The South African
Military History Society
Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging
Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 1 - Decemnber 1967
Early Rhodesian Military Units
by E.H.J. SHAW
To the best of the author's knowledge the following is the most comprehensive list of Rhodesian units of the pioneer period ever prepared. It covers a period during which few
badges were worn and is mainly of historical interest and as such, well worth recording.
Details of the homemade flashes and rosettes worn by volunteer units do not exist at the archives or museums in Rhodesia, except for the circular cloth embroidered badges of the original "British South Africa Police" and the "Rhodesia Horse". In both cases the badge is of red lettering on a navy background with a red lion and tusk in the centre.
- BRITISH SOUTH AFRICA COMPANY POLICE (with Pioneer Column) --1890.
- MASHONALAND HORSE (Volunteers). The unit included an Artillery Troop and was widely dispersed - 1891-1893.
- SALISBURY HORSE. Localised - 1893 and disbanded mid-December.
- VICTORIA RANGERS. Localised - 1893 and disbanded mid-December.
- RAAF's RANGERS. Raised in Johannesburg to assist in the Matabele War - 1893 and disbanded mid-December.
- MATABELELAND MOUNTED POLICE. Formed as a permanent force - 1893. The unit had a badge consisting of thc letters MMP on red felt.
- RHODESIA HORSE VOLUNTEERS. Distribution: Salisbury, Umtali, Victoria and a further 600 men in Matabeleland. Raised in April, 1895, and disbanded March 25, 1896.
- MATABELELAND NATIVE POLICE. Defected at the beginning of the rebellion - May, 1895.
- BULAWAYO FIELD FORCE. Consisted of about 850 men distributed as below:
(a) Artillery troop
(b) Engineer troop
(c) Greys Scouts
(d) Dawsons Scouts
(e) Giffords Horse
(f) Afrikander Corps
Raised March 25, 1896, and disbanded July 4, 1896.
Giffords Horse wore a metal badge consisting of the letters GH.
- VOLUNTEER CORPS. They had no official title. See Matebeleland Relief Force. 750 volunteers recruited in South Africa and arrived in Bulawayo on May 14 to assist in the rebellion. They were sponsored by the British South Africa Company and their officer commanding was Lieutenant-Colonel H. Plumer.
- 200 CAPE BOYS. They arrived at Mafeking on April 27, 1895. They then marched 600 miles to Bulawayo, arriving there on June 8, 1896. They were commanded by Major R. Robertson.
- 240 BECHUANALAND AFRICANS. They followed the Cape Boys but were found useless and sent home. Major Jesser-Coope was in command.
- 150 EXTRA CAPE BOYS. They replaced the Bechuanaland Africans and were commanded by Johan Colenbrander.
These troops (Nos. 10-13) made up the MATABELELAND RELIEF FORCE and on their arrival the volunteers were disbanded, i.e., Bulawayo Field Force which was dissolved on July 4, 1896. The Matabeleland Relief Force was also disbanded at the end of the campaign in October, 1896.
- BEAL'S COLUMN. In Mashonaland a relief column of 150 men organized and set off from Salisbury on April 6, 1896. They were commanded by Colonel R. Beal.
- BURGHER FORCE. By June, 1896, it was obvious that trouble was brewing in Mashonaland and a Burgher Force under Mr. W. Smith was organised on June 18, 1896.
- RHODESIA HORSE VOLUNTEERS. Major N. Maglashan was Commandant of this unit which consisted of an Artillery troop, a Mounted troop and a Dismounted Troop. The Rhodesia Horse Volunteers and the Burgher Force (No.15) amalgamated towards the end of June, 1896 to form the SALISBURY FIELD FORCE which was disbanded in October, 1897.
- SALISBURY HORSE. A unit formed on July 23, 1896, as part of the Salisbury Field Force.
- SALISBURY RIFLES. A unit formed in September, 1896, to replace the old SALISBURY GARRISON.
- GWELO FIELD FORCE. This unit was formed at the end of March, 1896.
- BELINGWE FIELD FORCE. Commanded by Major D.T. Tyne-Laing, the unit was formed on March 26, 1896 and disbanded on September 30, 1896.
- UMTALI RIFLES. Formed by Lieutenant-Colonel E.A.H. Alderson on July 19, 1896, and commanded by Major C. Hamilton "Maori" Brown, this unit was disbanded at the end of September, 1896.
- BURGHER FORCE. Under Mr. H.S.M. Montagu, this force was disbanded on July 22, 1896.
- HONEY'S SCOUTS. This unit joined Alderson at Beira and served throughout the campaign.
- UMTALI ARTILLERY. This unit of 15 men under Lieutenant Fichardt had a seven-pounder in laager.
- NATAL TROOP. Numbering about 40 volunteers under Captain J.F. Taylor, this unit served throughout the Mashonaland Campaign.
- MASHONALAND FIELD FORCE. The Force, under Lieutenant-Colonel E.A.H. Alderson, landed at Beira on July 5, 1896. It comprised:
(a) Mounted Infantry (Rifle Company and Instructors Company)
(b) Royal Artillery
(c) Royal Engineers
(d) Medical Staff Corps
(e) Army Service Corps
(f) Honey's Scouts
(g) Detachment - Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment
On 15 July, 150 men of the West Riding Regiment arrived at Fontesvilla, Portuguese East Africa, and at Umtali on July 27th. On July 23, a telegram arrived ordering the return of the Yorks. and Lancs. Detachment.
In the list headed "Distribution of Forces, August 20, 1896. Mashonaland" the following units are mentioned:
(b) Mounted Infantry
(c) Medical Staff Corps
(d) Capt. Hon. C. White's Column of Bulawayo Field Horse
(e) Rhodesia Horse
(f) Royal Artillery
(g) Salisbury Artillery
(h) Natal Troop
(i) Victoria Rifles
(j) Enkeldoorn Garrison
(k) Charter Garrison
(l) Salisbury Garrison
(m) Royal Engineers
(n) Army Service Corps
(o) Honey's Scouts
(p) Umtali Rifles
(q) Matabeleland Relief Force
(r) West Riding Regiment
(s) Beal's Column
(t) Umtali Artillery
- IMPERIAL COLUMN arrived in Salisbury on August 25, 1896. It then became necessary to re-organise the forces into four distinct and independent units and to omit the name Volunteer. The Four units were:
(a) Artillery Troop: Rhodesian Horse, Major Tennant.
(b) Mounted Troop: Rhodesian Horse, Captain Daly.
(c) Dismounted Troop: Rhodesian Horse, Captain Newman.
(d) Salisbury Rifles, Captain Nesbitt.
The Rhodesian Horse Volunteers, the Salisbury Artillery and the Salisbury Garrison were thus
(e) Natal Troop: remained intact, Captain Taylor.
On the evening of October 11 the last orders of the Mashonaland Field Force appeared and the unit was broken up on the following day. The British units returned home.
- Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable F.R.W. Eveleigh de Moleyns who was in command of the RHODESIAN MOUNTED POLICE assumed command of the British South Africa Company's forces in Mashonaland.
- SOUTHERN RHODESIAN VOLUNTEERS. The unit was formed late in 1898 and commanded by Major P.W. Forbes. They were called up in October, 1899, for service in the South African War. By the end of 1902 they numbered approximately 1,500 men. The unit had a metal badge comprising the name set below a lion and tusk.
- RHODESIA REGIMENT. A regiment formed in 1898 for service in the South African War. This unit had a metal badge which at first was composed of only the title letters.
- SOUTHERN RHODESIA CONSTABULARY. A police unit of 1900-1902. Their badge consisted of a white metal lion and tusk with the letters SRC beneath.
- RHODESIA DEFENCE FORCE. This was the forerunner of the Southern Rhodesia Staff Corps and was disbanded about 1923. Their badge, of brass, comprised the coat-of-arms with the words "Rhodesia Defence Force" on a scroll below.
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