Wayne Barrie said fate prompted him to write Boer War history book Reid’s Raid.
‘‘I’m not a journalist, writer or historian,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m a geographer. So I tried to write an entertaining story, not a history book.’’
Mr Barrie visited Seymour ahead of Anzac Day last week, when he spoke about the eerie similarities between Reid’s Raid and the well-publicised Gallipoli landing, which took place during World War I.
Reid’s Raid took place when a patrol of 22 volunteer Australian soldiers came across 60 people in an enemy camp, including 40 professional combatants from the South African Republic Police, then known as ZARPs.
He said it was a conversation with a mate while playing golf that prompted him to begin his research, which took him a total of five years to complete.
‘‘He had a hand-written transcribed letter of his grandfather’s — James Henry Smart,’’ Mr Barrie said.
‘‘The letter had lots of gaps in it and no-one could tell me why.’’
Mr Barrie went on to discover the transcriber had been unable to decipher all the words in the original letter and his hunger to find out more began.
It was a photograph discovered by a Boer War descendant that enabled Mr Barrie’s research to flourish.
‘‘I was with this lady one day and she pulled out a photograph of 240 men,’’ he said.
Mr Barrie went about getting the dressed-photograph enlarged, which he said was the key to much of his research.
‘‘I have been able to enlarge the photo and find out things history didn’t record,’’ he said.
With Anzac Day taking place on April 25, commemorating the day Australian soldiers landed on the shores of Gallipoli, Mr Barrie said he had discovered Reid’s Raid had similar characteristics.
‘‘It’s got some parallels,’’ he said.
‘‘It was a pre-dawn attack, against all odds, and it took place on April 25.’’
Mr Barrie said the raid, which involved the Australian soldiers bluffing their way into capturing enemy soldiers and equipment, reminded him of something out of The Boy’s Own Paper, a British publication which ran until 1967.
‘‘As the Australian soldiers left here on the way over, they were enthusiastic about getting overseas, because there were drought problems and unemployment back home, so to go over there and run around the desert fighting was what every kid would have dreamed of ... and here it was given to them on a plate,’’ Mr Barrie said.
‘‘Lord Kitchener called the raid ‘absolutely daring’. The English originally didn’t want the Australians or colonials involved ... but when they got over there they found we could do things the professional English army couldn’t do, so they became really useful.
‘‘In fact, the English generals eventually went looking for the next generation coming over, because they were far more adaptive to the guerilla warfare and had an intelligence in combat not seen in the professionals — the Aussies would think outside the square sometimes, whereas the English would do as they were told.’’
On the Australian Memorial website, Mr Barrie points out, the ‘‘ANZAC Spirit’’ is listed as being made up of courage, ingenuity, mateship and humour — all of which are elements he found in the raid.
‘‘They got sent out at 5am with no blankets or anything and had to lay in the chilling cold at 4000feet in the air and hang around until the morning, stiff as a board, and then get excited and knock over this lot before they get going,’’ he said.
●Reid’s Raid will be available to buy for about $20 by emailing [email protected] and copies will also be available at the Shepparton RSL in the future.