Mounted Rifles units

Page 4 – Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment

'The attack of the Otago Mounted Rifles at Messines' by Don Mackay

Part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment was one of four regional mounted rifles regiments raised to serve overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during the First World War (the others were the Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury regiments). It never served as part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (which required only three regiments), but was maintained as a stand-alone unit.

The OMR served as part of the New Zealand and Australian Division on Gallipoli in 1915, before being reduced in size in early 1916 and renamed 1st Otago Squadron. In April 1916 it moved with the New Zealand Division to the Western Front, where it formed a composite regiment with several Australian Light Horse squadrons. Initially part of I Anzac Corps it joined II Anzac Corps in July 1916 as part of the 2nd Anzac Corps Mounted Regiment with Australian troops. Another reorganisation in early 1918 saw the OMR become part of the XXII Corps Mounted Regiment.

The static trench warfare of the Western Front provided few opportunities for the squadron to serve as mounted riflemen. They served as infantry in the trenches near Fleurbaix from July to September 1916, before moving into labouring work. They finally got to serve on horseback at Messines in June 1917, but spent the rest of the year in labouring and navvy work, including during the Passchendaele offensive. They joined in the defensive battles of the German Spring Offensive of March–June 1918, fighting both on horseback and on foot. They supported French troops on the Marne in July and British troops on the Somme soon afterwards, participating in the Advance to Victory until the final day of the war.

NameUnit attached to (Date)CampaignsFurther information
Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment

New Zealand and Australian Division (Apr 1915 - Mar 1916)

Gallipoli, 1915War diaries at Archives New Zealand;
War diaries at Australian War Memorial
1st Otago Mounted Rifles SquadronComposite regiment attached to I Anzac Corps (Apr - Jul 1916)Western Front 
1st Otago Mounted Rifles Squadron

2nd Anzac Mounted Regiment, II Anzac Corps (Jul 1916 - Dec 1917)

Western Front:
Somme 1916;  
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917
War diaries at Archives New Zealand
1st Otago Mounted Rifles Squadron

XXII Corps Mounted Regiment, XXII Corps (Jan - Aug 1918)

Western Front:
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory, 1918;
The battles of the Marne, 1918
War diaries at Archives New Zealand
1st Otago Mounted Rifles SquadronIII Corps Mounted Regiment, III Corps (Aug - Sep 1918)Second battles of the Somme, 1918War diaries at Archives New Zealand
1st Otago Mounted Rifles Squadron

XXII Corps Mounted Regiment, XXII Corps (Sep - Nov 1918)

Advance to Victory, 1918War diaries at Archives New Zealand

Shoulder titles and badges

The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment was never issued with a cloth patch.

NZMR title badge

Shoulder title worn by all mounted rifles units. 

The green-on-kahki puggaree (hatband) worn by all mounted rifles units.

Otago Mounted Rifles squadrons

5th (Otago Hussars) Squadron badge

5th (Otago Hussars) Squadron. Cap badge: The coat of arms of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Cowie Nichols within a circle flanked by fern fronds and surmounted by the Imperial crown. Collar badges: The coat of arms of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Cowie Nichols over the regimental motto. Motto: Es fidelis (Be faithful).

7th (Soughland) Squadron badge

7th (Southland) Squadron. Cap and collar badges: A sparrow hawk swooping on its prey. Motto: Celer et audax (Swift and bold).

12th (Otago) Mounted Rifles Squadron badges

12th (Otago) Squadron. Cap and collar badges: A fallow deer’s head surmounted by the regimental motto. Motto: For King and country.

Formation of squadrons

These squadron designations were intended to represent each of the three Territorial Force mounted rifles regiments from which the OMR drew its personnel. As far as possible, each squadron drew its recruits from its geographical region until September 1917. From then on, men were sent overseas as generic mounted rifles reinforcements but were still generally assigned to their region’s unit.

Further reading

Kinloch, Terry, Echoes of Gallipoli: in the words of New Zealand’s mounted riflemen (Auckland: Exisle Publishing, 2005) 

Mackay, Don, The troopers’ tale: a history of the Otago Mounted Rifles (Dunedin: Turnbull Ross Publishing, 2012)



How to cite this page

'Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/otago-mounted-rifles, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Apr-2017

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