Sir G A French informed the War Commission that the total of the various contributions from Victoria was 3757, all ranks.
The 1st contingent sailed on the Medic on 20th October 1899. By desire of the War Office it was limited to one company of mounted rifles and one company of infantry: the latter was mounted in January 1900.
On arrival at Cape Town the 1st contingent was sent to De Aar. About the beginning of January the mounted squadron was with General Babington, assisting to protect the communications of Lord Methuen. On 8th January Babington, with the 9th and 12th Lancers, Victoria MR, and 'G' Battery, made a reconnaissance to Ramdam in the Orange River Colony; but although they took part in various expeditions of this kind, both to the east and west of the railway, the Victorians did little real fighting in this neighbourhood. The infantry unit, under Captain M'lnerney, formed part of the Australian Regiment, and during December and January was stationed about Enslin and Belmont, and other points on the line between Orange and Modder Rivers. Towards the close of January it was decided to mount the whole regiment. They were taken to Naauwpoort, Central Cape Colony, and there received horses. The original mounted squadron, under Captain M'Leish, entrained at Belmont on 31st January, and also came on to Naauwpoort. In this district both squadrons did fine work under General Clements, at a time when good work was greatly needed. About 3rd February they were ordered to hold positions beyond Maeder's Farm, near Colesberg, on the extreme left of the line which the British were holding, and which was at that time nearly twenty-five miles long. A detachment was part of the garrison of "The Windmill Posts of Hobkirk's Farm and Bastard's Nek, two most risky posts". After General French and his cavalry had left the Colesberg district to undertake the relief of Kimberley the Boers became very aggressive, and on 10th February they fiercely attacked the positions held by the Victoria Mounted Rifles, who were driven from part of the ridges, losing 3 killed and several wounded.
On the 12th the fighting in this neighbourhood was most severe, especially on the right flank, where the Worcestershire Regiment and Tasmanians held the position, and on the left, where the Victorians, South Australians, and Inniskilling Dragoons were posted. These troops were hardly pressed, and lost heavily. Speaking of the attack on Pink Hill on the British left, 'The Times' historian, vol iii p 466, says: "The position was now held by a company of Wiltshires and some 80 to 100 Victorians and South Australians, under Major Eddy, Victoria MR, some 200 men in all. So rapid was the Boer advance that it threatened not only to annihilate the detachment on Pink Hill, but also to rush Windmill Camp and endanger the Coleskop and Kloof positions. But the force on Pink Hill made so determined a stand that it was not till 3 pm that the Boers secured the hill, too late in the day and too exhausted themselves to follow up their success. The main credit of the defence of Pink Hill belongs to the Australians, who, inspired by the splendid gallantry of their commander, hung on to the very last, most heroically covering the withdrawal of the infantry from Pink Hill and Windmill Camp. Their losses amounted to nearly 40 per cent of their strength. Of their officers, Eddy and two others were killed, the remaining two severely wounded. As an exhibition of resolute courage on the part of comparatively untrained troops, this performance of the Australians is well worthy of mention".
The account of this engagement given by Major Reay in 'With the Australian Regiment' is in terms practically similar to the foregoing. He states the garrison of the hill as 50 Victoria MI, 25 Victoria MR, 20 South Australians, 50 Inniskillings, 50 of the Wiltshires, while close at hand were 2 guns, 75 of the Victoria MR, 80 of the Bedfordshire Regiment, and about 40 NSW Mounted Infantry, Major Eddy of the Victorians being in chief command. Up to the moment of his death he was, quite regardless of the very heavy fire, moving about, placing and encouraging his men. General Clements highly praised the fine stand made by the Victorians and Wilts, the troops who were most heavily engaged, and issued a complimentary order placing "on record his appreciation of the spirit and determination of the troops in the operations 9th to 14th February. The powers and endurance of the troops were fully taxed, and they well sustained the strain". The stand which was made at Pink Hill enabled the artillery to get down their guns from the lofty Coles Kop.
In addition to their leader the Victorians lost Lieutenant Roberts, died of wounds, 6 non-commissioned officers and men killed, Captain M'lnerney, wounded and taken prisoner, Lieutenant Tremearne and about 20 men wounded. Many acts of gallantry on the part of individuals are mentioned in Major Reay's account of the fighting.
On the 13th the Boers did not renew the attack, but the numbers of the enemy in the Colesberg district were seen to be so overwhelmingly superior that General Clements decided on a midnight retirement from the positions in front of Rensburg to Arundel. During this movement, which commenced shortly before midnight on the 13th, the Victoria MR protected the right flank and formed the advance guard; Captain Moor's West Australians were the left flank guard; Inniskillings and South Australians the rear-guard. A company of New South Wales Mounted Infantry were escort to the ammunition column. For two days and two nights the fighting had been almost incessant, and the men had got practically no rest or sleep, but when on arrival at Arundel it was found that two companies of the Wiltshire Regiment had been left behind, many of the Australians volunteered to go back and assist the unfortunate infantrymen. Captain Lascelles, South Australians, took back a party, and assisted a detachment of the Bedfordshire Regiment to gain the camp; but the two companies of the Wiltshires had been cut off and surrounded by a large body of Boers, and after holding out for some time they were forced to surrender.
Click on the icon to read the account of this unit from Lt Col P L Murray's 1911 'Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa'