Tuesday, 1 July 2014

NSW Citizens' Bushmen

 On 28 February 1900 members of the New South Wales Citizen's Bushmen marched from their base at Kensington to the ship that was to take them to South Africa. A description of the procession and the reaction of the crowd is described in the following article from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate Thursday 1 March 1900.

The Bushmen's Contingent. A MAGNIFICENT SEND OFF SYDNEY, Wednesday. 

The departure of the New South Wales portion of the Bushmen's Contingent this afternoon was brilliantly successful in every respect. The enthusiasm displayed on the occasions of the departure of the other contingents was fully sustained, and the men were accorded a splendid reception. The excursion train service arranged by the railway authorities enabled many thousands of country visitors who under other circumstances would have been unable to visit Sydney to witness the demonstration. The line of the procession was crowded, and every vantage point was packed. A very pretty effect was secured in several places by lines of streamers and flags being suspended across the streets. The weather was very dull during the morning, with strong indications of rain, but notwithstanding these unfavourable conditions the numbers of people who gathered to assist in the send-off were as large as the great concourse which assembled to say farewell to the last contingent. 

Leaving the Kensington camp at 1 o'clock, headed by Colonel Airey, and amidst the cheers of the general staff and the crowd at the gates, the Bushmen's Contingent proceeded along the Randwick-road and arrived at the Moore Park rendezvous in good time. The scene from the balcony of the Captain Cook Hotel, a fine point of vantage, was a most imposing one. The brilliant uniforms of the Lancers mingled with the spotless white of the men of the Royal Navy, of whom there were about 250 present. There was also a great muster of cadets, about 2000 strong, to take part in the procession. The long lines of horse men stretched far down the road until lost to view. Major-General French was early upon the scene, accompanied by Colonel Mackenzie, A.A.G., Lieut. Griffiths, and Lieut. Timothy. Some little time was spent in forming the procession. 

As the bands struck up and the procession moved off the enthusiasm was very great, and the cheering deafening. 

 The public could not crowd in upon the men, as was the case with the Second Contingent on the day of embarkation, as to-day the prancing horses kept the enthusiasts back. Many of the men wore flowers, or some other token of affection from their loved ones. The procession, including the cadets, must have comprised some 4000 persons. Dense crowds thronged the line of route, and as the troops passed along Fitzroy and Bourke streets, and thence onward through the city, the waiting thousands caught up and swelled the volume of cheering with which the citizens bade farewell to their soldiers. 

From Moore Park to Woolloomooloo Bay the march was a triumphant one, the Bush men being cheered from the footways, the windows, balconies, roofs, and fences along the whole line. The men reached the wharf shortly after 3 o'clock, and immediately dismounted, and unsaddled and fastened their horses. The arrangements were all that could be desired, the organisation appearing to be much better than that displayed on former occasions. Before proceeding on board the steamers the Bushmen were drawn up in the form of a square in front of a covered platform, which was occupied by Sir Frederick Darley, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Premier, the Chief Secretary, and other members of the Ministry; Major-General French, and a small number of visitors. Sir Frederick, who was received with cheers, read a telegram he had received from Sir Alfred Milner, High Commissioner of South Africa, dated 27th February, to the following effect: "Cronje surrendered. Delighted to congratulate you upon the noble share taken by the troops of your colony."

[The Lieutenant-Governor then made a speech encouraging the men in their endeavours. This was followed by a speech by the Premier.]

The Premier, who was received with great cheers, said that when the news arrived the night before last that the reverses which hitherto had met the British arms in South Africa were changed, he was asked whether the Bushmen would now go. Of course he answered that they would go. That news had caused the greatest enthusiasm in Australia and throughout the world, but it was not good to anticipate that there would be no further trouble and opposition in South Africa. He believed there would be further opposition, and further fighting, but if there were to be no further fighting after they arrived they (the Bushmen) deserved as much credit as if they had gone with the first lot. (Cheers.) They volunteered at a time when they anticipated very severe fighting, and their courage in volunteering at such a time to support the honour of the Empire was deserving of the greatest credit. The misfortune had been that the Government could not accept all the volunteers who wanted to enlist. They had to reject many good men. They were no idle words that he (Mr. Lyne) had spoken on the last occasion, such as this, when he said a generous Government and a generous public would look after their loved ones. (Cheers.) Already, as Parliament was not in session, he had taken the necessary steps to look after those dependent upon the men who had fallen already at the front. (Cheers.) He made these remarks on an occasion of great solemnity, which he believed Parliament and the country would support to the fullest extent. He felt extremely proud of this brigade, who were somewhat different from the others who had gone. (Cheers.) He advised them to follow the advice of the Lieutenant-Governor, and not be too reckless. They would give a good account of themselves. He knew they could sit firm and ride straight, and the colonies of the Empire were sitting firm and riding straight. He knew they would reflect credit on this country, and on themselves. He hoped they would return and they would be received back with proud and open hearts, and if any should die they would receive a fitting memorial The Governor had sent him a message asking him to say good-bye, and to thank them for their courage and loyalty.

[Following some additional speeches, the men boarded the troopships Atlantian and  Maplemore to sail to South Africa].

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