By the end of the 19th Century, Japan and many of the European countries had established a large measure of control over Chinas’ assets and this was vigorously opposed by a secret society commonly known as the “Boxers”.
This lead to a campaign of violence against foreigners and although an International Force quickly subdued this outbreak and recaptured Peking, many rebel strongholds remained in Northern China.
With Britain under pressure with the Boer War on its hands, it called for assistance. South Australia promised a warship. Victoria offered up 200 officers and men from its own navy and NSW called for volunteers from its Naval Brigade and Naval Artillery Volunteers. 25 NSW soldiers (and we hazard they came from 1st NSW Regiment) supplemented the naval force.
Lt L S Bracegirdle and troops, China 1900
NSW Artillery in Tientsin, China 1900
Interestingly the soldiers objected to being enrolled as naval men and the naval brigade was equally opposed to having soldiers in their ranks. Compromise was finally reached and the men were enlisted as The NSW Marine Light Infantry!
SS Salamis leaving Sydney for China, July 1900
Horses being loaded in Sydney for China 1900
The force finally left Sydney aboard SS Salamis on 8 August and arrived at Hong Kong on 26 August. From here it moved to Taku in Northern China and formed a unit of 1st Brigade, British Contingent, China Field Force. The promises of action against the Peitang forts and Pao-ting fu, both Boxer strongholds came to naught however and the unit was ordered to Peking,10 days and 100 miles away for garrison duties. Here the unit set up a form of municipal government and conducted numerous parades.
Unloading stores for the NSW Marine Light Infantry 1900
NSW Naval Contingent, China 1900
With the New Years day review however, the Marine Light Infantry formed the Honour Guard during the proclamation of Federation and the force finally returned to Australia aboard SS Chingtu on 26 March 1901.
The China Medal was issued.
SOURCE – AWM
– Australian Archives