South African Military History Society

Durban Branch November 1997 News Sheet No 274


Due to unforeseen circumstances only four of the original dozen members of our proposed "Battlefields's Tour" actually went to the 1997 Kimberley Military Expo and from all accounts, a good time was had by all. It was disappointing for the organizers that so few of our members took advantage of this out-of-the-ordinary tour and it throws into doubt any future Battlefields's tours. These tours are highlights of our annual activities and it would be a great tragedy if they fell away from lack of interest.
Our October meeting took the form of our annual visit to a local military unit and this year the venue was the Umyoti Mounted Rifles. Once again there was a very poor attendance by the members of our Society which did not go unnoticed by our hosts. Notwithstanding, they put on an excellent show for our benefit which was greatly appreciated by all those present.
Lt.Col. Lloyd Wilson, the Officer Commanding the Umvoti Mounted Rifles gave us a short history of the unit which was formed in Greytown in 1864. He took us through the unit's formative years when it was known as the Greytown Mounted Rifles with most of its 45 founder members recruited from the Noodsberg area. In the years that followed there was a great deal of secession and amalgamation of the smaller voluntary units in Natal and eventually in 1893 the Regiment as we know it today emerged.
Since its formation the UMR have fought in virtually every conflict in the history of this country and its Battle Honours include the following:- the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, the Natal (Bambatha) Rebellion of 1905, the German South-West African Campaign of 1914-1915, the Western Desert 1941-1943, the unrest in Natal in the 1960's and finally in South-West Africa (Namibia) from 1973-1988. In all these commitments the Regiment has lived up to its motto: "Tojours Pret" which, roughly translated, means "Always Ready".
Since the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 the Regiment has served under the Officer Commanding, Natal Command, firstly as a Mounted Regiment on horseback and then from 1935 as a Motorized Infantry unit. During WW2 the Regiment served as an Infantry unit. In 1954 it was convened into an Armoured Regiment and subsequently in 1962 to the Armoured Car Reconnaissance Regiment of the 8th SA Division based in Natal. Originally they were equipped with Elands, but of recent years they have gone onto the world class Rooikats and ZT3 Mamba's.
The UMR has been awarded the Freedoms of the Boroughs of Greytown, Empangeni, Eshowe and Melmoth. The Second Battalion UMR was implemented in 1989, but was re-amalgamated in 1991.
During its lifetime the Regiment has had thirty Commanding Officers including one who went on to become the first Minister of Defence of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
With rationalization the strength dropped from 1 972 serving members before the abolition of conscription after the 1994 Elections to a mere 130 volunteers.
Notwithstanding, the UMR came away with the "Best Regiment on the Battlefield" and "Best Regiment in the Division" Awards at the 1996 Battlefield Exercises held at Battle School at Lohatlha at which observers from the UN and NATO were present.
Fellow-member, Major John Buchan thanked our hosts for a most enjoyable and interesting evening and, on behalf of the Society, wished them well and hoped that they would go from strength to strength in the future.


Nov. 11th:
Armistice Day Service at the Warriors' Gate on the corner of Old Fort Road and NMR Avenue at 10h40. Please make a special effort to attend as last time we were outnumbered by the MOTHS.
Nov.14 :
DDH : "Hometown V.C." - Talk by fellow member, Bill Brady.
MAIN : "The Bayeaux Tapestry - A Pictorial History of the Norman Invasion of England in 1066" - An illustrated slide-show by Neil Lee who will be coming down from Johannesburg to give us this talk
Dec 1
Annual Dinner - This year it will be held at the Westville Country Club. The cost will be R60,00 (Sixty rand) per head. URGENT - PLEASE LET KEN GILLINGS KNOW IF YOU ARE COMING SO THAT EXACT NUMBERS CAN BE ASCERTAINED FOR CATERING PURPOSES. No money required at this stage.
Jan 8th
DDH To be announced.
MAIN : To be announced.
Feb l2th
DDH "Flt.Lt. L.Baveystock" - Talk by fellow-member, Paul Kilmartin.
MAIN "Channel Dash 1943" - Talk by fellow-member, Bill Brady.
Mar 12th
DDH : 'D-Day + 50 Years" - Talk by Charles Whiteing.
MAIN "White Flag Incidents" - Talk by Renzio Giani.
Apr 12th
DDH To be announced.
MAIN : "The Battle of Bergendal" - Talk by Hufty Pott.
May 8th
MAIN : "The Battle of Koedoesberg Drift" - Talk by Steve Lundestedt.
Jun 11th
MAIN : "The First Battle of Ypres - 1914" - Talk by fellow-member, Paul Kilmartin.

The venue for all meetings will be the 1st Floor lecture theatre, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Natal, Durban, which is housed in the building on the right of the Memorial Tower Building (opposite the entrance to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre), commencing at 19h30 on the second Thursday in the month. Please bring your own refreshments and glass. VISITORS AND INTERESTED PERSONS ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND. Charge R2,00 - Students and Scholars free.
Tania van der Watt (Mrs)
Secretary: Durban Branch
Box 870 Hillcrest 3650
Telephone: (031) 764 2970

South African Military History Society /