Bluejackets and Boxers

 by BOB NICHOLLS

This is the story of Australia’s naval expedition to the Boxer uprising in China in 1900. Not a lot is widely known about this nationalist rebellion these days (other than the Holywood versions). Even less is know about the Australian contribution to the multi-nation force that went in to China, ‘fought’ its way to Peking (Beijing) and rescued the Westerners besieged there. Some 500 Australian marines, sailors and others plus correspondents eventually landed in China.

The preparations to leave and the journey up to the Far East make fascinating (and at times amusing) reading. One of the officers, a Lt Spain, took his glass-plate camera with him. Many of the resultant photos are reproduced in the book, which is extensively illustrated. Between the photos (of a more brutal time) -150 of them – and the easy to read style of Bob Nicholls, this is an enjoyable book.

The contingent (less some casualties) arrived back in April 1901, having experienced a Peking winter. China was weak at this time in its history and sucumbed readily to a numerically inferior force. The Boxers were genuinely trying to get rid of the foreigners then effectively controlling the commerce. After several years they faded away and the Western nations (and Japan) continued their exploitation.

This book takes a very small piece of the history of this period and makes it entertaining and graphic.