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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Mounted Rifleman

The Mounted Rifleman.

New Zealanders in these regions are popularly referred to, in their Homeland, as "The Mounteds"; and as being indicative of their pecularities in method of warfare the term has its value.

In origin, the Mounted Riflemen date back to the 'sixties, when that fine soldier, Major Sir Harry Atkinson, formed the settler-riflemen into a mounted force of a nature demanded by the topographical and tactical conditions of the fiercely-contested Maori wars. A dashing and resourceful enemy, operating over scrub-covered plains and densely-wooded ranges, and with a highly developed skill in fortification, called for a force of great mobility, strictly disciplined, and with all its members able to fight on foot with the highest possible degree of individual effort to the common end. Such a force were the Forest Rangers, the prototypes of the Mounted Riflemen of the present day. The brilliantly successful part played by the new arm, in conjunction with the regular forces, determined the character of their country's mounted troops from that time onward. The South African War gave further proof of their value as individuals, and their methods as a unit. The full story of their achievements in the present war is still in the making.

We are now concerned with the individual. In certain parts of Egypt and Palestine you will find men in uniform of a distinctive type, the extent of uniform varying with the surroundings, the man within changing but little. Comparisons are odious, but the points of resemblance between the New Zealand Mounted Rifleman and his friend, the Light Horseman, are sufficiently close to make differentiation difficult by any other than a partly comparative method. That they are distinctive types, both will agree, while laying claim with equal vigour to the virtues of the Colonial, held in common. Resemblance and difference in appearance can be seen most clearly on a full dress parade, or in Cairo. His island climate and colonial life made the New Zealander a bigger edition of the Home stock, with an added resource and self-reliance that are inbred in the present generation? Quiet and self-contained, and a little self-conscious, he is quick to resent any apparent injustice to himself or to others. Care for his mate precedes care for himself; care for his horse and abiding respect for, and instant obedience to, proven leaders, an ever-ready, intelligent initiative, cool, determined valour, and the practice of sound team play go to the make up of no mean soldier.

In the Field, the Mounted Rifleman's garb is usually scanty. When changing camp he presents, with his horse, the appearance of an animated Christmas tree; and the assortment of "bivvy" poles sticking out at various angles gives the Regiment the appearance of very irregular lancers. On patrols, he is characterised by a fine capacity for busines and a passion for innumerable "boil-ups" for the ever welcome mug of tea that helps so much to relieve the tedium of dull, weary hours. Good though his work is in the minor, but most frequent phases, it is in a big action that he shows at his best. His coolness, dash, and grim determination to get to business make him as formidable an opponent as the Turk has ever surrendered to.

The "buckshee" acquired in the day's work ensures a trip to Hospital, and thereafter takes him to that envied Elysium, "Aotea" Home, where, for a few glorious weeks, he lives a cushioned, six-mealed existence, with an untrammelled freedom, valued far too highly to be abused; returning thence "to the Army," prepared to carry on the job to its dimly-seen, but vividly-pictured, conclusion.