Topic: BW - Vic - 5VMR
5th Victorian Mounted Rifles
Map illustrating the activities of the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles in South Africa, 1901-1902.
[From: Chamberlain, M., The Australians in the South African War 1899-1902, Canberra, 1999.]
In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray, produced a marvellous Boer War reference detailing all the contingents sent from Australia to South Africa, giving a brief history of the formation and finally, listing all the soldiers who saw service in South Africa with that unit. The book was called, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. It is now the standard reference and starting place for any person interested in pursuing information about Australian involvement in the Boer War.
Murray, P. L., Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, pp. 274 - 277.
The Fifth (Mounted Rifles) Contingent.
Enrolled in February, 1901, and consisted of eight companies of Mounted
Rifles, enlisted under the following conditions:-
(1) Engagement to be for twelve months, or the duration of the war;
(2) preference to be given to those who had returned from active service in South. Africa;
(3) single men to be preferred;
(4) pay to be at the rate of 5s. per diem from date of joining the Camp of Instruction at Langwarrin.
No man over 12 stone in weight was eligible, and candidates to pass riding, shooting, and physical tests. Members of the Victorian Military Farces who fulfilled all conditions were accorded preference over civilians.
For rates of pay vide 4th contingent.
Uniform consisted of khaki cloth F.S. jacket, pants, puttees, hat, F.S. cap. Greatcoats and boots were also provided. L.M. rifles and bayonets issued at Cape Town. Cartridge belts were issued in Victoria. Fully horsed and provided with saddlery.
Regimental transport was also provided.
Each man received a full kit, comprising clothing, boots, underclothing, necessaries, &c.
This was as follows:-1 Staff-Commanding officer,
2 Medical Officers,
2 Veterinary Officers,
1 Regimental Sergeant-Major (W.O.),
1 Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant,
1 Orderly-Room Sergeant;
with 15 horses.
Detail of a company:-Captain, 1;
Company Sergeant-Major, 1;
Company Quartermaster-Sergeant, 1;
Total, 126, with 131 horses.
Total of eight companies:-40 officers,
56 staff sergeants and sergeants;
840 rank and file.
Total -1,008, with 1,048 horses.
Add staff as stated:-Grand total-46 Officers,
1 Warrant Officer,
58 Staff-Sergeants and Sergeants,
840 rank and file;
in all, 1,017, with 1,099 horses.
This return is exclusive of the Commanding Officer who was, in the first instance, detailed to take the troops to the Cape only.
Details of Departure and Return.
The Contingent departed on 15th February 1901, consisting of 46 officers, 971 other ranks, with 1,099 horses. Six officers, 48 other ranks were killed or died; 14 officers, 69 others were struck off in South Africa; 60 officers, 854 others returned to Australia.
[From: The Australasian, 23 February 1901, p. 420.]
This large Contingent required three transports to convey it to the war, namely, the Orient, the Argus, and the City of Lincoln, leaving 15th February, 1901. The bulk of the Regiment went in the former ship, the horses and a horse-deck guard of about 100 in the two latter. They also went different routes on arriving at Cape Town; for the horses (one shipment having rested at Maitland Camp) were sent along the coast to Durban, and there landed and entrained for Pretoria; whilst the men finally disembarked at Port Elizabeth and entrained there, proceeding through Cape Colony and Orange River Colony to Pretoria, where the Regiment was mobilized between 24th March and 4th April, 1901.
On the 10th, they went to Middelburg, East Transvaal, to join General Beatson's column, and started on the first trek, moving north from the Delagoa Bay line on the 13th. Between that date and 23rd, they were constantly in touch with the enemy, and captured a convoy of 21 wagons, 16 prisoners, at Leeuwfontein. The horses were greatly knocked up and many died from wounds received in action. Four companies returned to Middelburg for remounts, the other four remaining with the column.
On the 7th May, in action at Rhenoster Kop, Captain Kelly was mortally wounded, Lieutenant Johnston killed, and one N.C.O. and two men dangerously wounded. Lieutenant and Adjutant Patterson and Sergeant Carlisle were recommended in Army Orders for bravery.
On the 11th, the Regiment was divided into two wings; the right, "A," "B," "C," "D"squadrons, under Major Umphelby; the left, "E," "F," "G,” “H," under Major McKnight. They were united at Bronkhorst Spruit; and the total results of the trek were - 6 Boers killed, 124 prisoners, 17 surrenders, 183 rifles, 31,450 rounds small arms ammunition, 212 wagons, 58 Cape carts, 100 horses, 65 mules and donkeys, 2,460 cattle, 5,600 sheep, 800 trek oxen, 4,700 bags mealies, &c. - all the work of the Fifth. This return is presented as an example of what was usually accomplished in these treks.
On the 18th, the Regiment received 780 remounts, and Colonel Otter went into hospital. He was subsequently invalided to Australia; but Lord Kitchener cabled to the Governor of Victoria that this officer had done excellent work whilst in charge of the Contingent. Major Umphelby took over the command.
Between the 18th May and 10th June, there were constant engagements at Rhenoster Kop, Klippan, Kornfontein, and Drivelfontein, where Lieutenant Murphy was killed (29th May), besides one N.C.O. and two men. Major Daly, West Yorks, and Major Fraser, Bengal Lancers, took command of right and left wings.
The left wing moved out from Vandyke's Drift; and, on the 12th, encamped at Wilmansrust, where the camp was rushed by the Boers at 8 p.m., and the wing suffered severely; 1 officer (Lieutenant Palmer, M.S.), 18 N.C.O.'s and men were killed; 5 officers, 36 N.C.O.'s and men wounded. The Boer casualties were stated to be 11 killed and 14 wounded. On the 15th, at Nooitgedacht, the enemy again on all sides attacked the Column on the march, but were beaten off.
On the 18th, joined the Column under Sir Bindon Blood, including General Babington's, General W. Kitchener's, and Colonel Campbell's Columns at Kranspoort. The Regiment united again at Middelburg on 2nd July, and Major Umphelby went into hospital. From then until 9th August, constant trekking, and frequent encounters with the enemy. Sergeant-Major Keeble was recommended for bravery.
On 10th August, left General Beatson's command at Bronkhorst Spruit, and trekked to Wittebank; entrained to Newcastle, Natal, to assist in operations against General L. Botha. Joined Colonel Pulteney's Column, and made Newcastle, their base depot.
On the 21st, Major Daly was badly wounded in an advance-guard action at Kambuladraai. The enemy were driven out of their position, and papers and Boer flag captured. Captain Hutton, commanding right wing, moved to Vryheid, and thence towards Zululand. The regiment was heavily engaged at H'lobane, where Lieutenant Coulter was killed (27th); and at Reit Vlei they camped at Good Hoek, L. Botha's farm, which was blown up There were constant operations until 6th September, when moved into Zululand at N'gutu; Major Vallentin taking command of the right wing. From thence to Dundee; entrained for Volkrust, and trekked to Wakkarstroom; and thence across the Drakensberg to Utrecht in heavy rain, taking three days, From Utrecht to Cattle Drift, Column was without blankets for six days, and on half rations; heavy rain most of the time.
On 25th, moved out with several Columns (General Clements in command) to De Jager's Drift; marched through N'gutu, Nondweni, Vryheid, Grootvlei, arriving at Utrecht on 14th October. On 16th October, in action at Luchiel's Nek, and on the 17th heavy fighting, holding Loch's Kraal. , The united Columns captured 200 prisoners and 8,000 head of cattle in the Pongola Bosch. On 23rd, marched through Limeberg over Intombi River in action. On very short rations. On the 28th, reconnaissance: Commandant Potgeiter captured. On the 28th, night march; several farms rushed; 16 Boers captured and many horses, saddles, and rifles.
On 3rd November, night march to Matjes Kop, and several farms rushed. Lieutenant Chrisp and two men killed, four wounded. 14th November, arrived at Vryheid; and on the 23rd, Lieutenant Maygar was recommended for the Victoria Cross (which he afterwards received), for bringing Saddler Short out of action. On 25th„ at Donkerhook, joined General Plumer. On 6th December. running fight of night march with big commando under Generals L. and C. Botha. From that date to 22nd December, constant operations. Captain Chomley was recommended for bravery in bringing Corporal Cummins out of action. Returned to Rotterdam, which had been previously occupied on the 19th. On 38th, Captain Hutton took over command of the right wind from Major Vallentin, who was appointed to command Colonel Sir John Jarvis's Column.
Major Daly took command of the right wing on 1st January. Night march and another commando chased. Moved from Balmoral on three days' reconnaissance, and encountered Chris. Botha and Opperman at Onverwacht; fighting all day. Advance guard (Queenslanders and Hants Mounted Infantry) suffered severely. The Fifth took up advance of flank guards. The Boers endeavoured to rush the pom pom, but were repulsed. Then suffered severely, Opperman being among the killed. The Victorians times complimented by General Plumer for their share in the day's work.
Arrived at Wakkerstroom on the 8th, where the Column rested until the 22nd owing to the loss of horses. Then night march through Grootfontein, and on the 24th, night march to Johnston Hoek. Engaged all day, and in conjunction with blockhouses, killed 3 and captured 55 Boers. Between that date and 8th February, when Lieutenant Patterson (Med. Staff) was promoted to Captain, night marches and running fights; and same to 13th, when night marches to Elandsberg, and alight fighting. Three days' reconnaissance followed.
On the 18th, Lieutenant McFarlane and party captured 12 Boers and 40 horses. Onp 19th, Lieutenants O'Reilly and Bell promoted to Captains. Sergeants Cochrane and Ball promoted to commissions. On 24th, night march to Wilhelm Hendricks on 25th, moved across Matuas; on 28th, night march; and following day engaged in running fight. 2nd March, moved towards Standerton; night march at 6.30 p.m., and held Roberts' Drift, “C,” and "D,” companies engaged. On the 8th, trekked to Standerton, where the Column broke up. Captain Hutton took command of the Regiment. He was promoted to Major on 27th March.
On 11th March the Fifth arrived at Cape Town.
Telegram from General Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief to General Settle, Cape Town.
“Please convey to Australians my warm appreciation of their gallant and arduous service in this country. In the name of the army in South Africa, I wish them good luck and God speed.
“To officer commanding 6th Victorian Mounted Rifles."
On 27th March, two Companies embarked in the St. Andrew for Melbourne, and arrived on 25th April. The remainder on the following day embarked in the Montrose for Durban, there transhipped into the Custodian, end arrived at Melbourne on 26th April, 1902, shortly after which the Contingent was disbanded.
Leslie Cecil Maygar
Note.-The following is the official report of the deed for which Lieutenant Maygar received the Victoria Cross:-
"At Geelhoutboom, 23rd November, 1901, Lieutenant Maygar galloped out and ordered the men of a detached post, which was being outflanked, to retire. The horse of one of them being shot under him, when the enemy was within 200 yards, Lieutenant Maygar dismounted and lifted him upon his own horse, which bolted into boggy ground, causing both of them to dismount. On extricating the horse, and finding that it could not carry both Lieutenant Maygar again put the man on its back, and told him to gallop for cover at once; he himself proceeding on foot. All this took place under a very heavy fire."- London Gazette, 11th February, 1903.
Citation: 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles, Outline