The Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment (CMR) was one of four mounted rifles regiments raised to serve overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War. The CMR was part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and left New Zealand with the Main Body of the NZEF in October 1914.
After training in Egypt the CMR fought in the Gallipoli campaign from May to December 1915. On its return from Gallipoli the regiment spent another four months in Egypt before taking part in the Sinai campaign of 1916 and the Palestine campaign of 1917–18. After the armistice with the Ottoman Turks in October 1918 the CMR was sent back to Gallipoli as part of an occupying force. In March 1919 the regiment was sent to Egypt to help suppress nationalist riots. The CMR disbanded in June, when most of its officers and men embarked on the troop transport Ulimaroa for the return voyage to New Zealand.
At full strength the CMR had 26 officers and 523 other ranks. The regiment had 608 horses: 528 riding horses, 74 draught horses and 6 pack horses.
The CMR consisted of a headquarters staff, a machine-gun section and three squadrons:
The squadron numbers and names corresponded to those of the three Territorial Force mounted rifles regiments in the Canterbury Military District (squadrons were normally identified in alphabetical order: A Squadron, B Squadron, etc.).
Each squadron had a total strength of 158, divided between a headquarters and four troops. Each troop was made up of eight four-man sections. Sections were tight-knit units; each man had a defined role, both in battle and in camp.
In mounted rifles units ‘trooper’ was a soldier’s rank equivalent to private in the infantry.
Mounted riflemen were expected to ride to the scene of a battle but – unlike traditional cavalry – dismount before going into action as normal infantrymen. In Sinai and Palestine this distinction was sometimes blurred in practice, with men occasionally fighting from horseback. When it was sent to Gallipoli the CMR left its horses behind in Egypt and the men fought in the same manner as their counterparts in the New Zealand infantry battalions.
In Sinai and Palestine the mounted rifles were valued for their ability to patrol and carry out reconnaissance over a much larger area than could be covered on foot.
The key battlefield advantage of a mounted rifles regiment over a standard infantry battalion was superior mobility. Key disadvantages were fewer men and fewer heavy weapons.
Source: Lieut.-Colonel C. Guy Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, Whitcombe & Tombs, Auckland et al, 1922
Source: Colonel C.G. Powles (ed.), The History of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, 1914–1919, Whitcombe & Tombs, Auckland et al, 1928
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