This portrait of a soldier wearing what would appear to be a Boer War uniform is in a collection of photographs of Mrs Mary Creagh (1882-1962) of Cardwell.
Our soldier is wearing the typical Australian military garb of the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to Australian War Memorial records. The leather ammunition pouches slung across his left shoulder (see below) are similar to those worn by Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant and other Boer War veterans.
Not all Boer War soldiers wore emu feathers in their slouch hats, but it seems most, if not all Queenslanders did, and were fiercely proud of the emblem long before it was more widely adopted across Australian horse units. Queenslanders also turned up the left side of their hats from the earliest days of the first Australian military ‘uniforms’, unlike some other states where the right side was initially cocked.
This all suggests that our soldier was a Queenslander, and given that Mary lived her life entirely in Cardwell, except when she attended school and boarded at St Patrick’s College in Townsville, one might be inclined to the view that her soldier was likely to be a north Queenslander.
At the time the first Australian units left for South Africa to fight in the Boer War in December 1899, Mary was 18 years old. She was the youngest of seven children of Johann and Elizabeth Huginber, and after leaving school she ran their family store in Victoria Street. Mary also kept many photographs and this was among them.
Another in Mary’s collection includes the photograph (below right) of Jim (James) and Tom (Thomas) Spollen, whose parents arrived in Cardwell in 1867. The older of the two brothers, Tom, appears to have some resemblance to our unknown soldier but we’re far from certain they’re the same person. There is also no record that we can find of a Spollen having fought in the Boer War, or in other conflicts around that time.
If you can help identify Mary’s friend, please contact CDHS via email or post, so we might accord this soldier the respect and recognition he deserves.