The Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment (WMR) was one of four mounted rifles regiments raised to serve overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War. The WMR 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 WMR 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 WMR remained in Palestine until March 1919, when it was sent back to Egypt to help suppress nationalist riots. The regiment 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 WMR had 26 officers and 523 other ranks. The regiment had 608 horses: 528 riding horses, 74 draught horses and 6 pack horses.
The WMR consisted of a headquarters staff, a machine-gun section and three squadrons:
- Queen Alexandra’s 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Squadron
- 6th (Manawatu) Squadron
- 9th (Wellington East Coast) Squadron
The squadron numbers and names corresponded to those of the three Territorial Force mounted rifles regiments in the Wellington 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. Upon dismounting, one man in each group of four was detailed to stay in cover and look after his horse and the three horses belonging to his mates while they went into action. So a mounted rifles regiment would normally have a fighting strength of three-quarters of its full strength in numbers of men.
In Sinai and Palestine this distinction was sometimes blurred in practice, with men occasionally fighting from horseback. When it was sent to Gallipoli the WMR 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 that it had were fewer men and fewer heavy weapons than a standard infantry battalion.
- Dead (all causes): 362
- 11/675 Lieutenant-Colonel William Meldrum, 8 August 1914 – 23 April 1917
- 11/673 Major Charles Dick, 24 April 1917 – 12 June 1917
- 11/698 Lieutenant-Colonel James H. Whyte, 12 June 1917 – 31 December 1918
- 11/13 Major Arthur F. Batchelor, 1 January 1919 – 30 June 1919
Honours and Awards
- Companion of the Order of St Michael & St George (CMG): 1
- Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO): 6
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE): 1
- Military Cross: 7
- Distinguished Conduct Medal: 5
- Military Medal: 20
- Mention in Despatches: 59
- Foreign awards: 9