Topic: BW - NSW - NSWMR_A
A Sqn NSWMR
"A" Squadron, NSW Mounted Rifles
Antill Letter, 7 January 1900
The following transcript is of a letter written by Captain John Macquarie Antill, Officer Commanding the New South Wales Mounted Rifles contingent to South Africa to the New South Wales Chief Staff Officer and Assistant Adjutant General Colonel Henry Douglas Mackenzie.
Prieska, Orange Free State
7 January 1900
The AA General
Since my last I have to report the following. On the 29th Ultima a force consisting of a Company of Infantry, 2 Maxim Guns and the Squadron under my command and also 20 Remmington Guides, were ordered to march at once for this town to protect it from the rebel Boers who were reported to be rising on the northern side of the Orange River in Grequaland. The march was less than 130 miles was done in 3 days, and excepting some few horses which knocked up and had to be left on the road and without casualty at 3 am, 2nd Instant. Lieutenant Colonel Alderson who was in command directed me to at once take up position under cover on the River's bank and attack any Boers who might show themselves upon the other side. It appears that a Commando of about 20 had seized a farm commanding the punt crossing and not believing that the British would sent a force from De Aar were in the habit of coming down to the water's edge in the early morning to water horses etc. The inhabitants were in great fear as the Boers were seizing and destroying their property daily. The Boers showed out of their cover at 5 am but excepting 2 troops of 15 on whom I would not fire, did not approach nearer as it seemed to me that there was no chance of their approaching I opened fire with some twenty other ranks on some seven of them which fire they returned by a few rounds and they cleared out precipitously. Three of them were wounded and one native who I sent over afterwards from in four places. Crossing the river in a boat we cleared the country for some distance and returning to their laager captured a quantity of their guns and ammunition. Colonel Alerson returned to De Aar same evening leaving me with my Squadron and a troop of Remmington Guides. The Orange River is about 200 yards wide and passable at 5 drifts extending over 5 miles of frontage all of which was quickly secured and hold. Yesterday with a party of 40 crossed the river and proceeded quickly to a farm 16 miles north where I believed several of them were rising - reaching there at 5 am. Imprisoned seven rebels who gave themselves up. Secured quantity of arms and ammunition and retired to Prieska by 11 am. Inhabitants much impressed by this capture. The position here is difficult one as only about 10% of those living in the town can be counted loyal. Expect to be here for a week or two longer and to be reinforced by a troop of Scots Greys from Marth’s Drift 100 miles east. The Boers are a dirty lot of men and women - religion - good riders and mounted on country bred ponies very good of their kind. They are armed with all sort of weapons chiefly Martinis - Sporting rifles - old Henrys and some kings I have never seen before - I have a collection of some 40 some of them very good ones.
Have lost 3 horses, one from pneumonia one broken leg and one dropped dead from heart disease yesterday. Men in splendid spirits and very keen. British Officers much pleased with the way they work. Received a telegram from General Officer Commanding Orange River yesterday saying he was very pleased with the activity of the troops here. Officers all doing well. Rations difficult to get and very expensive. Climate like our own in summer. It is generally thought that the war will be a protracted one - the defensive positions occupied by the Rebels being almost impregnable. They are very difficult to see among the rocks and cover and the country is most difficult to get about on, even on the flat parts as the surface is generally rough and scrubby and very hard on the horses' feet.
I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant
JM Antill, Captain
Commanding New South Wales Mounted Rifles and Troops
Prieska, Orange River
Chief Staff Officer
Received 5 February 1900
Previous: Antill Letter, 26 December 1899
War Diaries and Letters
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Further Reading:Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: "A" Squadron, NSW Mounted Rifles, Antill Letter, 7 January 1900