This contingent arrived in South Africa in April 1901. Their strength on sailing was 1086 all ranks. They were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel C W Cox, who had served with the NSW Lancers.
The 3rd NSW Mounted Rifles joined the column of Colonel Rimington in May 1901. This was one of several columns which worked almost incessantly during the last thirteen months of the war in the north-east of the Orange River Colony, and by the splendid way in which they carried out their task under the faultless leadership of Rimington the column did a great deal towards bringing the war to an end. The district allotted to them was the stronghold of the Free Staters, and was well adapted to their style of warfare. Rundle's V11th Division had marched about in it since May 1900, and Sir Archibald Hunter had there taken 4000 prisoners in July of that year; but it was not until the mobile mounted columns were organised that any impression could be made on the enemy's vigour in this quarter.
On 21st July 1901 the column was at Heilbron: it then numbered a little over 2000, of which the NSW Mounted Rifles contributed 800 and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons 466. A history of the column's work is given in the War Record of the latter regiment, already quoted from under the NSW Lancers. It would be quite impossible to detail here the numberless engagements, marches, and the enormous captures of prisoners, rifles, ammunition, and transport by which the column so ably contributed to wear out the enemy. A few examples from the Inniskilling's record to show what the work was must suffice.
It having been decided to attempt to surprise a laager with which it was reported De Wet then was,— "At 7 pm on 14th September 1901 the surprise force, consisting, as usual, of the Inniskillings, NSW Mounted Rifles, Canadian Scouts, and section RHA, under Colonel Rimington, started on a night march. After crossing the Klip River near Parys about 2 am, the column was obliged to halt on account of the intense darkness. The moon had gone-down and heavy rain set in. The troops lay by their horses in bitter cold and rain until dawn, and then pushed on fast and rounded up Brakoog. Ten Boers escaped. Pushing on to Anderkant and towards Sodas, a few Boers were caught, and our convoy was rejoined in the valley below Kat Kop. The night had been against the enterprise. About 46 miles had been covered and De Wet had not been taken, but the capture included 6 Boers, 6 rifles, 300 rounds of SA ammunition, 6 waggons, 9 Cape carts, 350 cattle, 11 mules, and 6 riding-horses". On 24th-25th September 60 miles were covered in thirty hours in a similar operation. These marches—generally starting at dusk —went on continuously, and, of course, the strain on all was very great. "On 10th October, in passing the eastern spurs of Leeuwkop, a NSW Mounted Rifles Sergeant Major was mortally wounded and 2 horses of the Inniskillings killed by snipers. The Sergeant Major was buried next day under the Sugar Loaf Kopje on the march to Langspruit". About the middle of October an attempt was made to capture General Louis Botha, then living near Amsterdam, in the east of the Transvaal. Rimington's men were chosen to go, and, leaving the Standerton Railway with sixteen days' rations, they set out on their long march. They reached the farm at dawn on the 24th. The morning was misty, but cleared at 7 am and revealed the column to some Boers, about one hundred. These opened fire and Botha galloped off. His papers were taken, and doubtless were of use to Lord Kitchener. To be selected for this enterprise was the highest compliment the Commander-in-Chief could have paid Rimington's column. On 2nd November they were back to Standerton, from which they worked south.
In December 1901 and the first four months of 1902 the NSW Mounted Rifles took part in the great drives which it had been decided, on the suggestion of Colonel Rimington, was the only
method by which the war could be ended. During these drives the amount of work done by men and horses was incredible. Lieutenant Colonel Watkins-Yardley notes that, on the occasion of a drive in February, the troops were on outpost for eleven consecutive nights. It is generally recognised that outpost duty for three consecutive nights is a most severe strain on all ranks.
On the occasion of the most important of these drives the enemy, on the night of 23rd February 1902, made a desperate and partially successful attempt to break the line in the Vrede district held by Colonel Garratt (see 7th New Zealand Contingent). In his telegram of 1st March 1902 Lord Kitchener said: "On that occasion, besides the New Zealanders, already mentioned, the 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles, under Colonel Cox, behaved extremely well, bringing heavy fire on the enemy. The cattle that fell into our hands showed the effective nature of that fire, a large proportion being wounded".
During these operations the contingent had never very serious casualties; but as a matter of course there were some losses, as on 28th January 1902 when Surgeon Seddon and one man were wounded.
On 28th April 1902, The New South Wales Mounted Rifles, under Lieutenant Colonel Cox, entrained this day for Cape Town for embarkation back to Australia. They had put in a most valuable year's service with Colonel Rimington's column. Lieutenant Colonel Cox himself and many of the men had rendered conspicuous service in the earlier stages of the war with the New South Wales Lancers, when they were attached to and formed a squadron of the Inniskilling Dragoons.
The following extract from Force Orders by Colonel M F Rimington, CB, was truly merited:—
Kraal, Monday, April 28, 1902.
The Brigadier in saying good-bye to the Officers, NCO's, and men of 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles, desires to thank all ranks for their good work during the year they have served under his command. They have shown by their dash in attack, steadiness in action, and alert behaviour on outpost duties that they are thorough good soldiers, of whom the Empire may well be proud. Their cheerful conduct under privations and exposure is above praise. He wishes them God-speed, and good luck wherever they go. (Sgd.) G K ANSELL, Major, CSO"