Topic: AIF - NZMRB - CMR
Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment
Canterbury Mounted Rifles embarking from Lyttelton on the HMNZT 11 Athenic, September 1914.
[From: Auckland Weekly News, 1 October 1914, p. 38.]
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles utilised the Volunteer Territorial structure to recruit members into the three squadrons gazetted as establishment in August 1914. Below is a listing of the three squadrons inclusive of the distinguishing squadron badge.
1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Squadron
The anticedents for the 1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Regiment stretched further back than 1914. The district surrounding Christchurch provided a volunteer force for many decades. Men from these formations served during the Boer War while afterwards, during the reorganisation of 1 October 1900, two new Territorial battalions were formed. In 1906, the name battalion was replaced by Regiment. The 1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Regiment as a Territorial Volunteer formation came into being on 17 March 1911 when the New Zealand compulsory military training program commenced. The 1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Squadron was recruited from the same Territorial region which included the Christchurch metropolitan area and the central region of South Island.
8th South Canterbury Squadron
The 8th South Canterbury Regiment as a Territorial Volunteer formation came into being on 17 March 1911 when the New Zealand compulsory military training program commenced. After the outbreak of the Great War the 8th South Canterbury Squadron was recruited from the same Territorial region which included the area south and west of Christchurch.
10th Nelson Squadron
The 10th Nelson Regiment as a Territorial Volunteer formation came into being on 17 March 1911 when the New Zealand compulsory military training program commenced. After the outbreak of the Great War the 10th Nelson Squadron was recruited from the same Territorial region which included the area north and east of Christchurch and centred on the city of Nelson at the extreme north of South Island.
Machine Gun Section
The Machine Gun Section was drawn from recruits over the entirety of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles catchment area.
The original Canterbury Mounted Rifles embarked to Egypt on 16 October 1914.
- HMNZT 4 Tahiti - Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment.
- HMNZT 11 Athenic - Headquarters Mounted Rifles Brigade and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment. (2 Squadrons)
In Egypt additional training occurred at Maadi Camp.
As mounted troops, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were considered to be unsuitable for work in Gallipoli. The mounted troops volunteered to operate as infantry and thus were sent to Gallipoli with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles landing on 12 May 1915. Only once was this regiment used for offensive activities which occurred during the two attacks on Hill 60 in August 1915. For the balance of the time the Canterbury Mounted Rifles remained at Gallipoli, the unit played a defensive role.
Defence of Egypt
In March 1916, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles was allotted as a Regiment in the newly formed Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, or more commonly called the Anzac Mounted Division. As part of the Division the Canterbury Mounted Rifles moved to join its parent brigade, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, which was taking part in the defence of the Suez Canal. The work was hot and monotonous. they remained here until moved to the Romani region to bolster the defence of that area.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade played an important role in beating back the Turkish invasion of the Suez Canal zone at Romani. Now known as the Battle of Romani which lasted from 4-6 August which was quickly followed by the Battle of Katia and then Bir el Abd on 9 August. All the actions in which the Canterbury Mounted Rifles finally led to the defeat of the Ottoman Canal Expeditionary force and its retreat to Bir el Mazar.
Over the next few months, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles took part in the Allied advance over the Sinai leading to the fall of Bir el Mazar, then El Arish followed by Bir el Magdhaba and finally Rafa in January 1917. The Ottoman forces were expelled from the Sinai and were poised to be tackled in Palestine.
On 27 March 1917, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles took an adventurous role during the First Battle of Gaza. While involved in the encirclement of the city as a prelude to its capture, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles received the order to withdraw and return to the starting line. Grudgingly they did so but realised the Turks had snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat.
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles took part in the Second Battle of Gaza on 19 April 1917 and suffered the heaviest casualties since Gallipoli.
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles took part in the Battle of Beersheba and then the follow up actions that lasted until early January 1918. This included such actions as the Battle of Ayun Kara and the advance to Jaffa.
After the fall of Jerusalem the Canterbury Mounted Rifles moved to the Jordan Valley and took parts in operations in this region. This included the taking of Jericho, the attack on Amman during 27 March - 2 April 1918 and Es Salt Raid of 30 April – 4 May 1918. It's last major action prior to the breakout was to repel the German Asien Corps attack on Abu Telllul, 14 July 1918.
At the opening of the final Allied offensive on 19 September 1918, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles took part in the invasion of the Moab hills for the third time. This time Amman was captured and finally, the Ottomans called for an Armistice on 30 October 1918.
Lieutenant Colonel John Findaly
Formed August 1914.
Attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division from December 1914 to April 1915. Attachment ceased on the Division's deployment to Gallipoli.
Attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division at Gallipoli from May 1915 to February 1916.
Attached to the Anzac Mounted Division March 1916 until March 1919.
- Defence at Anzac
- Sari Bair
- Gallipoli 1915-1916
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles returned to New Zealand in small numbers from June to July 1919. On 17 June 1919 the main body of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles handed in their horses and moved to Chevalier Island, Ismailia, in anticipation for embarkation to New Zealand. With much ceremony at Chevalier Island, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles along with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was disbanded on 30 June 1919. The last Canterbury Mounted Rifles members embarked from Ismailia on the SS Ellenga and returned to New Zealand on 23 July 1919.
Acknowledgement: Thanks are extended to Steve Butler and Greg Bradley for the excellent site New Zealand Mounted Rifles Association and their consent to use information and images from that particular site. Steve Butler has kinldy provided the artwork for this entry.
Citation: Canterbury Mounted Rifles, NZMRB, History