The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 1 - December 1967

Military History Brevities....


The Hermannsburg Cadet Corps

Hermannsburg is a village in Natal situated approximately 14 miles from Greytown on the Greytown-Kranskop railway line. In 1868 the Hermannsburg (Boarding) School inaugurated the cadet movement in Natal when a cadet corps, which received a Government grant, was formed there. The school was at that time under the headmastership of the Rev. H. Muller. It is thought that this corps was the first cadet corps to be established in the British Empire. In 1870 the Pietermaritzburg High School cadets came into existence followed shortly afterwards by a mounted cadet corps at Hilton College. The Acting Governor presented the Hermannsburg Corps with Terry carbines, a target and a Union Jack on their formation. General Louis Botha was one of the famous past pupils of the school which was the oldest in Natal. The corps consisted of about 40 English and German members whose ages ranged from 14 to 18 years. The words of command were given in German as the instructor had been a non-commissioned officer in the Hanoverian Army. The officers were Mr. Schmidt (Captain) and Messrs. F.R. Moor and J. Muirhead (Lieutenants). The smaller boys carried sticks and the bigger boys were armed with Terry carbines for which they received ammution free of charge from the Government. The cadets did not wear uniforms. Target practice was regularly carried out, and shooting competitions frequently held. Firing took place from distances of 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 yards. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Anthony Musgrave C.M.G., and the Hon. D. Erskine, Colonial Secretary, visited the School in 1871 and were impressed with the drill and appearance of the cadets. The Hermannsburg Cadet Corps volunteered for active service during the Langalibalele Rebellion, and was in existence until 1878.

Colonial Uniform

"There was a period late last century when the Cape Colony, disinclined to do battle in brilliant red uniforms, devised a colonial pattern of field dress for burgers and volunteers: the farmer's yellow corduroyjacket, corduroy or cord trousers, leather leggings, thick boots and a large, hard, broad-brimmed felt hat, often adorned with a distinctive feather or coloured pugaree. But the chemicals used for preparing and preserving the corduroy gave off such a penetrating, sustained odour that the critics contended the enemy would smell the colonials as easily as he would sight the redcoats. If that was so, the enemy must often have had the best of both worlds. It was a fairly common practice to issue this outfit on the battleground after a number of actions had already been fought in full dress."

(With acknowledgements to "The Duke's", a history of The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles, 1855-1956, by Angus G. Mackenzie. The Regiment is now known as The Cape Town Rifles.)

The South African Postal and Telegraph Corps

In an attempt to establish the origin of the South African Corps of Signals, this information has been received from Mr. P. Elston, of 6 Tees Lodge, Hope Street, Gardens, Cape Town:

"The actual first attempt by a South African Government was the establishment of the South African Postal and Telegraph Corps in 1914. A cadre of British instructors, at the outbreak of the first world war, was left at Tempe, Bloemfontein, when British troops were recalled to the United Kingdom, to instruct and form this branch. There was no Headquarters section and, as sections were trained they were attached to units in the field for communication between columns. Later the corps served in the German South-West Africa campaign, again attached to units as necessary. After the conclusion of this campaign the majority of members volunteered and joined either the S.A. Brigades which went overseas, or the East Africa forces as regimental signallers, where once again they were used wherever necessary and sent from column to column. It is believed that the S.A.P. and T. Corps as such was disbanded after the South-West Africa campaign which ended in July, 1915, and was resuscitated in the early 1920's."

The Pretoria Highlanders

The Pretoria Highlanders Regiment was founded by Mr. Peter Lawrence Goudie in 1939. He was responsible for recruiting 1,400 men in six weeks and for raising money to equip the Regiment with Highland uniforms. In the first world war Mr. Goudie joined the Royal Flying Corps and lost a leg in an engagement with the squadron of the famed Baron von Richtofen. He was later appointed Honorary Colonel-in-Chief of the Pretoria Highlanders.

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