Military History

This Week in History | Week 42

By The Cove October 12, 2020

Week 42 | 12 October - 18 October


12 October 1899 | Boer War began

The South African Boer War begins between the British Empire and the Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State.

The Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of southern Africa. Britain took possession of the Dutch Cape colony in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars, sparking resistance from the independence-minded Boers, who resented the Anglicisation of South Africa and Britain’s anti-slavery policies. In 1833, the Boers began an exodus into African tribal territory, where they founded the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The two new republics lived peacefully with their British neighbours until 1867, when the discovery of diamonds and gold in the region made conflict between the Boer states and Britain inevitable.

Minor fighting with Britain began in the 1890s, and in October 1899 full-scale war ensued. By mid June 1900, British forces had captured most major Boer cities and formally annexed their territories, but the Boers launched a guerrilla war that frustrated the British occupiers. Beginning in 1901, the British began a strategy of systematically searching out and destroying these guerrilla units, while herding the families of the Boer soldiers into concentration camps. By 1902, the British had crushed the Boer resistance, and on May 31 of that year the Peace of Vereeniging was signed, ending hostilities.

It is estimated that about 16,000 Australians fought in the Boer War and there were about 600 casualties and deaths. Six Australian soldiers were decorated with a Victoria Cross.


12 October 1917 | The First Battle of Passchendaele (The Third Battle of Ypres)

The Third Battle of Ypres was the major British offensive on the Western Front in 1917, intended by its principal architect, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, to defeat the German Army in Belgium.

The offensive was fought to the east of the Flemish town of Ypres by British, Dominion and French armies grinding their way towards the village of Passchendaele, across the most heavily bombarded and waterlogged sector of the Western Front.

The series of battles that comprised Third Ypres would become more popularly known as the Battle of Passchendaele, named after the final landmark in the outcome of the offensive. The village of Passchendaele rested atop the last ridge of the Ypres Salient, 11km east of Ypres itself, and 8 km from a railway junction at Roulers, which was vital to the supply system of the German 4th Army. In the broader ambitions of Haig's initial strategy, Passchendaele would have been a jumping off point for the Allied forces in their push further into Belgium.


17 October 2001 | Prime Ministerial announcement of Australia's commitment to the War of Terrorism

The Australian contribution to the war, dubbed Operation Slipper, begins with the deployment of troops in an initial offensive against the Taliban. The deployment includes a Special Forces Task Group and two Air Force aircraft, which provided support for coalition operations.

The Special Forces troops were involved in the establishment of the Coalition's first Forward Operating Base (Camp Rhino), south-west of Kandahar, they were also involved in the capture of Kandahar International Airport in December 2001.


17 October 1950 | The Battle of Sariwon

The 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment saw action at Sariwon. In a bold bluff, the battalion’s second-in-command, Major Ferguson, convinced at least 1,500 North Korean soldiers to surrender at Sariwon during confused fighting. The Battle of Sariwon took place during the United Nations (UN) counter-offensive against the North Korean forces which had invaded South Korea.

North Korean casualties included 215 killed and more than 3,700 captured, whilst British-Commonwealth losses were 1 killed and 3 wounded.  




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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