A squadron of Australian cavalry had been training in England when the Boer war began and their captain, Charles Cox, had offered his men for combat. The British army had overridden him, insisting each man make up his own mind. So the old legend about British generals wanting to get their hands on Australian troops needed some investigation. Then there was the curious fact of the Australians being in England at all. What were they doing there, and what did they learn?
In 1899, on the eve of the Boer War, Captain Charles Cox from Parramatta took 100 Australian cavalrymen to train with the British army in England. These military apprentices became British soldiers as well as Australian ones. But everything went wrong. Publicity got in the way of cavalry drill which, in any case, the Australians were allowed to shirk. The debacle ended with Cox volunteering his little command for the Boer War, with the British making him get the consent of his government and his men, and finally with a murder on a lonely farm in South Africa. There was no more talk of Australian fighting men morphing into colonial members of the British army. Still, the newspapers said the venture was a brilliant success, that Australians had proved themselves natural warriors, that the British Empire was stronger for what happened-all of which Australians rejoiced to hear. It was, in the end, a kind of victory.