Today is Australia Day, a national public holiday for our friends down under commemorating the founding of New South Wales on 26 January 1788.  It is a celebration of everything that is great about Australia and being Australian, and here at Osprey we thought we’d chip in with a bit of Australian military history.

Please use the navigational links at the bottom of the page to progress through our Australia Day blogs.

This blog series will be looking at Australian soldiers in the 20th century. To start with we have a plate from Men-at-Arms 123: The Australian Army at War 1899-1975, which shows an Australian Major and Private in South Africa, 1900.

Artwork by Mike Chappell

Extract from Men-at-Arms 123: The Australian Army at War 1899-1975 by John Laffin:

On the left: Private, Australian volunteer mounted infantry; South Africa, 1900

This solder of a Bushmen’s unit is dressed in a simple uniform of khaki drill, without insignia. The two-pocket tunic has a stand collar, normally worn open and sometimes with a knotted handkerchief or sweat-rag. The breeches are confined by puttees wound from the top, tied at the ankle – the opposite practice to 1914-18. The slouch hat has a plain khaki puggaree, a rolled length of cloth pressed flat and then wound with cord; the plumed emu feathers were still worn by Light Horse personnel in 1914-18. The weapon is the .303 Magazine Lee Enfield Mk I; on the march it was carried with the butt in a ‘bucket’ by the right stirrup, and the trooper rode with his hand on it at all times so that he could ‘take it with him’ if he fell off. Ammunition is carried in a 50-round bandolier, each section of ten individual loops having a flap fastened by two brass studs. A haversack and canteen are slung on the left side. The saddlery is standard apart from the bride, which is unique: it is the standard headroller with a local pattern of bit buckled on by a short strap. The trooper’s blanket, a horse rug and fodder are all carried. The Bushmen’s horses were all taken to the war from Australia, being of higher quality than any brought from England or found in South Africa.

On the right: Major, New South Wales Lancers, 1897-early 1900s

The hat badge is an elephant’s head with crossed lances and a wreath, the collar badge the tusked elephant’s head alone, both being in white metal. The ranking on the red shoulder strap is gilt. Note whistle lanyard just visible at throat; and unique pattern of sword frog, designed for this élite corps of the State of New South Wales. The hat plume is of glossy cock’s feathers.


  Next: Australian Soldiers in World War I