Topic: BW - Vic - 2VMR
2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles
Map illustrating the activities of the 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles in South Africa, 1899 - 1900.
[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. 229 - 232.
The Second Mounted Rifles Contingent.
Except that no infantry was raised, the second Contingent was formed upon j much the same principles narks first. Under G.O. 94 (Vic.) '99, the Commanding Officer Mounted Rifles was directed to submit a return of officers, N.C.O 's and men of his corps who volunteered for active service. They were required to be good shots, and medically fit. Applications were also received from officers, N.C.O.'s, and men of the Militia and Volunteer Forces, to be considered in the event of an insufficient number of Mounted Rifles being available to complete a Contingent of 250. Such candidates to be riflemen, hardy riders, medically fit, and preferably unmarried. In addition to men from the Mounted Rifles, a considerable proportion were thus enrolled from the Rangers (an infantry regiment of similar Organisation), Militia, and Volunteer regiments, and a few from the Royal Australian Artillery.
The Mounted Rifle Regiment was raised in 1888 by Colonel T. Price, who now obtained the command of the Contingent.
The men were issued with khaki tweed uniform, comprising F.S. jacket, cord haute, puttees. F.S. hat, F.S. cap, and greatcoat; besides boots and a complete kit of clothing, underclothing, necessaries, &c.
Fully horsed and supplied with bandoliers and saddlery, rifles, and bayonets.
The following establishment was approved:- 1 commanding officer, 2 captains, 8 subalterns, 1 adjutant, 1 medical officer, 1 veterinary officer, 2 coy. sergeant-majors, 2 quartermaster-sergeants, 8 sergeants, 12 corporals, 2 saddler-sergeants, 2 saddlers, 2 farrier-sergeants, 4 shoeing-smiths, 4 buglers, 200 privates, 12 drivers. Total:- 14 officers, 12 sergeants, 10 artificers, 4 buglers, 224 rank and file. In all, 264, with 305 horses (28 officers' horses, 238 other ranks, 24 spare, and 15 transport and pack).
Rates of Pay
Pay to all ranks was approved as under: - Privates, 4s. 6d, per diem: corporals, 7s.; sergeants, 8s.; company sergeant-majors, 9s.; staff sergeants, 10s.; warrant officers, 11s. 6d.; lieutenants, 16s. and 3s. field allowance; captains, 20s. and 3s. 6d.; majors, 25s. and 4s. 6d.; adjutants, 5s. per day in addition to pay of their ranks. These rates, it was stated, were to be considered as in full; and any payments made by the Imperial Government would be deducted therefrom. Members of medical or veterinary staff to be paid according to relative rank. Portion of pay might be drawn by authorized persons in Victoria; and one month's pay, in advance, could be drawn by any member of Contingent desiring to do so.
Departure and Return.
The 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles left on the 13th January, 1900, comprising 15 officers, 250 of other ranks, with 305 horses, and 6 wagons. Of these, 1 officer and 9 others were killed or died: 2 officers and 4 others were transferred; 2 officers and 13 others were struck off the strength in South Africa; 1 officer was commissioned in the Imperial Army; 10 officers and 223 others returned to Australia.
Lieutenant T. H. Sergeant, promoted Captain, 8th January, 1900.
Lieutenant M. T. Kirby, promoted Captain, 23rd October, 1900.
Lieutenant E. S. Norton, promoted Captain, 23rd October, 1900.
Lieutenant T. F. Umphelby, promoted Captain, 32nd June, 1900; Major, 23rd October, 1900.
R.Q.M. Sergt. J. R. Mathews, lieutenant, 27.3.01; Australian Base Detail, 16th September, 1901.
Sergt.-Major H. Macdonald became Lieutenant in 4th A.C.H.
Corporal G. H. Rood, 2nd lieutenant, 29th March, 1900.
Sergeant J. H. Brabazon, 2nd lieutenant, 29th March, 1901.
Corporal M. Wood, 2nd lieutenant, 29th March, 1901.
Lieutenant E. O. Anderson was commissioned in Royal Field Artillery.
Private A. Kelly was commissioned in Scottish Horse.
For promotions of N.C.O.'s and men, vide nominal roll.
The Second Contingent embarked in the Euryalus on the 13th January, 1900, and arrived at Cape Town on 5th February. There the ship was inspected by Lord Roberts, who expressed himself in complimentary terms. Only three horses had been lost on the passage. On the 7th, the troops proceeded to Maitland Camp, and on the 10th, entrained and arrived at Naauwpoort on the morning of the 14th. The Tasmanian Contingent, under Captain Cameron came in that evening. Colonel Price was placed in command of what was known as the "Hanover Road Field Force," consisting in the first instance of about 80 Prince Albert's Guards, 60 Tasmanians, 230 Victorians, and one battalion of 8 companies of the Lancashire Militia; they were without artillery. They were constantly in touch with the enemy and patrolling work was very heavy. On the 21st, Colonel Price broke two of his ribs by falling down a donga in the dark, but he still continued at his duty. On the 24th, it was determined to shell Kuilfontein Kopje, which was very strongly held; it being the key to the position of the advance upon Colesberg. Colonel Page Henderson, 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, commanded the left attack, Colonel Price the centre, and General Clements, under whose direction the whole operations were conducted, the right. Lord Kitchener was present to watch the proceedings. Colonel Price's command was reinforced by one battery of artillery, and about 150 Eastern Province Horse; but he gave Colonel Page Henderson two companies - Victorians and Tasmanians. This column met with very heavy fighting, and 1 officer, West Riding Mounted Infantry, was killed, and Captain (now Major) Cameron wounded and taken prisoner; 15 rank and file of the West Riding were reported killed; 20 wounded. The shelling commenced about 6.30 a.m., and was sustained by 24 field guns, 2 howitzers, and 1 5 inch R.M.L. It was carried on until about 5.30 p.m., but no impression was made on the enemy; though (as was afterwards ascertained) they suffered severely. They remained on the hill until dusk, when they began to draw away in small parties, making towards Colesberg.
On the 26th, the Hanover Road Field Force again moved on Kuilfontein, and occupied it without opposition. On the 28th, they participated in the relief of Colesberg. On the 14th March, the passage of the Orange River was carried out; the pontoon bridge being 260 yards long, upon which the whole army crossed into Orange Free State. On the 17th, news was obtained of the death of Captain Salmon, of enteric, at Naauwpoort. Colonel Price received orders to march on Bloemfontein via Philippolis and Fauresmith, with the Head-Quarters Flying Column, which consisted of the Victorians (2nd contingent), Grahamstown and E.P. Home, and a battery artillery; in all, about 1,000. This command was broken up on the 20th, and the Contingent then joined the main column at Donkerspoort and formed part of the advanced guard. On the 3rd, Philippolis was occupied, on the 26th, Wittevreden; and on the 27th, Fauresmith.
On 4th April, General Clements' column reached Tempe, outside Bloemfontein, where it was broken up; and the whole of the Mounted Infantry, both Imperial and Colonial, was placed under the command of Colonel Price, and marched into Bloemfontein, where there was a re-organization. The Victorians, South Australians, Tasmanians, and 4th Mounted Infantry Corps, were formed into the 4th Mounted Infantry Corps, under the command of Colonel Henry, 5th Fusiliers. The Australian Regiment was severed, and the troops of all the Colonies formed into their own Colonial regiments. The Victorians were placed under their own commanding officer, the Tasmanians under Major Cameron (who had been released), and the South Australians under Major Read. These remained at Bloemfontein refitting and rehorsing, until the 20th. Enteric now began to develop itself, and amongst the victims was, Lieutenant Bree, who died on the 26th.
On the 21st, the 4th Mounted Infantry marched on the glen to the north of Bloemfontein, this being the first step in the great main advance of Lord Roberts. On the 22nd, the Victorians relieved Kitchener's House at Houdenbeck, about 6 miles from Karee Kloof, where the remainder of the corps had gone, and had to hold the extreme left of the line of outposts; the Hoes occupying the Moddarspruit, along the front of the Victorian position. The work was very heavy and involved constant skirmishing with the enemy. On the 29th, the Contingent joined Colonel Henry at Hares Kloof, where these experiences were continued.
On the 30th, the Victorians were attacked hp a force of about 1,500 Boers, and retired about 21 miles, under shell, pom pom, and rifle fire. Lieutenant Lilley was dangerously wounded, Private Coughlan's leg broken, and Reg. S. M. Healy was captured. Many men went back under pom pom fire, and carried out those whose horses had been killed.
There was fighting all the way to Mooifontein, where they bivouacked on the ground, 4th May. On the 5th, there was the action at Vet River, in which the Victorians participated; being on the right. From this on, until the 10th, they were with the advance, and no resistance of any moment was offered. The weather was extremely cold by night and hot by day. Twice the troops were without any rations, and so knocked up by work and starvation that they had to be halted at Lewkville for a day. At the Zand River, Virginia Siding, the Boers were driven in after contesting the whole way, and the Victorians advanced and made good their lodgement in a deep donga, under very heavy fire. From the 12th to the 21st, they remained outside Kroonstadt, which had surrendered. On the 22nd, the advance on the Vaal River was continued, and though the enemy were frequently seen, there was no engagement until Vereeniging was arrived at, where the troops were opposed by the Irish Brigade who made good their retreat, blowing up bridge over the river after they had crossed it. On the 27th, the Vaal war crossed.
On the 24th, the Victorians were engaged at the Black Reef Mine, Witwatersrand, where they were met with a heavy rifle fire; and subsequently shell fire when endeavouring to turn the enemy's flank; nevertheless, they accomplished the movement, During the day a company was detached, under Lieutenant Kirby to assist a mixed party of Lumsden's Horse and Imperial Mounted Infantry, who, were hard-pressed at the railway station, close to Germiston Junction. Lieutenant Kirby pushed in, and, after a fairly sharp struggle, captured several engines, a considerable amount of rolling stock, and an ambulance train that was going out. For this he received the D.S.O. About this time no less than 79 Victorian horses succumbed to the privations and severity of the weather.
In June, they moved to a bivouac near Orange Grove, north of Johannesburg. On the 4th, they were heavily engaged at the 6-Mile Spruit, and advanced, fighting all the way, to the outskirts of Pretoria, which were reached on the following day, and the Victorians, owing to the formation of the march, were the first to enter. They remained there until the 7th (Pretoria having surrendered), when they were marched into Perraarspoort, where they remained until 22nd July, doing very severe patrol and picket duty. On the 23rd, they commenced the march to Middelburg, halting at Brugspruit and Howard's Colliery front 27th to 4th August. From Middelburg they went to Doornkop, which they held from 7th to 17th August. On the 24th, Bester's Farm was reached, and on the 25th, the enemy was again come into contact with, and a brilliant reconnaissance was made under Captains Staughton and Umphelby. There was fighting all the way to Waterval Onder, which was arrived at on the 30th, the enemy holding the hill across the ravine of Eland's River.
On 6th September, the 4th Mounted Infantry were ordered back to Machadodorp and on the 7th were engaged with the enemy, when severe fighting took place On the 14th, the force arrived at Kapsche Hoop, after advancing over most difficult country and being constantly intercepted by the enemy. On the 16th, the march to Komati Poort was commenced; and on the 18th, the enemy was encountered near Avoca, taking away a convoy. On the 20th, a halt was made to recuperate the hence, which were suffering greatly from fatigue and want of forage. On the 24th, stayed at Komati Poort, the horses being barely able to stagger in, and the heat excessive. A camp was selected close to the junction of the Crocodile and Komati Rivers. The whole of the Portuguese frontier was marked with flags, and Portuguese soldiers were seen patrolling in every direction. On the 28th, the whole of the troops in camp were reviewed in honour of the birthdays of the King and Queen of Portugal; the Portuguese Commandant attended by a strong escort riding over from his territory to attend. A great quantity of ammunition, which had been left by the Boers on the right bank of Komati River, near Rosario Garcia (the Portuguese having prevented them from taking it any further), was blown up by the British.
On 3rd October, the Victorians entrained for Pretoria, and at Machadodorp handed over all the horses to General French. On the 7th, arrived at Pretoria, remaining there until the 23rd, when the bulk of the Victorians were permitted to return to Australia, under Colonel Price.
The journey to Cape Town was uneventful, except that on the 26th, the line between Edenburg and Norval's Pont was blown up. The Boers held the hill at this place, and evidently intended to wreck the train. They were driven off by the Victorians; the line was repaired, and the farm house which had sheltered the enemy burnt.
Arrived at Cape Town on the 28th, end on the 5th November embarked in the Harlech Castle, which reached Melbourne on 4th December. Disbandment followed.
Citation: 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles, Outline