South African Military 
History Society


October 2005

When the Society changed its name from the "Durban" Branch to the "KwaZulu - Natal Branch" your committee decided to hold a meeting in Pietermaritzburg every alternate year, in order to support the members we have who live either in Pietermaritzburg, or closer to Pietermaritzburg than to Durban. The September 2005 meeting, being scheduled as our next away fixture, was held at the Natal Carbineers' base in Pietermaritzburg and was well attended, with several Pietermaritzburg visitors present and joining those who had made the journey from Durban and its surrounding areas. We certainly hope that any members who did not attend this year will make a note to enjoy the hospitality of the Natal Carbineers in 2 years time.

Two talks, of roughly equal length, were presented. The first talk, excellently illustrated, was given by Robin Smith on The Imperial Light Horse Regiment: Their actions in the Anglo-Boer War as revealed by their monuments. This was based on Robin's and Capt. Jansen's study, over the course of six years, of most of the memorials to the I.L.H. dead. The sites of these memorials tell the story of the widespread involvement of the I.L.H. throughout South Africa.

For example, the regiment took part in famous actions at Elandslaagte, Ladysmith, Willow Grange and Brynbella in Natal.

After a sea voyage from Durban to Cape Town to join Lt. Col. Brian Mahon in the march to Mafeking (Mafikeng) the I.L.H., with this column, linked up with Col. Herbert Plumer's force from Rhodesia and took part in clashes with the Boers at Koedoesrand and in the relief of Mafeking. After a stay in Lichtenburg, the I.L.H. came together at Erasmus's farm near Pretoria where command was handed over to Lt. Col. Woolls-Sampson.

In the Eastern Transvaal, Mahon's column, consisting of the 1st I.L.H. and "M" Battery of the R.H.A. was involved in the battle of Diamond Hill at Witklip near Delmas. The I.L.H. formed part of Maj. Gen. John French's force that captured Barberton after an advance from Carolina. This force then returned to Pretoria. 120 men of the I.L.H. joined Barton's Fusilier column at Frederikstad in September, where four I.L.H. men were killed. In December at Nooitgedacht Maj. Gen. Clement's column, with "B" and "C" squadrons under Lt. Col. Woolls-Sampson of the I.L.H. were engaged against the Boers at Cyferfontein. Woolls-Sampson left the I.L.H.

A second regiment of the I.L.H. was raised towards the end of 1900, with Lt. Col. Duncan Mackenzie as Officer Commanding, and Maj. J.R. Royston second-in-command. This regiment, in Maj. Gen. Smith Dorrien's column in the Eastern Transvaal, clashed with Gen. Louis Botha's commandos at Bothwell near Lake Chrissie.

In March 1901 the I.L.H., in the Western Transvaal, retreated to Hartbeestefontein in a classic rearguard action. Later that year further actions took place in the Zeerust area.

The 1st I.L.H. was now brigaded with the 2nd I.L.H. in Harrismith under Brig. Gen. Sir John Dartnell, with Lt. Col. Charles Briggs and Lt. Col. Duncan Mackenzie in command when they moved to Bethlehem. In December 1901 de Wet was defeated at Tygerkloof. The I.L.H. came to the rescue of part of Maj. Gen. Leslie Rundle's column that was attacked by de Wet on Christmas morning at Groenkloof (sometimes referred to as Tweefontein).

A further action took place at Katkop near Heilbron. One squadron of the 2nd I.L.H., attached to Lt. Col. A.H. Henniker's column, assisted in the pursuit of de Wet in his abortive invasion of the Northern Cape Colony in February 1901.

During Kitchener's drive in the Western Transvaal against de la Rey, the I.L.H. was active in Col. Sir Henry Rawlinson's column and took part in the last important battle of the Anglo-Boer War at Roodewal, where surprisingly, the I.L.H. suffered no casualties.

Robin ended his talk by explaining how, after peace was proclaimed, the I.L.H. was disbanded following a parade through the streets of Johannesburg on 17 June 1902. In September 1904, H.R.H. Princess Christian, on behalf of King Edward VII, presented the King's Colour to the regiment. On the establishment of Responsible Government in the Transvaal, the I.L.H. became a unit of the Transvaal Defence Force.

Dr Mark Coglan gave the second talk of the evening. This was entitled "Armed and Ready in Umvoti" and was based on his planned book on the Umvoti Mounted Rifles, which will no doubt become a comparison volume to "Pro Patria", his history of the Natal Carbineers.

In a most unusual and interesting approach, Mark took us chapter by chapter through his proposed new work, from the origin of the regiment in the Victorian era, as one of the volunteer regiments in Natal, to the position of the U.M.R. today. He highlighted the early military operations before Union including the mopping-up operations after the Langalibalele affair; the Anglo-Zulu War; the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902; and the major involvement of the U.M.R. in the 1906 operations against Bambatha kaMancinza, setting each in the colonial context of the time. By 1906 the British Imperial forces had been gradually withdrawn, leaving Natal to conduct her own defence.

In World War I the U.M.R. took an active part in various theatres of war; in the O.F.S. rebellion, the operations in German S.W.A., East Africa and in Europe. The lull between the two World Wars saw the U.M.R. concerned, amongst other things, with the changeover from animal horsepower to steel horsepower.

World War II occupied the U.M.R. on a wide front: in service "Up North" in the Desert War; and at Tobruk with the huge Axis haul of prisoners-of-war who were released only in 1945.

The U.M.R. revived in 1946-7, faced the Nationalist government's onslaught on the Natal regiments in the 1950s, but survived in the period of increasing black resistance to government policies, leading to confrontation. The volunteer regiments were needed to shore-up government strength. Further operations, e.g. in S.W.A., followed until the government changeover in 1994.

Mark then dealt with keynote ceremonial matters such as civic honours and regimental alliances, as well as major anniversaries such as the regimental centenary in 1964, the 125th anniversary in 1989 and the 140th anniversary in 2004. During these years school cadet affiliations, the formation of the Umvoti Mounted Rifles Association and the S.A. Armour Association provided further highlights.

Mark then referred to the building blocks of the regiment: the Colours, Standards, uniforms, weaponry, equipment and regimental silver plate as well as the lighter side of regimental life such as the U.M.R. band, shooting competitions and sport. He returned to the more serious subject of specialist weaponry and equipment. He noted the remarkable personalities who have served the U.M.R. over the years.

Finally, Mark detailed the Nominal Rolls from the Natal Hussars to the U.M.R. as well as the U.M.R. Roll of Honour, and added several important appendices for study and reference.

Fellow member Jack Frost expressed the thanks of the Society to the two speakers for their excellent and comprehensive talks.


October 2005 marks the Bi-Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, events that took place on the 21st October 1805, just off Cadiz along the south west coast of Spain. In Britain, many events have been organised this year to mark the occasion as well as in other countries in Europe and elsewhere around the world. Your Society is no exception and will be marking this famous occasion by dedicating the October meeting to this most brilliant and influential of all naval battles.

What is it about Trafalgar that places it above all the other glorious naval victories won by the Royal Navy throughout its long history, and why is Nelson regarded as the greatest of Britain's many great Admirals? These two issues will be examined by fellow member CAPTAIN BRIAN HOFFMANN, SA Navy (Ret), who will give the MAIN talk, entitled THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR. The talk will cover the events leading up to Trafalgar, the outcome and aftermath of the Battle, and will also provide an insight into the naval career of the great man himself.

To maintain a naval theme for the evening, the DDH will be given by fellow member JOHN OLIVER, who will review the development of the Dreadnought ships over their era of 1906 - 1946 in a talk entitled BATTLESHIP: THE ALL GUN DREADNOUGHT.

CHANGE of ADDRESS - For Information.

Our Chairman, Paul Kilmartin, will be moving from his current address on 31 October 2005 and will be staying in temporary accommodation until his new house is ready sometime in early 2006. For that reason he cannot be contacted on his home phone number after the end of October and all contact should be through his cell, on 082-449-7227. His postal address remains unchanged.

FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: November 2005 - February 2006

10 Nov 05
DDH Prof. Mike Laing - 60TH Anniversary of the Death of Gen. G Patton: Dec. 1945
MAIN Prof. Brian Kearney - Aspects of Durban in the Anglo-Boer War
11 Nov 05
(Friday 10.30am) - Armistice Day Warriors Gate
Paul Kilmartin
19 Jan 06 3rd Thurs!!
DDH - John Goodrich - Military History Anecdotes
MAIN - Robin Smith -The American Civil War: Vicksburg - The Key To The Mississippi
9 Feb 06
DDH - Adrian van Schaik - My Border Operational Experiences
MAIN - Prof. Philip Everitt -The South African Regiments at Tobruk


South African Military History Society /