This contingent, 1000 strong, sailed on 15th February 1901, and on the same day there embarked at Melbourne 250 Victorians as volunteers for the Scottish Horse. Soon after landing the 5th contingent were taken to the Transvaal.
In May and June 1901 the 5th Victorian MR were operating in the Eastern Transvaal under General Beatson. On 7th May they had sharp fighting at Rhenoster Kop, when Captain John Kelly and Lieutenant Johnston and 1 man were killed and 3 men wounded. On the 25th they had Lieutenant W S Wedd and several men wounded. On 12th June the corps met with a mishap—one of the very few incidents of that nature, we might say the only one, happening in connection with any of the oversea Colonials. The words of Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th July relating to this affair are as follows: "On 6th June General Beatson again moved out to the junction of the Olifant's River and Steenkool Spruit to operate round that locality on his way to Bethel. While encamped at Van Dyck's Drift on the 10th, he detached a force of four companies Victorian Mounted Rifles, with two pom-poms, under Major Morris, to act against a small force of the enemy reported at Boschmanfontein. The detachment reached its destination and found the laager evacuated. On the 12th General Beatson sent instructions to Major Morris to combine with him at dawn on the 13th in an attack on another body of the enemy reported to be at Elandsfontein. The detachment bivouacked on the evening of the 12th at Wilmansrust. At about 7.30 pm a body of the enemy which, in the darkness, had evaded the outposts, crept up close to the bivouac, opened a heavy fire, stampeded the horses, and after a few minutes rushed the camp. The pom-poms were captured and removed. Two officers and 16 men were killed and 4 officers and 38 men wounded: a number of the men were made prisoners, but shortly afterwards released. General Beatson received information of this reverse at 1.30 am on the 13th: leaving his baggage under the guard of his infantry, he set out at once with all available mounted men and arrived at Wilmansrust shortly after daybreak. The Boers, however, had moved off again immediately after the action and were out of reach. General Beatson therefore concentrated his force at Koornfontein. The column then moved east and came in touch with General Blood's troops at Hartebeestspruit, north of Ermelo, on the 19th. General Beatson's force proceeded to Middelburg, a few days later, to refit. The results of his operations from the 6th to 19th June were as follows: Boers killed and wounded 16, prisoners 23, rifles 160, ammunition 10,850 rounds, 58 waggons and carts, besides some stock".
It may be noted that the detached force, although consisting almost entirely of Victorians, was put by General Beatson under the command of Major Morris, an artillery officer. Captain Watson of the 7th Battery Royal Field Artillery, and Surgeon Lieutenant Palmer of the Victorians, were the officers killed, and Captains Righetti and J H Patterson, and Lieutenants Dallimore and Henwood, were those wounded. It was subsequently intimated that Lieutenant S Sherlock was also wounded.
The appendix to this despatch shows that Beatson's column was composed of 5th Victorian MR, 740; 9th Battery Royal Field Artillery, 4 guns; 2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 366; 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, 178; 26th company Royal Engineers, 20th Field Hospital, 26; and the 84th company Army Service Corps, 18.
It was reported that General Beatson said some ungenerous things about the Victorian MR. It serves no purpose to rake up these disagreeable matters. Words which should never have been uttered may have been spoken in haste, but at all events the subsequent service of the corps showed that they were capable of, and did carry out, very fine work.
The despatch of 8th September mentions that, in consequence of a reported concentration of the enemy in the south-east of the Transvaal, several columns were, in August, thrown into that district,—among others that of Colonel Pulteney. The latter consisted of the Victorian MR brought round from Brugspruit, on the Delagoa line, a squadron of the 8th Hussars, the Dublin Fusiliers MI, and 2 guns. On 8th August there was fighting, in which Lieutenant S Selman and some men of the Victorians were wounded; and Lord Kitchener mentioned in his despatch that "on the 23rd August Lieutenant Colonel Pulteney had a sharp engagement with the enemy on the west side of the Schurveberg, in which the Victorian MR had 2 men killed and 5 wounded". Near Vryheid, on the 27th, Lieutenant S R Coulter was killed and 3 men were wounded.
The Victorian MR continued almost till the close of the war to march and fight in Pulteney's column in the south-east of the Transvaal and along the Zulu-land border. The corps suffered casualties on several occasions during that period, as on 5th November 1901, when Lieutenant H Chrisp and 2 men were killed and 5 wounded. On this occasion Major Fraser had taken out 150 Victorian MR to surround a farm. The enemy was in strength, but 2 were killed and 12 captured: 70 horses were also secured. The conduct of this detachment was much praised. Lieutenant G J Bell and some men were wounded on 4th January 1902 and Lieutenant O'Reilly on 5th March. Speaking of the work of the troops in this district, Lord Kitchener expressed appreciation of the cheerful manner in which they underwent the hardships of incessant marching by day and night in extremely wet weather, and in perhaps the most difficult piece of country in South Africa. The columns did not see a tent on many occasions for seven and eight weeks at a time. Pulteney's column had endless skirmishing, and always came out of all difficulties with distinction. They did not get the opportunities of making large captures which fell to some other forces, but they contributed to the defeat of all Botha's attempts to reinvade Natal. On 3rd April 1902 the corps embarked at Durban for home.