On 11th October 1899 New South Wales offered to send, as part of the first contingent, a fully-equipped battery of six guns, but the War Office was foolish enough to refuse the offer. After Magersfontein the offer was renewed, and this time it was accepted. No time was lost, and 'A' Battery, Royal Australian Artillery—strength, all ranks, 179—under the command of Colonel S C U Smith, sailed on the Warrigal from Port Jackson on 30th December 1899 and landed in South Africa on 6th February 1900. On their arrival they were inspected by Lord Roberts, who expressed himself as most highly pleased with both men and horses.
During the greater portion of Lord Roberts' tenure of the command in South Africa, the battery operated in the western portion of Cape Colony, chiefly in the Prieska district, being part of the force which it was necessary to maintain there in order to overawe that section of the inhabitants who were in active sympathy with the enemy, and to prevent incursions from the Transvaal or Free State. The battery was mentioned in the despatch of 28th February 1900 as a portion of the force at the disposal of Lord Methuen for the protection of Kimberley and the Western Railway. Later in 1900 the battery, having been split up, was much scattered. One gun, under Captain Antill, did particularly valuable service in a column which operated in September 1900 and following months in the west of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony and in Griqualand.
Colonel Smith was for a time commandant of the north-west portion of Cape Colony.
When Cape Colony was invaded, January and February 1901, a portion of the battery was acting under Colonel Crabbe, and took part in the arduous pursuit of De Wet. Lieutenant E Christian's section was said by Colonel Crabbe to have been admirably handled,— "He is a very good gunner and horsemaster" (see Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th May 1901).
During a great portion of 1901 four guns were with Colonel Rimington's column, which did splendid work in the north-east of the Orange River Colony (see 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles); and two guns were in the column of Colonel E Williams, which also distinguished itself (see 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles).
In May 1901 part of the personnel of the battery's first contingent started for home; but it was not till 16th September, after nearly two years' absence, that the main portion of the battery reached Sydney. They received a magnificent reception.
In his telegram of 25th August 1901 Lord Kitchener said that it had been brought to his notice that on 6th June, near Reitz, in the Orange River Colony, Lieutenant Mair, of NSW Artillery, and Privates Harvey and Blunt were shot down after they had surrendered. Fortunately such occurrences were uncommon. Our late enemies had not imbibed the brutal doctrines of the German Staff that the shooting of prisoners is, or at times may be, justifiable.