The 7th New Zealand Mounted Rifles, along with the 6th Queensland Contingent, were, shortly after their arrival, put into the column of Lieutenant Colonel Grey, afterwards of Colonel Garratt, which operated in the Eastern Transvaal, and also in the north-east of the Orange River Colony. In May 1901 the strength of the 7th was 489 officers and men, 504 horses, and 1 machine-gun. During May the column, then under Colonel Grey, worked in the Standerton district, "capturing many armed Burghers". During June there was constant skirmishing, and both corps suffered casualties on many occasions. At Blesbokspruit, on the 6th, the 7th lost 3 killed and 1 wounded. On 11th June Colonel Grey's troops had a sharp brush near Kaffir's Spruit, in the Ermelo district, in which they killed 1 and took 13 of the enemy (see despatch of 8th July). About the end of June Colonel Garratt took over the column, which moved to Springs, east of Johannesburg. From Springs Garratt advanced towards the south-east, and on 13th July surprised and captured a laager at Kopjiesfontein, on the right of the Vaal. On the 21st two Boer convoys were sighted, one on each side of the river; both were ridden down and captured: "11 Boers were killed or wounded, 25 prisoners; 34 waggons, 31 carts, and 1240 cattle were captured". After a fight near Lindique Drift on the 22nd, Garratt's force co-operated in some driving operations under General Elliot, in the north-east of the Orange River Colony (see despatch of 8th August). About this time casualties were frequently suffered. Lieutenant Trotter and several men were wounded between 13th and 24th July.
In August Garratt's column made substantial captures at Bultfontein on the 12th, and on the 18th he detached 330 mounted troops under Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable H White, who at dawn on the 19th completely surprised Spannerberg's Laager, taking 25 prisoners, including Mr Steyn, Landdrost of Vredefort, 31 rifles, and much transport. Lord Kitchener noted that White's men covered 56 miles in 36 hours. At daylight on the 24th 3 Boers were killed, 8 taken prisoners, and again many waggons and Cape carts were captured. The enemy, numbering about 300, made a determined attempt to retake their convoy, but after five hours' fighting they were driven off. In this affair the 7th lost Lieutenant Leece and Sergeant Major Love killed, and Lieutenant Whiteley and Sergeant Major Lockett and one man wounded. On the 28th another night march was undertaken, and a laager attacked, when 13 prisoners, including General Delarey's nephew, Piet, were taken, besides rifles, ammunition, and horses. Garratt, on 5th September, entrained at Vereeniging en route for the Wakkerstroom district, in the extreme east of the Transvaal. His column continued to work in that district during the latter part of September, and throughout October and November. Casualties were not infrequent at this time. Between 17th and 21st October both corps had losses, including Captain Henry of the 7th New Zealand, wounded on the 21st. In the beginning of December Garratt marched to Newcastle, up Botha's Pass, and through the Drakensberg, in order to cover the making of block-houses in that corner of the Orange River Colony. This task having been completed, the column was, with that of Colonel Dunlop, put under the command of Colonel the Hon J H G Byng, who with his own troops, chiefly the South African Light Horse, had been doing very fine work. On 2nd February 1902 Byng heard of a Boer convoy, and at once pursued (see South African Light Horse). "The New Zealanders and Queensland Imperial Bushmen at once charged the enemy's rearguard with the greatest dash and gallantry, while the SALH rushed the centre with equal bravery". Three guns, 26 prisoners, including two captains and a field-cornet, 150 horses and mules, and 750 cattle were taken: 5 Boers were killed and 8 were wounded in this engagement. After this all the columns in the district made a big drive towards the railway, which ended on 8th February, when it was found that 300 prisoners had been taken. (See despatch of 8th February.)
In a few days another great concerted movement was undertaken. This time the column moved eastwards towards the Drakensberg. The troops, widely extended, swept forward during the day, searching all hiding-places; at night the vast length of line was entrenched. It was during this drive that the New Zealanders were to gain great glory, and, as a matter of course, pay the heavy price. The words in Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th March 1902 are: "On the night of the 23rd a most determined and partially successful attempt to break out to the north was made by De Wet, Steyn, and some 700 of their followers, who had been driven east by Major General Elliot's advance to the Wilge River into the net of our approaching columns. The attack was delivered under cover of darkness at Langverwacht, 18 miles south of Vrede, the point where, at the moment, the right of Colonel Byng's column was in touch with Colonel Rimington's left. Here again, as on the occasion of his previous escape, De Wet adopted the plan of advancing under cover of a large mob of cattle, which were rapidly driven up by natives to the point where the rush through was to be attempted. This expedient met, it is true, with a part of the desired success, for there is little doubt that De Wet, Ex-President Steyn, and a number of their men thus managed to break out of the toils. As a whole, however, the Boer force was very severely punished by the New Zealanders of Lieutenant Colonel Garratt's column, who displayed great gallantry and resolution at a critical moment in resisting and in part repelling the attack. The conduct of the New Zealanders upon this occasion reflects the highest credit upon all ranks of the contingent, and upon the Colony to which it belongs. Nothing could have been finer than the behaviour of the men. The whole of the Boer cattle and vehicles were captured, and 31 of the enemy, together with over 160 horses, were killed at the point where the attempt to penetrate our line was made. Our own casualties were also severe, 2 officers and 18 men being killed, and 5 officers and 33 men wounded, the large majority of whom belonged to the New Zealand Contingent". In each of his telegrams of 25th and 28th February, Lord Kitchener referred to the very great gallantry of the 7th New Zealanders. In his wire of 1st March Lord Kitchener added, "All men worked day and night continuously, and, although tired, are in the best of spirits at satisfactory results obtained".
The officers killed were Lieutenants Harold, L Dickinson, and William George Forsythe, and those wounded, Lieutenants James A Colledge, Stapleton Cotton Gaulton, Charles O Phair, W H Wilson, and Dennis A Hickie, all of the 7th contingent. Twenty-two non-commissioned officers and men were killed and about 36 wounded. This loss it must be remembered fell almost entirely on the men in the outpost line, about 80.
The drive, which was the most fruitful of the many operations of that nature, resulted in 778 prisoners of war, 25,000 cattle, 2000 horses, 200 waggons, and 50,000 rounds of ammunition, and about 50 Boers killed.
During March 1902 Garratt's men took part in further drives in the Orange River Colony, and in April in a concerted movement of many columns from the Standerton line to the Delagoa railway and back. The latter, however, were not fruitful, few of the enemy being seen. On 22nd May the corps, reduced by a year's service from 650 to 370, sailed from Durban for home. On the journey to the coast they had the gratification of being addressed at Newcastle by their own Premier, Mr Seddon, whose efforts to assist the Empire had not been excelled by those of any other Briton—home or colonial.