NZ2 Mounted Rifleman, Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
On 28 September 1899, two weeks before war in South Africa was declared, Richard Seddon in the New Zealand Parliament proposed that a contingent of mounted rifles be offered to the British Government for service in the war. The proposal received overwhelming support in New Zealand and was quickly accepted by the British War Office. There was no shortage of volunteers, and farewelled by a crowd exceeding 40,000 the First Contingent of 214 men and their horses left Wellington on 21 October. During the war New Zealand was to send ten contingents totalling nearly 6,500 men with 8,000 horses.
The first three contingents took part in the British operations of 1900 against the main Boer armies. In January at Slingersfontein some of the First Contingent held a hill top salient against an assault by superior Boer forces and in one of the few hand-to-hand engagements of the war dispersed the Boers with a bayonet charge. The hill was named New Zealand Hill in their honour. They further distinguished themselves at Santa’s Post, Diamond Hill and Rhenoster Kop.
With the British eventually controlling the main towns and railways the second phase of the war moved to the veldt or open country in pursuit of bands of Boer guerillas. Enlistment for one year had been hard with the men continuously on the move, and lightly equipped with minimal supplies. The initial contingents were brought home to huge civic receptions and replaced with the Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Contingents, the seventh being engaged in February 1902 in a severe action at Langverwacht.