Captain Hector Axup at the farewell to “S.S. Salamis” Sydney 1900

CAPTAIN Hector Charles Horatio AXUP
S.S. SALAMIS to the Boxer Rebellion China 1900
SHIPWRECK of the barque ACACIA 1904

The Australian War Memorial holds a large collection of photographs, some quite shocking, relating to the Boxer rebellion. View more here at Collections.


Unit New South Wales Naval Contingent
Place Asia: China
Accession Number P00417.001
Collection type Photograph
Object type Black & white – Print silver gelatin
Conflict China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
Australian War Memorial

The Boxer Uprising 1900
Australia’s involvement:

The Boxer Rebellion in China began in 1900, and a number of western nations—including many European powers, the United States, and Japan—soon sent forces as part of the China Field Force to protect their interests. In June, the British government sought permission from the Australian colonies to dispatch ships from the Australian Squadron to China. The colonies also offered to assist further, but as most of their troops were still engaged in South Africa, they had to rely on naval forces for manpower. The force dispatched was a modest one, with Britain accepting 200 men from Victoria, 260 from New South Wales and the South Australian ship HMCS Protector, under the command of Captain William Creswell. Most of these forces were made up of naval brigade reservists, who had been trained in both ship handling and soldiering to fulfil their coastal defence role. Amongst the naval contingent from New South Wales were 200 naval officers and sailors and 50 permanent soldiers headquartered at Victoria Barracks, Sydney who originally enlisted for the Second Boer War. The soldiers were keen to go to China but refused to be enlisted as sailors, while the New South Wales Naval Brigade objected to having soldiers in their ranks. The Army and Navy compromised and titled the contingent the NSW Marine Light Infantry.

The contingents from New South Wales and Victoria sailed for China on 8 August 1900. Arriving in Tientsin, the Australians provided 300 men to an 8,000-strong multinational force tasked with capturing the Chinese forts at Pei Tang, which dominated a key railway. They arrived too late to take part in the battle, but were involved in the attack on the fortress at Pao-ting Fu, where the Chinese government was believed to have found asylum after Peking was captured by western forces. The Victorians joined a force of 7,500 men on a ten-day march to the fort, once again only to find that it had already surrendered. The Victorians then garrisoned Tientsin and the New South Wales contingent undertook garrison duties in Peking. HMCS Protector was mostly used for survey, transport, and courier duties in the Gulf of Chihli, before departing in November.[54] The naval brigades remained during the winter, unhappily performing policing and guard duties, as well as working as railwaymen and fire-fighters. They left China in March 1901, having played only a minor role in a few offensives and punitive expeditions and in the restoration of civil order. Six Australians died from sickness and injury, but none were killed as a result of enemy action …. continue reading

Above: extract from Military history of Australia
Below: extract from  Boxer Rebellion
Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Involvement of the Eight Nation Alliance:

The Boxer Rebellion (拳亂), Boxer Uprising, or Yihetuan Movement (義和團運動) was an anti-imperialist, anti-foreign, and anti-Christian uprising in China between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty.

It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yìhéquán), known in English as the Boxers because many of their members had practiced Chinese martial arts, also referred to in the Western world at the time as Chinese Boxing. Villagers in North China had been building resentment against Christian missionaries who ignored tax obligations and abused their extraterritorial rights to protect their congregants against lawsuits. The immediate background of the uprising included severe drought and disruption by the growth of foreign spheres of influence after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895. After several months of growing violence and murder in Shandong and the North China Plain against foreign and Christian presence in June 1900, Boxer fighters, convinced they were invulnerable to foreign weapons, converged on Beijing with the slogan Support the Qing government and exterminate the foreigners. Foreigners and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter.

In response to reports of an invasion by the Eight Nation Alliance of American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian troops to lift the siege, the initially hesitant Empress Dowager Cixi supported the Boxers and on June 21 issued an Imperial Decree declaring war on the foreign powers. Diplomats, foreign civilians, and soldiers as well as Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were besieged for 55 days by the Imperial Army of China and the Boxers. Chinese officialdom was split between those supporting the Boxers and those favoring conciliation, led by Prince Qing. The supreme commander of the Chinese forces, the Manchu General Ronglu (Junglu), later claimed he acted to protect the foreigners. Officials in the Mutual Protection of Southeast China ignored the imperial order to fight against foreigners.

The Eight-Nation Alliance, after being initially turned back, brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and arrived at Peking on August 14, relieving the siege of the Legations. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside ensued, along with summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers. The Boxer Protocol of 7 September 1901 provided for the execution of government officials who had supported the Boxers, provisions for foreign troops to be stationed in Beijing, and 450 million taels of silver—approximately $10 billion at 2018 silver prices and more than the government’s annual tax revenue—to be paid as indemnity over the course of the next 39 years to the eight nations involved…… continue reading

Source: Extract from article Boxer Rebellion
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The soldier third from left in this photograph represented Australia:

Troops of the Eight nations alliance of 1900 in China.

Left to right: Britain, United States, Australia (British Empire colony at this time), India (British Empire colony at this time), Germany (German Empire at this time), France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan.

S.S. Salamis departs Sydney with Victorian and NSW Naval Contingent for China, July 1900.

Units New South Wales Military Forces Transport ships
Places  Asia: China
Oceania: Australia, New South Wales, Sydney
Accession Number A05042
Collection type Photograph
Object type Black & white – Film polyester negative
Maker Unknown
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Date made July 1900
Conflict China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
Australian War Memorial


Captain Axup on the “Acacia”
From his vantage point on board the barque Acacia, Captain Hector Axup experienced first-hand the departure of troops to China on board the Salamis out of Sydney Harbour, August 1900.

Extract from Captain Axup’s eye witness account of the departure of the Salamis
Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Tuesday 21 August 1900, page 3


Captain H. C. Axup, so long and popularly known in connection with the pilot service at Tamar Heads, writes from Clarence River (New South Wales), under date August 10:
As you may not have received a detailed account of the movements of the New South Wales naval -contingent for China, perhaps the following sketch from an eye witness may prove interesting:-

“It was my good fortune to witness the church parade last Sunday previous to the embarkation,and a finer body of men it would be difficult to muster, being all picked out of ten times the number of applicants. The Salamis. a noble specimen of naval architecture, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday last steamed majestically down the harbour, passing long lines of big merchant tonnage, the crews of each vessel cheering heartily as she passed to an anchorage below Garden Island, where our little bark was lying, waiting for a favourable wind. We were fortunate in being in such close proximity, as the band on board discoursed martial music at frequent intervals. The sight was most picturesque, surrounded as the Salamis was by a flotilla of steam launches and boats of all descriptions, crammed with the friends and relatives of those on board anxious to see the last of them.
“The utmost enthusiasm prevailed, cheering was incessant throughout the day, and the following day was a repetition until the hour of departure (5.30 p.m.), when she cleared the Heads. We had preceded her by an hour, the wind having suddenly shifted round to westward at 4 p.m., so we immediately got under weigh and cleared the Heads at 4.30, thus having an hour’s start. We were destined to see the last of her, and privileged to give her the farewell cheer, which was shouted off Broken Bay, as we were bowling off 10 knots per hour with every stitch of canvas set. It was a magnificent sight to witness a long line of electric lights gradually coming up on our lee quarter, and passing within half a cable, and as it was still early, viz., the second dog-watch (6 to 8), we could not resist the temptation to give them a parting cheer, and wish them ‘God speed and a safe return.’ Of course she soon passed us, and it was not long before she was out of sight.
“In moralising as I paced the deck, sad thoughts would intrude connected with regard to devastating war, and how few of those noble fellows might be spared to come back to their homes and families. However, it is better to keep such thoughts in the background, for wherever our great Empire wants her sons, I am proud to think there are tens of thousands ready, as Kipling puts it, ‘to chuck their jobs and join,’
“Our staunch little bark, the Acacia, of which I am chief mate, completed a splendid run from Sydney to Clarence River in 36 hours, over 300 miles. We load a cargo of iron bark for Lyttelton, New Zealand.

Source: Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954) VTue 21 Aug 1900 Page 3

British-born Captain Hector Axup arrived in Tasmania in 1876, married Mary Sophia Day (sister of photographer Thomas Nevin’s wife Elizabeth Rachel Day) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart in 1878, fathered an illustrious family, enjoyed a long career in maritime service, and died in Launceston, Tasmania in 1927. A few months before his death he published a “unique booklet” titled The Reminiscences of an ‘Old Salt’ of 83 Years by H. C. Axup (Launceston, ca. 1926) with this photo of himself on the front cover:

At his capstan:
Hector Charles James Horatio Axup (1843-1927)
Undated and unattributed, ca. 1880s.
Photo courtesy and copyright © Suzy Baldwin.

Resident of Low Head Pilot Station, Launceston, Tasmania, Captain Hector Axup was long time Chief Officer of the barque/bark Acacia, when in 1882 he was appointed to a similar position on a similar vessel, the barque Natal Queen. According to his eye witness account of the departure of S.S. Salamis from Sydney in 1900, he was again serving on the Acacia as “chief mate” nearly twenty years later. He had sailed the Acacia from Launceston Tasmania to Sydney, NSW, to see the Salamis clear the Heads. He then took the Acacia north 31 miles (50 kms) within sight of the Salamis before bidding her farewell at Broken Bay. His run further north to the Clarence River (Bundjalung Country), a barrier estuary in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, was achieved in record time (36 hours) and while waiting to load a cargo of iron bark (species of Eucalyptus), before heading for his final destination, Lyttleton, on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand, he penned his “letter” to the Examiner back in Launceston.

The barque Natal Queen ca.1890
Built at Grangemouth in 1866 ; registered in Hobart 1873 ; wrecked in Adventure Bay 1909
Photographer: Williamson, William, 1861-1926
Archives Office Tasmania ref: AUTAS001126071315

Title ACACIA. [picture] : Hobart. 233 tons. Built at Hobart 1871.
Date [between 1885 and 1946]
Description photograph : gelatin silver ; 11.5 x 15.3 cm.
Cite as: Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Fate of the “Acacia” 1904
The Acacia (203 tons) was a three mast barque, built at Hobart by John Ross in 1871 of kauri and bluegum. On a voyage from Port Esperance, Tasmania to Port Adelaide, South Australia in June 1904 with Captain A.V. Saunier in command and eight crew, the Acacia disappeared. All nine crew members died. The wreckage was later discovered on the Tasmanian west coast.

Photograph of ship- ‘Acacia’
Item Number NS543/1/580
Series  Correspondence, Photographs, Notes, Newspaper Cuttings collected by the O’May Family (NS543)
Archives Office Tasmania

This is the full account from the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database:

The barque Acacia sailed from Port Esperance for Port Adelaide on 20 June 1904 with a cargo of 113,000 feet of timber, under the command of Captain A.V. Saunier and a crew of eight. The vessel was last seen passing Maatsuyker Island at 9 am the following morning in very poor weather, and failed to arrive at its destination. The small coastal steamer Breone was sent from Hobart on 25 July to investigate the coastline as far north as Port Davey, but nothing of note was found. Rumours that the vessel was seen sheltering at Hunter Island were soon disproved.
Wreckage found near Port Davey early in January 1905 was at first thought to be from Acacia, but soon proved to be from the overdue Brier Holme. This however ultimately did lead to the discovery of the other wreck. On 31 January 1905 Samuel Brown, one of the crew of the fishing boat Ripple, engaged in unofficial beachcombing of salvage from the Brier Holme wreck, came across Acacia’s remains just south of the Mainwaring Inlet. Ripple’s crew entered into partnership with the crew of the fishing boat Gift to recover salvage. It was some six weeks before they informed the official Brier Holme salvage party in the fishing boat Lucy Adelaide of their discovery, and a pigeon message was immediately dispatched to Hobart.
HMS Cadmus was sent from Hobart on 16 March to find the Ripple and from her crew learn the exact whereabouts of the Acacia. A search party on board the warship, however, had little difficulty in locating the wreck, which was spread along about three miles of the beach south of the Mainwaring Inlet. They also found the remains of five skeletons which were returned to Hobart and buried following a large public funeral on 20 March. Although the exact circumstances of the wreck could never be determined, it was presumed that Acacia had been driven inshore by the heavy gales then prevalent. There was no sign of the cargo, which being heavy green wood would have sunk with the hull, although the remains of the latter soon broke up and drifted ashore.
Acacia, ON 57515, was a barque of 225/200 tons, 118.0’ x 24.0’ x 12.0’, built at Hobart by John Ross in 1871, and was registered at Hobart in the names of Robert Rex and Thomas Herbert.  

References: Hobart Mercury 26 July, 6, 22, 26 August 1904, 15, 20, 23, 24 March 1905; Hobart Register 4/1871
Source: Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database

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