TRANSCRIPT: KINGS PARK is one of Perth’s most beautiful locations, and it’s most physically prominent feature is Mount Eliza which overlooks the Perth City and the Swan River. In 1862 convicts built a rifle range along the crest for use by the Perth and Fremantle Volunteer Rifles. What we are looking at today is a War Memorial that you can find in the grassed area between Fraser Avenue and Bellvue Terrace.
There was a time when I used to hear the words Orange Free State, I would think of scurvy, but now I think of the conflict fought between the Boer Republics and Great Britain. Specifically I think of the Boer War Memorial which was the first of it’s kind erected in Kings Park. It honours the Western Australian soldiers killed in the second Boer War that was fought between 1899-1902.
As part of the British Empire, the six Australian colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. The Australians had a reputation as being tough soldiers and 6 Victoria Crosses were awarded. They were generally excellent horsemen and mainly served as Mounted Infantry. A film which might spark your interest in Australia’s involvement in the Boer War is Breaker Morrant. It has an amazing cast, Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, John Waters and of course Ray Meagher who is most famous for playing Alf ‘Ya flaming mongrel’ Stuart on Home and Away.
The memorial itself is a very detailed statue of two soldiers, one is standing, holding a Lee Metford .303 rifle, and wearing a slouch hat, the first time Australian forces wore it overseas. The other soldier is lying wounded at his feet drinking out of a canteen. They are mounted on a large stone, ‘plinth’ featuring a plaque listing the names of the men of the Western Australian contingent who lost their lives.
On the four sides of the plinth there are bronze raised -relief images of significant moments in the war. They depict; artillery in action at Ladysmith, a night attack on an enemy convoy, troops dispersing train wrecking Boers and Australian’s entering Praetoria. On the rear there is a scene of Major Hatherly Moor, and members of the Western Australian Mounted Infantry in their first action at Slingersfontein Farm on the 9th of February 1900. Major Moor led a patrol consisting of a number of Iniskilling Dragoons (British Cavalry) and approximately 20 West Australians distinguished themselves by holding off a numerically superior Boer force of 400 men. The site in South Africa where this took place is known today as Western Australian Hill. Sadly Major Moor was killed some 5 months later at an action at Palmetfontein in the Orange Free State.
The original memorial statue was sculpted by James White but had to be replaced in 1915 with a new statue of solid copper made locally by Messrs ‘Wunderlich and Co’ at a cost of £450.The foundation stone was laid in 1901 by the Duke of Cornwall who was later to become King George V and the memorial was unveiled in September 1902.
The centerpiece is a trophy from the war – a German made Krupp 75mm field gun* or to give it its full name a KRUPP 7.5cm Feldkanone L/27. It was said to have been captured at the Battle of Bothaville and presented to the state by the British government in 1906 and subsequently added to the memorial. It fired a 12 pound projectile and had a rate of fire of 8 rounds per minute. A number of these Feldkanone were sold by the firm Freidrich Krupp AG to the Boer Republics. The artillery corps of the Orange Free State (Oranje Vrijstaat Artillerie Corps) imported 6 examples of this model in 1892 and a further 8 in 1897. The coat of arms of the Orange Free State is engraved near the breach. Also stamped on the gun is the word ‘Essen’ and 1897 indicating the place and year of it’s manufacture. It is a beautiful gun and I would love to see it fully restored and brought back to it’s former glory.
The Boer War is a fascinating but relatively little known part of Australian military history, so The next time you’re going for a jog at Kings Park or going to punish yourself by running up and down Jacobs Ladder, take the time to visit and learn a little bit more about the Boer War Memorial.
*Great thanks goes to MC Heunis for contacting us on Facebook sending us further information on the correct model of Kings Park Krupp cannon.