This contingent, 2 squadrons, 260 all ranks, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Watchorn, VD, with Captains T A Spencer and C Henderson. They sailed from Hobart on 27th March 1901, and landed at Port Elizabeth on 21st April. Soon after landing the corps was in a sharp fight with Scheepers at Ganna Hoek, in Cape Colony, where Trooper Wharbeston, was killed. Trooper Brownell distinguished himself in this affair, and afterwards received a commission in the regular army. On 19th May the corps joined Scobell's column, one of the most successful. On 1st June they were put under Colonel Gorringe, whose force was formed into a 'flying column' without wheeled transport (see Cape Police). On 13th February 1902 Colonel Doran took over the column, and the contingent served with him till 4th May. On 18th February they suffered several casualties.
The strain on men and horses was very great; but the column did most excellent work, and was frequently complimented by General French and Lord Kitchener. The various leaders under whom they served commended the contingent for their fearlessness, horse-mastership, and cheerful endurance of the greatest hardship. On 13th August 1901 Sergeant-Major Young of the Cape Police, along with Quartermaster-Sergeant Lyne, Sergeant Cooinbes, and 8 other Tasmanians, charged a kopje where the enemy were strongly entrenched and captured Commandant Erasmus (see Mentions). Young got the VC for this affair. The contingent were at various times successful in capturing several influential Boer leaders. For twelve months their work went on absolutely without cessation, long marches often being undertaken by night, followed by actions with the commandos of Kritzinger, Scheepers, Myberg, and others. The whole of the war service of the contingent was done in Cape Colony. They sailed for home on 22nd May 1901, and as they arrived at Hobart on 17th June after peace had been declared, they landed amidst the greatest enthusiasm.
This was a composite corps containing:
- The 4th South Australian Contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Rowell commanding. (See that Corps.)
- The 4th West Australian Contingent, Major J Rose.
- The 4th Tasmanian Contingent, Captain R C Lewis, DSO.
The regiment was long with General Plumer in different parts of the seat of war, and did very good work, particularly in the operations north of Pretoria, and in the Eastern Transvaal. As stated in the despatch of 8th March 1901, when it was clear that De Wet was to attempt a serious invasion of Cape Colony, Lord Kitchener, about the end of January 1901, railed Plumer's troops from Brugspruit in the Eastern Transvaal to Cape Colony; and it was largely due to them that De Wet was driven out of the Colony (see 4th Victorian Contingent). Both the South and West Australians suffered some casualties in the numerous rear-guard actions which the Boer commandos fought. After pursuing the remnant of these commandos northward, Plumer's men were again entrained at Brandfort for the district north of Pretoria, to take part in the expedition to Pietersburg. In Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th May 1901 he says: "On the night of the 24th April a very gallant act was performed by Lieutenant Reid, Imperial Bushmen Corps, who had been detached from General Plumer's post at Commissie Drift, on the Olifants River, Transvaal. This officer, when in charge of a patrol of 20 Australians, located a Boer laager some 15 miles SE of the drift, which he surrounded, and boldly attacked at dawn. The enemy at once surrendered, Commandant Schroeder and 41 other prisoners, with a maxim, being taken". This is certainly one of the very finest exploits undertaken by any small body during the whole war, and shows a boldness and initiative that was far too often absent from the doings of the regulars. Lieutenant Reid ran the great risk involved in his action, but his fearlessness was rewarded with success; and further, he was serving under a General who was most quick to recognise pluck, skilfulness, and the all-important quality of willingness to take risk. Lieutenant Reid belonged to the South Australian Contingent.
On the Pietersburg trek, and after the occupation of that place, the 4th Imperial Bushmen contributed largely to the success of Major Vialls, who operated generally in advance of General Plumer's force, and took many prisoners and waggons, and one gun.
Some of the 4th Imperial Bushmen were in the escort to a convoy which "was heavily attacked by some 400 of the enemy on the Bethel Standerton Road on 25th May". The escort under Colonel Gallwey "fought with great gallantry, and completely foiled the enemy's repeated efforts to press into close quarters". — Lord Kitchener's Despatch of 8th July 1900, para 8.
The following Mentions were gained under the heading 4th Imperial Bushmen:—
8th May 1901.—Lieutenant H A Reid, for the exceedingly smart manner in which he effected the capture of a force double his number, together with a maxim gun. Sergeant P J Williams and Private T H Porter (promoted Corporal) volunteered to carry despatches from General Plumer to General Beatson, a distance of 60 miles through enemy's country; they got there and returned safely, though fired on, burning a Boer field forge en route.
8th July 1901.—Trooper G De Kehyr, during attack on convoy near Bethel, May 25, carried a man out of action on his own horse, thereby incurring great risk. Sergeant Major J S Brigman, Sergeant B C Philliphant, gallantry on same occasion.