South African Military 
History Society


October 2007

Contact: Mike Laing 031-205-1951
Bill Brady 031-561-5542

The Society's September meeting was our annual Base Visit to Natal Mounted Rifles Regimental HQ superbly organised by fellow member Major Adrian van Schaik.

The Society's members were warmly greeted by RSM Bob Freeman who then provided us with a broad outline of the regiment before introducing OC Colonel Mike Rowe and The Regimental Historian Captain Nigel Lewis-Walker. The presentation was supported by power point slides and video clippings to make a fascinating history of the regiment. NATAL MOUNTED RIFLES was formed in 1888 by an amalgamation of four coastal mounted units; the Victoria, Alexandra, Durban and Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles; and organised in two wings. In 1894 the Left Wing became the Border Mounted Rifles, and in 1913 the two regiments were united as the 3rd Mounted Rifles (N.M.R.). In 1932 the numeral was dropped, but the number " 3 " is still worn on the flash of blue, green, brown and grey (blue uppermost), on the left side of the helmet. The N.M.R, served throughout the Siege of Ladysmith during the S.A. War of 1899. It was the only Natal unit to leave Natal, after the Republicans had been driven out, and seved with Rundle's Eighth Division in the OFS until October, 1900. A squadron of the Natal Volunteer Composite Regiment was then formed from the unit, the Commanding Officer being a N.M.R. officer. In the so-called 1906 Zulu Rebellion, also known as the 1906 Poll Tax Rebellion or Bhambatha Rebellion, the regiment, 500 strong, served throughout. As the 3rd Mounted Rifles the regiment was mobilised on 8th August, 1914, and served in the 8th Mounted Brigade with the Central Force in the G.S.W.A. Campaign. The N.M.R. became an infantry unit in 1934. The N.M.R. were mobilised on 3rd June, 1940, and posted to the 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade. Their Commanding Officer was Lt.-Col. N. Macmillan, V.C. With this Brigade they served in Abyssinia and North Africa. In 1943 the N.M.R. was amalgamated with the 3rd Recce Battalion, S.A. Tank Corps, and in March the unit's title was changed to the N.M.R. The Commanding Officer was Lt.-Col. Furstenberg, succeeded by Lt.-Col. Jenkins. The Tank Corps badge was replaced by the N.M.R. cap badge, the monogram under a crown on a square green flash. In 1944, for the Italian Campaign, there was an amalgamation with the S.A. Air Force Armoured Car Battalion, the regiment being four squadrons strong. Later in the year the N.M.R. resumed the role of infantry, in the Apennines, leaving the drivers only with the tanks; and in 1945 they joined the 13th Brigade as infantry. The N.M.R. are allied with the 3rd King's Own Hussars. The regiment possesses a King's Colour. The badge in 1888 was a horse rampant with the motto "Just and Frank"; in 1913 changed to that of the Border M.R., a top-boot and spur, with the motto "Rough but Ready".

The latter is now used as a collar badge, the cap badge being as already described. The original uniform was blue with white facings, and blue helmet with white metal fittings. In 1896 a white helmet was adopted, and in 1891 a service dress of dark grey, with helmet of the same material, was worn, and in 1897 this was replaced by khaki, with chocolate shoulder-straps and a slouch hat. From 1906 to 1914 the hat, grey in colour, had a tuft of black cock's feathers. In 1902 the blue was worn in mess kit only, the facings being now green, instead of white. The Martini-Henry carbine was carried up to 1894, when the Martini-Metford .303 in. was issued, replaced by the rifle of the same make in 1899, the M.L.E. being received in 1902. In 1896 the "Royston" combined web bandolier and rifle sling was used, with the rifle slung butt up under the left arm, sights to the rear. This was very unsatisfactory and was replaced in all regiments by the leather butt-bucket on the off-side of the saddle in 1901. In 1904 a machine-gun section with mule pack transport was started. There were four guns, four Maxims and two Rexer L.M.G. What is known as the South African War Cry, an adaptation of that used by a Zulu regiment in the days of the Zulu kings, was first started in the N.M.R. The Regiment has two bands operating - a military band and a Pipe Band. The Pipe band wears the Douglas Tartan.

Commanding Officers to 1894: Right Wing; Major (Dr.) Addison. Left Wing: Major H. T. Bru de Wold; later Commandant, Natal Militia. 1896: Major Addison and Major A. K. Murray; shortly afterwards succeeded by Major R. W. Evans, killed in action in February, 1902. Then in succession: Lt.-Cols. Noble, Sparks, Murray Smith, Major G. T. Hurst and Li-Col. Henwood. From 1st July, 1914, Lt-Col. Arnott, then Lt.-Col. G. T. Hurst, the historian of all the Natal and Griqualand East Volunteer Regiments, and Lt.-Cols. Dalgarno, London, Foster, Alexander, Taylor and Macmillan, already mentioned. Presented with Colours by H.M. The King in 1947.

Chairman Bill Brady presented a comprehensive vote of thanks to the officers and NCO's for sharing their knowledge and well prepared talk with the Society. The parties retired for refreshments and eats in the NCO's mess. A wonderful evening!

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THURSDAY - 11 October 2007 - 19.00 for 19.30
Usual Venue: Murray Theatre, Civil Engineering Building, Howard College Campus, UKZN

Opener. Dave Mathews will present a brief slide show on "candid shots from previous battlefield tours." This event has proved most popular and entertaining.

DDH: Normandy Cameos by Charles Whiteing, will cover the Pegasus Bridge, Atlantic Wall Fortifications, Mulberry Harbours, the Bailey Bridges, Landing Craft, the "Funnies", Cemeteries and Memorials. Charles will highlight their significance to Operation Overlord, and repercussions had they failed.

Main Talk: Robert E. Lee's Greatest Victory, Chancellorsville, 1863 by Robin Smith; Robin has presented many insights into his favourite topic - The American Civil War. This time he will explain the tactics and strategy that made Robert E. Lee one of the US's greatest commanders.

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: November 2007 to January 2008

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South African Military History Society /