Scapegoats of the Empire

Scapegoats of the Empire

by George Witton
     
 

When war was declared between the British and Boers, I, like many of my
fellow-countrymen, became imbued with a warlike spirit, and when reverses
had occurred among the British troops, and volunteers for the front were
called for in Australia, I could not rest content until I had offered the
assistance one man could give to our beloved Queen and the…  See more details below

Overview

When war was declared between the British and Boers, I, like many of my
fellow-countrymen, became imbued with a warlike spirit, and when reverses
had occurred among the British troops, and volunteers for the front were
called for in Australia, I could not rest content until I had offered the
assistance one man could give to our beloved Queen and the great nation
to which I belong.

When the first Australian Contingent was being prepared for active
service, I was a gunner in the Royal Australian Artillery, and was
stationed at Fort Franklin, opposite Queenscliff, Victoria. I was sworn
to serve for five years in the Artillery, and this gave me little hope
that my wish to go to Africa would be realised. But one day a notice
appeared in brigade orders that a limited number of artillerymen would be
selected for service at the front, all applicants to parade on the jetty
at Portsea in full marching order. Between thirty and forty attended.
Soon the launch "Mars" put in an appearance from Queenscliff with
Lieut.-Colonel Charles Umphelby, O.C.R.A.A., on board. (Lieut.-Colonel
Umphelby was killed on active service at Driefontein in 1900.) The O.C.
inspected the men, and picked out one here and there; when he came to me
he looked me up and down, and remarked that I was too "big and heavy,"
and all my hopes were dashed to the ground. We congratulated those whom
we thought were the fortunate ones, and hoped for better luck ourselves
should another contingent be required.

As time went on, and reports came to hand of hard fighting and much
tougher work than had been anticipated, I got more tired than ever of
barrack-room soldiering, and hankered for something more real and
exciting. Another call was made, another contingent was to be sent; my
prospects began to brighten, but only two men were selected from the
R.A.A., two quartermaster-sergeants. With the third contingent no
opportunity was given to me to join. Shortly after a fourth contingent
was raised, to be known as the Australian Imperial Regiment. The
qualifications for the Regiment were bush experience, and that every man
should be able to ride and shoot. The "machines," or the men who could
merely drill and move their arms and feet as though they were worked on
wire, without having the above qualifications, had no place in this
contingent. I was among the successful applicants from the R.A.A., as I
had been born in the bush, could ride almost as soon as I could walk, and
had learned to shoot almost as soon as I learned anything. My actual
military experience was gained during the twelve months I was with the
R.A.A.

As soon as selected, I, with my comrades, was sent to the Victoria
Barracks, Melbourne, for examination and tests. While there it was my
duty to assist at the Mounted Police Depot, receiving, breaking,
branding, and trucking remounts prior to sending them into camp at
Langwarrin, also attending with horses at the Domain for the riding test.
This riding test seemed to be looked upon by the general public as a kind
of circus, and was attended daily by thousands of spectators. The track
was about half a mile round, and the test was to commence at a trot,
break into a gallop, and negotiate three jumps. A man could judge fairly
his chance of success by the applause or "barracking" as he passed the
crowd. There were many good horsemen among the recruits, men who could
ride anything anywhere, and not a few who could rarely have seen a horse,
much less have ridden it over a jump. One little recruit, with a very
theatrical appearance, known by the sobriquet of "Bland Holt," had a
great struggle to get his halter on his horse, and when it came to
putting on the bridle, which was one of the Mounted Police pattern, and
rather a complicated piece of harness to a new chum, he got terribly
tangled up. After about ten minutes struggling, panting, perspiring, and
much whoo-whoaing, he succeeded in hanging the bridle on with the bit
over the horse's ears. At this stage an Artilleryman went to his rescue
and saddled his horse for him. When his turn came to ride, he led his
horse before the examining officer, and with much difficulty succeeded in
climbing into the saddle, and started off at a walk. "Trot!" shouted the
officer. The horse quickened its pace, and "Bland Holt" and his hopes of
doing yeoman service for the Empire fell to the ground.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593860165
Publisher:
Clock & Rose Press
Publication date:
01/28/2004
Pages:
240

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