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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

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Monday, 8 November 2004
Australian Horse, Training Begins, 1898 - The Boys in Green, Part 2
Topic: Militia - LHN - 3/11/7


Australian Horse

 Training Begins, 1898

1st (Volunteer) Australian Horse [1897 - 1903]
1st Australian Horse (Boer War) [1899 - 1901]
3rd (Australian Horse) Australian Light Horse [1903 - 1912]
11th (Australian Horse) Australian Light Horse [1912 - 1918]
7th (Australian Horse) Australian Light Horse [1919 - 1935]
7th/21st (Australian Horse) Australian Light Horse [1936-1937]
7th (Australian Horse) Australian Light Horse [1937 - 1942]
7th (Australian Horse) Australian Motor Regiment [1942 - 1943]
7th/21st (Australian Horse) Recce Regiment 1948 - 1937]
7th/21st Australian Horse [1949 - 1957]

 Hearth and Home

 South Africa 1899 - 1902

Allied with: King Edward's Horse (The King's Overseas Dominions Regiment).


The following article about the Australian Horse and the Birth of a Regiment 1897 was written as Chapter 1 in the booklet produced by the Centenary Publications, Harden, August 1997 and produced by Clarion Editions at Binalong called, The Boys in Green - A Centenary History of the 1st Australian Horse and the Light Horse Units of Harden and Murrumburrah, New South Wales, and this extract is from pp. 6 - 12.


Chapter 1, Part 2

Training Begins, 1898

By February 1898 the members of the 1st Australian Horse were doing an unusual amount of foot and mounted drill. The Harden Murrumburrah portion of the regiment was no exception to the rule. Sergeant Watt had the men out pretty regularly, and giving thorn various courses of instructions. At first it was thought the reported cable from En land about mobilising the forces of the colony; ha something to do with these frequent drills. But it was on account of the men being required to go to the encampment at Easter that the extra work was being done. (Murrumburrah Signal, 19 February 1898)

After the Easter encampment it was reported "The members of the 1st Australian Horse were rather Green in more senses than one, but their conduct is said to have been very creditable". (Murrumburrah Signal, 16 April 1898)

By May 1898 the squadron must have felt they were ready to take on the world because it was reported in the Murrumburrah Signal, Saturday 7 May 1898:- "A member of the Murrumburrah Harden contingent says there will not be peace amongst the nations until the 1st Australian Horse go over to fight them. We don't know about the peace, but we are pretty certain there would be pieces as the result of the engagement". (Murrumburrah Signal, 7 May 1898)

It was not all drills; the men still found time for some fun. On 11 June 1898 they played a game of football against Harden-Murrumburrah. It was never reported who won the match, only the fact that Dr Parry was made Medical Officer for the 1st Australian Horse.

Popularity of the 1st Australian Horse was growing and desire to establish contingents of the corps in several electorates were made, but the regiment was limited to 410 members. On Wednesday 30 June 1898 several members of the Assembly headed by Mr J C Watson M.L.A. asked the Colonial Secretary to raise the numbers to 1000. (Murrumburrah Signal, 2 July 1898)

Meanwhile the half squadron of the Harden Murrumburrah 1st Australian horse were busy preparing for a 3 day encampment to be held at Cootamundra on 13 to 16 October. It would include Harden-Murrumburrah, Gundagai and Cootamundra.

Lieutenant Miller (Cootamundra) issued the following circular to the men under his command;

"in sending you the attached circular I point out that the fast district camp will be held from the evening of Thursday, 13 October, to Sunday 16 October, and as I have every desire to have our district well represented and this unit of our Bush Force all present for the inspection of the Major General and our colonel, I will be glad if you will send in your name as willing to come to this the first camp ever held in our vicinity, If you are unable to attend, it is necessary far you to send in your arms, uniform and equipment for annual inspection. Please reply to enable me to make arrangements for rations, forage, etc, and on receipt of replies I will call a parade and furnish full particulars".

(Murrumburrah Signal, 8 September 1898)

"Some thirty (30) members of the Harden Murrumburrah half squadron of the 1st Australian Horse fell into line at the orderly rooms, opposite the show grounds, at 2 o'clock on Thursday 13 October and then rode through the town four deep, on their way to the scene of the camp. Our boys looked a bright soldierly lot of defenders, their neat uniforms, handsome chargers and general appearance causing much enthusiasm amongst the large number of residents who witnessed their departure. The sight was a most inspiring one and the men carried with them the very best wishes of our people for their success in the encampment and a safe return home.
(Murrumburrah Signal, 15 October 1898)

The encampment of members of the 1st Australian Horse from Harden Murrumburrah, Gundagai and Cootamundra was a great success. Major General French, Commander-in-Chief of the New South Wales forces, Colonel Mackay and Major the Hon. WT Brand (10th Hussars) were in attendance, and after the men had gone through the march past and numerous drills, the former complimented them on their efficiency and also spoke many words of encouragement to the men.


Australian Horse together with New South Wales Lancers

[Men and NCOs of the Australian Horse in dark green uniform with comrades of the New South Wales Lancers, who wore uniforms of khaki faced with red; date unknown. The men are identified as: Top: Ryan, Byrnes, Warren. Bottom: J. O'Connell, Whitney Howard, Baily, W. Bradford. From: The Boys in Green, p. 7.]


Murrumburrah-Harden laid claim to the honour of sending the largest number of men to the encampment, but as ours was the first half squadron this is only just as things should be.

"The men in camp underwent a course of rigorous training in camp routine, mounted and foot drills, use of arms, squadron drill, outpost duties as advance and rear guards, field firing, and all practical work of an encampment."
(Murrumburrah Signal, 21 October 1898)

After the encampment Colonel Mackay sent the following message to be read to the men:

“To my comrades how deeply I appreciate their self sacrifice and devotion to duty by their presence in camp and their displaying their love of Country".

The message was received with three cheers for Colonel Mackay.

(Murrumburrah Signal, 22 October 1898)

The next major event that the Harden-Murrumburrah half squadron was involved in was a Military Tournament which was held 26 January 1899.


President: JK Bourke, Lieutenant - Commanding Murrumburrah and Harden Half Squadron.
Vice President: CW Russell, Lieutenant.

A. Barnes
R. Fallon
D. Macansh
J. Hobson
A. Barnes
S.A. Fallon
Thos. Allsopp
R. Aiken
A. Fallon
J. Cordon


1st Event at 12 o'clock noon.

Jumping files over three hurdles.

Prize 20s, entrance Is; points to be given for position of hands, riding, pace, dress, carrying of swords.

2nd Event at 12.30 p.m.

Single tent pegging.

Prize a trophy, entrance 1s. The dimensions of the pegs will be - length 12 inches (subject to nature of ground), width 3 inches, length above ground 6 inches. The horse must be at full speed when peg is struck or taken, the horse is not to be struck with the lance to increase speed, the spear must have the regulation point approved of by the committee; point of lance to be kept up until 15 yards from peg; the peg must be carried 20 yards after taking or the "take" cannot be claimed; two runs only.

Luncheon at 1 o'clock.


3rd Event 2 o'clock.

Sword Exercise by Teams.
Prize 2 pound, entrance 1s.

4th Event at 2.1 5 pm.


Cavalry Remount Race of 1/2 mile.

For bona fide cavalry horses that have attended last District Encampment or regular drills for six months, owners to ride in full uniform and arms, Prize a trophy, entrance 1s.

5th Event at 2.30 pm.


Bayonet Competition.

Open to Infantry only; for teams of 4 men a side; 3 teams or no prize. Prize 2 pounds, entrance Is.

6th Event at 3 o'clock.


Cleaving Turk's Head.

Prize a trophy, entrance Is. Horse to go at fair speed over one jump 3 foot high, cutting off head before landing the cut to be to the right of cavalry, two runs only.

7th Event at 3.30 pm.


Victoria Cross Race.

Prize a trophy, entrance 1s, 3 heads and posts rill be placed four horses lengths outside a zereba; a number of figures representing wounded men will be placed at the end of the course. Start in sections of threes, and on the word march each man will draw sword, jump the zereba, sever a head, and return sword, dismount, place dummy astride his saddle, mount and return over the zereba to the starting point. Dummies must be carried astride, and full course completed to avoid disqualification.

8th Event at 4 o'clock.


Open Handicap Race of 2 pound.

Second horse 10s from the prize; entrance 2s 6d; lowest weight lost; distance 3/4 mile.

9th Event at 4.30 pm.


Wrestling on Horseback.

Prize 2 pound, entrance 1s.

1) Teams of 8 men aside will face each other at a
distance of 20 yards, horses to be stripped of
everything except bridles.

2) On the order "Match" the teams meet and
wrestle for 2 minutes, unless all are unhorsed.

3) No competitor to remount.

4) Any part of a man's body touching the ground
to he considered to be unhorsed.

5) No spurs to be used.

To view video footage of Horseback Wrestling, the link below is of film taken in 1914 for AIF Light Horse training purposes demonstrating the principles involved in this activity. The film clip is 5mb in size.

AIF Horseback Wrestling


10th Event at 5 o'clock.


Loyd Lindsay Race.

Trophies for Prizes, entrance 1s. Teams of 4 men ride over three hurdles 3 foot finches high, three men to dismount and double back to each hurdle jumped and fire 3 rounds kneeling, this performance to be repeated at each hurdle finally galloping to a position to be pointed out by the Master of the arena. Points to be taken for style in jumping, volleys fired and time for the whole course, the Number 3 in each team holding horses need not carry carbine.


Victorian Mounted Rifle Team demonstrating principles of the Loyd Lindsay Race, c. 1900.


11th Event at 5.30 pm.


See: The Loyd Lindsay Competition


Cavalry Remount Race.

Prize a trophy, entrance 1s; 1 mile, for bona fide cavalry horses that have attended last district encampment or regular drills for 6 months, no arms need be carried; owners to ride in uniform.


1. The decision of the judges to he final in all cases.
2. All events are open to all officers and men of the 1st Australian Horse Regiment, except the 5th event, which is open to Infantry only.
3. The committee reserve the right to reject an entry from any person should they so desire, and also the right to prevent any person from competing after having entered, the fee in such case to be returned.
4. The committee reserve the right to strike out any event through insufficient entries or other causes.
5. All disputes to be referred to the committee, whose decision shall be final, and not subject to any action at all.
6. Nominations for horse races will he accepted on the ground not later than 11.00 am. For all other events nominations must be In the hands of secretary not later than 19 January 1899. The Regimental Mounted Band will be in attendance.

Concert at night in the Assembly Hall, Murrumburrah.
John O'Connell Hon. Sec.
Saturday January 7 1899,

"The grand military sports in connection with the Harden-Murrumburrah

"Visitors came from various portions of the southern districts, and the neighbouring town of Young was particularly well represented. The day was hot, but the rats of old sol were nicely tempered by a cool breeze. There was a splendid muster of the Local members of the Nurse, and headed by the splendid mounted brass hand from Goulburn, the procession through Murrumburrah Harden was a particularly brilliant one and watched with much enthusiasm by hundreds of our residents as the mounted men proceeded to the trysting ground, under the command of Lieutenant Jas Bourke. The members of the volunteer force from Young, under the command of Captain Millard and Instructor McCreanor, were much admired, their deportment and marching generally being all that could be desired. The members of the Horse from Cootamundra, Gundagai and Goulburn also looked well and were worthy specimens of the true Australian soldier. The attendance of the general public was very large, and the numerous events were much appreciated.

Just a little before midday Colonel Mackay accompanied by Adjutant Thompson, arrived on the ground, and received a very worthy military reception. After inspecting the men and speaking a few words of encouragement to them, the Colonel took up a position beneath a flag opposite the grandstand and then the pleasing ceremony of the march past was gone through. Then the day’s sports were entered upon. We might add that the splendid music of the Goulburn Band added very greatly to the enjoyment of the days outing.

Adjutant Thompson, staff Sergeant Murphy, Lieutenants Bourke and Russell and Sergeant O'Connell were the men credited with putting on such an enjoyable days outing, after all it was Harden Murrumburrah's first attempt at such a venture, and the people of the town and district were proud of these men's efforts.
(Murrumburrah Signal, 28 January 1899)

"The grand military sports in connection with the Harden-Murrumburrah half squadron of 1st Australian Horse eventuated on the local racecourse on 26 January 1899 and were a great success.

The day continued on into the evening with a concert, which also was a great success according to a report that appeared in the Murrumburrah Signal as follows:

"The concert at night was a great success, the attendance being large and most of the items really good. Adjutant Thompson managed affairs with tact and excellent judgment.

The Regimental Band from Goulburn, under the baton of Bandmaster Wilkie, played a nice opening piece in capital time, after which our local orchestra, conducted by Mr J Connors, gave the pretty waltz (Youth and Beauty) very sweetly, and also played one or two, very nice pieces during the evening. Sergeant Lack (Goulburn) was enthusiastically encored for singing "The Soldiers of the Queen", and Miss Drum was similarly honoured for vocalising with much expression the number "The song that reached my heart?' Mr Wimbey of Goulburn, sings with good judgment and possesses a rare deep voice, which was much appreciated in the items Marching to the front" and "When the evening sun is low". Mr R Macansh recited "Tambaroora Jim" and "Outback" intelligently and well, after which the Goulburn team gave a very interesting and really capital exhibition with singlesticks, and the men were lordly, frequently and most deservedly applauded.

Colonel Mackay then addressed those present complimenting the men on the success of the day's outing, and saying how proud he was to have such a worthy lot of men under his command. He thanked the Infantry at Young for assisting and hoped to see all his men in camp at Easter. Mrs Mackay then presented the prizes. Both Colonel and Mrs Mackay were most enthusiastically received.

Mr Wedd (Goulburn) got a great reception for the excellent way in which he sang "Tommy Atkins" and his actions and jovial manner were even more successful in the comic number "Duck - foot Sue" and he bad to appear three times before the audience allowed him to finally depart.

Mr D Dickson played a very nice flute solo, after which Mr Lazarus caused great amusement and enthusiasm with the comic number "There's nothing in it" which he gave in character and with his usual ability, and received a very hearty encore. The concert concluded by all present singing "Auld Lang Syne" and "God save the Queen", and giving hearty cheers for Colonel Mackay, Adjutant Thompson and others".
(Murrumburrah Signal, 28 January 1899)


"Although everything seemed to be exciting, everyone was not of the same opinion and it was really surprising how the noble and generous efforts of some public men are ridiculed and made little of by a certain class of individuals. Many sneers and vulgar abuse was hurled at Colonel Mackay and his excellent body of military men, the 1st Australian Horse, but of course it came from such uninfluential and obscure quarters that the worthy Colonel and his men could afford to treat it all with silent contempt. Nevertheless, it was annoying to have people, who probably were not worthy to clean his boots, trying in an underhand way to make little of Mr Mackay and his truly noble and patriotic efforts to defend the very best: 'interest of his native land.

"Since war, or being prepared for war, is a really necessary evil, was it not nobler, grander and for more patriotic to see the sons of our own beloved country striking out, if needs be, in defence of Australia's rights and liberties, instead of acting the part of ours and getting others to do the fighting for us? Most assuredly it was, and to have an Australian leader on the battle field was an honour of which ever true Australian should be proud."
(Murrumburrah Signal, 4 February 1899)

It was about this time when rumours were about that Colonel Mackay was going to give politics away and devote all his time to the 1st Australian Horse, at a salary of 1500 pounds. The first part of the story would appear feasible, but when it came to the salary, the whole thing collapses, for Mr Mackay's connection with the Australian Horse was solely honorary, and at that time did not get a penny for his services. (Murrumburrah Signal, 19 February 1898)


Australian Horse camp at Constitution Hill, 1899

[From: The Boys in Green, p. 11.]


Despite these few problems the half squadron of the Harden-Murrumburrah 1st Australian Horse carried on training. They took part in the sports at Young on St Patrick's Day in March 1899 and they spoke very highly of the excellent and most hospitable manner in which they were treated whilst there. (Murrumburrah Signal, 25 March 1899). They camped at the foot of Constitution Hill for some days while attending the Easter exercises in Sydney, and according to a report in the Murrumburrah Signal "They got pretty well washed away with the rain on Easter Tuesday , they needed a strong constitution to save them from getting ill." (Murrumburrah Signal,  5 April 1899).

Judging from the brilliant work put in by the Fallon brothers, Duncan Macansh, Jack O'Connell, Tommy Allsopp and one or two others at the military sports in Sydney, it was evident that the members of the Murrumburrah-Harden 1st Australian Horse could hold their own with any of their more experienced rivals at the game.

Indeed it was said that had the decisions in one instance been according to merit, two of the local men would have scored 1st prize. Jack O'Connell had the pluck and backbone to tell the judge so too, though he got into hot water in certain quarters for striking out manfully for what he considered to be the just rights of the members of the half squadron to which he belonged. (Murrumburrah Signal, 29 April 1899)

The half squadron of the Murrumburrah Harden 1st Australian Horse also did a lot of work to support the surrounding District. They held sports days and Balls, at one sports day they made 23 pounds which they donated to the Young and Cootamundra Hospitals. (Murrumburrah Signal, 30 September 1899)

Eleven days later the British Empire found itself at war, after years of tension with the Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State. On 11 October, 1899, Boer mounted troops struck across the border into Natal and surrounded Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking.



Previous: Australian Horse, Birth of a Regiment 1897 - The Boys in Green, Part 1

Next: 1st Australian Horse Boer War Service - The Boys in Green


Further Reading:

3rd/11th/7th Australian Light Horse

Militia Light Horse, New South Wales

Australian Militia Light Horse


Citation: Australian Horse, Training Begins, 1898 - The Boys in Green, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 2 July 2010 10:58 PM EADT

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