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Friday, 8 May 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Part 3
Topic: Militia - LH

 The Australian Light Horse

Part 3

 

2nd Lancer Draft for South Africa, 17 June 1900.

 

The following is an extract from the book by Hall, RJG, The Australian Ligth Horse, Melbourne 1967, pp. 24 - 28.

 

South African War

The hostilities in South Africa were to have a profound effect upon the emerging military organization in Australia. This was to be her first practical lesson in the military arts. There was no lack of students. Australia sent 16,175 combatants to the theatre with 16,314 horses. Apart from the valuable introduction to the "new warfare", conducted without the pomp and colourful panoply of scarlet uniforms, white accoutrements, polished helmets and geometric formations, the War Office in London realized that the colonies possessed tremendous potential in the provision of soldiery.

By the end of the War in June 1902 Australia had shown not only her capacity to provide willing and enthusiastic soldiers, but already the reputation of her mounted men, their resourcefulness, initiative and courage had left a lasting impression with the more perceptive British leaders.

A young major of the lnniskillians named Allenby commanded a group of NSW Lancers and spoke highly of their operations. He was to speak out again, fifteen years later, in Syria and his opinions of the Australian Light Horse were recorded as follows:

"I knew the New South Wales Lancers and the Australian Horse well in the Boer War and I was glad to meet some of my old friends of those days when the Light Horse came under my command just two years ago. The Australian Light Horseman combines with a splendid physique a restless activity of mind ... on every variety of ground - mountain, plain, desert, swamp or jungle the Australian Light Horseman has proved himself equal to the best. He has earned the gratitude of the Empire and the admiration of the world".

To return to the days prior to the declaration of War, the Australian public demonstrated an acute interest in the preliminary manoeuvring between Britain and the South African States. Three months prior to the outbreak of War, Queensland made an offer of 250 mounted infantry to the British Government. This was followed in turn by Victoria and New South Wales.

When the state of war was proclaimed on 11 Oct 1899, the enthusiasm of the volunteers knew no bounds. In the first eighteen months of the War, 2,900 regular recruited soldiers were dispatched from the various States. In addition, 3,637 "Citizen Bushmen" sailed for South Africa as the result of public subscription and material assistance.

The standards set for the enlistment of men for service in the South African War were published in the press and State gazettes

"Men to be good shots and proficient swordsmen, of superior physique not under 5 foot 6 inches or 34 inches chest; good riders and bushmen, accustomed to find their way about in strange country."

Whether all the conditions were met or proved; the acceptances are shown in the table below.

State Cavalry-Mounted Rifles etc. Contingent  Officers Other Ranks Horses
NSW Lancers (a)      
  1 NSWMR       
  2 NSWMR       
  3 NSWMR      
  1 Australian Horse      
  1 Australian Commonwealth Horse (b) (3 squadrons)      
  5 Australian Commonwealth Horse  
Total NSW    314 5,796 5,872
 
Victoria   
  2 Mounted Rifles (VMR)   
  5 Mounted Rifles (VMR)  
  2 Australian Commonwealth Horse (3 squadrons)  
  4 Australian Commonwealth Horse (2 squadrons)  
  6 Australian Commonwealth Horse (A, B, C and D squadrons VMR)  
Total Victoria    193 3372 3825
 
South Australia   
  1 Mounted Rifles (SAMR)   
  2 Mounted Rifles (SAMR)  
  2 Australian Commonwealth Horse (half squadron)  
  4 Australian Commonwealth Horse (1 squadron)  
  8 Australian Commonwealth Horse (A and C squadrons)  
Total South Australia   89 1,437 1,444
 
Western Australia   
  1 Mounted Infantry (WAMI)   
  2 Mounted Infantry (WAMI   
  4 Mounted Infantry (WAMI)   
  5 Mounted Infantry (WAMI)   
  6 Mounted Infantry (WAMI)  
  2 Australian Commonwealth Horse (half squadron)  
  4 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
  8 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
Total WA    67 1,162 1,183
 
Queensland  
  1 Mounted Infantry (QMI)  
  2 Mounted Infantry (QMI)   
  3 Mounted Infantry (QMI)  
  1 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
  3 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
  7 Australian Commonwealth Horse  
Total Queensland    149 2,739 3,207
 
Tasmania   
  1 Mounted Infantry (TMI)  
  1 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
  3 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
  8 Australian Commonwealth Horse (one squadron)  
Total Tasmania   36 821 783
 
TOTAL    838 15,327 16,314
         


NOTE (a) - A squadron of New South Wales Lancers, having attended tournaments and training in England, arrived at Cape Town on heir return to Australia. With a fine sense of duty and little regard for the legal niceties, the majority of the squadron disembarked for operations, thus becoming the first overseas troops to land in any of the bases of the war.

NOTE (b) - The Australian Commonwealth Horse is not to be confused with the Militia Regiment of Australian Horse (1897). The Commonwealth Horse was raised as the first mounted unit of the newly named Commonwealth of Australia. It is of interest to note that the First Australian Commonwealth Horse battalion displayed for the first time the Australian General Service Badge (Rising Sun).

As the result of the contribution to the South African War by the various States of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Battle Honour SOUTH AFRICA was authorized in Military Order 123/1908. The award was made in such a way that any future regiments of:

New South Wales Lancers,
New South Wales Mounted Rifles, Victorian Mounted Rifles,
Queensland Mounted Rifles,
South Australian Mounted Rifles,
Western Australian Mounted Infantry,
Tasmanian Mounted Infantry, and
Australian Horse.


could all bear the Distinction held on their behalf by the above regiments.

As far as the Commonwealth Forces in general and the Light Horse in particular, were concerned, the South African War provided the militia with a large number of officers and NCO's with battle experience. Units were to lean heavily upon this experience for a number of years until war again called Australians to fight upon foreign soil.
 


Previous: The Australian Light Horse, Part 2

Next: The Australian Light Horse, Part 4

 

Further Reading:

The Australian Light Horse

 


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Part 3

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 15 May 2009 9:42 AM EADT

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