The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Relief of Mafeking 16 May 1900

Whilst most of Australian contingents raised in 1899 were involved in the Bloemfontein actions, 1400 volunteers of the Citizen Bushmen Contingents arrived in Capetown in early April and were redirected north to Beira to help secure Rhodesia and relieve besieged Mafeking under the control of Lt Gen Sir Frederick Carrington.

Carrington's force eventually left Beira and marched to Marandellas where a long coach road led south towards the western Railway terminus at Bulawayo that ran south to Mafeking.

"Only the first detachment sent south from Marandellas joined in the relief of Mafeking. Colonel Herbert Plumer thought he needed guns before his little force moving north of Mafeking could break the Boer siege, and a Canadian artillery battery was rushed south to him by mule-drawn coaches then train, accompanied by most of D Squadron of Queensland's Citizen Bushmen - although not their horses - as an escort.

The gunners and Queenslanders arrived in mid May, as did another force under Colonel Bryan Mahon, a regular cavalry officer, that included 400 Imperial Light Horse and Walter Karri Davies, now a major and the regiment's second-in-command...................The Queenslanders had to steel themselves for their first combat. Lieutenant James Annat wrote to his wife Isabella, mother of newborn Hector Baden Mafeking Annat, advising her he had altered his will in her advantage in case he joined 'the grand majority' in the next few days.

On 16th May, Plumer's and Mahon's soldiers struck south through thin Boer lines outside Mafeking. Plumber assigned the inexperienced Queenslanders to guard the wagons. This was no job for men who had come to South Africa to scout for the nation. As the regular infantry advanced, the Queenslanders rushed forward too, yelling and cheering. Fortunately none were killed or even wounded. By dusk the Boers were retreating and Karri Davies was calling for men to ride with him into Mafeking. 'You can bet I was in that lot', wrote Corporal Ernest Warby, an Imperial Light Horseman who hailed from Sydney. Karri Davies, Warby, and seven others galloped past the few remaining Boers in the vicinity and into the tiny settlement." Ref No 88 p 106

Initial Organisation of the Rhodesian Field Force

Commander: Maj-Gen Frederick Carrington

1st Brigade (Lt-Col Carew)
1st Regt (Lt Col Airey, NSW) NSW Citizen Bushmen
2nd Regt (Maj Tunbridge, Qld); Qld, SA and Tas. Citizen Bushmen
3rd Regt (Maj Vialis, WA) Vic., and WA Citizen Bushmen

2nd Brigade (Col Grey):
4th Regt: New Zealand Roughriders
5th Regt: New Zealand Roughriders
6th Regt: (Col Mackay, NSW): NSW Imperial Bushmen

Not Brigaded:
Two regiments Imperial Yeomanry
Vic. Imperial Bushmen (Lt-Col Kelly)
Artillery and engineers
Field hospitals including Vic nurses
Veterinary department and remount depot
Carrington's escort (Lt Cameron, Vic): Cameron's Scouts

Reference: Wilcox, Craig. Australia's Boer War. The War In South Africa 1899-1902. Oxford University Press in conjunction with AWM, Australia, 2002, ISBN 0 19 551637 0 p 102-107
Austin RFD, ED, Roy. Encyclopedia of the Zulu and Boer Wars, Slouch Hat Publications, Australia, 1999, ISBN 0 9585296 3 9 p 65

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Major John Baines


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