Australian colonial forces and family history

A guide to researching Australian military personnel serving in Australia and overseas between 1788 and 1902

Boxer Rebellion 1900-1901

Chinese resistance to the expansion of Western interests in China grew throughout 1899 and in March 1900 the uprising spread to a wider Chinese population prompting Western powers to intervene, mainly to protect their territorial and trade ambitions. At the time, the bulk of Australian forces were engaged in South Africa (Boer War) so Naval contingents from three Australian states (South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria), including reservists and ex-naval men, were sent to offer support through coastal defence. The first Australian contingents, mostly from New South Wales and Victoria, sailed in August 1900. Australian personnel sent to northern China were not engaged in combat. Six Australian's died of sickness and injury and none were killed as a result of enemy action.

Names of personnel sent to China can be searched for using the Pre First World War conflicts nominal rolls as part of the Australian War Memorial's website. All Australian officers and men are listed in Australian contingents to the China Field Force 1900-1901.

Records of personnel can be found at the National Archives of Australia, State Records of New South Wales and the State Records of South Australia.

The books, Carving up the melon and The Australian encyclopaedia of the Boxer Uprising 1899-1901 contain biographical details and references to service records for all Australians who served in this campaign. Other books of interest include: Handy men up top: the New South Wales Navy in China 1900-1901, Deeds not words: the Victorian Navy, Bluejackets and boxers: Australias expedition to the Boxer Rebellion.

Information about the Boxer Rebellion can be found in the Australian War Memorial's website.

Newspapers contain valuable historical and contextual information. Many international, city and regional newspapers have been digitised. Digitised issues of numerous Australian newspapers including The Argus (Melbourne) and The Age (Melbourne) can be viewed through the National Library of Australia's Trove database.