The Goulburn Boer War Memorial

by Honor Auchinleck

Goulburn’s Boer War Memorial inspires more questions than the names and dates listed alone can answer.  In keeping with other memorials created at the time or shortly after Federation in, the soldier looks out over Belmore Gardens  (named in honour of Lord Belmore the Governor of NSW 1868-72) and the city beyond.  The soldier’s vision suggests the type of foresight created from experience beyond that of everyday people.  He seems to challenge the viewer to seek more understanding of the history of those who served in the Boer War. Perhaps he reminds us too that understanding is something we should all seek, whatever the conflict situation.


The soldier’s figure on the Memorial represents the stories of those men listed on the rectangular plaques just above the base of the pedestal.  Civic pride is enshrined in the choice of the marble.  The classic design of the monument suggests a temple to memory and both personal and community identity. 


Each of the men whose names are listed had their conflict experiences and those fortunate enough to return brought their stories home with them. The stories of the less fortunate such as Trooper William Myles Ayre (Citizen’s Bushmen’s Contingent) who were denied a homecoming are left to history and to those who take time to find their records and any existing correspondence and diary records.


The Boer War Memorial and the stories of the men named on the monument imprint their memories in the history and identity of their home city.  If nothing else their descendants will know that those were the men who did their bit for their communities and their nations. They went the extra distance to serve. The monument inspires others to rise to the challenge and find out something about their community needs and how best they serve their communities.


Goulburn has another Boer War hero whose name is not included on the monument.  Major General Sir John Hoad (1856-1911) was a boy from the bush who against the odds rose through the ranks to become one of Australia’s highest-ranking officers of his era.  As his family settled in Victoria’s Wangaratta district, he was one of the early officers to enlist on 5 December 1884 in 1st Battalion of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, becoming adjutant to Lieutenant Colonel Tom Price in 1886.  Like some of his contemporaries, Hoad undertook elements of his training in signalling, military engineering and musketry in England.  There he must have attracted an appraising eye as he was selected to serve on the personal staff of Lord Roberts and the Duke of Connaught for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  During the Boer War Colonel Hoad became Assistant Adjutant-general to the 1st Mounted Infantry Brigade. For all that, it seems to a visitor to Goulburn that he is all but forgotten in his old hometown and as if during the early decades after Federation his memory has fallen through the cracks between Victoria and New South Wales.  I wonder if it is time for Major General Sir John Hoad as one of the founding fathers of the Australian Army to assume a more prominent place in the nation’s memory?