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1st Australian Regiment


Colonel John C Hoad, (Commanding Officer, 27 Nov. 1899 -- 7 April 1900)

  • Enrolled at Cape Town: 26 November 1899

    • Commanding Officer: Colonel J. C. Hoad, Victoria 

    • 2 IC: Major G. A. Eddy, Victoria (Killed in Action, 12 February 1900, Rensburg)

    • 1 Company Mounted Rifles, Victoria

    • 1 Company Infantry, Victoria

    • 1 Company Infantry, South Australia

    • 1 Company Infantry, Western Australia

    • 1 Company Infantry, Tasmania

    • 1 Company Infantry, NSW

  • Strength of Regiment: 716, and 3 Maxim guns

This was the first time a Regiment was formed for active service comprising troops representing the Colonies of Australia.

Victorian Mounted Rifles entraining for the front at Cape Town under Table Mountain. This unit formed the core of the pre-Federation 1st Australian Regiment which included nearly all the Australian Colonial forces then in  South Africa.


<< Privates Percy Dargie (seated) and John Edge of 5 Victoria Mounted Rifles at Vryheid in 1901. Photo provided by Dargie's g/daughter in-law Brenda Dargie.
John Victor O'Farrell. He earned a QSA medal (shown wearing) and KSA, with clasps for Transvaal, Orange Free State & Cape Colony. Photo provided by grand niece Lynette Prislan.>>


  • Victorians killed in action
  • At Jasfontein, 9 February 1900 
    • William J. Lambie, Senior Military Correspondent Melbourne Age, attached to the Regiment

  • At Rensburg, 10 February 1900 
    • No. 2 Sgt. N Grant (see below)
    • No. 74 Pte A. H. Willson
  • Sergeant Neil Grant died from bullet wounds in the chest. Trooper A.H. Willson, quick to go to his aid, was killed instantly as he bent over the wounded man. Grant was shot by a young boy using a sporting rifle, the weight of the Mauser being too much for him. The second shot came from the boy's father who shot Willson in the head. Within full view of the parent a Dragoon then shot the son dead. 
    The immediate reaction of grief and dismay of the father caused him to bound from cover to his feet completely oblivious to his danger. In a matter of seconds he fell riddled with bullets from every Lee Metford levelled at him.
    SOURCE: Wallace R.L.: The Australians at the Boer War: AWM & AGPS: Canberra: 1976: p.111.
    • At Rensburg, 12 February 1900
      • Major G. A. Eddy (see below)
      • No 4 Cpl. A. Ross
      • No. 55 Pte C. E. Williams
      • No. 89 Pte T. Stock
    Major Eddy, while retiring with his men at Rensburg, brought them forward again to cover the retreat of the 2nd Bn. Wiltshire Regiment and was killed. He was born at Castlemaine, Victoria, in 1860. Photo kindly provided by Rob Drooglever.
    BATTLE OF RENSBURG (Hobkirk's Farm "Pink Hill"), 12 February 1900
    Account by a Boer prisoner to a correspondent of the Daily Mail of the trap into which the 2nd/Worcesters had fallen and the attempted rescue of them by the Australians under Major Eddy, at Hobkirk's Farm, near Colesburg, 12th February 1900.
    I saw a long row of their dead and wounded laid out on the slope of a farmhouse that evening - they were all young men, fine big fellows. I could have cried to look at them so cold and still. They had been so brave in the morning, so strong, but in the evening a few hours later they were dead, and we had not hated them nor they us.
    It was a cruel fight. We had ambushed a lot of the British troops - the Worcesters, I think they called them. They could neither advance nor retire; we had them penned in like sheep, and our field cornet, van Leyden, was beseeching them to throw down their rifles to save being slaughtered, for they had no chance. Just then we saw about a hundred Australians come bounding over the rock in the gully behind us. There were two great big men in front cheering them on.
    We turned and gave them a volley, but it did not stop them. They rushed over everything, firing as they came, not wildly, but with the quick sharp upward jerk to the shoulder, the rapid sight then the shot. They knocked over a lot of our men, but we had a splendid position. They had to expose themselves in order to get to us, and we shot them as they came at us. They were rushing to the rescue of the English. It was splendid but it was madness.
    On they came and we lay behind the boulders, and our rifles snapped and snapped again at pistol range but we did not stop those wild men until they charged right into a little basin which was fringed around all its edges by rocks covered with bushes. Our men lay there as thick as locusts, and the Australians were fairly trapped. They were far worse off than the Worcesters up high in the ravine.
    Our field cornet gave the order to cease firing and called on them to throw down their rifles or die. Then one of the big officers -- a great rough-looking man, with a voice like a bull, roared out "forward Australia! no surrender!" These were the last words he ever uttered for a man on my right put a bullet clean between his eyes and he fell forward dead. We found later that his name was Major Eddy, of the Victorian Rifles. He was as brave as a lion but a Mauser bullet will stop the bravest. His men dashed at the rocks like wolves; it was awful to see them. They smashed at our heads with clubbed rifles or thrust their rifles up against us through the rocks and fired. One after another their leaders fell. The second big man went down early, but he was not killed. He was shot through the groin, but not dangerously. His name was Captain McInerney.
    There was another one, a little man named Lieutenant Roberts; he was shot through the heart. Some of the others I forget. The men would not throw down their rifles; they fought like furies. One man I saw climbed right on to the rocky ledge where big Jan Aldrecht was stationed. Just as he got there a bullet took him and he staggered and dropped his rifle. Big Jan jumped froward to catch him before he toppled over the ledge, but the Australian struck Jan in the mouth with his clenched fist and [he] fell over into the ravine below and was killed.
    We killed and wounded an awful lot of them, but some got away; they fought their way out. I saw a long row of their dead and wounded laid out on the slope of a farmhouse that evening - they were all young men, fine big fellows. I could have cried to look at them so cold and still. They had been so brave in the morning, so strong, but in the evening a few hours later they were dead, and we had not hated them nor they us.


    Cape Town, South Africa, C.1900. Maxim one pound automatic gun, called a "Pom Pom" captured from General Cronje at Paardeberg in 1900.  (Donor T Collins)
    Colonel Sir George Bell was born in Sale Victoria on 29 November 1872. He joined the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1892. Was a member of the contingent representing that colony at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee visiting England in 1897. Went to the Boer War in 1899 as a member of the 1st Australian Regiment and served later in 5VMR until 1902. He rose to the rank of Captain, February 1901. 
    George was severely wounded at Bakkop on 4 January 1902. He was mentioned in despatches London Gazette 29/07/02 and awarded DSO London gazette 31/10/02. He also received the Queen's medal (QSA) with six clasps and the King's medal with two clasps.

    (L to R) Captain TSL O'Reilly DSO, Lt Leslie Maygar VC, George Bell DSO. Photo by Duffus Bros. Cape Town and Johannesburg, c. 1901


    He went to live in Tasmania in 1904. Joined the 3rd Light Horse Regiment at the outbreak of WW1 1914. Served in Gallipoli, and commanded the 3rd regiment in Sinai and Palestine as Lieut. Col. Also acting Brigadier of 1st. Light Horse Brigade during 1917.
    Again mentioned in despatches and awarded CMG 1917. He returned to Tasmania July 1919.Stood for Federal election November that year for seat of Darwin N.W. Tasmania. Held that seat with one break (1922-1925) until 1943. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1934-1940 and was given the honorary rank of Colonel in 1933. Colonel Bell was knighted in 1941.
    His first opponent when he stood for parliament in 1919 was Joe Lyons then standing for the Labor Party. Bell won the election, the only person to ever beat Lyons at an election. After Lyons's defection from Labor and the success of the United Aust. Party at the elections of 1932 George Bell was elected Chairman of Committees.
    George Bell resigned his seat prior to the federal election in 1943. At the election Dame Enid Lyons stood for the seat of Darwin and became the first woman member of the House of Representatives. He died on the 5th of March 1944 and was given a state funeral.

    Information and photo kindly provided by his proud grandson George Bell

    Much of this information came from Defending Victoria


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