Approximately 6,000 men and more than a dozen women from New South Wales served in the Boer War (1899-1902).
Serving in E Squadron, 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles was 18-year-old Trooper William Barrington Ward of Camden. Ward had embarked for South Africa from Sydney on his 18th birthday, and arrived at Port Elizabeth on 17 April 1901. His unit, which consisted of 33 officers, 673 other ranks and 700 horses, would subsequently engage in the guerrilla warfare synonymous with the latter phase of the conflict. On average, Ward’s regiment trekked over 3,000 kilometres per day. The horses in particular endured immeasurable hardship; many dying of exhaustion or starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, none would be returned to Australia.
Throughout his service upon the harsh terrain of the Veldt, Ward kept a diary. Here, just days after his arrival in South Africa, Ward describes caring for the squadron’s horses, pitching tents and, amusingly, falling from the train. He freely uses the derogatory vernacular common to the period.
His regiment disembarked at Sydney on 4 June 1902, having suffered 2 officers and 23 other ranks killed or died. Ward lived in NSW for the remainder of his life, eventually marrying and fathering five children. He died at Cootamundra at the age of 90.