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Conflicts

Corporal Jack Mc BeanThe defence of its Australian colonies was initially the concern of the British government. When the British garrisons were withdrawn from Australia in 1870 each self-governing colonial government had to provide for its own defence. In South Australia the possibility of foreign invasion and violence by convict escapees from other colonies led to the raising of local volunteer forces, which in some cases disbanded when concerns about the perceived threats faded. The History of the Military Forces of South Australia gives information about these local volunteer groups. Their finance, organisation and status were diverse and the effectiveness of groups such as the Willunga Rifle Regiment and Robe Rifle Companywas questionable. The first salaried and better organised force, the South Australian Permanent Artillery, was formed in 1882.

Each colony separately decided whether to make a contribution to the Empire's forces when requested by Britain, as in the case of the Boxer Uprising, the Sudan War and the South African War. In his book, The Rehearsal, KS Inglis gives an account of the Australian colonies' contribution to the Sudan War in 1885. There you will find a description of the departure of the New South Wales' contingent. On the night of 6 March 1885, the troops made a brief stop at Kangaroo Island and some local people made a trip from Adelaide to show their support.

Since Federation in 1901, national defence has been the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The part played by South Australians in the two world wars, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf  and Iraq Wars, the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation, and in the United Nations peacekeeping operations can be traced through the State Library's resources. The Library holds a vast collection of letters, diaries, photographs and personal records written by South Australians who served in the two world wars and other conflicts. A selection of these records has been digitised for this project.

Interviews with seven South Australians provide personal insights from some who have contributed to Australia's defence efforts since 1950. Personal accounts of service in Malaya (David Ennis), Korea (Betty Lawrence and Gerry Harrison), Vietnam (Don Stewart, Peter Scott and Les Thompson) and Cyprus and East Timor (Brent Aldridge) include discussion of attitudes to Australia's involvement in specific conflicts, experiences as returned service men and women, the issue of compulsory national service, and the physical and emotional effects of war.

See the State Library's Library guide about finding military records.

Find out more about South Australians in the following conflicts:

 

Adelaide Artillery Officers
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Government House Guard
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Robe Rifle Company
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The history of the military forces in South Australia :
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The rehearsal : Australians at war in the Sudan, 1885 [
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Willunga Rifle Regiment
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