning of annual services I don’t think that has happened. This lack of observance is, of course, not surprising given that since the Boer War humanity has experienced two World Wars and countless bloody wars and conflicts since the second of those world wars.

While every little Australian town and village worth its salt has a World War I memorial few have Boer War memorials. This one in Goulburn is an especially agreeable and fitting memorial though, for the connoisseur, it has been eclipsed by the National Boer War Memorial which was dedicated in 2017 on Anzac Parade in nearby Canberra (over 100 years after the war it commemorates though that is another story). The Canberra memorial and the Colonial Conflicts Gallery, which focuses on the Second Boer War, in the Australian War Memorial are well worth the hours drive from Goulburn for those interested in the Boer War.

As indicated above, the Second Boer War was the first war in which Australia fought as a nation and also the first in which it fought along side its New Zealand counterparts – forerunners to the ANZACs. In 1899 New South Wales troops, including many from the Goulburn area, were the first Australians to join in this war. After Federation in 1901 Australian, as opposed to former colony, units took part though few arrived in time to see any real action and many were still at sea when hostilities ended on 31 May 1902. That said, Australians made up five per cent (or around 16,000) of all British Empire forces serving in South Africa during the war, which was a very significant contribution relative to the size of Australia’s population at the time. It should be noted that while Australians at home initially supported the war many became disenchanted as the conflict dragged on, especially as the often gruesome impact on Boer civilians became known.

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The Goulburn memorial features a local Bundanoon sandstone base topped by a marble statue of a mounted rifleman, sourced from Carrara, in Italy. It was unveiled by Mayor W.R. Costley on 14 November 1904 and commemorates those from the Goulburn and surrounding districts who served in and/or died in the Second Boer War. It was paid for by public subscription and recorded, on marble plaques, are the names of eighty local men who served in the War. Of these, four died and their names are recorded separately amid the following poignant accolades:

“For love of the Motherland, that grew with years, and faltered not in death.”

{names of those who lost their lives}

“Soon rested, those who fought.”

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The Goulburn-Mulwaree Honour Roll

Typically (and especially so in the case of country towns in Australia) World War I memorials occupy prime positions in the centre of town. Goulburn’s WWI memorial (with an excellent museum which was extended in 2020) is located on Rocky Hill on the outskirts of the city and it was there that until 2009 Goulburn’s annual Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day services and commemorations were held. I have written a separate review on the Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum.

Probably because it was erected first, in 1904, with no expectation that a much larger world war would start only ten years later, Goulburn’s Boer War Memorial (detailed above) takes prime position in the city centre, in Belmore Park.

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The Honour Roll (pictured above), only metres from the Boer War Memorial, was officially unveiled by Mr Roderick John MacLean JP and dedicated by the Rev Wes Llewellyn, on 18th May 2002.

It is a large crescent shaped brick and concrete wall to which are attached 22 bronze plaques commemorating and containing the names of 3,000 servicemen and women (including those from the Merchant Navy) from the Goulburn and Mulwaree Shire who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Borneo/Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. One hundred and thirty of those listed paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The badges, most clearly visible in the picture below, are those of the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (Army), the Royal Australian Air Force and the Merchant Navy.

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Given the lack of parking space and general space for visitors at Rocky Hill, Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day services have been held here at the Honour Roll since 2009.

The National Servicemen’s Memorial

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Just behind the Honour Roll is the smaller National Servicemen’s Memorial which was dedicated in 2011. This is a memorial to all the National Servicemen from Australia who served in the Navy, Army and Air Force between 1951 and 1972, “especially those who paid the supreme sacrifice”.

National Servicemen, or “Nashos” as they are affectionately remembered, served in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Borneo and Malaysia.

National Servicemen refer to those conscripted for compulsory military service between 1951 and 1972. As the name implies, all those conscripted were men. No women were called up for National Service.

The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, coupled with the Malayan Emergency and the Viet Minh uprising against the French in Vietnam, were deemed to present a direct threat to Australia. These were uneasy times and Australia was paranoid of “Reds under the Bed”, as they sadly still are in 2020. Recruitment into the regular Armed Services was proving insufficient so the Menzies lead Government re-introduced conscription which had ended in 1945 to deal with these perceived threats to Australia.

Between 1951 and 1972 there were two conscription rounds in Australia.

In the first round between 1951 and 1959, all males on reaching the age of 18 were called up for training in the Navy, Army or Air Force. A total of 227,000 served in 52 intakes.

In the second round, sufficient men aged 20 were selected by a birthday ballot for the Army. There was no conscription for the Air Force or Navy. In this way, between June 30, 1965 and December 5, 1972, 63,790 young men were called up for two years full-time service and were integrated into regular Army units. Of course, this second round covered Vietnam though to a lesser degree than many thought. Of the 63,790, 100 served in Borneo and 17,424 served in Vietnam. The remaining 46,366 served in support units in Australia, Malaysia and Papua-New Guinea.

Conscription for Vietnam, in particular, was very contentious and provoked great debate within the Australian community (as it did elsewhere), with university students and others taking part in large anti-conscription and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.

The National Service Scheme was abolished on 5 December 1972.

Overall 212 National Servicemen died in action, two in Borneo and 210 in Vietnam. Of those killed in Vietnam, 3 were from Goulburn.

Location: Belmore Park in the centre of Goulburn.


My next Goulburn review–HERE

Return to the beginning of my Goulburn reviews –HERE


7 thoughts on “Belmore Park War Memorials

  1. What a fascinating piece and you probably know by now my obsession with war memorials and war graves.

    Your description of the part played in the Boer War (or whatever else they decide to call it from time to time) by Colonial troops resonates very much with me as I saw a few similar memorials in Canada which also seemed to supply a disproportionate amount of men to that conflict.

    You are certainly right in what you say about the Boer War being so completely overshadowed by events which began just over a decade later but I also feel there is something of a sense of collective national / colonial embarrassment over the whole affair. We, the British, did not behave particularly well one way and another. Forget Nazi Germany, still a few decades away, it was the British who invented the “concentration camp” in the Boer War. Also, like the “forgotten war” in Asia of WWII, I think it is a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. Flanders was not that far away in WWI, you could even hear gunfire in England. South Africa before was a long way away, as was Burma and Singapore in WWII.

    I do like the way our former colonies honour their war dead, I was consistently bowled over by the beautifully tended war memorials in even the smallest Canadian hamlets. Same in Aus. and NZ and I am sure in other places I have not visited yet.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always appreciate your feedback, particularly on a topic like this where you are somewhat of an expert (though you would deny that!). Yes there were issues around the Boer War that people would prefer didn’t happen but that applies to all Wars. Of course, Boer War errors pale into insignificance when you consider the indiscriminate US blanket bombings and the resultant slaughter of millions of civilians in Asia since WWII.

      Like

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