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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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Friday, 12 November 2004
New South Wales Lancers, South African War
Topic: Militia - LHN - 1/7/1


New South Wales Lancers

History, South African War

New South Wales Lancers [1885 - 1903]
1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1903-1912]
7th (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1912-1919]
1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1919-1929]
1/21st Australian Light Horse [1929-1935]
1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment [1936-1942]
1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Armoured Regiment [1942-1948]
1st Royal New South Wales Lancers [1948-1956]
1/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers [1956- ]

[The elephant's head used on the badges is taken from the family crest of Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales from 1885 - 1890 and was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment from 1885 until 1928.] 

Tenax in fide - Steadfast in Trust

 South Africa 1899 - 1900

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


The following history is extracted from Vernon, PV, ed., Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885 to 1985, Sydney 1986, pp. 40 - 62.


Chapter 3 - South African War

Before anchor was dropped on arrival of the squadron at the Cape, on November 2 1899, there were only hopes of being landed for service. These were pre-wireless days, and it was not known whether fighting had followed the incursion of the Boers, or whether the affair had passed over. It did not take long, however, to get the news that everything was in full swing, that what few troops there were had hurried north, and that fresh units were preparing to do so as fast as they arrived.

Captain Cox received not only a visit from the Mayor of Cape Town, but also orders from Military Headquarters at the Castle, and official cables from the New South Wales Government. There was great consternation when the order was read from Sir William Lyne, Premier, forbidding Captain Cox to land any members of the contingent under 20 years of age, and to return them to New South Wales. Following this, most of the dozen or so under that age scuttled to different parts of the ship, and some were not seen again, officially, until in camp on shore, the ship well and truly gone. Some who, under compulsion, had been returned to the ship, were to appear later in Africa with reinforcement drafts. Some received private cables urging them to return home. Altogether 29 remained on the S.S. Nineveh and returned to Sydney, as well as two who had been dismissed, had handed in government property, and were going home as civilians.

The disembarkation of the 72 New South Wales Lancers was as welcome as it was unexpected. Volunteering at Cape Town was in its very early stages, overseas men had not yet arrived, and the regiment holds the proud distinction of its squadron being the first of all English or overseas volunteers to land at any of the bases of that war.

The S.S. Kent had already left Sydney on October 28, with Major Lee and the 1st Reinforcements. This was a fine piece of quick enlistment and embarkation on the part of the regimental staff, only 18 days having elapsed since the Boers invaded British territory. Troops from other colonies, especially New Zealand, were already on the water.

Where a nation is not the aggressor, there has always been at the beginning of operations a great shortage of all sorts of equipment. In this case there were no horses, khaki clothing, or field equipment, that in possession of the squadron being unsuitable for the rough work ahead. The first problem was dealt with in characteristic Australian fashion: a few miles inland, at Stellenbosch, the squadron was very soon to be found catching, riding, and training about 70 Cape horses, mostly unbroken. These were seldom above 14 hands, and ever afterwards were referred to as "the guinea-pigs". S.S.M. Robson (6 feet 4 inches), tucked his legs up when the ground was rough!

What follows must not in any sense be looked upon as an account of the South African War in general. It is the story of the vicissitudes of a squadron, and of individuals whose adventures led them into strange situations, narrow escapes and, sometimes, a soldier's grave. The N.S.W. Lancers, attached to General French's 1 1st Cavalry Brigade until October 25 1900, when their term of engagement was up, became involved in a strenuous campaign of continuous movement. They were fortunate in serving under the man who had so lately been their brigadier at Aldershot. That he had their complete confidence and loyalty is proved by the manner in which they improvised cheerfully where necessary, and overcame with courage and determination obstacles which, in other circumstances, might easily have proved insurmountable.

At this stage of the war, British prestige was in the balance. The Boers attacked British territory while the bulk of Britain's army was in England and India. On the east they beleaguered Ladysmith and Natal, and on the west cut off Kimberley, thus forcing their will on the defending armies as they arrived, while moving commandos across country as they wished. In the centre they advanced down the main railway line, and had they known enough to bypass the junctions and move on south, Cape Town would have had to be defended and rebellion put down. Had this happened, it is doubtful whether further armies could have made good in time.

Only a fortnight after disembarkation at Cape Town, having journeyed 300 miles in a north-easterly direction, the Lancers detrained at De Aar Junction. A few miles from here, Lord Methuen was trying to force his way across the hills through the Boer lines, and it was thought that a start into action would be made as soon as the horses had got over the journey. But there was still insufficient equipment, and enough weapons for only a few. Hurriedly, a troop under Lieutenant S. F. Osborne was given what was available, and away they went, to the disappointment of the remainder of the squadron. With Lieutenant Osborne were S.S.M. Robson (Lismore), Sergeant McDonald (near Ballina), Sergeant Dooley (Berry), Corporal Hopf (Lismore), Lance-Corporal Ford (Lismore), and 23 troopers. They were called by the British regiments "The Fighting Twenty-nine". Eleven survived sickness and wounds and continued to the end: nine of these (two were prisoners at Waterval for five months) hold the distinction for the regiment of bearing eight, the maximum number of battle clasps on the Queen's Medal, two being awarded for battles in which they fought during the next few weeks, Belmont and Modder River. The Sydney Morning Herald commented on the matter at a later date: "The N.S.W. Lancers possess the proud distinction of having men who hold the record for engagements, against the whole of the regiments in the British Empire. Lieut-Colonel Cox has received for Trooper McManis eight clasps or bars, though he was only 18 years old: Belmont, Modder River, Relief of Kimberley, Paardeburg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hills and Belfast. Eight will receive these. Lieut-Colonel Cox has six battle clasps and two for his two years of service." A letter from Trooper Mick McGill of Berry, one of the "Twenty-nine", to his father, indicates that this trooper was "attached to the 9th Lancers at Magersfontein".

General Lord Methuen, greatly pleased by the work of "The Fighting Twenty-nine", repeatedly complimented them in person on their steadiness under heavy fire. Tactical work in the field was not difficult to these Australians after their extensive training in England, but being continually fired at was quite a new experience. The general expressed regret at losing them as his force became stronger, having found their scouting, and their ability to find their way on the open veldt, of great value.

On November 19 the squadron, less the "Twenty-nine", arrived at Naauwpoort, which was threatened, and next day General French arrived from Cape Town and Natal. The garrison here numbered only 945 with two 9-pounder guns, muzzle-loading. It consisted of: half battalion of the Berkshires; half battalion of the Black Watch: 25 Cape Police, and N.S.W. Lancers divided into two troops of about 20 each. One troop patrolled 12 miles north under Captain Cox, the other entrained at 5.45 a.m. and reconnoitred as far as Rensburg. All returned. The railway line nearer De Aar had been blown up, and 25 men were detailed to cover the repair party. On the 23rd Lieutenant Osborne's troop took part at the battle of Belmont, and on the Sam(; day a troop entrained at Naauwpoort, detrained at. Arundel and patrolled in that neighbourhood meeting the enemy. Daily reconnaissances and minor patrol engagements continued here for the next few days, as Boers estimated at 300 held an advanced host on Arundel Hills. When the Boers vacated Arundel, however, General French had insufficient troops to move up. Meantime, Lieutenant Osborne’s troop had taken part in the battles of Graspan and Modder River.

Early in December Major G. L. Lee with Lieutenant G. H. Allan, 2nd Lieutenants C:. W. F. P. Roberts and R. M. Heron, Veterinary-Lieutenant F. W. Melhuish and Warrant Officer (;. E. Fisher, 31 other ranks and 131 horses, largely from the N.S.W. Police, landed at (:ape Town, and joined the squadron at Naauwpoort on December 6. During this period the squadron was occupied on daily patrols and visits to farms. On one occasion a patrol was heavily fired on while drawing fire from Taaiboschlaagte, the Boer main position, and several horses were shot. Trooper Harrison (Parramatta) being left behind, Trooper Morris (Singleton) went back under close and heavy fire, got him up behind, and galloped out.

Patrols for moving over the veldt were usually four men of a section in line and from 30 to 100 yards apart. In drawing fire when near a suspected position, on a signal from the section leader they would turn round and trot back, which usually brought the desired information. If so, the trot was generally found too slow!

It was during this period that the Lancers were frequently fired at by their old friends, the Carabiniers, who, although they were familiar with the Australian hats at Aldershot, could not tell the troopers beneath than from Boers. The Lancers retorted that Australian "walers" could not be mistaken for veldt ponies. Nevertheless, khaki helmets that had arrived at the end of November and had been scornfully rejected by the men, were again issued - this time to be worn!

On December 7, the 6th Dragoon Guards, New South Wales Lancers and New Zealand Mounted Rifles moved out to Tweedale and remained there, while some kopjes, three and a half miles north of Arundel, were occupied. To these "A" anti "B" Squadrons, 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, marched in from Maitland.

There had been some heavy fighting in the neighbourhood and the enemy strength at Taaiboschlaagte was estimated at 3,000, and at Colesberg 3,000 in addition to which commandos were moving up. In the second week of December a base camp was established at Arundel, and it was to this camp that Troopers H. V. Vernon and George Cummings, who had left the Aldershot contingent in London, came to rejoin the squadron and draw horses.

As the month wore on, enemy activity intensified and an ever increasing force was entrenched at the Arundel camp. On December 11 Lieutenant Osborne's troop took part in the battle of Magersfontein, and, two days later, the Boers were beaten on the right flank by the 6th Dragoons, 6th Dragoon Guards, 10th Hussars, N.Z. Mounted Rifles and N.S.W. Lancers. At this time the enemy were pressing in closely: an attempt to surprise the camp was checked only a mile off. Fortunately there was no shortage of food for the troops, 3,000 captured sheep providing plenty of mutton.

On the afternoon of December 16, Captain Jackson of the 7th Dragoon Guards, attached to the Inniskillings, was brought into camp by Troopers Carlo Fiaschi and McPherson, and died on the way. He had been sniped at and shot from a hill about three mires towards Taaiboschlaagte while out with a patrol. When the two Lancers galloped up, he was on the point of being taken prisoner. McPherson kept the Boers at bay with rapid fire while Fiaschi (a medical student and son of Major T. H. Fiaschi, A.M.C.) bound up the captain's wounds, bullets missing them by inches. The two troopers then managed to get the wounded man on his horse, and holding him on, galloped out. This is only one of many examples of individual courage and initiative displayed by the men during their first experience of active service. Troopers McPherson and Fiaschi were thanked formally by the C.O., 6th Dragoons, Lieut-Colonel Page-Henderson.

General French established his headquarters at Arundel on December 17, and a few days later "C" Squadron 6th Dragoons under Major Allenby [1 Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe, G.C.B., G.C.M.G.] arrived from Cape Town. The cavalry was then divided into:

1st cavalry Brigade, Colonel Porter: 6th D.G.; N.S.W.L.; N.Z.M.R.; M.I. 2nd Cavalry Brigade, Colonel Fisher: 6th (Inn) D.; 10th Hussars: M.I.

The 1st Brigade took the east of the railway line; the 2nd the west. Attached were Lieutenant West and a small troop from 5th Lancers. This troop, early in February, was sent to Stellenbosch and never seen again. Before they went, however, at a camp concert, a member of the troop sang a whole number standing on his head without any assistance; an accomplishment enviable in the music hall world, but not sufficiently impressive on active service to raise the prestige of a troop of lancers!

The heat was now intense. Though few colonial troops had seen much actual fighting, daily reconnaissance and outpost duty was carried out, a troop often being away for a week.

Two days before Christmas 32 other ranks of the 1st Australian Horse under Lieutenants Dowling and Osborne arrived (wearing helmets), and were mixed into the 1st Cavalry Brigade. On Christmas Day a tacit truce was observed, and in spite of the heat, races for men, mules, ponies and horses were held, only to be followed by the usual 4 p.m. dust storm and rain.

On the outbreak of war, Major Rimington, Inniskilling Dragoons, had raised a troop of Guides. He enlisted only men who knew the country and spoke Dutch; unless found absolutely efficient they were at once discharged. Known as "The Tigers", they became famous early in the war, their sobriquet being derived from the cat tails they wore round their hats, and for their daring. On December 26 "The Tigers" arrived in camp from Modder River, together with Lieutenant Osborne's troop and 1,000 infantry.

An all-day reconnaissance on December 28 round Taaiboschlaagte, which appeared to have been vacated, produced no finality in the matter. On the following day the Dragoon Guard horses, however, stung by hail and stampeding through to Lancer lines, swept off with their equine comrades on a circular four-mile gallop which, being uninterrupted by enemy fire, provided the required information. The last days of the month saw the occupation of Rensburg Ridge at Porter's Hill by the 1st Cavalry Brigade, and the withdrawal of the Lancer outpost troop which was marched to Rensburg. This troop moved off again later the same day, arrived at Maedar's Farm at 9 p.m. and before dawn relieved the Carabiniers near Coleskop.

Coleskop was a kopje, 800 feet high, overlooking the English town of Colesberg, then held by the Boers. Hard fighting in various open formations took place throughout the whole of the next day; the heat was great and there was no water for the horses until night, for the men until midnight. Near here, an incident in which runaway provision trucks, a rescue engine and the Lancer squadron were involved indicated, once again, that lack of initiative and imaginative leadership amongst the Boers that had allowed the British forces to consolidate their position early in the war. Subjected to heavy and continuous fire, the squadron were unable to do more than remain with the provision trucks, taking what shelter they could among them. After dark the men withdrew. Had the Boers persisted in their attack they could have taken the whole squadron.

About the middle of January the Boers made a bold attack on Slingersfontein, creeping up during dark and shelling and advancing unperceived at daybreak. Captain Maddocks with N.Z.

Mounted Rifles, rallying the surprised Yorkshire lads in possession, made a very gallant and successful bayonet charge right through the Boers ("New Zealand Hill") , and drove them off, the enemy leaving 21 dead.

What happened early the following morning can best be told in the words of Trooper Vernon:

"At 3 a.m.," he writes in his diary, "my troop, about 20 mixed Lancers and 1st Australian Horse under Lieutenant Dowling of the latter, set out on patrol. I was in charge of a prisoner at camp. About 3 p.m. Tpr Eames (A.H.) rode into camp, having escaped from a kopje where the troops had been surrounded and penned up by wire fences: Tp Sgt-Maj. Griffin (A.H.) killed; Cpl Kilpatrick (N.S.W.L.) wounded badly and Tpr Roberts (N.S.W.L.) shot in one hand. We volunteered to go in pursuit, but Colonel Porter stated the horses required rest: we then volunteered to go on foot, but he would not allow it.

"Bert Artlett's (Parramatta) horse was shot; he jumped up behind Lieutenant Dowling, but that horse was shot also. The fall stunned him, and when he regained consciousness, he took off his boots and sneaked through the Boers, reaching camp next morning. It appears all the horses were soon shot or captured, when each man built a stone krantz around him, and fought until every cartridge was expended, which we knew by counting the empties. The Boers then rushed them (remember, we carried no bayonets) . Started before light next day with ambulance waggons found Tpr Thomas (A.H.) wandering on the veldt, and the kopje with Griffin and Kilpatrick. Lieutenant Dowling had lost an eye and had been captured. The following Lancers were taken to Pretoria as prisoners, and were not seen again until June 5 1900 at Waterval (except the last two) : W.O. Fisher (R.H.Q.), Sgt McDonald, Tptr Taylor, Cpl Hopf, Tpr Daley (all of the Northern Rivers) ; Doudney (Parramatta) , Johnston (Sydney), Roberts (Singleton), M. Ford and G. Whittington (both of Sydney).

"The last two escaped from the prisoners' laager at Waterval and, after gruelling experiences and hairbreadth escapes, almost three months later, reported to the British Consul at Lourenco Marques in neutral Portuguese territory.

"Returning to the Slingersfontein fight, Cpl Kilpatrick died on the way to camp, and was buried the next day on top of a kopje behind the camp.... Found a medal of Cpl Hopf in his krantz on top of kopje, which helped to reconstruct the story; and a few days later handed in a masonic emblem that a New Zealander found and passed to me."

Arrival at a large farmhouse at Potfontein, surrounded by orchards with a large dam on a hill behind it, cheered both men and horses. The Lancers camped north of the dam and the Carabiniers to the south, Rimington's Guides were about three miles away at Kleinfontein, and the Guards two miles further on at Rhenoster Farm.

"Allowed a swim in the dam - very necessary," writes Trooper Vernon laconically; adding, disgustedly, "but as some plutocrat used soap this luxury was immediately stopped."

At the end of January 1900 General French left for Cape Town to meet Lord Roberts and arrange for his now famous march to relieve Kimberley. The Scots Greys with "A" Squadron, 6th Dragoons, attached, left for Modder River.

The Boers were now about 8,000 to 10,000 strong in Colesberg, with many guns. The Cavalry Brigade helio and flag-signalling stations were well developed, and very active at every point, a particularly good signaller being Bob Johnston (Sydney) . Johnston was often detached with General French personally up to the time of his capture at Slingersfontein. On February 2 camp was broken at Potfontein and the next day orders were received to return to Naauwpoort Junction. General French returned to Rensburg on this same day and by dark, a day later, the Lancers were back at Arundel, welcomed into camp by the sick-horselines troops. With the sick-horse troops the patrols formed a full squadron again, and on February 6, General French having left for Modder River, the squadron left Arundel for Naauwpoort, arriving at noon. Next night, the squadron's horses and gear were loaded on open trucks. The squadron left Naauwpoort for De Aar in bitter cold, arrived at Orange River about noon next day, and pitched camp near the Carabiniers.

An extract from Trooper Vernon's diary provides a succinct account of subsequent events:

"Feb. 10. The river was about five miles away; we could not pitch camp closer on account of enemy snipers. Consequently we watered horses early in the morning and at evening-20 miles without saddles. Most of the horses' backbones protruded and worked like caterpillars as they moved --- pleasant rides (1) , At 5 p.m. we were swimming and dawdling in the sandy shallows and islets in the :aver which was low, while S.S.M's Read and Robson stormed up and down the bank and could not get any to listen. Their threat was that we were to secretly truck that night for the front, but they were not believed. However, we got orders on return to truck for Belmont.

"Feb. 11. Arrived at Belmont amongst numbers of cavalry at 3 a.m. and pitched camp at daylight. Rumoured the cavalry were to move and many did. At 3.30 p.m. someone roared into camp asking Captain Cox why we had not gone. Sudden orders to mount and pack for a three days' reconnaissance; as we would return here we were only to take necessaries. It was two and a half months before we saw our kitbags again, and in the meantime we lived with only what we left with that day. In three or four weeks there was practically nothing left. The saddle carried the usual greatcoat, blanket, nosebag, waterbag, billy can, and mess tin: picqueting rope was carried around the horse's neck as a head rope, and pegs were scarce. Besides these were sword, lance and carbine in bucket.

"It was seldom there was any cooking by squadrons, two men drawing their rations together, cooking and sharing. A travelling cooker vehicle would have been a blessing... .

"From then on I was never under any cover, either tent, tree or rock until March 24 -only 42 days, but it seemed like three months. In March there was a wet weather spell of three weeks, during which we were naturally wet through all the time, and the blankets useless except as umbrellas at night."

The force to relieve Kimberley was the Cavalry Division under General French which had been organised during the first week of February. This division was made up of:

1st Brigade (Porter);
6th Dragoon Guards,
14th Hussars, one squadron of Scots Greys,
"A" Squadron Inniskilling Dragoons,
N.S.W. Lancers.

2nd Brigade (Broadwood):
Household Cavalry,
10th Hussars,
12th Lancers.

3rd Brigade (Gordon);
9th and 16th Lancers; and,
seven batteries of Royal Horse Artillery.

Two brigades of mounted infantry joined the division on February 13.

The relieving of Kimberley was a fine example of a cavalry flanking movement. The plan was for the cavalry to assemble at Ramdam on February 11, make a rapid dash around the Boer left at Magersfontein, some 45 miles from Ramdam, and enter Kimberley (about 20 miles beyond Magersfontein) from the east. To conceal this plan, a feint attack by a separate force was made on the right of the Magersfontein position, causing General Cronje to move more of his strength to that flank.

Major Rimington and his Guides were entrusted with the task of guiding French's force. After the concentration of the main body at Ramdam the plan was successfully carried out.

When, on the second day's march, Dekiel's Drift was taken and a crossing effected, the supply waggons got into difficulties, the column of transport becoming completely disorganised. After assembly on the north bank, the cavalry parted with their transport waggons, many of which were not seen again until Paardeberg.

On February 13 Lord Roberts visited the troops and witnessed their departure at 9 a.m. The column marched all that day in scorching heat without stopping or watering, until, towards evening, green bushes in the distance marked the line of the river, and longed-for water. The column, by now a vast, straggling mass of mixed units, made for Klip Drift, the spearhead driving the Boer commando from the further bank as the remainder came up. The Royal Horse Artillery shelled the Boer positions and the order was for any who could cross to do so. Several Lancers got across and joined in the rush of the 12th Lancers and M.I. In spite of the fact that as the column reassembled on the other side many men were on foot, their horses having dropped, brigades, regiments and small units formed in remarkably quick time. Large quantities of provisions and some sheep were taken.

After 24 hours' badly needed rest, General French continued his daring rush across the Boer flank and lines of communication. "Kimberley was now only 20 miles distant," writes Trooper Vernon, "and all were keyed up to effect the relief though many knew they would have to `foot it' and carry their arms. The advance in early morning led along a valley about two miles wide with Boers and guns on the hills on each flank. It was here our carbines, sighted only to 800 yards, did telling execution at from 1,200 to 1,500 yards, as the firers got good observation of strike on the dusty ground. We continually moved parties of Boers about for an hour.... The British had the same Martini-Enfield carbine as we had, except that theirs had magazines.

"The 9th and 16th Lancers charged up the valley, five yards between files, and we followed, passing many bodies from which the lance had not been extricated. But it cleared all opposition, and from then on I never saw a position held if the intention of a lance charge was shown."

The division reformed slowly on the forward march, watered at Roodekalkfontein, and met no further important resistance until close to Kimberley. Here the besieging forces were soon silenced, having been taken by surprise. The townspeople had at first feared that the helio messages of the relieving force were wiles of the Dutchmen, as news of the approach seemed incredible. But by sunset the British troops had appeared.

The march had been fast for the condition of the horses, and they as well as the men were mad with thirst. It is not surprising, therefore, that notwithstanding Captain Cox's prudent and forceful command to leave untouched the water in a dam in the compound which formed the cavalry camp, many drank. In the morning the dam was found to be covered with green slime and full of dead and cut-up cattle, a condition that probably accounts for many men going down with enteric at the same time, when in Bloemfontein. In spite of the fact at there was no food, the exhausted troops slept.

Next day the Lancers were joined with "A" Squadron, Inniskillings, since that squadron mustered only 42 horses. The whole under Major Allenby made the combined number of horses 170. In his book Major Yardley writes: "The N.S.W. Lancers, under Major Lee, were attached, and thereafter they remained with the regiment, rendering yeoman service until their return to N.S.W."

An extract from Trooper Vernon's diary describes the movement of the Division during the next few days:

"Feb. 16. Up at daylight and disgusted with the condition of our mounts . . . the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Brigades marched about 10 miles, the sand throwing up a heat that scorched even the air; several tongues were black and not a dam to be seen. On Dronfield Ridge we lay in the grass for about an hour 200 yards from a Boer trench, under their fire; during another `reinforcing', two Scots Greys, one on either side of me, were shot dead. The N.S.W.L. and `A' Sqn, 6th D, covered the retirement at nightfall which was slow as the infantry were carrying their casualties. Scores of dead horses were passed. Took prisoners including several Boer snipers in the low trees: one would not come down until gently urged by my lance point; he said he was only hiding but we found his rifle planted and many Schneider shells; handed him over to the Infantry, happy in knowing that when interned he would be forced to wash....

"Next morning, French, collecting every horse that could move, took the 2nd Bde, and doubling back commenced cutting off the Boer retreat to Bloemfontein, whereby Cronje with 10,000 men, many families and waggons was hemmed into the river bank at Paardeberg. We remained to rest and shot the horses that would not recover. Though mine was knocked up, he pulled through, and we soon had fodder and good grazing.

"20. From Kimberley with the 1st Bde and marched about miles towards Cronje: heard the shelling.

"22. Moved to Koodoesrandrift and took place in the ring around Paardeberg, eight miles distant. The 6th D.G. drove 150 captured sheep past our bivouac, and 30 were rushed and taken, but the old and close friendship of Aldershot prevailed.

"23. The next two or three weeks was a rainy season: neither blankets nor clothes were able to be dried. There was very little food. Our main task at first was the Boers to the north who might mass to relieve Cronje....

"27. Anniversary of Majuba; nevertheless Cronje surrendered with about 3,700 prisoners; actually, the first British officer to accept the surrender of any portion of the Boer force that day was Surgeon-Major Fiaschi, our R.M.O. in the Lancers at home.

"28. Rations were now a heaped handful of flour in the hand for two men, with two biscuits. Belts in the last holes, but cheery humour as usual with the cavalry.

"29. Although a leap year, this day is dropped out once every century, and we did not mind."

On March 3, anniversary of the Lancers' first public parade, 1885, the Boer shelling was very accurate. Corporal Harkus and 14 men with horses arrived, mostly Aldershot men, who had left Sydney per S.S. Moravian on January 17, arriving at Cape Town on February 16. This draft had been present at Paardeberg, but not with the squadron. They arrived in regimental uniform, not the khaki helmets which the rest now wore. The same column brought the main body of 1st Australian Horse, under Captain R. R. Thompson, the Sydney Troop's original sergeant instructor. The remainder of the 34 members of the Australian Horse who had been mixed in the Lancer ranks since December 23 now rejoined their own unit, the parting being mutually regretted.

Shortly after this the Cavalry Division moved off to the Battle of Poplar Grove. Marching and fighting from Abraham's Kraal to Driefontein, the 1st Brigade was the first to locate and engage the enemy. Later, a wide flank attack by the brigade took a hill under heavy fire, and for that day's work a clasp was issued. On March 13 the squadron formed part of an investing ring around Bloemfontein. This town surrendered after Major Weston had blown up the railway to the north and _sat the town off from Pretoria.

It was at this time that the N.S.W. Lancers lost a lot of men from enteric fever. Two men died: Corporal Harkus and Trooper Fetting. A number of others contracted the disease in varying degrees of severity: Lieutenant Roberts and Troopers Akers, Brady, Haken, Knight, Lee, O. L. Milling, T. Morris, K. McPherson, Stratford, Vernon, Wilks, Waddell, Whitney and J. Watts.

A further list shows men detailed for military police duty at Bloemfontein, and detached: Staff-Sergeant Read, Shoeing-Smith Moon, Troopers G. Baly, J. Heuston, James Johnson, McGill, Palmer, Pettigrew, Hillis, Sandon, Saville, F. Stuart, Weston, Wilson.

Bloemfontein having surrendered, it now became necessary to clean up the many Boer strongpoints and camps in the neighbourhood. On March 16 and 17 Major Allenby with 100 Inniskillings, New South Wales Lancers and Carabiniers safely escorted a convoy to Thaba 'Nchu, via Sanna's Post and back to Wessel's Farm. Two weeks later, the 1st Brigade with two days' supplies marched to Rondeheuval and took part in the action at Karee Siding. The enemy having been cleared out, the infantry took over the position, and the brigade returned to its camps near Bloemfontein on the 30th. A move was made next day to the sound of guns, the brigade bivouacking at Springfield, six miles to the south-east. The strain on the Cavalry Division was now beginning to tell, and its strength on the last day of March showed only 830 men with horses, "A" Squadron of Inniskillings turning out only five officers and four men. This was the day of the reverse to Broadwood's force at Sanna's Post, some 20 miles further east.

On April 1, with much reconnoitring as the Boers numbered many thousands, the Cavalry Division marched to Sanna's Post. The 1st Brigade brought in General Broadwood's wounded, returned to Springfield and remained there. Preparations were now being made for Lord Roberts's general advance. On April 7, after being for six weeks detached from 1st Cavalry Brigade, "B" and "C" Squadrons Inniskilling Dragoons rejoined "A" Squadron; thus the squadrons were reunited and the regiment complete, under command of Lieut-Colonel Page-Henderson. Major Yardley of the 6th Dragoons arrived from Natal and took over "A" Squadron. On a night march to Fischer's Farm during the fourth week of the month, hundreds of dead horses were passed, and in Bloemfontein enteric was still raging, 32,000 cases being in hospital.

Reading of this period, when matters were at a low ebb, it is heartening to encounter warm appreciation of Australian initiative and temperament: "The New South Wales Lancers under Major Lee," writes Major Yardley, "now formed a distinct squadron of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. All officers will testify to their usefulness, and the fine scouting and efficient work they rendered. Under splendid officers, their coolness, self-reliance and dash brought them out of difficulties where other troops might have suffered severely."

The 1st Australian Horse was similarly attached to the Scots Greys. But transfer of the New South Wales Lancers from French's division to General Hutton who commanded 13 colonial mounted units, not being cavalry, was only averted by Major Lee's request to Hutton not to persist.

During the first week of May, Captain Nicholson (Maitland), 40 other ranks ("The Forty Thieves") and 71 horses joined, and the brigade marched out of Springfield towards Rondeheuval. The objective was Kroonstad, temporary capital of the Orange Free State, where General Botha was in occupation with 6,000 Boers. By May 8, the brigade was 60 miles from Bloemfontein. Eighteen miles further on, at Vredes Verdag near Ventersburg Road Station, it was heavily shelled. An Inniskilling squadron supporting the 1st Australian Horse was practically annihilated by the Johannesburg Police Regiment, and Lieutenant Wilkinson, 1st A.H., was taken prisoner. In spite of this, the brigade pushed forward 12 miles by night, and went to the assistance of Lieutenant Rundle (formerly one of the Lancers' officers in the Aldershot squadron) and his troop of the Carabiniers.

At dawn on May 11 the brigade set out in bitter cold, most of the men leading their horses. Three thousand Boers were known to be making for the Vaalsch River Drift at Boshof Farm. A swift 15-mile march, however, brought the cavalry there first, and they bivouacked on the river bank. Major Weston again slipped among the Boer army 18 miles ahead and blew up the railway line five miles north of Kroonstad, he and Burnham, the American Scout, lighting the fuses under their hats within 10 yards of a passing commando.

This exploit completed the cavalry turning march on Kroonstad. At dawn thousands of Boers were seen streaming north. President Steyne escaped, while the Landdrost with a white flag rode out and surrendered to General French. Later, on the arrival of the main army, the formality of handing over the keys to Lord Roberts was gone through. Orders were to live on the country and that every farm must be stripped of provisions and fodder. The 6th Dragoons alone had lost 200 horses in the week, the route being 170 miles without counting patrolling and Cossack posts. Trooper Tunks (Parramatta) died, and was buried at Kroonstad; Trooper Pestell (Gerringong) was evacuated with enteric fever.

On May 20 the regiment, mustering 400 all ranks and 291 horses, set out on the march for the Transvaal. There were now only 37 Aldershot men left. After crossing the drift at Rhenoster River and Honing Spruit Junction, the brigade bivouacked in the bitter winter cold at Essenbosch, the New South Wales Lancers under Major Lee reconnoitring to Gredepoort Station. They returned after covering 45 miles and being 16 hours in the saddle with reports that the Boers in strong force had retired out of the Free State, to the north of the Vaal. On the Queen's birthday, May 24, the whole division with great difficulty crossed into the Transvaal at Vilgoensdrift. Enthusiasm was high amongst the men, and all the farms flew white flags.

The tale is now taken up again by Trooper Vernon:

"May 25. To Lindeque through intricate ravines and hills which could have been held by a few; the regiment took a terrible hill where the loss would have been great but for Major Allenby's excellent disposition of his men. Outpost at night.

"May 26. To Reit Spruit, and Vereeniging.

"May 27. To Doornkuil, the regiment again taking at Vlakfontein a strongly defended ridge with great gallantry and some loss.

"May 28. At daylight the regiment led the advance through Van Wyks Rust and was held up by heavy shelling. The N.S.W. Lancers in the centre gained Klip Spruit Farm, and cleared Oliphant's Vlei.

"May 29. After a night of frost and ice, without rest, fought to due west of Johannesburg at Doornkop, where the Jameson Raid met its fate. Sgt Moffitt and Tpr W. B. Carter evacuated with enteric. Infantry moved with us: our horses very done.

"May 30. To 10 miles due north of Johannesburg. At night Lieutenant Johnston, 6th D. with "Banjo" Paterson and six men penetrated the enemy with General French's despatches for Lord Roberts at Germiston, returning safely after hairbreadth escapes."

On June 1 the cavalry moved to Ber Vlei, and two days later crossed the Krokodile River and moved 25 miles to Kalkheuvel Pass. Here there was heavy fighting in rocky country. The Carabiniers and 6th Dragoons in advance were ambushed, and even General French galloped back, through a hail of bullets. Lieutenant Rundle (late New South Wales Lancers) had three horses shot under him, but the New South Wales Lancers and one squadron of the 6th Dragoons rallied, dismounted, went into action and prevented further panic. "All credit for this must be given to Major Allenby," writes Yardley, "the N.S.W. Lancers under Major Lee, and the Inniskillings supporting the Carbs." The division was critically jammed in a ravine all night, but luckily the Mafeking Commando retired.

The advanced guard cleared the pass on June 4, captured a large supply of provisions and bivouacked at Zilikats Nek under the Magaliesburg Range, due west of Pretoria. There were now only 30 men left in "A" Squadron.

The release of the 3,500 prisoners at Waterval on June 10 was a joyous and exciting event. "On the British coming within view of the barbed wire enclosures," writes Trooper Vernon, "the prisoners burst out cheering, and during the next few hours were headed to safety, the Boers shelling them and the 100 warders alike, and also a hospital train for the sick. The prisoners were too excited to assist in their own getting away, which lasted until after dark. Captain Nicholson and two troops of the N.S.W. Lancers did good work in the fight of 400 of the brigade against 2,000 Boers."

Yardley's account of the subsequent retirement indicates its hazardous nature: "The bold front kept by the Inniskillings and the N.S.W. Lancers under Major Allenby when the other troops retired," he says, "aided at first by a Scots Greys squadron and 1st A.H. kept back the large numbers of the enemy, gave time for released prisoners to escape, and made an orderly retreat of what would otherwise have been a rout."

"Almost at once the Lancers found their men who had been captured at Slingersfontein on January 16, five months before," continues Trooper Vernon, "W. O. Fisher, Sgt McDonald, Tptr Taylor, Cpl Hopf, Tprs Daley, Roberts and Johnston, two having escaped. All were fearfully thin and weak. Not one Lancer had been taken prisoner since, though all had had narrow escapes."

At Derdepoort the enemy drove in the patrols, but on June 9-10 after a march of seven miles to Kameel Drift, 70 Boers surrendered. The Battle of Diamond Hills was fought over the next three days, Lieutenant Heron's troop of New South Wales Lancers being the first to go as scouts. The 1st A.H., reduced to two officers and eight other ranks, went -with them; and the gunners, mistaking them for Boers, burst shell after shell over their heads with mathematical accuracy. Fortunately the bullets struck 200 yards ahead. This unit then bivouacked at Doornkraal.

During the next three weeks the men rested and rehorsed. One hundred of the 10th Hussars were distributed throughout the regiment, staying for several months, bringing the strength up to 500 men mounted. On July 8 Sergeant J. W. W. Campbell was evacuated with enteric fever, and on July 9 the regiment marched 25 miles to Grootfontein. This long march and winter weather conditions proved too much for the "soft" remounts, and many had to be destroyed. Another 25-mile march on July 10 brought the regiment past Rietfontein, and at noon of the following day Leeupoort Hill near Oliphantsfontein was taken. Building stone sangars for defence, the regiment held the position for three days, surrounded by the enemy in force. On July 14, Troopers B. F. Evans and G. E. L. Ramsay were evacuated with enteric fever.

At dawn on July 16 the enemy rushed two picquets. They were repulsed by the New South Wales Lancers. Two days later the regiment moved to Oliphantsfontein, and on July 21 the 4.7-inch gun (called a "cow gun" because it was drawn by oxen) shelled 800 Boers. During the 25-mile march to Dieplaagte a week later Captain Ebsworth, 1st A.H., an international cricketer, was killed by a spent bullet at 2,000 yards. Another march on July 24, the regiment as advanced guard in extended order, ended in a brigade bivouac at Bosmansfontein, and at daylight, in bleak and bitter cold, the brigade marched at 9 a.m., seizing Naauwpoort Drift on Oliphants River. So severe was the weather, the troops being bivouacked in torrents of cold rain, that one officer died later of exposure. On July 26, as advanced guard, the regiment seized a hill from the Boers, and moving at 10 a.m. next day, Erfdeel Drift was taken, and Greenfontein held.

There were now 440 fit horses in the regiment, which was relieved and returned to Erfdeel three days later. On July 30 a move was made to Koopermyn, officers' patrols scouring the country for a radius of 20 miles.

The month of August was full of rapid movement and frequent actions. From the regimental base at Strathrae, a patrol under Captain Nicholson, on August 2, discovered the enemy in force to the north-east, and surprising a commando at breakfast, "did some execution".

Next day "A" Squadron, whose strength was down to 30 men, made a reconnaissance to the Komati River and met with great opposition. Major Allenby sent the N.S.W. Lancers squadron to support on the left flank; this led to the retirement of the Boers and enabled "A" Squadron to push on. On the same date 100 of the Carabiniers were attached to the Inniskillings, and that night the regiment retired and took up an extended outpost line near Goedehoop. Throughout the next fortnight, the regiment, under Major Allenby, with two guns and a pom-pom and the 100 Carabiniers (Major Hamilton) held a line of about eight miles at Goedehoop. The enemy were very aggressive and in strong force all round. The greatest vigilance was necessary, and the constant outpost duty proved very trying to all ranks. The regiment was organised into six small squadrons of 40 men each. "British Warms" (short overcoats) were issued to all ranks for the first time about August 16, and proved to be of great benefit.

On August 21 the regiment proceeded to Blesbokspruit, and, marching at 4 a.m. on the 26th, fighting at close quarters all day, reached Vlakplaats on the 27th. Here it was again selected to take the ridges opposite, occupied by the enemy in force, with two guns. Marching as advanced guard through country full of precipices on the 29th, Helvetia was reached at midday, and the men bivouacked that night on the heights above Waterval Onder. Next morning the Inniskillings occupied the hills 1,000 feet above the town. In the afternoon "B" Squadron gained the town, galloping through a hail of bullets and, under cover of dark, bringing away a number of prisoners. The success caused the enemy to release all our prisoners at Nooitgedacht, a few miles away. Among the released was Lieutenant Rundle. On the last day of the month, the cavalry proceeded to Machadodorp, a town which had been used for some time by Mr Kruger as the capital of the Republic.

General French's task was now to accomplish a wide turning movement, via Carolina, on Barberton. In spite of difficult, mountainous country, full of enemy troops, this movement was successfully carried out.

On September 2 the regiment, as advanced guard, marched to Zevenfontein. Driving back small parties of Boers, it occupied Welgelegen, and on September 4 the Lancer squadron occupied an important hill commanding the Komati River. Bivouacking at Bonnevoie, officers and men had great difficulty in saving the bivouac and horses from the grass fires lit by the Boers on retreating. Some of the horses were saved from fire only to die some days later from eating tulip grass.

A march over open country on September 6 brought the force to Carolina. Trooper Avard (Maitland) was badly wounded on the way and left behind at a farmhouse.

On September 9 the march to Barberton was commenced, and, after fighting all the afternoon until late, a bivouac was made on ground gained on Buffels Spruit, without food. At 6.30 a.m, next day, the march continued to Koppie Aleen, and on September 11, with the Inniskillings again in advance, to Hlomo Hom.

Trooper Vernon's account is taken up again here:

"Sept. 12. Marched 3 a.m. and crossed the Komati River at the drift, but could not get the pom-pom along owing to the precipitous nature of the country.

"Sept. 13. After only an hour or two in bivouac, started at 3 a.m. and owing to the regiment's horses being knocked up, missed getting to Barberton direct, but marched 35 miles with guns by road, in many places sliding them down on locked wheels.

"Sept. 14-15. The regiment took up a big outpost line around Barberton. Tpr Thomas (Casino) was evacuated to N.S.W. from Machadodorp.

"Sept. 16. With two days' supplies, moved at 5 a.m., climbed 1,600 feet and occupied the heights in Eureka City overlooking Sheba Mine. A troop under Captain Nicholson proceeded down the railway line to Avoca, took 52 locomotives and several prisoners and held the place until the arrival of reinforcements a few days later. Major Yardley gives Captain Nicholson (N.S.W. Lancers) great praise … capable and worthy of a much higher command'."

In occupation of the mines, the squadrons of the regiment (Inniskilling Dragoons) were scattered four miles apart in wild, mountainous country. Water was very scarce, and food had to be brought up by aerial train. After about two weeks in this difficult terrain, the march back to Machadodorp was commenced on October 3. While on the 20-mile stretch through Devil's Kantoor, several horses and mules were killed by lightning; but by the 6th the force had passed over the mountains and reached Goodwin Station. On the march again next day, the 22 miles through a long and dusty gorge to Machadodorp was covered. Here, it was found, the opinion was held universally that Boer resistance was at an end. General Buller and some of his commanders were en route to England, while the South African Light Horse and other irregular corps were being disbanded. And so the next few days were spent by the regiment in remounting and refitting in preparation for General French's drive to clear the country to Pretoria.

On September 13, after going to the aid of a force in difficulty at Welgelegen, the regiment advanced to Carolina, crossed the Komati River and camped at Bonnevoie. Next day Carolina was occupied. Trooper Fred Avard, who had been left badly wounded at Carolina on the last occupation, had died a few days earlier. It was reported that the enemy had buried him reverently, numbers attending the funeral in tall hats and frock coats. The men found his grave beautifully decorated with flowers.

Two days later, on advance guard to Tevreden Hills, the regiment surprised the Boer main laager, and with great difficulty got out with 33 casualties in the Inniskillings. Major Yardley was shot in the thigh and his clothes riddled by bullets. That night the bivouac was at Witkraus. Next morning at 4.30 a march was started to Ermelo, with outpost duty at night. Farrier Sergeant E. Rose and Trooper A. H. King were wounded and SergeantMajor G. E. Morris and Sergeant E. A. E. Houston were awarded the D.C.M. for dashing work under fire this day.

With the rest of General French's force, the regiment marched on October 19, harassed by the enemy all day. "The New South Wales Lancers did good work," writes Major Yardley. "They worked as a squadron of the regiment and consistently rendered excellent service. They were a very fine lot of men and their officers, especially Major Lee, Captain Cox and Lieutenant Heron, were hard to beat anywhere." That night they bivouacked at Tietvlei. Moving off at 4 a.m. next morning, they reached Bethel in darkness and rain. On the 22nd the regimental convoy of 18 ox-waggons was evacuated, carrying 78 wounded for Standerton. A Boer commando took eight of the best waggons, but the remainder got through. This day the brigade still marched westward, accompanied by thunderstorms and hurricanes of hail. The storm delayed the column, the horses being terrified; some of them were killed by lightning. Vlakplaats was reached on October 24 and the brigade marched on to Witkop the next day. Major Lee reported: "We were fighting from Carolina a rearguard action right up to here, two men being wounded."

On October 26 the squadron found itself at the end of its journey: at the end, too, of its term of service in Africa. A final commendation from Major Yardley indicates the esteem in which the men were held. "Major Lee," he writes, "with his New South Wales Lancer squadron, now left on their return to New South Wales, greatly to our regret. Captain Cox, second-in-command, afterwards returned as lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd N.S.W. Mounted Rifles, and rendered admirable service for twelve months under Colonel Rimington."

A total of 170 or 171 of all ranks served with the squadron in South Africa, 2 and in addition nearly as many served with other units, while some having returned after serving in the squadron re-enlisted and went to South Africa again. In August 1902 there was a gathering of Lancers at the Australia Hotel, Sydney, to welcome a number of officers who had just returned from the seat of war. Colonel Burns is reported to have given those present the following information about the service of members of the regiment:

Aldershot detachment – 72 men
Three later drafts – 93 men
Veterinary surgeon attached – 1 men
Troopers who joined at the Cape – 53 men
Total in N.S.W. Lancers Squadron – 171 men
Sailed with other units (Mounted Rifles, etc.) – 41 men
5th Battalion, Commonwealth Horse – 119 men
Total number who served in South Africa – 331 men
Served right through – 3 men
Served three times – 3 men
Served twice – 44 men
Served once – 281 men
Total – 331 men

("In addition several old members had resigned and had gone over unofficially.")

Of the total of 331 there were 29 who finished the war as officers. Those who gained their commissions during the war included Captains Peek, McDonald, Blow and Middleton and Lieutenants Doudney, Luke, Moffitt, Hindmarsh, Gould, Pearce, Barnett, Robson, Shaw, Carter, Breckenridge, Stuart and Price.

Several months after the N.S.W. Lancers squadron had returned from South Africa Colonel Burns had felt moved to make representations for greater recognition of services rendered. On May 2 1901 he had written to headquarters "in connection with the recent distribution of honours amongst Colonial Troops and the comments of the Australian Press as to the non-participation of the N.S.W. Lancer Regiment in such distribution." In his letter he recalled some of the achievements of the regiment over 15 years, that it had been the first colonial regiment volunteering to send a squadron to the Afridi war in India (an offer which had not been accepted) and the praise which the service squadron in South Africa had received from General French and other well-known leaders; he concluded with: "I have the honour to suggest for your favourable consideration that the G.O.C, might represent to the Governor-General the advisability of recommending that the regiment might be allowed some honourable distinctive title, such as the Royal Australian Lancers, or King's Own Australian Lancers." This request was passed through the usual channels as far as the Prime Minister who concurred with the advice of the Minister of Defence that "this is a delicate matter, and might I think stand over until we have a General Officer Commanding". In April 1902 the new G.O.C., Sir Edward Hutton, wrote declining to recommend it at that time and pointing out that it would not be expedient to select any one special corps for the high distinction proposed without very careful consideration of the claims of others.



Previous: New South Wales Lancers 1897 to 1900

Next: New South Wales Lancers, Reorganised 1900 to 1912


Further Reading:

1st/7th/1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse

New South Wales Lancers, Boer War Contingent

Militia Light Horse, New South Wales

Australian Militia Light Horse


Citation: New South Wales Lancers, South African War

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 1 July 2010 1:56 PM EADT
New South Wales Mounted Rifles, History, Part 4, 1893
Topic: Militia - LHN - 2/9/6


New South Wales Mounted Rifles

History, Part 4, 1893

New South Wales Mounted Rifles [1888 - 1903]
2nd (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1903 - 1912]
9th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1912 - 1918]
6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Australian Light Horse [1918 - 1941]
6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Motor Regiment [1941 - 1943]
6th Australian Armoured Car Regiment [1941 - 1943]
6th (New South Wales Mounted Rifles) Motor Regiment [1948 - 1949]
6th New South Wales Mounted Rifles [1949 - 1958]
Royal New South Wales Regiment [1958 - 1960]

Toujours pret - Always Ready

March - The Kynegad Slashers

 South Africa 1899 - 1902

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


The following is the forth extract from a manuscript written by an anonymous author. The hand written manuscript outlines the history of the 2nd ALHR NSW Mounted Rifles from commencement in 1888, until 5 April 1899, when history ceases. From the internal evidence of the manuscript, it appears to have been composed sometime from July 1903 to 1904.


The anonymous manuscript.


The forth extract from the manuscript.


Headquarters to Campbelltown, 1893.

On 1st March 1893, the Regimental Headquarters of the Mounted Infantry Regiment was transferred from Sydney to Campbelltown.


Major HB Lassetter, Officer Commanding the Mounted Infantry Regiment, was granted 12 months leave of absence from the 25th March 1893 and Lieutenant Colonel MM McDonald was appointed to temporary command of the Mounted Infantry Regiment in addition to the New South Wales Cavalry Regiment from the 16th June 1893.

Mounted Brigade

On 1st August 1893, the New South Wales Cavalry Regiment, and the Mounted Infantry Regiment, were constituted in a Mounted Brigade, which will be styled "The New South Wales Mounted Brigade".

Mounted Infantry to Mounted Rifles

The Mounted Infantry Regiment will from the same date be styled the "New South Wales Mounted Rifles".

Colonel MM McDonald, was appointed Colonel and Commandant of the Brigade.

Commanding Officer - Major HB Lassetter.

Adjutant - Captain Sparrow.

No. 1 Company (Captain Lloyd)

Liverpool 2 Divisions

Campbeltown 2 Divisions

No. 2 Company (Captain Antill)

Picton 2 Divisions

Camden 2 Divisions

No. 3 Company (Captain Bland)

Bega 2 Divisions

Queanbeyan 2 Divisions

No 4 Company (Captain Chauvel)

Tenterfield 2 Divisions

Inverell 2 Divisions

Captain Chauvel assumed command of the Mounted Rifles during the absence of Major Lassetter on leave.

Duff and Hutton Competitions, 1893.

On the 16th and 17th October 1893, the first competition for the "Duff Challenge Cup" and "Hutton Shield" took place on the Randwick Rifle Range.

The "Duff Challenge Cup" was open to sections of four men; points being given for turnout and general appearance, riding, shooting and words of command. This competition was won by a section from No.2 Picton Half Company of the Mounted Rifles commanded by Sergeant Farrier Hill. The Mounted Rifle Regiment securing the first six places in the competition.

The "Hutton Shield" was open to teams consisting of one Officer, one Sergeant and 12 men. Points to be allotted the same as in the Duff Competition, course about two miles. This competition was won by the Mounted Rifles, the successful team being from No. 4 Tenterfield Half Company, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas. The Mounted Rifles secured the first three places in the competition.

Headquarters to Sydney, 1893.

On 1st November 1893, the Headquarters of the Mounted Rifles was transferred from Campbeltown and located on the premises of the Headquarters, Mounted Brigade, Sydney.

Captain Sparrow, adjutant of the Mounted Rifles was appointed Acting Staff Officer to the Mounted Brigade, in addition to his duties as adjutant of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles from 1st October 1893.

Major Lassetter, having returned from leave in England on the 7th December 1893, re-assumed command of the Mounted Rifle Regiment from that date.


Previous: New South Wales Mounted Rifles, History, Part 3, 1891

Next: New South Wales Mounted Rifles, History, Part 5, 1894


Further Reading:

2nd/9th/6th Australian Light Horse

Militia Light Horse, New South Wales

Australian Militia Light Horse


Citation: New South Wales Mounted Rifles, History, Part 4, 1893

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 2 July 2010 10:34 AM EADT
2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance, AIF, Embarkation Roll, 24th Reinforcement
Topic: AIF - 2B - 2 LHFA


2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance

Embarkation Roll, 24th Reinforcement


HMAT A1 Hymettus


2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance, AIF, 24th Reinforcement, embarked from Brisbane, Queensland on board HMAT A1 Hymettus 2 February 1917.

The HMAT A1 Hymettus weighed 4,606 tons with an average cruise speed of 11.5 knots or 21.3 kmph. It was owned by the British India SN Co Ltd, London, and leased by the Commonwealth until 15 May 1917.

The ensuing individual soldier's embarkation information contains the following details:

Rank on embarkation;

Full name of the soldier

Declared age of the soldier;

The last occupation held;

The last address as a civilian;

Enlistment Date; and,



Finding more about a service person.

See: Navigating the National Archives Service File 


Embarkation Roll


16992 Private Peter KNUDSON, a 40 year old Farmer from Gootchie, Queensland. He enlisted on 20 April 1916; and at the conclusion of the war Returned to Australia, 5 March 1919.


16993 Private John McAULLY, a 24 year old Public Servant from Gympie, Queensland. He enlisted on 8 January 1916; and at the conclusion of the war Returned to Australia, 22 July 1919.


16991 Private Frederick SMITH, a 30 year old Teamster from Mooloolah, Queensland. He enlisted on 8 February 1916; and subsequently Returned to Australia, 15 November 1918.


Previous:  23rd Reinforcement

Next: 25th Reinforcement


Sources Used:

National Archives Service File.

Embarkation Roll, AWM8, Class 10, Light Horse.

Nominal Roll, AWM133, Nominal Roll of Australian Imperial Force who left Australia for service abroad, 1914-1918 War.

Collected Records of Steve Becker.


Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Steve Becker who provided much of the raw material that appears in this item.


Further Reading:

2nd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance, AIF

2nd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance, AIF, Embarkation Roll, 24th Reinforcement

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 29 March 2010 8:07 PM EADT
Australian Horse, History Part 3
Topic: Militia - LHN - 3/11/7


Australian Horse

History Part 3, 1901-12

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).


1st Australian Horse, Part 3


The following text is extracted from and article written by R. J. Marrion and R. L. Campbell called 1st Australian Horse which first appeared in the March 1981 edition of the magazine, Military Modelling.


Australian Horse camp at Constitution Hill, 1899

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




The Regiment at various times provided mounted escorts to Lord Hampton, Lord Hopetown and Lord Beauchamp as visiting State Governors and on various other official occasions. On 1st January, 1901, the Regiment was present at the installation of Lord Hopetown at Sydney as Governor General of the United Commonwealth of Australia. A detachment were sent to Melbourne in May, 1901 to take part in the inauguration of the Federal Parliament by HRH The Duke of Cornwall and York and participated in the Prince's review. On 28th May 1901, whole Regiment marched past HRH and the Duchess in a big review held near Sydney, and on the following day two travelling escorts were furnished by the Regiment to the Royal Party, followed by two further periods of escort duties.

On 1st July 1903, C Squadron was transferred to the NSW Mounted Rifles and D and E Squadrons were detached to form a new unit styled the 6th Australian Light Horse (Australian Horse). A and B Squadrons, together with Headquarters and the band, were to continue in the Regiment which was redesignated the 3rd Australian Light Horse (Australian Horse); a squadron from the NSW Mounted Rifles was transferred to the Regiment to bring it up to four-squadron strength. Colonel Mackay remained in command of the Regiment and Lord Beauchamp was appointed Honorary Colonel of both the 3rd and 6th Regiments. Special permission was obtained for the 3rd Regiment to retain their Myrtle Green uniforms and, with the exception of the 1st New South Wales' Lancers and the 2nd New South Wales' Mounted Rifles, managed to evade the universal khaki uniforms of the light horse; although khaki was worn for field work.

On 14th November, 1904, the Regiment received the King's Standard which was presented by the Governor General at Melbourne; this was awarded by King Edward VII to all overseas regiments that had served in the Boer War; and it was in October of this year that Colonel Mackay retired. In May 1908, the Honour "South Africa 1899 - 1900" was granted to the Regiment and a machine-gun and "pom-pom" section was formed. On 1st July, 1912, the Regiment was again retitled being designated the 11th Light Horse (Australian Horse) and the old Myrtle Green uniform was finally discontinued, although the old regimental badge continued in use. The new uniform was the ubiquitous khaki, relieved only by a white puggarree on the slouch hat. The new Regiment had an establishment of 405 men, including 25 officers.


Previous: Australian Horse, History Part 2 

Next: No further entries


Further Reading:

3rd/11th/7th Australian Light Horse

Militia Light Horse, New South Wales

Australian Militia Light Horse


Citation: Australian Horse, History Part 3

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 4 July 2010 12:03 PM EADT
Thursday, 11 November 2004
New South Wales Lancers, Reorganised 1900 to 1912
Topic: Militia - LHN - 1/7/1


New South Wales Lancers

History, 1900 to 1912

New South Wales Lancers [1885 - 1903]
1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1903-1912]
7th (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1912-1919]
1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse [1919-1929]
1/21st Australian Light Horse [1929-1935]
1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment [1936-1942]
1st (Royal New South Wales Lancers) Armoured Regiment [1942-1948]
1st Royal New South Wales Lancers [1948-1956]
1/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers [1956- ]

[The elephant's head used on the badges is taken from the family crest of Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales from 1885 - 1890 and was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment from 1885 until 1928.] 

Tenax in fide - Steadfast in Trust

 South Africa 1899 - 1900

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


The following history is extracted from Vernon, PV, ed., Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885 to 1985, Sydney 1986, pp. 63 - 79.


Chapter 4 Reorganised 1900 to 1912

The opening of the new century found the New South Wales Lancer Regiment a unit widely known and held in high repute within and beyond the confines of its own State. The leadership of such men as Colonel M. M. Macdonald, Lieut-Colonel James Burns, Major W. L. Vernon, and other officers who were held in high regard in civil as well as in military life, had infused in the ranks a fine spirit of pride in their regiment, loyalty to their leaders and a readiness to devote much of their time to the service which they had chosen as their hobby. Moreover, the unit had had for some years the advantage of the experience of instructors from the British Army, most of whom had seen active service, and its training had benefited greatly from the work of these men. As an instance of the amount of time the trooper was expected to devote to regimental duties, the Parramatta Half-Squadron, in the late nineties, held two night parades per week which all ranks were expected to attend; in addition, on being admitted into the regiment as a trained soldier after his six months' training in the recruits, a man was expected to make himself available for parades whenever called. Public interest in the Lancers was comparatively high and many were the tournaments and displays expected of them, such as at the annual Sydney Highland Gathering on New Year's Day.

From about December 27 1900, the Lancers, as part of the Mounted Brigade, were encamped at what was then the Moore Park Rifle Range, Paddington, in connection with the inauguration of the Commonwealth and the attendant celebrations. On January 1 1901 there was a monster military procession from the Domain to Centennial Park where the first Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, was to be sworn in. Interest and colour galore were added by the presence in the procession of representative detachments of 27 British and 24 Indian units and corps, each in their own particular full dress uniform. The Governor-General himself was escorted by a squadron of the N.S.W. Lancers, half from Sydney, half from Parramatta, under Major W. L. Vernon, Captains J. Spencer Brunton and F. H. King, and Lieutenant R. C. Mackenzie.

The overseas detachments included 155 British and Indian cavalrymen. As the Aldershot squadron had drawn 110 horses from the British cavalry for their training while in England, Colonel Burns saw an opportunity for a return gesture arid, on behalf of the regiment, offered to horse the visitors during the month they would be in Sydney. He was promptly backed by Captain Charley of Richmond who undertook to find 20 horses, Mr Tulloch of Scone, 10, and Major Taylor of Lismore, 12. For the remainder he looked to each half-squadron to bring extra mounts when they came to camp-mounts of not less than 152 hands; "if we get many light horses they will have to be given to the Indian cavalry who usually ride very light animals". Hopes of a profitable sale after the camp was over were apparently not realised; in a letter to the assistant adjutant-general Colonel Burns mentioned that "the regiment horsed nearly 200 of the visiting mounted troops at considerable expense", and elsewhere he referred to the "considerable loss".

In May 1901 the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) visited Melbourne to open the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. New South Wales and the other States sent military contingents to represent them in Melbourne, Major W. L. Vernon being in command of the N.S.W. Mounted Brigade's detachment of 215 all ranks, which included the Lancer band. Later, His Royal Highness toured New South Wales; in Sydney the Lancers provided escorts for him on several occasions as did the Australian Horse on others; also the Newcastle Half-Squadron of Lancers had a similar privilege when he visited their city.

In 1902, from March 28 to April 1, the regiment carried out continuous training in three groups. No. 5 (Lismore-Casino) Squadron camped at Lismore; No. 4 (Maitland-Singleton) Squadron, the Newcastle Half-Squadron and the band camped at Newcastle; Nos 1, 2, 3 and 6 Squadrons, with "A" Battery, constituted a "flying column", which after concentrating at Parramatta, carried out a trek for three days.

At this period Captain George L. Lee, who had commanded the active service squadron in South Africa with the rank of major, was staff officer (i.e. adjutant), N.S.W. Lancers. Captain Timothy was acting-adjutant while Captain Lee was overseas, and again for a period in 1902. Captain (Brevet-Major) M. A. Hilliard, D.S.O., was appointed staff officer as from September 12 1902.

The Lancers, less Nos 4 and 5 Squadrons and Newcastle Half-Squadron, camped at Clarendon Racecourse, near Richmond, with portions of the Mounted Rifles and Australian Horse Regiments from April 10 to 14 1903. The northern detachments held their camps again at Lismore and Newcastle.

In 1901 the responsibility for defence passed. from the States to the Commonwealth Government. But the complete reorganisation was not put into effect until July 1 1903. Formerly, some of the units had been Volunteers, receiving no pay for their services; some had been Militia, as they were known in Victoria, or Partially Paid Corps, as they were known in New South Wales. In the latter colony the Lancers and the Mounted Rifles had been on the Partially Paid List since 1890, and the 1st Australian Horse since 1900. From 1903 all the mounted regiments were placed on a militia footing. They became organised and trained as light horse, or mounted rifles, which type of unit had achieved great popularity during the South African War and was championed by Major-General Sir Edward Hutton, Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. The light horse role was the one to which most of the Australian regiments were already accustomed, exceptions being the Lancers and the 1st Australian Horse, which were both cavalry - the term "cavalry" here being restricted in meaning to "horsemen possessing, in addition to their fire-power, an 'arme blanche', and trained in shock action mounted". Prior to 1903 the designation "mounted infantry" had been used by some units which were really light horse. As these two terms are sometimes confused, definitions derived from Sir Edward Hutton's foreword to the Mounted Service Manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry, 1902, are given:

Light Horse, or Mounted Riflemen -

horsemen trained to fight on foot. They are required (a) to fight on foot offensively and defensively, (b) to perform reconnoitring and screening duties, (c) to afford protection from surprise for all bodies of troops, both halted and on the march. To fulfil their role successfully they must be, among other things, daring and bold horsemen, careful horsemasters, and possessed of both cohesion and individuality.

Mounted Infantry -

infantry soldiers temporarily provided with increased powers of locomotion, organised either as sub-units of infantry battalions or as larger units so as to form adjuncts to an independent mounted. force for the performance of purely infantry service. The personnel must be carefully selected infantry soldiers who have been thoroughly trained in all respects as such. They will be required to carry out a limited amount of reconnoitring and scouting duties.

It is agreed that the term "light horse" in its most general application has a wider meaning than that in the definition above; for instance, it may include "light cavalry" and "light dragoons".

During 1902, while details of the new organisation were being worked out they were under much discussion and aroused considerable misgivings within the regiment, as shown by letters between squadron officers and between squadron leaders and Colonel Burns. There was apprehension about the name of the regiment being changed, the regiment being split into two and the assumed abolition of the lance due to the troopers having to carry rifles on their backs. The regiment did not see eye to eye with Sir Edward Hutton in these matters and Colonel Burns expressed his views strongly to Sir Edward. However, by the end of the year plans were fairly well settled and Colonel Burns wrote to his officers explaining the plans and reminding officers that it was their duty to carry out the wishes of the State and Federal general officers commanding. He went on: "A report has been received from Captain Purves [Captain J. M. Purves, quartermaster, an original member of the Sydney Light Horse, 1885.] who kindly attended the Commonwealth Clothing Board in Melbourne. If the present Lancer Regiment is retained in two battalions and we are allowed to follow the English lancer regiments in the carrying of the rifle, then the whole difficulty of the position disappears and I assume that all would gladly and loyally adhere to the regiment with which many of us have been so long and so happily associated." In Captain Purves's report he summarised a long conversation he had had with Sir Edward Hutton in Melbourne, in which a number of aspects of the reorganisation were touched on. ". . . I told him that we were all very much averse to the division of our regiment, which you in particular together with many others had done a great deal to bring to a high state of efficiency and which it must be allowed had made a considerable name for itself, and so sever a connection between the officers and men that was dear to us all; also that we were very much against the name being changed as in that way we would lose our identity.... If it was insisted that the rifle should be carried on the backs of the men we would lose a large proportion if not the majority of the troopers.... With regard to the sword he absolutely condemned it and I told him that as far as the Lancers were concerned we would be very willing to give it up." At that time Sir Edward had not decided how the rifles would be carried; he had the small mounted infantry bucket in mind - "It would depend very much upon the mode adopted by English cavalry."

In due course the expansion of the three regiments in New South Wales into six light horse regiments was effected, the primary weapons being Lee-Enfield magazine rifles and bayonets; for tradition's sake the Lancers retained lances and swords for ceremonial and tournaments, and the Australian Horse retained swords. The six regiments, with designations and headquarters as under, were grouped in two brigades, namely:

1st Australian Light Horse Brigade (Colonel J. Burns)
1st A.L.H. Regiment (N.S.W. Lancers), Parramatta (Lieut-Colonel W. L. Vernon)
2nd A.L.H. Regiment (N.S.W. Mounted Rifles), Sydney (Lieut-Colonel J. W. Macarthur-Onslow)
3rd A.L.H. Regiment (Australian Horse), Goulburn (Lieut-Colonel J. A. K. Mackay, C.B.)

2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade (Colonel H. B. Lassetter, C.B., from 1904)
4th A.L.H. Regiment (N.S.W. Lancers), Maitland (Major W. C. Markwell)
5th A.L.H. Regiment (N.S.W. Mounted Rifles), Lismore (Lieut-Colonel C. E. Taylor)
6th A.L.H. Regiment (Australian Horse), Armidale (Lieut-Colonel H. B. Lassetter, C.B.)

Territorial designations of the regiments in the 2nd Brigade were altered in 1907 to:

4th A.L.H. - Hunter River Lancers
5th A.L.H. - N.S.W. Northern Rivers Lancers
6th A.L.H. - New England Light Horse

Each of the three pre-Federation regiments thus lost some of its centres to the new units. The Hunter River and Northern Rivers squadrons of the Lancers went to the 4th and 5th A.L.H. Regiments respectively.

A standard pattern of uniform for each arm and service was introduced and the principle was that the soldier would be provided with a service uniform for general use, and a full or ceremonial dress, by the addition to the service dress of aiguillettes or breastlines, girdle, plastron (according to the type of unit) . For light horse the service uniform was brown with white facings, with which were worn bandolier equipment, 1903 pattern, and tan leather leggings. Photographs show, however, that the 1st A.L.H. Regiment was still using the old pattern of bandolier up to 1909. The new uniforms only gradually replaced the old Lancer service dress with red piping but by 1906 the regiment was equipped throughout with the new. The 3rd continued to use the Australian Horse myrtle green uniform and both the 1st and 3rd continued to use their existing regimental full dress which they maintained, in respect of other ranks, from regimental funds, while officers provided their own.

From 1903 the squadrons of the 1st were: No. 1, Sydney; No. 2, Parramatta; No. 3, Robertson and Berry; No. 4, Richmond and Windsor. The total establishment of headquarters and four squadrons was 310 of all ranks; in addition were the band at Parramatta and attached, from 1905, No. 5 (Albion Park - Shellharbour) Squadron of garrison mounted troops.

Camps of eight days' duration were held annually in March or April - 1904 and 1905 at Clarendon, 1906 at Liverpool, 1907 at Casula. Those in 1904 and 1907 were brigade camps.

On November 14 1904, on the occasion of the King's Birthday Royal Review in Melbourne, the Governor-General presented King's Colours by direction of His Majesty to each of the 18 regiments of Australian Light Horse, the Royal Australian Artillery and the Australian Army Medical Corps. The party which proceeded to Melbourne to receive the colours on behalf of the Lancers consisted of Brevet Lieut-Colonel C. F. Cox, C.B., Regimental Sergeant-Major G. E. Morris, D.C.M., and Squadron Sergeant-Major J. S. Dooley.

In 1908 His Majesty approved of the grant of the honorary distinction "South Africa" to a number of light horse and infantry regiments, and to the Victorian Rangers, with the years in which the unit was represented in that country during the war by not less than 20 men.

The following were included:

1st A.L.H. Regt (N.S.W. Lancers) – “South Africa, 1899, 1900-1-2".
2nd A.L.H. Regt (N.S.W. Mounted Rifles) – “South Africa, 1899, 1900-1-2".
3rd A.L.H. Regt (Australian Horse) - "South Africa, 1899, 1900".
4th A.L.H. Regt (N.S.W. Lancers) – “South Africa, 1899, 1900-1-2".
5th A.L.H. Regt (N.S.W. Mounted Rifles) – “South Africa, 1899, 1900-1-2".
6th A.L.H. Regt (Australian Horse) - "South Africa, 1899, 1900".

Military Order No. 123 stated: "Instructions have been received that the Banners presented to the Australian Light Horse Regiments, Royal Australian Artillery, the Victorian Rangers and the Australian Army Medical Corps are not King's Colours, but honourable insignia of valuable services rendered in South Africa in 1899 to 1902, and the Honorary Distinctions are not to be borne upon these Banners." The wrong term stuck, however, and in 1924, when the banner of the New South Wales Lancers was being deposited in St John's Church, Parramatta, it was officially and continually referred to as a "King's Colour".

At the Royal Review in Melbourne in 1904, already referred to, the Governor-General presented a challenge trophy to representatives of the Australian Light Horse regiments on behalf of the Prince of Wales, Colonel-in-Chief of the 18 regiments. This trophy became known as the Prince of Wales Cup. It was competed for first in 1906, in which year it was won by a troop of the Hawkesbury (4th) Squadron of the Lancers. The team consisted of Captain Brinsley Hall, a sergeant and 12 other ranks. The cup was not won again by the Lancers until 1931.

Lieut-Colonel Cox became commanding officer on 1 October 1906.

The annual band allowance had been cut down from £250 to £150 when the Commonwealth took over in 1903. This did not mean any lessening of enthusiasm, however, as the entirely voluntary attendance of the band members at the camp of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade (then under Colonel W. L. Vernon) at Anambah in 1907 amply proved. The bandmaster at that time was Sergeant Watters, and as neither he nor his men received any pay for their attendance all present felt that in spite of certain inevitable changes the true spirit of service remained unshaken in the regiment. At this Anambah camp there was an elimination contest to decide which troop would represent the 2nd Brigade in the Prince of Wales Cup competition. The Tenterfield Troop of the 6th A.L.H. was chosen and went on to win the final and the cup; it was commanded by Captain J. M. Reid who later served as a squadron leader in the 1st Light Horse Regiment, A.I.F., and was killed at Gallipoli.

In 1908 the Ulladulla Half-Squadron of garrison mounted troops, formerly attached to the 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment, was attached to the 1st. Also in 1908 approval was given to raise a pom-pom section and a Colt machine gun section, which latter had its orderly room at Artarmon for a while.

The 1st and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigades were to have gone into camp together at Liverpool from April 28 to May 7 1908. Owing to an exceptionally severe drought, however, the Railway Commissioners were obliged to notify the military authorities that the rolling stock necessary for the movement of troops would not be available, the trucks being required for starving cattle. This was very unfortunate for the light horse, as the dates of the camp had been fixed months before, and officers and men had made their business arrangements to enable them to get away for that period.

An extract from the Report on the Annual Continuous Training of the 1st and 2nd A.L.H. Brigades, issued with District Order 124 of 1908, reads:

An opportunity, however, of effecting the concentration offered itself soon after, when the announcement of the visit of the Fleet of the United State of America to Australia was made, and the General Officer Commanding, immediately called upon the Brigadiers to advise him whether the regiment under their commands would be enabled, at that time of the year (i.4 August) to muster for a period of twelve days Continuous Training. , The Brigadiers later informed the General Officer Commanding that the ... were assured of a good attendance....

The camp, therefore, was arranged for the period extending from August 11 to 22. But on the latter date the division was to route march to Sydney for the Fleet celebrations until August 25, so that the concentration really lasted for two weeks and one day.

With the exception of the Sydney, Parramatta and Hawkesbury Squadrons of the Lancers who marched in by road, the troops arrived during the night of August 10-11 by 14 troop trains.

Commanders and some of the staff personnel were:

G.O.C. Division: Brig.-General J. M. Gordon, C.B. (State Commandant).
A.A.G. & C.S.O.: Lieut-Colonel C. F. Bartlett.
D.A.A.G.: Lieut-Colonel C. G. H. Irving.
D.A.Q.M.G.: Major Wallace Brown.
Chief Instructor: Lieut-Colonel G. L. Lee, D.S.O. (late N.S.W. Lancers).
S.M.O.: Lieut-Colonel T. H. Fiaschi, D.S.O. (late R.M.O., N.S.W. Lancers).
P.V.O.: Major A. P. Gribbin.


Commander: Colonel J. W. Macarthur-Onslow, A.D.C..
Brigade Major: Major J. S. Brunton (N.S.W. Lancers).
Instructional Staff Officer: Captain R. C. Holman, D.S.O..
1st A.L.H.: Lieut-Colonel C. F. Cox, C.B..
2nd A.L.H.: Major A. J. Onslow Thompson.
3rd A.L.H.: Lieut-Colonel G. de L. Ryrie


Commander: Colonel W. L. Vernon, V.D. (late N.S.W. Lancers).
Brigade Major: Major P. P. Abbott.
Orderly Officer: Captain F. C. Timothy (N.S.W. Lancers).
I.S. Officer: Captain C. H. Brand.
4th A.L.H.: Lieut-Colonel W. C. Markwell.
5th A.L.H.: Major F. G. Fanning.
6th A.L.H.: Lieut-Colonel the Hon. R. Carrington, C.V.O., D.S.O. [Lieut-Colonel the Hon. Rupert Carrington (Zulu War, 1879; South African War, 1901-02), brother of Lord Carrington, honorary colonel of N.S.W. Lancers, whom he succeeded in 1928 as the 4th baron.]

Localities from which the six regiments were drawn:

1st A.L.H.
Attached (not in camp) -
Albion Park

2nd A.L.H.
Attached (not in camp) -

3rd A.L.H.

4th A.L.H.
West Maitland
Raymond Terrace

5th A.L.H.
(No. 4 Squadron not yet formed)

6th A.L.H.
Glen Innes

The strength of the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment in camp was 285, and of all six regiments, 1,655.

The camp syllabus included, inter alias brigade drill, brigade tactical schemes and field firing, divisional tactical scheme, inspection by Governor-General on Macquarie Fields, August 17, field manoeuvres in which one brigade was pitted against the other, divisional drill and evening lectures to officers and non commissioned officers.

The field firing was part of the tactical scheme which was carried out by the two brigades on successive days. The ranges varied from 800 yards down to 650 yards for one regiment, to nearly 1,000 yards for another. The 1st Australian Light Horse gained the highest percentage of hits to rounds fired, though it must be stated that they shot under easier conditions. Finally, there was practice with the pom-poms and Colt guns then on issue. It was the first time these had been used by the light horse, and the performance left much room for improvement.

The review of the division by the Governor-General, attended also by the State Governor, Sir Harry Rawson, was a fine spectacle, but witnessed by only a handful of onlookers. It was a very raw day, and the wind blew the music back into the instruments of the massed bandsmen. At the conclusion of the review, Lord Northcote accepted an invitation to dine with Colonel Onslow and the officers of 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, while Sir Harry Rawson had dinner with Colonel Vernon and the officers of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade.

It is interesting to note that the Australian Horse (3rd A.L.H.) still held by their traditional myrtle green uniform for service dress, exchanging rifle for sword when in "review order", whereas the other regiments all used khaki.

The Prince of Wales (later King George V) being the Colonel-in-Chief of the 18 regiments of Australian Light Horse, the two brigadiers sent the following cablegram to him:

H.R.H. Prince of Wales, London.

New South Wales Brigadiers first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth regiments Australian Light Horse send loyal greetings to their Colonel-in-Chief and appreciate the affiliation of Empire Regiments.

Onslow, Vernon, Brigadiers, Sydney.

The reply received on August 18 read:

Brigadiers Onslow Vernon Australian Light Horse, Sydney.
My sincere thanks for kind greetings of my six regiments. George P.

The affiliation referred to in the first cable was the affiliation of the six New South Wales regiments with the "King's Colonials, Yeomanry", announced in the Commonwealth Gazette, June 20 1908. The King's Colonials, whose headquarters were in London, consisted entirely of colonials. The first regiment to affiliate was the 8th (Princess Louise's) Hussars of the Canadian Militia. Mr Crawford Greene of landra, Grenfell, who was largely responsible for the New South Wales affiliations, took advantage of this affiliation to train with the 2nd Brigade during his stay in Australia, and Colonel Vernon attached him to his staff during the 1908 camp.

On August 19 manoeuvres were carried out in which, for the first time in Australia, one mounted brigade was pitted against another. The manoeuvre area was bounded on the north and west by George's River, on the east by the South Coast Railway and on the south by the catchment area. The ground was a great rectangular area of, say, 200,000 acres, the whole being rough and rugged and intersected by a river and several creeks. The 2nd Brigade moved during the preceding day to bivouac sites at and near Helensburgh, while the 1st Brigade remained at Liverpool; the main bodies were thus 18 miles apart at the zero hour. The 2nd Brigade advanced according to plan and pressed back the forward parties of the 1st Brigade, despite a very good ambush laid by 3rd A.L.H. Regiment; later there were fierce encounters at close quarters and galloping melees. Blood was up on both sides and when the time limit was reached the 1st Brigade was spiritedly resisting the onslaughts of the 2nd Brigade, but the latter had won the day.

The next day was a quiet one in camp; the horses were in need of a rest. Of 800 horses in the 2nd Brigade, 150 were suffering from colds. Then followed, on August 22, a night march from Liverpool to Sydney, where the division re-encamped at Moore Park in connection with the United States Fleet visit.

Three escorts were provided on August 21, when the official landing and public reception to the U.S. Navy representatives took place in the Outer Domain. Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Poore, Commander of the Australian Squadron of the Royal Navy, was first to arrive, with an escort of Australian Horse. The Governor-General and State Governor followed with a New South Wales Lancer escort and, finally came Rear-Admiral Sperry, U.S. Navy, with Mounted Rifles escort.

The following day the review provided a fitting climax to the period of training which the six regiments had just undergone, and as a spectacle of its kind this review is never likely to be equalled in Sydney. A press report gives a glimpse of the scene: "On the right of the front line were the British tars in serviceable blue and the red marines. Then came the Commonwealth Naval Brigade and on their left the long line of Americans - 2,600 United States marines and sailors. In the centre of the line proudly waving in the breeze were the Star - Spangled Banner and the blue flag of the Admiral. Behind the visiting contingent stretched the long line of light horse. They had just completed a fortnight's hard training and looked fit for anything. But they were now out for show. On the flank the fluttering red and white pennons, red breast and puggarees and white pouch-belts showed where the 1st A.L.H. had been transformed into Lancers. In the centre of the line the myrtle green of the Third Regiment and the flashing sabres told where the Australian Horse had become cavalry by substituting swords for their rifles. On the right of the cavalry were the Australian Field Artillery. Behind were the four Australian infantry regiments, the R.A. Artillery, Garrison Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Army Medical and Army Service Corps. In the rear were the six regiments of volunteers - the red tunics and kilts of the Scottish Rifles, the khaki of the Australian Rifles, the red of the St George's Rifles, the green of the Irish Rifles, and the Sydney University Scouts." In front were the massed bands, including those of the N.S.W. Lancers and the Australian Horse.

The reviewing officer was the Governor-General, while the parade was commanded by Brigadier-General J. M. Gordon. The following figures are extracted from the Field State of the review:

1st Australian Light Horse Brigade - Brigade Staff - 4 men.
1st Australian Light Horse Regiment - 354 men.
2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment - 306 men.
3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment - 304 men.

2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade - Brigade Staff - 3 men.
4th Australian Light Horse Regiment - 293 men.
5th Australian Light Horse Regiment - 187 men.
6th Australian Light Horse Regiment - 306 men.
Total Light Horse - 1,757 men.
Grand total, all arms and services - 13,228 men.

After the whole parade had been inspected and had marched past, the light horse marched past at a trot and finally the dismounted troops advanced in review order. In the afternoon the mounted units marched through the city, and on the next day there was a military gymkhana at the Royal Agricultural Showground, at which the 1st Regiment won three out of five events open to the light horse.

When the new Governor-General, the Earl of Dudley, arrived in Sydney on September 9 1908, the Lancers provided the usual escort. In fact, the Sydney Squadron was so frequently called upon to provide a vice-regal escort that it could provide one at 24 hours' notice. It was only a matter of notifying the men, who were well drilled and needed no rehearsing.

In those days the militia were paid for eight days' home training and eight days in camp each year. As the Light Horse camp which was to have been held in April 1908 had been cancelled, the funds earmarked for it were paid back into the Treasury, and the Fleet camp in August was paid from the vote for 1908-09. As it was a longer camp than usual, a correspondingly less amount of money was available for home training during the rest of the year and the training suffered to some extent. Press cuttings show that there was a good deal of indignation at this. Many considered that the unspent money for the year 1907-08 should have been carried forward, and because of the shortage of funds the Light Horse had no camp from August 1908 until January 1910. Schools of instruction for N.C.O's, however, were held under Captain C. H. Brand, Instructional Staff.

Field Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, G.C.B., O.M., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., arrived in Australia in 1909, at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, to inspect the existing military forces and system in Australia, and give the Government the benefit of his experience and advice regarding its latest scheme of defence. The main feature of this scheme was that every able-bodied citizen, within certain age limits, should be trained to defend his country. And in due course this principle was adopted.

Lord Kitchener visited military camps in every State. The assembly of troops in those camps was arranged to meet his convenience, and, although the season was not, perhaps, the most suitable for either the men or their employers, good musters were obtained everywhere.

The "Kitchener Camp" for New South Wales troops, excluding certain garrison units, was held at Liverpool from January 5 to January 12 1910. It was attended by the 1st and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigades, field and garrison artillery, engineers, 1st Australian Infantry Brigade (four regiments), Intelligence Corps, Signal Corps, Army Service Corps, Army Medical Corps, Army Veterinary Corps and the Volunteer Automobile Corps. Special District Order No. 5, February 14 1910, records inter alia the following attendances:

1st Australian Light Horse Brigade Staff: Establishment - 4 men; Strength at date of camp - 4 men; Average daily attendance - 3 men.
1st A.L.H. Regiment: Establishment - 390 men; Strength at date of camp - 364 men; Average daily attendance - 325 men.
2nd A.L.H. Regiment: Establishment - 346 men; Strength at date of camp - 321 men; Average daily attendance - 262 men.
3rd A.L.H. Regiment: Establishment - 310 men; Strength at date of camp - 297 men; Average daily attendance - 262 men.
1st Australian Light Horse Brigade Totals: Establishment - 1,050 men; Strength at date of camp - 986 men; Average daily attendance - 852 men.
2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade: Establishment - 862 men; Strength at date of camp - 822 men; Average daily attendance - 636 men.

The normal establishment of a light horse regiment was 310, and there were four squadrons. In the case of the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment there were the attached garrison mounted troops making two extra squadrons (No. 5, Albion Park-Shellharbour; No. 6, Ulladulla), while the 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment had Canterbury (garrison) , which accounts for their higher establishments.

Lord Kitchener spent two days in the camp. Arriving on the morning of January 6, he went almost immediately to see the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade at field-firing which was being carried out as a tactical exercise with the necessary attached troops, in the country towards Appin. Then he returned by motor car to the vicinity of the camp to watch the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade at drill, the infantry, artillery and others.

On the following day all units in camp combined in manoeuvres under the direction of Lord Kitchener. The general idea was that all available troops (a "Brown" force) were ordered to follow up the advantage gained on the previous day when the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade had pursued the enemy towards Eckersley. The "enemy" turned out at 2 a.m. to get into position; it comprised a convoy of transport waggons and its escort of one squadron 1st A.L.H. Regiment, two infantry companies and two guns. At 5.30 a.m. the "Brown" force main body left camp, advanced through the rough bush south of Greenhills and in due course attacked the reported convoy on each flank with a light horse brigade and frontally with the infantry. It was a good morning's training, with the usual accidents such as breakdown of lateral communications in the rough, broken country.

Lord Kitchener was noted for seeing all and saying nothing - or next to it. It has been said that the sphinx-like field marshal paid only one compliment on his first day in the camp. While the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment was drilling he rode between the squadrons, watching the movements for a moment. "How long have these men been drilling together?" he asked Lieut-Colonel Markwell. "This is the first time since August 1908, sir," was the reply. "They are doing it excellently," he said, his wandering eye ranging far over the commanding officer's head, as he shook his horse into a canter.

An interesting experiment was carried out in conjunction with the tactical exercise of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade on Monday, August 10. The project being tested in camps at this time was one by which it was hoped to overcome the serious difficulty of providing transport for the mobile divisions. It involved the enlistment of the sympathies of civilian owners of horses and carts in country military districts who would, for a nominal annual retainer, provide transport for the units of the defence force in their own localities. Each owner was to be asked to provide horses, vehicles and drivers, and to place them under the direction of the military authorities during the period of mobilisation for which they were engaged.

For the test at Liverpool, the small mixed convoy available was loaded up for the purpose of the trek with anything that came handy, from an engine boiler to half a ton of firewood or a few bags of forage. It first made a rendezvous with the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment at Flat Rock Crossing on Harris Creek, and then, as part of the tactical exercise, worked its way back to Liverpool by a different route. Rough bush tracks with short, steep hills of sand and rock were negotiated. But some of the country drivers were used to worse than that. One lightly-loaded, four-horse waggon came to grief over a log, and a long delay occurred while a broken pole was patched up. On service, with an enemy in attendance, that waggon would have been a source of much trouble. This incident showed that civilian transport was too light in its make to stand up to service conditions. Had these waggons and carts been fully loaded, they would never have got up the Irving Avenue hill without assistance.

After this day's test it was decided that the civilian transport scheme would not, in practice, measure up to army requirements.

On the final day of the camp there were combined manoeuvres. The 1st Infantry Brigade and 1st A.L.H. Regiment had to defend Liverpool against the remainder of the two light horse brigades. The attacking force came from the direction of Eckersley, and some hot fighting ensued, especially around Greenhills. The work was instructive in so far as it gave the light horse a chance to operate in rough and unknown country. It also gave the infantry an opportunity to defend a four-mile front against an enemy of mobile mounted riflemen. But it finished unsatisfactorily. When the time limit was reached at 12.45 p.m., the invaders' main force had not come in contact with the defenders. Had the light horse started from the camp that morning at 4 a.m., instead of 6 a.m., there would have been time for a decision to be reached. Either the main body of the attackers, nearly five regiments strong, which was being thrown in a wedge against the defenders' centre, would have won through in their dash for Liverpool, or they would have been held by the defenders whose reserve, the 4th Australian Infantry Regiment, was in a handy position.

In February 1910 Lieut-Colonel W. C. Markwell, V.D., retired from command of the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment after 25 years' service. He joined as a trooper at Maitland on August., 2 1885, and his son, Captain Jack Markwell, was in 1939 serving in the same regiment, the 16th Light Horse (Machine Gun) Regiment. Another old lancer relinquished his command when Colonel W. L. Vernon was transferred to the Unattached List or August 11 1910. He was succeeded as commander of the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade by Lieut-Colonel the Hon. Rupert Carrington C.V.O., D.S.O.

The officers of the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment in 1910 were:

Honorary Colonel: Earl Carrington, P.C., G.C.M.G.
Lieut-Colonel C. F. Cox, C.B.
Major R. McEvilly, V.D. (who was later offered command)
Major R. C. Mackenzie, Adjutant (C.O., 1911-14)
Captain Brinsley Hall
Captain James McMahon (C.O., 1914-21)
Captain F. E. Stowe
Captain C. D. Fuller (C.O., 6th L.H., A.I.F.)
Captain W. T. Charley
Captain E. A. K. Hudson
Captain E. A. Blow
Lieutenant J. D. Wood
Lieutenant R. Bruce Walker
Lieutenant J. Milling
Lieutenant L. D. Phillips
Lieutenant H. V. Vernon (C.O., 1921-26)
Lieutenant P. Connolly
Lieutenant A. J. Mills (C.O., 1926-27)
Lieutenant J. Dooley
Lieutenant J. H. Warby
Lieutenant H. F. R. Dunstan
Lieutenant K. L. Mackenzie
Lieutenant J. Raftery
Lieutenant W. Cox
Lieutenant C. R. Dunster
Lieutenant J. C. Allison
Medical Officer: Captain P. Fiaschi [Hon. Colonel P. Fiaschi, O.B.E., V.D., a son of Hon. Brig.-General T. H. Fiaschi.]

Mention should be made of the New South Wales Lancer Association which was formed in the nineties, and which was a flourishing institution up to 1914. Each squadron formed its own branch and every member was expected to become and remain a financial member. Its activities included the organising of social functions, the managing of a benevolent fund for the benefit of men injured during camps, and the provision of extra amenities during camps. One of its services was the engagement of the chef of Paris House, a Sydney restaurant of class, to cook for the men in camp; the chef would assume, for the duration of the camp, the name of some trooper who was unable to attend. The annual Lancer Ball of each respective squadron was a function of note in those days, those held at Paddington Town Hall (by the Sydney Squadron) and at Parramatta being of particular interest. Portion of "Bobs Hall" (so named after Lord Roberts) at the Lancer Barracks, Parramatta, was turned into a comfortably furnished "common room" for the "other ranks" with the assistance of the Lancer Association.

Regimental camps were held in 1911 and 1912 at Liverpool, and during 1911 troops were formed at Penrith and Luddenham. The organisation of the regiment then became:
1st Squadron - Sydney
2nd Squadron - Parramatta
3rd Squadron - Berry, Robertson
4th Squadron - Richmond, Windsor, Penrith
5th Squadron - Albion Park, Shellharbour, Ulladulla
6th Squadron - Penrith, Luddenham

During the camp of 1911, recalls Bandsman L. C. Wellings (later town clerk of Manly for 35 years) , it was customary for First Post to be announced by the firing of a field gun and Last Post to be sounded by the trumpeters. However on one night the gun, having been loaded, was fired by wireless from a distance of 50 yards or more, which in those times was a truly novel feat - so much so that some to whom the phenomenon was new were at first inclined to suspect trickery until an explanation was given. During the same camp there was another incident which was of historic interest. W. E. Hart, Australia's first certificated aviator, flew his aeroplane, a Bristol biplane, from Parramatta to the camp, which was the first flight made in connection with a military camp or operation in Australia. As a precaution against the possibility of a stampede all ranks were required to stand to their horses on the approach of the aeroplane.

On 1 October 1911 Lieut-Colonel C. F. Cox, C.B., was placed on the Unattached List and Major R. C. Mackenzie was given command of the regiment.

Previous: New South Wales Lancers, South African War

Next: New South Wales Lancers, 1912 to 1919


Further Reading:

1st/7th/1st (New South Wales Lancers) Australian Light Horse

New South Wales Lancers, Boer War Contingent

Militia Light Horse, New South Wales

Australian Militia Light Horse


Citation: New South Wales Lancers, Reorganised 1900 to 1912

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 1 July 2010 1:59 PM EADT

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