This paper presents one aperture from a multistratal, diachronic investigation of the changing context of war news reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1902 to 2003. The larger study applies an ensemble of systemic analyses and theoretical perspectives to ‘end of war’ reports from seven wars over this period. In this paper, a cohesive harmony analysis (following Hasan, 1984, 1985) is applied to three texts (Boer War, Korean War and Iraq War), providing empirical evidence for structural boundaries in the texts and giving an account of the semantics of topical relevance (cf. Cloran, 1999; Lukin, 2008 in press). The findings are compared across the three texts and considered as evidence for shifts in the contextual configuration of the parameters of field, tenor and mode (cf. Halliday & Hasan, 1985; Hasan, 1995).