The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 4 - June 1969



During this period the Colony was involved in the following hostilities:

In addition Colonial forces provided a garrison in the Transkei during the Zulu War. In the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police the Cape had a regular force of mounted infantry with a small artillery element, but its normal police duties and the wear and tear of the 9th Kaffir War rendered its efforts insufficient for Colonial defence without assistance from other sources.

In 1878 it underwent re-organisation as a purely military force under the new name of Cape Mounted Riflemen.
After a promising start in 1855 the Volunteers were reduced by 1870 to 5 units(1), although by the mid-seventies the movement revived until by 1877 it was becoming a factor of significance in Colonial Defence.

Papers in the Cape Archives provide the facts and figures on which this article is based (2).


Headquartered at Adelaide, its strength in December 1880, was 3 officers, 53 men and 41 horses. Arms on issue were 60 long Sniders and 25 Snider carbines.


The strength for February 1878 was 4 officers and 63 men, with 67 horses. The Commanding Officer was Lt. J. Castleman who was commissioned with two of the others on 17 September, 1877. The arms were 50 long Sniders. During that month 60 were on patrols. In the following month strength increased to 71 all mounted and patrols were carried out between Waterkloof and Schelmkloof. This return gives the CO as Captain Frank Holland (commissioned on 21st September 1877). The strength in April, 1878, rose to 76 and patrols were carried out between Koonap Post and Fort Beaufort

Long Sniders continued on issue and the strength was 4 and 69. The corps was noted in June, 1880, as being in course of disbandment.


HQ at Adelaide. Strengths from August, 1877, to May, 1878, varied from 4 officers and 36 other ranks to 4 and 47, with long Sniders. In October, 1877, the corps mounted guards due to native disturbances and in January 1878, there were 6 members on active service. In February there were 4 at the front and 10 on duty at Fort Fordyce. The commanding officer throughout this period was Captain H. C. Lee. The Regulations (Cape Archives GH 37/7) give the uniform as "a scarlet tunic of Military Shape with black cloth facings, fastened with hooks and eyes; blue cloth trousers with narrow cord scarlet stripe (piping) helmet with spike and chin scale." Accoutrements: Rifle, bayonet with scabbard and belt with pouch. In the return for December, 1878, the corps is noted as the Adelaide Volunteer Rifles with an approved establishment of 1 company: 3 officers and 45 other ranks, although its strength at that date was 2 and 30. Long Sniders still on issue.


Also known as the Albany Mounted Volunteer Corps. Consisted in August, 1877, of 4 officers, 3 sgts., 2 cpls, 42 privates and 2 buglers armed with 50 short carbines and 54 swords. CO was Captain T. E. Minto (later commanded 3rd Regt. Cape Yeomanry). In January, 1878, strength stood at 53 with 52 horses. In February the corps was doing patrols and night duty and in that month added a Kowie West troop of Lt. S. W. Dell and 38 men to its strength, although these had no arms.

The return of the First City Volunteers for September, 1877, says that 14 of its men had gone to the front as Albany MV. In March there were 4 at the front and in April 2, while during the latter month the Kowie West troop had gone up to 40 strong, 24 mounted and 6 at the front with Government wagons. By then this troop had been issued with 12 carbines and 22 short Sniders. Strength of the main unit rose in May to 3 and 50 with 52 horses and in June to 3 and 52, all mounted. "Many absent on patrol during the month."


HQ at Salem. In August, 1877, 95 strong and armed with carbines. CO Captain J. Gardner. In September the return gives 3 and 94 with 97 horses and 100 carbines. 18 went to the front in October and returned home the following month, followed in January by another 22 at the front. In February, 1878, strength was 3 and 105, all with horses. "Nearly half the corps at the front, some without leave," some of whom returned home in April. During that month a party of the Rangers under Captain Gush served in Frost's column on patrols from 6th to 7th and 9th to 10th at Sugar Bush Flats, Stutterheim, Dohne Bush and the scouring of the latter (DD l/7); Frost to Comdt. Gen. from Camp at Toise's River, 10th April) and were due to take part in a patrol of the Thomas River in the column (do telegram, 11th April) and were reported to be 50 strong. In May the corps patrolled for 4 days at the beginning of the month and did an eight-day patrol from 18th to 25th. Part of the corps was at the Coombs for the last 10 days of the month.

At the end of 1879 the corps had an establishment of 3 officers, 42 men and 45 horses and an actual strength of 3, 68 and 73 with 100 carbines and 17 long Sniders. This rose in June, 1880, to 5, 70 and 75, armed with carbines


In May, 1878, 3 officers and 61 men armed with short Sniders and commanded by Captain A. S. Drew, commissioned on 13th November, 1877.


Strengths from August, 1877, to May, 1878, varied from 3 officers and 51 men to 3 and 62. In May, 1878, the return included a band of 12. The commanding officer was Captain R. J. Powrie and the corps' arms consisted of 73 long Sniders purchased from the Government. According to the Regulations (GH 37/7) the services of the corps were accepted in April, 1875.


HQ at Fort Beaufort. CO was Captain B. W. Hall who was succeeded in February, 1878, by Captain J. Richards. Strengths from August, 1877, to June, 1880, varied from 3 and 50 to 4 and 74 and the arms from August, 1877, as 50 Snider carbines and 21 short rifles, to 66 carbines and 2 short rifles in June, 1880. 10 men left for the front on 10th October, 1877, and in January there was 1 officer there and 3 men. In that month the men were all mounted but due to drought the horses were in poor condition, aggravated by patrols and escorts of ammunition wagons. In April escorts and patrols continued, with 6 men away at the front and others serving as officers of Fingo levies. Yet others were absent with their stock. In May some were on operations in the Perie Bush, those with the levies were still absent and the balance of the corps was on operations in the Fort Beaufort area.


Noted in December, 1878, as a new corps at Beaufort West with 5 officers and 43 men, armed with long Sniders.


Commanding Officer Captain D. D. Fraser and 4 officers and 39 strong in August, 1877, armed with long Sniders. In October a band of 16 boys was being formed and continued to be noted in June, 1878. Fifes and drums arrived for them in March. In November the return notes that Lieut. Sir Gysbert Stockenstrom and one man had gone to the front. There were 3 on active service in December, and 6 in the ensuing three months. In March, 1878, "Drill Instructor Harcourt, one officer and several men took part in operations in the Waterkloof, joining an Adelaide Volunteer Cavalry for the time." On 17th April Harcourt took 6 men away to guard Koonap Post and remained there the following month.


In October, 1877, was 41 strong and commanded by Captain D. Davies. The arms were long Sniders of which 14 were private property, fully paid for and the remainder were still being paid for. 4,000 rounds of ammunition had been received. In November the strength dropped to 39 and increased the following month to 40.


In August, 1877, commanded by Captain B. E. Bowker, and were 43 all ranks and armed with 55 long Sniders being bought from the Government in instalments. Bowker with 5 men joined Bowker's Rovers and went to the front on 17th September and was succeeded as commanding officer by Capt. L. L. Vincent. In November strength was 2 and 40, with 26 horses and 6 men at the front. A few of the long Sniders were exchanged for carbines although this process was not complete more than 18 months later. At the end of 1879 the HQ was at Berlin and the corps consisted of 3 officers, 42 men and 45 horses, with 7 Snider carbines, 6 short rifles and 38 long Sniders. Disbandment was noted in June, 1880.


The July, 1877, return notes that the CO, Captain E. Y. Brabant(3), and the 4 other officers were commissioned on 6th September, 1876, and that there were 77 men. In the following month the strength dropped to 61 but rose in September to 73. On 28th Brabant, 1 lieutenant, 2 sergeants and 33 men marched for the Kei on active service where they remained until 6th December. At the end of 1878 they were headquartered at East London, had no officers and only 28 men, being armed with long Sniders.


In November, 1877, 3 officers and 48 men strong under Captain J. Knobel. In June the following year they were 3 and 37, with 1 man at the front. At the end of the year the strength was 3 and 15, headquartered at Burghersdorp and armed with long Sniders.


Also called the Cape Town Engineers and noted in December, 1878, with an establishment of 3 officers and 45 men, although the strength was 3 and 106. The return notes the corps as a new one.


An Albany unit noted in August, 1877, with 3 officers and 37 men armed with Snider carbines, not fully mounted and commanded by Captain J. Trower. In January 5 went to the front, rising to 7 in February, while from 15th to 19th several were employed in getting captured cattle to Grahamstown. In March the strength was 3 and 45 with 47 horses. 8 were at front and the rest patrolling. In April only 2 were away and patrols took place on 2nd, 18th and 24th. More patrols took place in the following month to Stock's Camp and the Coombs Bush, followed by further patrolling in June


Formed on 29th October, 1877, and commanded by Captain T. J. Roberts. It had no arms until March, 1878, when it received 42 Enfields(4) on loan. Peak strength was 2 officers and 60 men in June, with 5 band boys. 2 men went on active servrce in March, reduced to 1 in April. In December, 1878, there were 2 officers and 56 men and 75 long Sniders.


In August, 1877, the corps had a modest strength of 4 officers, 5 sergeants, 4 corporals and 114 privates, who were armed with Sniders of which 50 were Government property and 52 privately owned.

In September No. 1 Company had increased to 145 all ranks commanded by Lt. H. Malthouse, rising further in October to 154, of whom 44 were on the frontier. These 44 remained there until January, 1878, reducing to 2 in February. In November, 1877, No. 2 Company was raised with 2 officers and 154 men of whom 44 went to the frontier and the remainder undertook guard duty at Amsterdam Battery. In February there were only 2 on active service. From May, 1878, the returns deal with the whole unit, 28 officers and 557 men, commanded by Col. Z. S. Bayly(6) with Nos. 8 and 9 Companies in course of formation. At the end of the year the Dukes had an authorised establishment of 27 officers and 405 men but an actual strength of 35 and 716. Nos. 1-8 Companies were at Cape Town and No. 9 at Wynberg. Arms were 564 long Sniders and 21 short.


Headquarters at East London and noted in August, 1877, with a strength of 2 officers and 32 men, with 30 horses. Armed with carbines and commanded by Captain T. H. Warren. Patrolling began in September and was continued in October without trouble being reported. In December strength rose to 2 and 38 with 33 horses. A note on the return reads: "No stock has been reported stolen this month between East London and Keiskama one way and between Mount Coke and the sea the other. Our patrols have been very successful intercepting cattle stolen from other parts." 5 men were absent doing transport duty; with their wagons, leaving 22 to patrol the district. Trooper Charles Sansom was killed by an explosion of ammunition he was transporting.

In February, 1878, many were absent because of the high transport rates leaving few to do patrols. "Families have been in laager and have been trekking to East London as the natives have been collecting in the Buffalo valley."

In December, 1879, strength had dropped to 1 officer and 35 men and in June, 1880, the strength had dropped by one. The arms on issue were 1 long Snider, 32 short Sniders and 7 Snider carbines.


The only return is for August, 1877, where the Commanding Officer is given as Captain C. A. Moffith who was commissioned with the other two officers on 23rd May, 1877. Other ranks totalled 63.


For the times this was a strong unit with 10 officers and 133 men in August, 1877. In September the other rank strength had gone up to 195 and the Commanding Officer was Captain Samuel Cronwright. In October 14 were noted as having gone to the front as Albany; Mounted Volunteers and a further 15 did duty at Breakfast Vlei. In the two following months the detachment at Breakfast Vlei increased to 1 officer and 30 men. In March, 1878, strength was 11 officers, 201 men and 30 bandsmen of whom 1 and 31 were at Breakfast Vlei, where a garrison was maintained until at least the end of June. In April there was 1 captain and 100 men at the front(7) and in May; 2 and about 80.

The returns give differing versions of the unit title, Grahamstown First City Volunteers, (Grahamstown) First City Volunteer Rifles and First City Volunteers.

At the end of 1878 the establishment was 3 companies totalling 9 officers and 135 men but actual strength was 8 and 147, armed with 139 long Sniders and 12 short. In June, 1879, there were 9 officers and 180 men and a band of 18. The information given in July, 1878 (Cape Archives DD 1/7 F-G) states that No. 1 Company was formed on 7th October, 1875, No. 2 on 18th November, 1875, and No. 3 on 15th July, 1876, important in view of the present seniority of the First City.


Noted in December, 1877, as commanded by Lt. James Tudhope and having 29 men.


Had 3 officers and 62 men in August, 1877, and were commanded by Capt. W. J. Quin. The strength rose in the following month to 82. "The disturbances on the border have caused an accession to the ranks of the corps. It is expected that more will join during October. The members are doing night guard duty." Strength in the following month, however, had increased by only 1 although a band of 17 had been formed and was being trained on fifes and drums. From December, 1877, to March, 1878, the corps carried out guard duties in Fort Beaufort and at Fort Fordyce and in June strength had increased to 3 and 89, with Sniders on issue.


2 officers and 25 men strong in August, 1877, commanded by Capt. T. Keen and armed with long Sniders.


In November, 1877, had 3 officers and 119 men and were commanded by Capt. Thomas H. Copeland. Many of the Sniders on issue were reported as useless. In May, 1878, there were 2 and 147 and a band of 22, but the commanding officer is given as Lt. Charles Norman de Riberac Eddie, commissioned on 11th November, 1877, but stated to have been made a captain in Upington's Foot on 23rd January, 1878. The return for that month states, "Monthly reports for previous months neglected by Officer Commanding during my absence on active service will be forwarded by next post. Rifles very old, many totally useless. Majority of men serving in different mounted corps; on heave; several intend joining Frontier Light Horse for a short period." In June there were 72 men at the front in various mounted units and 7 at Fort Brown. In November strength was down to 2 and 75 and the band was 19. 17 had left during October and so many were intending to join the Yeomanry that if this continued it was decided to disband.


see Journal, Vol. 1, No.2.


The only returns are for March and April, 1878, where the CO is given as Capt. Ebenezer John Buchanan(8) who was commissioned on 6th March. Strength was 3 and 50, increasing to 3 and 64, but without arms or uniforms.


Also called the Jamestown Mounted Rifle Volunteer Corps and formed on 16th July, 1877. The officers were commissioned on 13th August and were Capt. Alex James Kidwell, Lt. Johannes Jacobus Wagenaar and 2/Lt. Frank Ruttinger Fincham. October, 1877, strength was 4 officers and 51 men, all with horses but without arms. In January 29 were ready to go to the front but still had no arms. In February strength was 91, which dropped in September to 3 and 54. At that stage interest in the corps was waning due to recruiting for the Yeomanry.


This short-lived gunner unit appears never to have had any guns. 17 men enrolled in it on 1st October, 1876, and 16 on 1st September, 1877. HQ was at East London and the CO was Capt. F. W. Bompas, who was commissioned on 23rd July, 1877. The corps reached 3 and 47 in December and reduced to 2 and 33 in June, 1879. Short Sniders and bayonets were the only arms on issue.


The corps consisted of cavalry and infantry. Strength varied from 4 officers and 52 men in August, 1877, to 4 and 78 in January and February, 1878, dropping to 2 and 34 in June, 1880. The commanding officer was Capt. G. A. Nettleton although the return for June, 1878, gives Lt. G. Frauenstein in this post. The corps went on active service on 31st December, 1877, and the January return states that there were 35 horses, 3 of the officers were cavalrymen and 1 was in the infantry section. The infantry did guard duty at the Hoek and the mounted men were on patrols in the district. One man had joined the Police for three months and 5 men were serving at the front as captains and lieutenants of Fingo levies. Their names were given as M. O'Connor, D. Hood, G. Massey Hicks, W. F. Bradshaw and S. Harber and were still on that duty in April, 1878. Armed originally with long and short Sniders the corps was completely equipped with carbines in June, 1880, when it was entirely a mounted unit. A nominal roll reveals more than half those on strength as having German names. The change over to cavalry was decided on in December, 1878, and six months later swords had been added to the arms.


Formed on 13th November, 1876. Strength in August, 1877, was 3 officers and 45 inen armned with long Sniders and commanded by Capt. P. Goold. Strength rose to 79 in September and 86 in October, dropping to 65 in July, 1878, and 43 in December, 1879.


Formed on 5th June, 1877, and the officers who were Capt. T. H. Giddy, Surgeon C. E. Piers, Lt. G. H. Nitch and 2/Lt. F. Dyer were all commissioned on 4th July that year. Total strength in August was 41, all without arms and the drill instructor had been recalled consequent upon the Transkei disturbances(9). In July, 1878, there were 64 on strength, including two on active service. By that time the corps had short Sniders and bayonets and one 7-pounder gun which did not stay long in the corps' possession as it was withdrawn in August for service on the Northern Border, probably with the Kimberley Volunteer Artillery. In January, 1879, the 7-pounder was returned. In March and April the corps was furnishing guards for barracks(10). It is doubtful if the unit ever got into uniform since the return for September, 1878, states that they had none.


Noted in April, 1878, with 2 officers and 28 men, the CO being Capt. George Vice, commissioned on 8th February, 1878. The return for July notes 30 horses and that for December the strength as 17. On 15th March, 1879, the Colonial Secretary wrote to the Commandant General advising that the Governor had disbanded the corps. A further letter from the Ordinance Dept. to AAG, Colonial Forces, states that the corps had long Sniders, not carbines.


The only return available, that for March, 1878, gives strength as 3 officers and 45 men, all horsed. 25 were on service at the front, with Government carbines although all the men left at home had sporting rifles. The CO, Capt. J. Sissison, and the other officers were commissioned on 26th December, 1877. In August Sissison complained to the Colonial Secretary that the corps was unable to compete in the Volunteer shooting competition and asked that the Civil Commissioner of Victoria West issue arms. In February, 1879, Sgt. A. Herholdt wrote to AAG stating that the corps was disorganised and that Sissison was away on the Northern Border with most of the men. He offered to raise more for two or three months at the front if needed, from the rest of the corps. In August the corps was disbanded, without any arms and equipment ever having been issued.

It is probable that no uniform was ever acquired, although the Regulations made provision for tunic, riding trousers and forage cap of a dark shade of tanned cord, trimmed and braided and with helmet if the latter was agreed on by the corps committee. The headdress was to have a monogram over the peak of the initials "MVC". The equipment was to consist of a Snider or other carbine, sabre, sword belt, cartridge pouch, valise and overcoat of uniform pattern. The horse furniture was to consist of a double reined bridle, saddle and saddle cloth, halter and halter rein, if possible, of uniform pattern.


In August, 1877, consisted of 4 officers and 52 men commanded by Capt. A. N. Street. Peak strength was 60, in April, 1878. In March the corps was engaged in escorting ammunition to Grahamstown and in the following two months on outpost duty. In June it provided night guards over Kaffir prisoners. The proposed uniform was of dark grey Oxford tweed with black trimmings, red piping and a helmet.


This was one of the oldest Volunteer units in the Colony and was 117 all ranks in August, 1877, organised into two companies. During October two detachments left for the frontier, the first of 1 officer, 1 sergeant and 20 men and the second of 2 corporals and 18 men. In the same month No. 3 Company was raised with a strength of 72 under Capt. E. Webster. In January, 1878, there were 57 at the front under Capt. G. R. Deare, a number reduced to 26 in March.

No. 3 Company, which included pipers was the Highland Company and sent one man to the front in March. No. 4 Company was formed in October, 1877, but noted for the first time in April, 1878. Deare and two dozen odd were still at the front in June. At the end of the year the authorised establishment was 5 companies. 15 officers and 225 men. Actual strength was 13 and 297.


122 strong in August, 1878, and commanded by Capt. F. H. Jones, rising to 151 in October. A band was formed in December, 19 strong. In February, 1878, 18 men were attached to the Queenstown Light Horse and for March. 7 others were at the front in that month. At the end of the year strength was dowrn to 6 officers and 82 men. Long Sniders were on issue.


Also noted as Artillery Company, Queenstown and Queenstown Volunteer Artillery Company. The August, 1877, return gives the CO as Capt. J. E. Dell, the strength as 24 and the arms as short Sniders and two 6-pounder brass guns. Capt. George Scott, commissioned on 30th March, 1878, took command in that month. In November, 1877, gun powder was awaited from East London and in the meantime the corps was paying 2/6 per lb. locally. From December, 1877, to March the following year 3 men were away attached to the Queen's Town Light Horse. In April the return notes: "One man had his rifle cut down to carbine length for which he has been charged and paid 3/15/0." At the end of the year actual strength was 2 and 22, with two 7-pounder guns.


Also referred to as Sidbury Mounted Rangers. 44 strong under Capt. Joseph Gush in August, 1877, and armed with short Sniders. In October 1 officer and 14 men were at the front. At the end of December, 1879, 37 strong, all mounted, and in June, 1880, 35 strong. Snider carbines are noted in December, 1879.


Commanded by Capt. W. H. Liebermann and 51 strong in August, 1877, rising to 3 and 66 and a band of 11 in January. 6 are noted in April, 1878, as being at the front with Comley's troop. There were 7 away in June.


HQ at Balfour and CO Capt. R. F. Rorke. 49 strong in August, 1877. In February the following year the return was sent from Seymour and gives 3 officers, 68 men and 28 horses. Throughout March the unit was on active service in the Schelmkloof and the Waterkloof and was on patrols in May, although there were horses for less than half the corps. Noted in December, 1879, as the Stockenstrom Mounted Volunteers with a strength of 40 and at the end of June, 1880, as the Stockenstrom Rangers, 54 strong. As late as December, 1879, long Sniders were the arms.


Noted in August, 1877, as commanded by Capt. J. W. Green and 46 strong. The Snider rifles on issue included several worn out when they arrived. Strength jumped in January, 1878, to 5 officers and 95 men, and the corps was on active service in March and April, and in May about half were still there. The return for May gives 25 horses and for June 35. At the end of 1878 the strength was down to 3 officers and 72 men, armed with 70 long Sniders and 5 short. HQ at Balfour.


At December, 1878, headquartered at Stutterheim and with 2 officers and 41 men, with long Sniders.


Also noted as the Tarkastad Volunteer Rifles. The return for August, 1877, gives Capt. H. E. Everitt as CO, commissioned with two of the other officers on 4th October, 1876. Strength in that month totalled 81, armed with long Sniders and bayonets. In October the return notes a band of 14. 26 left for the front on the 15th and returned from the Transkei on 6th December. The June, 1878, return gives 7 at the front.


In November, 1877, consisted of 3 officers and 28 men, all without arms and in January, 1878, numbers had gone up to 4 and 53, still without arms. 1 man was on active service and the Commanding Officer was Capt. J. Tudhope.


Commanded by Capt. W. J. Muggleton and stated in August, 1877, as 3 officers and 37 men all armed with long Enfield Sniders of which 17 were privately owned. Strength rose to 50 all ranks in January, 1878, and from that month to June there were 4 on active service. In May a band of 8 is noted.


The return for December, 1877, notes Capt. Samuel Loxton as CO and the corps as 3 officers and 63 men. Arms were long Sniders. During the month they were busy protecting each other at harvest and intercepting marauders. In February, 1878, strength was up to 77 and a detachment of 1 lieutenant and 23 men was in the field and a further 10 were also in the field (presumably with other units). In April strength was down to 3 and 51 all of whom were mounted but still armed with long Sniders.


Also known as Winterberg "Greys" Volunteers and in August, 1877, 36 strong with carbines. CO was Capt. James Sweetnam. In the following months strength was 41, all mounted. "Cartridges issued in case of emergency." In March, 1878, 12 were on camp duty and the rest on patrols and in April 25 were on camp duty and patrols, 6 of whom were at the Blinkwater concerning cattle thefts. Another 12 were transport riding. In May 2 were on active service and from 4th to the end of the month 25 were stationed at Sittingbourne. In June the return states: "Many members have removed North with their stock," and 20 were at camp in the Schelmkloof. A return at the end of 1878 gives HQ as Post Retief and strength as 38. In June, 1880, strength was 49 and the arms were still Snider carbines.


CO in 1877 was Capt. T. R. Cole who was commissioned with two other officers on 10th March, 1875. Strength in August, 1877, was 4 officers and 77 men, with long Sniders. Thereafter the only returns concern the Barkly Section who were 27 strong in August, 1877, and 29 in October. CO was Lt. J. Lesch. In January numbers were 2 and 43 and the arms and equipment had been lent to the Burghers. The Acting CO was Pte. Henry Nesbitt, late Capt., 12th Foot. In March Nesbitt was a captain and had two other officers and 47 men. Of the 60 long Sniders, 20 had been lent to Burghers. Gun slings were purchased locally for mounted men because of shortage. There were 30 horses noted on strength. In April there were 50 all ranks and 33 horses. "Ten of the long Government Sniders have been returned into store by Wodehouse Burghers and handed over to the Dordrecht Wodehouse Contingent to complete them with guns."


Noted in November, 1877, as 70 strong under Major David Erskine, and without arms. In February, 1878, strength was 55 with two at the front who were still there in May. The June return notes that the corps was re-organised on the 13th of that month and the new CO was E.B.J. Knox.


The information in this article is necessarily dry for having been taken entirely from sources in the Cape Archives. These consist of Volunteer Monthly Returns filed under GH/37/6 and GH 40/6. GH 37/7 contains the Rules and Regulations of some of the corps dealt with. Much other important material bearing on Cape Colony units and hostilities at this period is to be found in a series of Volumes in the Cape Archives labelled DD I/ with volumes broken into alphabetical sections and generally entitled Correspondence-Commandant General.

Notable from the extracts is the fact that very seldom did a unit go on active service as a body. Undoubtedly local security and economics made the stripping of a frontier district of a large part of its adult European manpower impossible, although local patrolling and guard duties had the effect of deterring cattle thieves and in promoting public confidence.

At the outbreak of the 9th Kaffir War the Colony was able to arm the Volunteers although this happy state of affairs was not the result of any forethought by the Colonial authorities. Only the action of the GOC, British troops, South Africa, General Sir Arthur Cunynghame, in 1876, had prevented the Sniders handed in by the Imperial Regulars in exchange for Martini Henry rifles being sent elsewhere(11). There were four main models of Snider:

(a) The rifle: 39-inch barrel, the long Snider.
(b) The short rifle: 33-inch barrel, usually issued to sergeants.

(c) The artillery carbine: 21 or 22-inch barrel, without wood to the muzzle and without bayonet fitting.

(d) The cavalry carbine: 21 or 22-inch barrel, without wood to the muzzle and without bayonet fitting.

(12)Shortages of the carbine forced some mounted units to accept the long rifle, a most inconvenient weapon for mounted men and one thoroughly disliked by them.

The tracing and identification of a particular unit is often most difficult. The common appearance of such words as "Corps", "Volunteers", "Rifles", "Rangers", etc., in unit titles and the carelessness with which they were used leads to much confusion in identifying the particular unit. There were, for example, four distinct units with Wodehouse in their title, all irregulars, but who came from the same area and served at various times between 1877 to 1881. It is also clear that the First City Volunteers are not the same unit as the Grahamstown Volunteer Rifles, but press accounts and even official despatches might not always be so careful.

The study of military units in South Africa is a fascinating exercise but one full of pitfalls for the unwary. In this field it is particularly noteworthy that an error tends to be passed on from one publication to another and for this reason a close study of original sources is of the utmost importance.


(1) Duke of Edinburgh's Own Volunteer Rifles, CapeVolunteer Artillery, Cape Town Cavalry, Prince Alfred's Volunteer Guard, Port Elizabeth Volunteer Artillery.

(2) see under General.

(3) Later Major General Sir Edward Yewd Brabant, who commanded 1st Cape Yeomanry (1878-1881), the Colonial Division in 1900 and was Commandant General, Cape Colonial Forces (1902-1903).

(4) This was the Snider rifle, either converted from the muzzle-loading Enfield or made at Enfield. The Enfield was the first general issue to the British Army of a rifle but as it had been largely converted to breach loading by the Snider method this return is misleading, as no European Volunteers at this stage received muzzle-loading arms.

(5) Now Cape Town Rifles.

(6) Commanded the Cape Mounted Riflemen (Colonial) and was responsible for the capture of Morosi's Mountain in November, 1879.

(7) Probably those who served at Umzintzani.

(8) Later Sir John Buchanan, ajudge of the Cape Supreme Court.

(9) Probably a member of the Artillery Troop, FAMP.

(10) The Zulu War was in progress.

(11) see Note 12.

(12) see Hulme, J. J. "The Small Arms of the Cape Colonial Forces, 1877-1881", Vol. 3, No. 1, Journal of the; Historical Firearms Society of South Africa, June, 1963, for the arms position during the period.

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