Topic: BatzO - Peitang
China, 25 September 1900
Peitang, the only combat operation involving Australian troops sent to northern China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, was fought on the shores of the Gulf of Chihli (now called the Bohai Wan) 40 kilometres east of Tientsin on 25 September 1900. The Australians were members of a naval brigade offered to Britain in June, at the time that a multi-national force was being assembled to lift the siege of foreign embassies in Peking (now Beijing) by a Chinese cult of extreme nationalists nicknamed `Boxers'. The brigade, comprising 200 men from the naval forces of Victoria and another 260 from those of New South Wales, arrived on 8 September and was absorbed within the British contingent of the international field force, with their quarters at Tientsin.
By this stage, however, most of the fighting was already over. Troops of the eight participating powers had landed on the China coast in mid-June, captured Tientsin a month later, and relieved the besieged diplomatic missions in the capital a month after that-whereupon military resistance from the Boxers quickly dissipated. Not until a fortnight after their arrival did the
Australians have any prospect of seeing action. On 24 September, 300 men of the brigade (150 from each colony) formed part of a four-nation force of $,000 men-1,700 provided by Britain-which was ordered to move against the Chinese fort at Peitang.
Moving initially by lighter down the waterways towards the coast, the next day the Australians were obliged to travel the last 30 kilometres by foot. Urged on by the sounds of battle• ahead and the sight of rising pillars of' smoke, they covered the remaining distance in a gruelling forced march. All this effort proved wasted when, coming across a Russian field hospital at E, p.m., they learnt that the Russians had gone ahead and stormed the fort on their own an hour earlier. The only consolation to be had was that the Chinese had chosen not to hold the position in strength, but left a single four-man gun crew to delay the attackers; this they had achieved, at the cost of their lives, while the Russians suffered seven men killed and 30 wounded.
During the following month the Victorians took part in a similar expedition to capture par,-zing fu (now Baoding), the capital of Chihli Province situated about 115 kilometres south-west of Beijing. This also did not see any Australians come under fire, as on the forces approach Chinese officials surrendered the city without offering any resistance. Thereafter the Australians filled only garrison duties at Beijing and Tientsin until their return home.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 86-87.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:Bob Nicholls (1986) Bluejackets and Boxers, Sydney: Allen & Unwin
Citation: Peitang, China, September 25, 1900