The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 1 - December 1967

Early Rhodesia's Weapons

The information given in this article is on the basic armament of the Pioneer Column which occupied Mashonaland in 1890. It was supplied by the National Archives of Rhodesia and is reproduced here, by kind permission, from the journal of the Historical Firearms Society of South Africa.

ARTILLERY: Two 7-pounder muzzle loading 200 lb. pieces, with trail and limber. These were purchased from the Cape Mounted Riflemen by the B.S.A. Company in 1890 and had previously been used by Sir Charles Warren's force in Bechuanaland. The guns were also used in the Matabele War of 1893 and in the Rebellion of 1896. One is believed to have formed part of the defence of Bulawayo in 1896 and the other was used in operations against the Portuguese in the Manica area in 1891. During the South African War 7-pounders were mounted on armoured trains to partol the railway lines. The Column which entered Matabeleland in 1893 had a 7-pounder and a longer barrelled version of the same weapon known as the "screw gun." The 10th Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, took part in the Matabeleland Campaign and had a number of 7-pounder "screw guns" of which at least two were left behind when the unit left the country. These continued in use throughout the South African War.

MACHINE GUNS: The Pioneer Column was armed with four, of which two were Maxims, one a Nordenfelt, and one a Gatling. The columns which entered Bulawayo each had a machine gun and the Gardner machine gun of the Salisbury Column was decisive in the first battle of Bembesi in 1893. The use of these weapons was restricted to defensive emplacements in the 1896 campaigns. Pitched battles were no longer the order of the day and once the fighting had moved into the hills the machine gun's effectiveness was curbed.

SMALL ARMS: The Pioneers were armed with Martini-Henry breech loading rifles of the British service pattern and six-chamber Webley .450 revolvers. The B.S.A. Company's Police who accompanied the Column were similarly armed. Ammunition for the Martini-Henry rifles was supplied by the Company. In 1896 the Imperial troops were armed with Lee-Metfords and the Company's troops had both the Lee-Metford and the Martini-Henry. The Governor of Mocambique, Colonel Machado, lent the Administration 50 Mauser rifles which were distributed to the Cape Boys. These were later returned.

In Bulawayo is to be found the Matabele Rebellion Memorial which was erected in memory of the civilians and soldiers killed in the Matabele Rebellion of 1896. It is surmounted by a Gardner machine gun used in the Matabele war and rebellion.

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