Like their wives, our maternal great-grandfathers, William Borthwick (above) and William Pearson, were lifelong friends and neighbours near
As a Member of Parliament, William Pearson took an active interest in defence matters, and was from time to time co-opted onto colonial defence committees as, for example, when he received the following urgent 27-word official cable from the Bourke Street East Post Office addressed to Kilmany Park at 7.12 a.m. on March 5, 1900:
Cabinet desires you to act on committee select men Imperial contingent can you act if so kindly attend meeting Defence Department Thursday next eleven o’clock reply paid [signed] D. Melville, [Victorian] Minister for Defence.
At least 12,000 Australians served in the Boer War (1899–1902) in contingents raised first by the six colonies and from 1901 by the new Commonwealth of Australia (about a third of the men enlisted twice). Many more Australians joined British or South African colonial units. Most of the 12,000 served in cavalry units formed in each colony, and were often known as mounted rifles, bushmen, or imperial bushmen. They fought in both the British counter-offensive of 1900 which resulted in the capture of the Boer capitals, and in the long, weary guerrilla phases of the war. Colonial troops were valued for their ability to “shoot and ride,” and they performed well on the veldt, which is not unlike Gippsland, the Wimmera, or the Riverina. Indeed, upon their arrival in South Africa, the Australians were described as the fittest, healthiest, best-fed, strongest, in other words the most spectacular fighting force ever assembled in the British Empire. Great-Grandfather William Borthwick helped to train them, and Great-Grandfather William Pearson helped the colonial government decide which ones to send.
At least 600 Australians died in
On January 11, 1910, Colonel Borthwick was among the many guests assembled in the Queen’s Hall at Parliament House in Melbourne for an all-male dinner hosted by the Deputy Governor-General “in honour of the visit of Field-Marshal The Right Honourable Viscount Kitchener of