The 2nd contingent, strength 262, all ranks, under Colonel Price, sailed on the Euryalus on 13th January, and having arrived at Cape Town on 6th February, was on the 12th entrained, with the object of joining General Clements, but Colonel Price received a message to get out and hold Hanover Road, between De Aar and Naauwpoort, as the Boers were swarming down into the country behind Clements' left rear. With great smartness positions were selected, and put into a defensive state.
Lord Roberts commenced his advance from Modder River on 11th February, but it was quite fourteen days before that movement had any apparent effect on the vigour of the enemy in Central Cape Colony. On the 20th the Boers again attacked from all sides, Clements' position being almost surrounded, but the attacks were driven off and the whole of the ground held. On the 20th Clements brought up the 2nd Victorian contingent from Hanover Road, and he also got some additional artillery, notably two 5-inch guns, with which he was able to cope with the long-range cannon of the Boers. The 2nd Victorians were instructed to hold a position at Elandsfontein, ten miles west of Arundel. Clements now took the initiative, and made an endeavour to regain some of the ground he had lost. On the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th there was a great deal of fighting, but the British failed to drive the enemy from any of his main positions. Both contingents of the Victorians were engaged on these days. The plight of Cronje at Paardeberg, and the need of concentrating their troops to protect Bloemfontein, were at last influencing the Boer leaders in Cape Colony, and on the 27th a reconnaissance proved that the enemy were weakening their hold on the Rensburg position, and on that day they were driven from the town. On the 28th Colesberg was occupied by the Australians. In the latter town the officers of the 1st and 2nd contingents of the Victorians had their first opportunity of meeting: the stress of affairs during the previous fortnight, with the incessant hard work and fighting, had prevented any communication between the two detachments. During the first days of March there was much skirmishing and scouting in all directions. The advance guard between 1st and 15th March was generally 4 guns, 4th Battery RFA, 1 squadron Inniskilling Dragoons, 100 Victoria MR, Captain M'Leish, a squadron West Australians, and a company of Regular Mounted Infantry. On 3rd March a fine bit of reconnaissance and some bold fighting was done by 20 Victoria MR, Lieutenant Thorne, and 30 Inniskillings, Lieutenant Paterson. On the 4th the 1st Victorian contingent and the West Australians had a sharp fight in which they drove off the enemy, whose losses were heavy: 8 were buried. On the 5th the 2nd contingent moved out to Reitfontein and there joined the Tasmanians. Clements now moved forward his troops towards Norvals Pont, where the railway bridge crosses the Orange River. On the 7th a party of officers and some men, including Captain M'Leish of the Victoria MR, rode down to the south bank of the river, and were fired at by the enemy on the opposite side. By the 12th the artillery had been got into position, and the ground held by the Boers on the north bank was carefully searched. If the Boers had stood it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for a force such as General Clements had to have fought their way across the river. Preparations were, however, made for the formation of a pontoon bridge: the railway bridge had been blown up. Before daylight on the 15th some companies of infantry from the Worcestershire, Bedfordshire, and Berkshire Regiments were ferried across the river: the enemy did not seek to prevent their landing on the opposite bank. By twelve o'clock in the day the pontoon bridge was completed, and the Inniskilling Dragoons, followed by M'Leish's company of the Victoria MR and Legge's company of the New South Wales Mounted Infantry, crossed. On the 16th General Clements continued his advance northwards. For the march to Bloemfontein he divided his force into three columns: the 2nd Victorians, "under the personal command of Colonel Price, had the honour of forming the mounted portion of the advance guard to the main column, and therefore led the way". The Westralians and South Australians were in the right column, under Major Dauncey, and the remainder of the Australian Regiment, including the 1st Victorians, were in the left column, under Major Slee. The columns marched via Philippolis, Jagersfontein, Fauresmith, and Petrusburg to Bloemfontein, which was entered by General Clements' troops on 4th April.
Before advancing from Bloemfontein Lord Roberts reorganised the Mounted Infantry or Mounted Rifles as they were very often called; and the Victorians were put into Colonel Henry's Mounted Infantry, the Fourth corps, which worked as screen and scouts to the centre of Lord Roberts' great force in the advance to Pretoria. The Victorians took their share of the work. On 30th April, when Lord Roberts was clearing the ground for his advance northwards, Lieutenant and Adjutant Lilley of the Victorians was severely wounded and taken prisoner, and they suffered other casualties. Lieutenant Lilley was found in Brandfort when the troops entered the town four days later. Henry's men had much fighting on this march, particularly at and immediately after the crossing of the Vaal, and outside Pretoria. Their good work was referred to by Lord Roberts, and was most highly praised by various correspondents who were present.
After Pretoria was occupied the Victoria MR were employed on the outpost line to the east and north-east of the capital. They were present at the battle of Diamond Hill, 11th - 12th June. On 20th June it was announced that Captain M'lnerney had been appointed Her Majesty's Advocate in the New High Court at Pretoria: an honour to his corps as to himself. During the first half of July the contingents were often engaged and several times suffered loss. Henry's Mounted Infantry, including the Victoria MB, South Australians, and Tasmanians, were in Lord Roberts' advance along the Delagoa Railway, first to Middelburg, which was occupied on 27th July, and starting thence on 21st August to the Portuguese border. They had fighting several times during the long march, particularly near Balmoral and in the neighbourhood of Belfast. All through this eastern advance the troops of Hutton and Henry did remarkably fine work.
General French with his regular cavalry and some Colonials having been directed to move on Carolina and Barberton far south of the direct line to Komati Poort, Hutton's Colonials, now including Brabant's Horse, Alderson's Canadians, and Henry's men were the only mounted troops in the last stage of the great eastern movement—that is, between 9th September and the 24th, the day on which Henry's men, including the Victoria MR, entered Komati Poort. There immense quantities of rolling-stock, provisions, and war stores were found. The Victoria MR were present at the big review by General Pole-Carew at that place on 28th September. In October they were brought away from that unhealthy neighbourhood, and later to Pretoria, where, on the 15th of that month, Lord Roberts inspected and congratulated on their work the 1st contingents of the Victorians, South and West Australians, and Tasmanians. Before the end of November most of the men of the 1st contingents had entrained for Cape Town en route for home.
In Lord Kitchener's telegram of 6th December 1900 he mentioned that 28 men of the Victoria MR were part of the escort of a convoy which was attacked on the Rustenburg road on 3rd December: "The escort took up a position on some kopjes, and fought with great gallantry". The Boers succeeded in setting fire to one half of the waggons, but the other half was saved. So determined were the enemy, that some were killed by case-shot within fifty yards of the guns.
About the middle of January 1901 a party of this contingent, the 2nd, under Captain Umphelby, made a good capture of cattle from the enemy near Rustenburg. A detachment was present under Brigadier General Cunningham in a severe engagement at Middelfontein on 24th January. They continued for some time to work in the district west of Pretoria.
On 31st March 1901 Captain Kirkby, with what remained of the 2nd contingent, sailed for home.
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'
See the forum posts on the VMR,