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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
"A" Squadron, NSW Mounted Rifles, Outline
Topic: BW - NSW - NSWMR_A


"A" Squadron, NSW Mounted Rifles



Map illustrating the activities of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles in South Africa, 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. 28 - 40A.


Captain JM Antill, Commanding Officer, New South Wales Mounted Rifles



"A" Squadron Mounted Rifles.

This was originally a draft from the regiment of New South Wales Mounted Rifles, which had been in existence for some years before the war and served upon the partial-payment system. It still figures in the Army list as the 2nd Australian Light Horse, "New South Wales Mounted Rifles'' on the Militia establishment. (Allied with "King Edward's Horse"; the King's Oversea Dominions Regiment.) The squadron comprised a picked body of especially smart men; good shots and daring riders; excellently mounted; and it did exceptional service during the war.

The establishment authorized in the first instance was as for Lancers, omitting "Major" and substituting 98 privates for 97.

The squadron at first consisted of 4 officers and 100 others, with 104 horses and 3 carts. It was despatched on 3rd November; 1899, and was shortly afterwards followed by a draft of 25 sergeants and rank and file; with 25 horses. One medical officer joined in South Africa, and 6 men were enrolled there. Of these details, 8 were killed or died, 5 were struck off the strength in South Africa, l officer was commissioned in the Imperial Army, and 2 men were sent back respectively from Albany and Cape Town; 4 officers and 113 men returned to Australia.

Subsequent to the departure of the squadron, however, a second Contingent had been formed, comprising "B," "C;" and "D" Squadrons, "1st Regiment, New South Wales Mounted Rifles;" despatched on 17th January, 1900 (vide record). The first Contingent, consisting of the squadron now referred to, and a company of Infantry (vide record) which left in the same ship, became absorbed as "A" and "E" squadrons respectively of this regiment; the company being mounted at the seat of war.


The SS Aberdeen embarking from Sydney, 3 November 1899


As already stated, the squadron embarked at Sydney on the transport Aberdeen, 3rd November, 1899; arrived at Cape Town on 6th December, disembarked on the following day. Embarked again at Cape Town on the Transport Orient. 13th December, 1900, called at Albany and Melbourne, arrived at Sydney, and disembarked, 8th January, 1901.

References to Orders

Formation GO NSW 107/99
Pay and Allowances GONSW107/99, 112/99, 88/00
Command GONSW116/99
Conditions and Service GONSW107/99
Officers GONSW110/99
Establishment GONSW108/99
Embarkation GONSW116/99, 123/99, 124/99.


Uniform consisted of brown F.S. jackets and pants, with puttees and hats.

Arms and equipment

M.E. rifles and long bayonet, bandolier and cartridge belt, with supporting braces.

Fully horsed and provided with saddles.

Regimental transport was also provided.


The following officers were promoted or appointed in South Africa:-

Captain JM Antill to Major;

Lieutenant A. A. McLean to Captain;

Corporal C. A. Lee to Lieutenant;

Sergeant H. McIntosh to Lieutenant; and,

Q.M.S. J. Newman to Lieutenant.

For promotions amongst the N.C. officers and men, see, Nominal Roll.

War Services and Honours

Antill, Major J. M. (Brevet. Lieut: Colonel).
Relief of Kimberley. Operations in Orange Free State, Transvaal, and Orange River Colony, from February to 30th November, 1900. Actions at Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Karee Siding, Vet River, Zand River, Johannesburg,, Pretoria, Diamond Hill, Eland's River, Vanterskroon, and Wittebergen. London Gazette, 8th February, and 16th April, 1901. C.B. Queen's Medal with seven clasps. (Major Antill served subsequently with 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles in Transvaal and Orange River Colony, April to August, 1901.)


McLean; Capt: A. A. (Hon. Major).
Relief of Kimberley. Operations and actions as stated, except Bothaville in place of Venterskroon. (Captain McLean served subsequently in Transvaal and Orange River Colony between April, 1901, and. April, 1902.) London Gazette, 27th September, 1901. D.S.O. Queen's Medal with seven clasps. King's Medal with two clasps.


Onslow, Lieutenant A. J. M.
Relief of Kimberley. Operations in Orange Free State, February to May, 1900. Actions at Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Karee Siding, Vet River, and Zand River. Severely wounded at Groot Vlei, 21st May, 1900. Queen's Medal with three clasps.


Tooth, Lieutenant D. K. L.
Relief of Kimberley. Operations and actions as for Major Antill, except subsequent service. Wounded at Palmeitfontein, 19th July, 1900. Mentioned in despatches, 28th, August, 1900. Queen's Medal with seven clasps. Commissioned in 9th Lancers.


McDonnell, Lieutenant (Surgeon) R. P.
See Army Medical Corps.

Principal Operations

Left De Aar 30th December, 1899, with Colonel Alderson, for Prieska, to cope with a rising of rebels in the district.

3rd January, 1900:- Colonel Alderson returned to De Aar, leaving the New South Wales Mounted Rifles with a small detachment of the Remington Guides to take charge of the township and district (strength 130).

13th January:- Owing to a large force of Boers (estimated 800) attacking, retired towards De Aar; were reinforced by Colonel Alderson, and again advanced on Prieska, and after remaining a short time, marched to Orange River station.

Unit was sent to a farm at Ramah, about 15 miles east of Orange River station, to clear the Boers from the locality, where it remained till 10th February, when it was taken over by Colonel Hannay, and after fighting a severe action near Ramah, as the rear guard to Lord Roberts' column, advanced with the latter through Ram-dam and Jacobsdal to Klip Drift; where, following French's force to the relief of Kimberley, it was engaged with Cronje's army on 16th February.

Was detailed on the following day to follow Cronje, and located his laager at noon at Paardeberg, sustaining some casualties. Paardeberg followed; the commanding officer (Colonel Hannay) being killed.

On the surrender of General Cronje, the Now South Wales Mounted Rifles were personally detailed by Lord Roberts to take over his laager and prisoners. It was then attached to Colonel Le Gallais' command, and joined by Colonel Knight, with the 2nd Contingent at Osfontein, 5th March. Took part in the engagements at Abrahams Kraal and Dreifontein and the march to Bloemfontein, which was reached on 14th March.

Marched to the Glen and engaged the enemy on 29th March, remained here until 1st May on outpost duty, and joined General Hutton, being part of the 2nd Corps (Colonel De Lisle). Occupied Brandfort, and present at the engagements at Vet River, and an important reconnaissance of Botha's army at Zand River, followed by a fight at Ventersburg-road on the 10th May. On arrival at Kroonstadt on the 12th May, were taken from General Hutton and attached to General Ian Hamilton; marching on the 15th May through Lindley and Heilbron to the Vaal River, which was crossed on 25th May.

Engaged with the enemy at Johannesburg on 28th May, and occupied the city next day. Marched on Pretoria, 2nd June, and were the first troops to reach the city on the evening of 4th June, after some few hours opposition.

Marching through Irene, moved on and fought a severe battle at Diamond Hill on 11th and 12th June; casualties heavy, and the regiment specially mentioned in Divisional Orders by General Ian Hamilton. Followed Botha's army to Bronkhurst Spruit, returning to Pretoria 16th June, from thence south to Heidelberg, which was taken on 23rd June; and thence through Villieradorp, Frankfort, and Beitz to Bethlehem on 9th June. Here De Wet was hiding in the rough country to the south, from whence he broke out on 17th June. Followed him generally north-west, with numerous rear-guard engagements, when be eventually got away to the railway at Roodeval, where he had passed the day previously, burned a train, and moved on to the Vaal.

Sent out by the General Officer Commanding as a contact squadron to recover touch unfit De Wet, he having been lost by the Cavalry, and located him 20 miles north-east at Vreedefort, where he was surrounded until 5th August, when, having moved north along the Vaal, the whole force of some five divisions chased him to the Megalesberg, through which at Oliphant's Nek he escaped on 15th August.

Moved westward by forced march, and relieved the Bushmen under Colonel Hore at Elands River on 18th August; thence again to Pretoria through Rustenburg on 25th August.

After taking part in sundry small reconnaissances in this district, the regiment was split into two, one part moving along the railway through Middelberg to Machadodorp, and the remainder south, where it took part in the severe fight at Rustenburg Drift, the regiment capturing a Krupp from De Wet (sent to New South Wales by the Commander-in-Chief); and to Bothaville, where there was a severe fight on 6th November. A large number of Boers were killed and taken prisoners; all their waggons, three Krupps, one 15-pounder, one 12-pounder, a Pom-pom and a Maxim were captured. Reached Kroonstadt on 17th November, joined by the remainder of the Contingent which had come from Machadodorp; entrained to Cape Town, and embarked for Sydney 13th December, Lord Milner and several Generals coming to the transport (Orient) to say good-bye. Reached Sydney and disbanded 8th January, 1901. The Contingent lost no horses on their voyage to South Africa. No men were taken prisoners during the campaign. Its strength was 130. Its honours were:- One C.B.; one D.S.O.; three D.Q.M.'s.

Corps Orders By Colonel H. B. De Lisle (2nd Brigade Mounted Infantry) 109.

Elands River Station, 13th June, 1900.

General Hamilton Commanding the Force has desired the Commandant to express to all ranks of the 2nd Corps and the Pom-Pam Section "A" his congratulations on their achievement on the evening of the 12th instant at Diamond Hill, of which he has made a special report to the Field Marshal Commander-in-Chief. In publishing this, the Commandant wishes to express his high appreciation of the way Captain Antill and the New South Wales Mounted Rifles advanced to take the hill yesterday, and the gallant way the regiment pushed forward beyond the crest under a murderous fire. He deeply regrets the casualties and especially the death of Lieutenant Drage, when bravely leading his men.

By order,

R. Fanshaw, Captain,

S.O. De Lisle's Corps.

Copy or Letter from General Ridley, Commanding 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry.

My dear Antill,

I cannot let you leave the country without telling how much I have appreciated the services of yourself and your men. Their gallantry, endurance, and cheeriness under very great stress have been beyond praise, and their skilful handling was admirable. Please remember me to all officers. I shall be glad to assist any of them, as far as I can, especially in any way to further any ideas they may have of making a career in this country.
Yours very sincerely,

C. Ridley, Brigadier-General,

2nd Brigade Mounted Infantry.

Copy of letter from General Alderson, Commanding Mounted Infantry.

Major J. M. Antill, New South Wales Mounted Infantry, has been under my command on several occasions during the past year, and I have been much impressed with the way in which he has handled and managed his men. I consider that his Contingent has been more under control and in hand than any of the Colonial troops I have seen.

Major Antill is a dashing and capable leader in action, and remarkably cool under fire. I have personally seen him carry out some difficult and dangerous tasks with great success. I am extremely sorry Major Antill and the 1st Contingent New South Wales Mounted Rides are now leaving my, command, and I am very glad to have been able to bring his services especially to the notice of the Field Marshal Commander-in-Chief.

E. A. S. ALDERSON, Brigadier-General,

Commanding Mounted Infantry Brigade.

Pretoria, 16/11/1900.

The majority of the Contingent earned the following clasps:-

(1) Relief of Kimberley,

(2) Paardeberg,

(3) Driefontein,

(4) Johannesburg,

(5) Diamond Hill,

(6) Wittabetgen.

Extracts from Diary of Captain JM Antill, New South Wales Mounted Rifles.

Honwater, 16/1/1900. -
My last letter advised departure from De Aar through to Prieska on 30th ult. The column consisted of 80 mounted rifles, one company mounted infantry, one troop Remington's Guides, and two Maxim guns. The march (135 to 140 miles) was done in three days. The water is scarce in this district, necessitating fixed stages. Arrived within 15 miles of Prieska on the Orange River on the evening of the 3rd, finishing our march by 4 a.m. next day. Colonel Alderson in command, directed me to at once occupy the southern bank - the northern being in possession of the rebels - and to attack immediately they made their appearance, which was expected to be at sunrise (6 a.m.) At daylight some twenty of them showed and after a smart fire for some 20 minutes; in which five of them were wounded, they decamped, over the mountainous country towards Grigua-town. I crossed over on foot, and pursued them on foot, with a troop for some distance, but could not get near them. Returning to the huts occupied by them, secured a quantity of arms, ammunition, saddlery, &c., and found a Kaffir of their party badly wounded. Started today to make "dampers" from wheat; bread unprocurable.


Omdraau Vlei, 22/1/1900:-
Prieska having been attacked by rebels on the 13th, I retired to this place (about 40 miles south), and here I await reinforcements which arrive tomorrow:from De Aar. Our relief consists of a battery R.A., squadron of Imperial Light Horse, two companies infantry, and two companies mounted infantry. I was, fortunately, able to effect retirement without loss of life or mishap; but only evacuated Prieska 1½ hours before it was occupied by the Boers in large numbers. I also got my prisoners away to De Aar, as well as 1,000 sheep. The horses we took were much needed. The men are in splendid health, two only being exempt from work. I am very pleased to state the discipline is all that can be desired, and our commanding officer has expressed his (Colonel Alderson's) very great satisfaction with the work done by our squadron. The duties are arduous for so small a unit, there being 20 miles of front to watch. This means only about two nights a week in "bed." There are also three roads diverging from here to patrol. I greatly miss veterinary assistance, as the country teems with horse sickness.


Zand River, 8/5/1900:-
During an engagement yesterday, in which I was in command of the advanced guard, on coming in contact with the enemy numbering 8,000 Boers, the following were wounded:- Sergt.-Major McAlister, Corporal Osborne, Privates Tonkin, Mitchell, and McMillan. These casualties occurred at Zand River at railway crossing. The reconnaissance was for the purpose of gaining information of the enemy, and to prevent, if possible, his destroying the bridges and culverts on the railway line. General Sutton expressed himself as pleased with the manner in which the work was carried out by the New South Wales Mounted Rifles. The men of my unit (all ranks) have done most excellent work, and have earned commendation from the various officers under whom they have worked.


We are now attached to Colonel Hannay's brigade, en route to Modder River. There has been continuous marching and fighting since I last wrote. Our squadrons have acted as advance guards right through and have taken part in almost every action, and have been conspicuously steady under fire.


Captain Legge, Officer Commanding NSW Infantry


"E" Squadron Mounted Rifles.

The corps, under the command of Captain J. G. Legge, accompanied General Clements' column from Arundel via Colesberg to Norval's Pont, Orange River, thence through the south-western portion of the Orange Free State to Bloemfontein.

At Bloemfontein the corps, under the command of Captain W. Holmes, joined General Ian Hamilton's column as. portion of De Lisle's (II. M.I) corps, and proceeded thence to Pretoria, Diamond Hall, &c.

On 13th June, 1900, Captain F. A. Dove assumed command, vice Holmes (wounded and invalided). The corps returned to Pretoria and took part in the campaign against De Wet and De La Rey, under Generals Hunter, Broadwood, Lord Kitchener, and Clements respectively, operating in the Transvaal and northern part of Orange River Colony.

Returned to Kroonstadt, thence by rail to Cape Town; embarked December, 1900, on board SS Orient; called at Melbourne on 6th January, 1901, and arrived at Sydney on 8th January, 1901.

Detailed list of engagements attached hereto.

The casualties were as follows:

Killed in action5
Died of wounds2
Died of enteric4

Principal Engagements in which Corps took part.

With Major-General Clements' Column

Relief of Colesberg, 3rd February to 7th March, 1900. Actions at Slingersfontein, 10th February, 1900; The Kloof (Cole's Cop), 11th February; Mader's Aarm, 11th February; Vaal Kop, 12th February; Rensburg, 14th February; Frandel, 15th February; Plewman's Farm, 17th February; Kuilfontein, 17th February; Woolvefontein, 20th February; Norval's Pont, 7th March.

Advance on Bloemfontein, 15th March to 4th April, 1900. Capture of the following towns in the Orange Free State:- Phillipolis, 21st March; Jagersfontein, 27th March; Fauresmith, 27th March; Koffyfontein, 28th March; Petrusburg, 2ndApril.

With General Ian Hamilton's Column, Bloemfontein to Diamond Hill, 22nd April to 12th June.-Action at Boesman's Kop, 23rd April; Watervaal Drift, 24th April; Waterworks, 25th April; Israel's Poort, 25th April. Battle of Houtnek (Thaba 'Nchu), 30th April and 1st May. Action at Kaffir's Kraal, Roodepoort, 4th May - Capture of Winburg, 5th May. Battle of Zand River, 10th May. Capture of Ventersburg, 11th May. Advanced Guard action, Lindley, 20th May. Rearguard action, Rhenoster River, 21st May. Klipriversburg, Battle of Doornkop, 29th May. Johannesburg, 31st May. Capture of Pretoria, 4th June. Battle of Diamond Hill, 11th and 12th June.

Campaign against De Wet. Capture of Heidelberg.

June:- Capture of Villiersdorp, Frankfort, Reitz, and Bethlehem.

July:- Actions around Bethlehem. Actions at Palmietfontein, Vredefort, ainje, Lindeque Drift.

August:- Relief of Elands River Post. March to Pretoria, via Rustenburg.

September:- To Machadodorp. Operations against De La Rey in the Magaliesberg. Several actions and skirmishes with General Clements' column. Return to Pretoria. With De Lisle's force. Operations against De Wet in northern Orange River Colony. Skirmishes about Heilbron and (October) Vredefort. Two days' fight at Witkoppies and Reitzburg. Capture of Potchefstroom.

27th October:- Successful fight with De Wet at Rensburg Drift. Capture of Krupp gun and wagons.

November:- Action at Bothaville. Capture of seven guns.

Services and honours

Legge, Captain J. G. (promoted major and afterwards Lieut.-Colonel):-
Operations in Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and. Transvaal, December, 1899, to November, 1900. Actions at Colesberg. Advance on Kimberley. Actions at Johannesburg, Pretoria, Diamond Hill, Elands River, Venterskroon, Bethlehem, Wittebergen, and Bothaville. Subsequently Intelligence Officer to Col. De Lisle's column, 1901-2. Queen's Medal with four clasps. King's Medal with two clasps.

Holmes, W., Lieutenant (promoted captain):-
Operations in Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and Transvaal, 1899 to November, 1900. Actions at Colesberg. Advance on Kimberley, Houtnek, Vet River, Zand River, Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Diamond Hill, at which latter wounded 12th June, 1900. Despatches, London Gazette, 16th April, 1901. D.S.O. Queen's Medal with four clasps.

Dove, Lieutenant F. A.:-
Operations as above. Wounded at Mader's Farm, 26th February, 1900. Despatches, London Gazette, 16th April, 1901. D.S.O. Queen's Medal with five clasps. (Lieutenant Dove was promoted captain and served subsequently as adjutant 3rd Battalion A.C.H., and S.O. to Australian Brigade, Newcastle, Natal.)

Logan, Lieutenant M. W.-
Operations in Cape Colony and Orange Free State, December, 1899 to day, 1900. Actions at Colesberg. Advance on Kimberley. Actions at Vet River and Zand River. Queen's Medal with two clasps.

Edwards, Lieutenant (A.M.C.) E. A. -
Vide A.M.C.

Extracts from Report of Captain J. G. Legge.

February, 1900:- On 20th February we went out with a force to repel an attack upon our right rear. One division, under Lieutenant Dove, was escort to some of the guns, where, unfortunately, Private Atchison was killed by a shell, together with his horse; Private Southey was also wounded.

With the other three divisions, reinforced by the Victorian Mounted Rifles, we were sent to occupy some kopjes in front. After crossing with two divisions under fire, and taking two ridges, we received an order to retire, which it appears was never meant for us. The men retired under a very heavy fire and kept their heads well. Finding the order was never intended for us, we again went across, and by evening drove the Boers along 5 miles of ridges. We were assisted greatly by a cross-fire from our artillery.

At dusk we were, with 55 rifles and 20 in reserve, opposed to 200 Boers in a farm and on the opposite ridge. The rest of our men were holding the other part of the ridge already taken. Here we came to a stop, and had a furious rifle duel, which the Boers finished up by firing shrapnel from an invisible gun at about 1,000 yards. They also used explosive bullets. We had good cover, however, and had no other loss. The whole of the company fought well under a heavy fire, and it is really wonderful how we escaped without loss.

As my orders were to secure all the positions I took, I had to move from one point to another, and entrusted the firing line to Lieutenant Holmes, who acted with great dash and coolness. At night we received orders to return to the guns and went back to camp with them. The Boers retired from the vicinity during the night. Major Enthoven, R.A., was kind enough to send over a message saying "We could not have done better."

After a reinforcement of guns on the 22nd February, our force advanced west, and another force from the camp attacked the Boers on the south, and gave them a heavy shell fire. Lieutenant Dove did an excellent piece of scouting on the right with his division, and drove off the Boor patrols, thus rendering the advance of the guns possible.

About 3 p.m. the Boers retired in great haste, making north, and we returned to camp at night.

The last fortnight has been extremely trying on both men and horses; through broken rest, irregular and deficient food and water. The latter is not due to the A.S.C., but to the rapid moves we have to make as mounted men.

Extracts from report of Captain W. Holmes

28th April:- In camp, Israel's Poort: Detailed Lieutenant Dove and 25 men to scout in the vicinity of Thaba Mountain and Houtnek. Lieutenant Dove was instructed to locate the position of the Boor laager. In this duty he was eminently successful, and received the commendation of General Ian Hamilton and Colonel De Lisle. As a result of this reconnaissance, the battle of Houtnek was fought two days later.

30th April:- Marched at daylight, and came into collision with the enemy, who were strongly posted at Thaba Mountainn and Houtnek. Lieutenant Dove and 28 men were detached from my command for scouting work; with the remainder I was ordered to occupy an advanced kopje, which proved to be an important strategical point. Remained in possession all day under very heavy fun (shrapnel and rifle) from front and right flank. At night retired to a farm house. No casualties.

Re-occupied the position of the previous day before dawn. Remained there under an exceedingly heavy fire until about noon, when I was ordered to withdraw as best I could, as the Infantry was advancing to attack. As the best means of leaving the position, I determined to retire at the gallop by groups of four, widely extended, to another hill about ¾ mile in rear. In this retirement Private V. V. Smith was killed and Privates Lewis, Tweedie, and Maxwell, wounded, and two horses killed.



Further Reading:

New South Wales Mounted Rifles, "A" Squadron

New South Wales Mounted Rifles, "A" Squadron, Roll of Honour 

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: "A" Squadron, NSW Mounted Rifles, Outline

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2011 4:53 PM EADT

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