|The raising of this famous Australian Regiment was due to the
vision and untiring efforts of the enthusiastic Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth
Mackay who, as a Captain, obtained permission from the New South Wales
Government to travel the country districts with a view of enlisting the best
horsemen in the Colony into his Regiment, the 1st Australian Horse.
enrolments took place at Murrumburrah on 28 August 1897 and by 20th November,
recruiting throughout the country districts was completed with 3,000 eager
applicants ready and willing to join the Regiment. Detachments were formed at
Murrumburrah, Gunnedah, Gundagai, Quirindi, Mudgee, Scone, Michelago, Boggabri,
Cootamundra, Braidwood, Lue, Wallendbeen and Bungendore.
||This German-made 75 mm
light field gun was captured by the NSW Mounted Rifles at Rensburg
Drift on 27 October 1900.
The Australians were part of a force commanded
by Major-General C. Knox which caught the Boers led by the wily
General Christian de Wet at a drift on the Vaal River.
|Although the Boers broke
free during a blinding rain and thunder storm that night their
rearguard only just escaped and was forced to abandon two guns.
'General Knox had asked for permission for the NSW men to take
their captured gun back to Sydney. It is a fine specimen of
Krupp's best 12-pounder. Truly a grand trophy for the brave
lads to bring back with them'.
In order to keep the widely scattered detachments at equal
strength, only 400 men were selected and a capitation allowance of five pounds
was granted by the Government to cover preliminary expenses. Captain Mackay was
gazetted Commanding Officer and raised to the rank of Major, and a few months
later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was fortunate to have as
his second in command Captain A. F. H. Ferguson, formerly of the 2nd Life
Guards, who, with a few N.C.O.s of previous military experience set about
training the new recruits in the fundamentals of cavalry drill. They were soon
joined by Lieutenant R. R. Thompson, an authorised drill instructor, who
contributed much to smartening up the eager recruits. They were eager indeed,
for many a part-time Trooper would have to ride forty or so miles to attend a
five hour drill, then ride forty or so miles home again, on the same horse.
Graves of two men who were among the last of the 1st
Light Horse Regiment killed in the Middle East campaign. Even in death
the regiment regarded the soldier and his horse as a team.
The first challenge of the Regiment's efficiency arose at the Easter camp of
1898 at Milkman's Hill, when news was received that Major General G. A. French,
who had previous service in command of Canada's North West Mounted Police,
Commandant of the New South Wales Defence Force, was to inspect the regiment.
Fortunately the long awaited uniforms and necessary equipment and swords arrived
the day before inspection and the 1st Australian Horse paraded four Squadrons
and a mounted band. Although they had never drilled together before, they passed
muster well, thanks to the efforts of Captain Ferguson and Lieutenant Thompson,
who put the Regiment through their paces just a half hour prior to the
inspection. An Imperial British officer spoke of the Junior Regiment of Cavalry
as grand fellows, fine riders, and hard as nails - the horses are unsurpassed
for the endurance and staying power.
||The 1st Australian Horse proved a spectacular sight in their
All buttons and badges were generally black, but were later changed to
brass. The brass badge featured a kangaroo and emu supporting a shield
emblazoned with the cross of St George and five stars of the Southern Cross, with a carbine and sword crossed in front.
These were secured by
a boomerang with the motto "For hearths and homes".
A scroll with the
words "Australian Horse" adorned the top of the shield and was
supported by the shoulders of the kangaroo and emu. see
The myrtle green slouch hat
was turned up at the left hand side and featured the regimental badge. It was
ornamented by a black puggaree and black cock's plume.
Officers wore dress and
undress tunics of myrtle green, the dress tunic being similar to that of the
Rifle Regiments, with black mohair braid around the collar, tunic front and the
seams at the back, the cuffs featuring black corded Austrian knots, while the
front of the tunic was decorated with frogging, terminating in black net caps,
and fastening with black olivettes. Breeches were myrtle green with double black
stripes along the outside seams.
| The black leather shoulder belt and pouch
featured the Regimental badge, surrounded by a wreath of
Waratahs.>>> The black
leather sabretache also featured the Regimental badge. Black leather gloves and
black hussar pattern riding boots and spurs completed the uniform.
wore the undress jacket similar to officers undress, which was single breasted,
myrtle green with black facing. Breeches were to match and were worn with black
ankle boots and puttees. Hats the same for officers. The shoulder belt was of
plain black leather with pouch, featuring the Regimental badge.
||By 1898, the strength of the Regiment was increased to 628 men and because
of their green appearance on parade, they became known by the nickname "The
Irish Guards" or the "Undertakers''.
While still a Volunteer Regiment,
in addition to supplying officers and men to the various Bushmen's Contingents
to the Boer War, two detachments of the Regiment under Colonel Mackay served as
Australian Horse in the cavalry division under General Sir John French during
the South African campaign.
They fought and rode hard, suffering many casualties
in men and horses, during the forty-five engagements of the campaign, which
included Pretoria, Belfast, Driefontein, Diamond Hill, Paardeberg, Johannesburg
and Kimberly. Their last action was at Heidelburg, before returning home.
| The Regiment was raised from a Volunteer Force to the partially Sergeant paid
system in 1900. The historic Federation year of 1901 was a busy one for the 1st
Australian Horse, they being required to parade and take part in reviews and
private escorts to many visiting State Governors and celebrities.
They took part
in the inauguration of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne in May 1901 and on the
28th of that month, they whole Regiment paraded past Their Royal Highnesses the
Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in Centennial Park, Sydney, and provided
many escorts for the Royal personages in the days that followed.
Now part of the Commonwealth Military Forces, on 1 December, 1903, the
Regimental title and structure was changed. It became the 3rd Australian Light
Horse (Australian Horse).
|Note the SINGLE collar badge and the
absence of any plume >
trooper from 1st Australian Horse. Photo taken in Sydney.
A Squadron of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles from
Bega was attached to the 3rd Australian Light Horse to bring it up to strength.
Colonel Mackay, C.B., remained in command of the Regiment and the Governor, Lord
Beauchamp, was appointed Honorary Colonel of both the 3rd and 6th Light Horse
Regiments. Permission was obtained to retain the myrtle green uniforms and, like
the New South Wales Lancers and the New South Wales Mounted Rifles, they managed
to evade the introduction of the new universal khaki uniform for quite a time.
On 14 November 1904, the Regiment received the Kings Standard and Colonel
Mackay, after giving seven years of tremendous service to the Regiment he
created, retired. In May 1908, the honour South Africa 1899-1900 was added for
services rendered during the Boer War campaign, and a Pom-pom and Machine Gun
Section was formed within the Regiment. When a Trooper defied regulations and
polished the black enamel from his brass buttons and badges to smarten up his
appearance, his initiative so impressed the Commanding Officer and his Adjutant
that an order was issued on 22 December 1908 for all ranks to follow suit.
However, their glory was short-lived as, with a reorganisation of the Military
forces, the Regiment's title was changed to the 11th Light Horse (Australian
Horse) and the wearing of the old myrtle green uniform was discontinued and
replaced by the new universal pattern.