by S. Monick
In this article, it is not intended to present an analysis of the operations of the British Regular Army (the Imperial forces) and the Colonial regiments which served in the Zulu War of 1879. Nor is it intended to examine either the technology (small arms, artillery) or the accoutrements (uniforms, equipment). It is hoped, rather, to present a profile of the Colonial and Imperial forces, being centred upon an essentially historical approach. It is intended to examine the origins and development of the Colonial and Imperial units that served in the campaign.
Within the context of the Imperial forces, the 24th Foot will receive the focus of attention, as this Regiment is so strongly associated with Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, the most widely known episodes of the war. However, the role of other regiments of the British Regular forces certainly merits the endeavour of reconstruction of their historical backgrounds. With regard to the infantry arm, the following regiments participated in the advance into Zululand in January, 1879 - the 3rd Foot, 13th Foot, 24th Foot, 90th Foot, and 99th Foot; the following were despatched as reinforcements after the Isandlwana disaster - 21st Foot, 57th Foot, 58th Foot, 60th Rifles, 88th Foot, 91st Foot, and 94th Foot. (The 80th Foot was present in Natal at the outbreak of hostilities, but did not participate in the initial invasion, being held in reserve; although a mounted infantry unit served at Isandlwana, and the Regiment later served at Ulundi).
In addition to the infantry arm, the British Imperial Forces participating in the initial advance included units of the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and a Naval Brigade. The post-Isandlwana reinforcements, in addition to the infantry, included cavalry units (the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards and 17th Lancers), further detachments of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, a further Naval Brigade, and units of the Army Service Corps and Army Hospital Corps.
Implicit in such an historical treatment are the Fundamental problems of scope and approach. A two-fold approach has been adopted, the approach differing in the case of Colonial and Imperial units, The Colonial units will be grouped under the columns which advanced into Zululand. Thus, the following units will be discussed under the heading of Pearson’s column - Natal Hussars, Durban Mounted Rifles, Alexandra Mounted Rifles, Stanger Mounted Rifles, Victor Mounted Rifles, Natal Native Contingent and Natal Native Pioneer Corps. The following units will be discussed under the heading of Colonel Glyn’s column Natal Carhineers, Natal Mounted Police, Newcastle Mounted Rifles, and Buffalo Border Guard. The following units will be discussed under the heading Colonel Sir Evelyn Wood’s column - Frontier Light Horse, Border Horse, Baker’s Light Horse, Ferreira Horse, and Uys’s Commando. The Natal Native Horse will be discussed under Durnford’s reserve column whilst Schuttes Corps, Eckersley’s Contingent, and if Cape Mounted Riflemen (Colonial) will be discussed under Colonel Rowlands’ Fifth Reserve Column. Those Colonial units not included within the invading columns, but raised subsequently, will then be discussed, The Imperial regiments will be discussed according to seniority within the Regular Army establishment.
Within this context of approach, one has further problems of arrangement within the Colonial regiments. For example, how does one categorize native volunteer contingents, i.e., the Natal Native Contingent, the Natal Native Horse, and the Natal Native Pioneer Corps? Whilst raised within the colony of Natal they were not raised by the Colonial, but by the Imperial, authorities. Thus, whilst certainly not rooted in the traditions of the British Regular Army, neither can they strictly be termed Colonial units. A related problem applies to the Frontier Light Horse, and similarly the uniformed cavalry corps of Natal represent a distinctly different military tradition from that exemplified in irregular mounted corps. Thus, one observes a three-fold division between those units not rooted in the traditions of the Imperial forces; viz., Colonial mounted volunteers, irregular mounted corps, and Native units.
The following regiments of Colonial mounted volunteers were involved in the campaign - Natal Hussars, Durban Mounted Rifles, Victoria Mounted Rifles, Stanger Mounted Rifles, Natal Light Horse Natal Carbineers, Natal Mounted Police, Newcastle Mounted Rifles, Buffalo Border Guard, Frontier Light Horse, Cape Mounted Riflemen (Colonial), Baker’s Light Horse, Natal Volunteer Guides, Lonsdale’s Mounted Rifles, and the Border Horse. The irregular mounted units were as follows - Schutte’s Corps, Ferreira’s Horse, Kaffrarian Vanguard, Uys’s Commando, Raafs Horse, and Eckersley’s Contingent.
This three-fold division represents intrinsic historical characteristics, which will be expanded upon in the introduction to the Colonial units. The Native units may be categorized separately as they were the creation of Imperial, as opposed to Colonial, authorities, but nevertheless remain phenomena of Natal. These characteristics justify their differentiation from Eckersley’s Contingent (composed of Transvaal Natives) and raised by an individual.
With regard to the problem of scope, the immediate question emerges as to whether one includes units that were not actually involved in the campaign, but were engaged in local defence duties. L.L. Gordon in his authoritative work, cites a number of regiments as being involved in the war (p.l96), but which are not included in the scope of this article. He cites, for example, the Isipingo Mounted Rifles, Pietermaritzburg City Guard, Pietermaritzburg Rifles, and Durban Rifles. The reason for the omission of such units in this article is that they were not actively engaged in the campaign within Zululand, directed towards the destruction of Cetewayo’s forces. Only those Colonial regiments have been included which were either contained within the initial invading column (in either an active or reserve capacity) or participated in the second invasion culminating at Ulundi.
Three general points may be observed with regard to the Natal units. First, Commando service, legally applicable but very rarely enforced, was much disliked in Natal. It is of interest to note that of the irregular units, Raafs Horse, Schutte’s Corps, Ferreira’s Horse, and Eckersley’s contingent, were raised in either the Transvaal or the Cape, where the Commando system featured as a characteristic of the population. Such Commando units had no identical counterparts in Natal. The residents preferred organized, uniformed, mounted units patterned upon the British Yeomanry regiments. However, the Natal volunteer regiments did share two important features in common with their Cape and Transvaal counterparts. The first was their democratic character; the officers being elected by the regiment, usually from among the NCOs. The second was that all found their own horses, saddlery and uniforms. This differing approach towards the question of local defence, centring upon the Natalian dislike of irregular mounted units, crystallizes the contrasting attitudes of the two main white groups comprising the population of South Africa.
The frontier war of 1835 saw the first serious attempt in the Cape to place volunteer troops in the field, this being preferred by the English speaking section of the community to the Commando pattern, and the movement, always strongest in the towns, gradually gathered strength until, in the early ‘fifties, a number of regiments was formed. The mounted corps were organized on lines which may be described as combining the features of the British Yeomanry and Commandos (as was the case in Natal). The experience of the Cape reinforces the impression, that the roots of the dichotomy were social in character; the loosely organized highly individualistic Boer Commando representing a rurally orientated society, whilst the more urbanized South African possessed more highly developed institutional or group loyalties, expressed in a more uniform and organized military approach.
Secondly, the Natalian, a white man settled amidst masses of natives, never took kindly to the Cape system of an extensive employment of non-European levies. The Natal Native Contingent was raised by the GOC for the Zulu War (Chelmsford). When Chelmsford requested permission from Sir Henry Bulwer (Governor of Natal) to raise the Regiment, the horrified Lieutenant Governor vetoed the project, as he feared the Colony’s reaction were he to arm so many of the Natal natives. When Hicks Beach (Colonial Secretary) refused to provide Imperial reinforcements, a Natal native contingent became a necessity, and Bulwer finally consented.
It is of interest to note that Colonel A.W. Durnford, who commanded the 1st Regiment of the NNC, had originally proposed the absorption of Natal natives into the Natal Mounted Police, but the colonists were violently opposed to the idea. Durnford was also responsible for the founding of the Natal Native Pioneers and Natal Native Horse. It is extremely doubtful whether the subsequent records of these units in the war of 1879 led to a revision of the attitude of the Natal settlers, as the record of the NNC is far from impressive. One should, however, be wary of blanketing all the native contingents with indiscriminate criticism. The Native Horse performed most creditably.
Thirdly, whilst the Imperial forces exemplified a professional army, the Colonial volunteers and irregular mounted units were largely mushroom creations in response to the war. The Natalian settlers were largely antipathetic to the concept of regular forces raised within the Colony; partly due to cost, and partly rooted in the social structure of the settler community. Lacking the long established class structure of European societies, Natal - like the Transvaal - was not amenable to an institutional tradition which demanded a rigid hierarchy of command and obedience.
PEARSON’S COLUMN (the Right column)
Natal Hussars (1866-87). The original name of the Regiment was the Greytown Mounted Rifles. In 1866 the Natal Hussars was raised by a Major Eastwood in the same area. In 1869 the two units amalgamated under the designation of the Natal Hussars.
Durban Mounted Rifles (1873/5-1888). According to the ‘Natal Almanac’ this unit was raised on 8 November, 1873, with a strength of 36, although C.T. Hurst gives the date as being 1875, when it had a strength of two troops of about 50. Its strength when included in Pearson’s column was 64. The DMR participated in the action at Inyezane, and upon news of Isandlwana were hastily sent back to Natal. Here they occupied defensive posts on the Natal side of the Tugela river, patrolling and guarding the frontier against possible raids by Zulus. Captain Shepstone commanded the unit in Pearson’s column.
Alexandra Mounted Rifles (1865-88). This Regiment was founded in 1865. It was raised on the south coast of Natal, and was the parent corps of the Natal Mounted Rifles. The Regiment’s first Commanding Officer was Major Dunbar Moodie, and the strength varied from between 70 to 130, organized in three troops. Ironically, a detachment accompanied the small force which Theophilus (later Sir Theophilus) Shepstone took with him in 1873 when he crowned Cetewayo. The AMR saw service at Inyezane, and sent men to the Natal Volunteer Guides after being withdrawn from Zululand. Captain Arbuthnot commanded the unit in Pearson’s column.
Stanger Mounted Rifles (1875-87). Captain Friend Addison commanded the unit, which had a strength of two troops of 20 each.
Victoria Mounted Rifles (1862-88). This Regiment was originally a troop of the Royal Durban Rangers. It was formed in 1861, and a year later became a separate unit. In 1875 part of the Regiment was formed into the Stanger Mounted Rifles. Its original strength was approximately 60, rising to 250 in 1888. In 1873 a detachment formed part of the force sent into Zululand for Cetewayo’s coronation. Commanding the unit in the column was Captain Charles Saner.
In overall command of all the above mounted units in the column was Major Percy Barrow of the 19th Hussars.
Natal Native Contingent (1879). Reference to the origins of this force has been made in the introduction to the Colonial units. Commanded by European officers and NCOs, the men carried native arms, with 10% armed with rifles. The original three Regiments, totalling seven battalions, were reduced to five battalions after Isandlwana, many of the NCOs transferring to Lonsdale’s Horse. In some battalions a few men were mounted and were useful as scouts. The general consensus of opinion, including that of Tylden is that the fighting value of the force was extremely low. Corporal Schiess, 3rd Regiment, won the VC at Rorke’s Drift, and the future Major General Sir H.T. Lukin (who commanded the SA Brigade in France in 1916) served in the Regiment. The officer commanding the unit in Pearson’s column was Major Shapland Graves.
Natal Native Pioneers (1879). Reference to the origins of this Regiment has also been made in the introduction to the Colonial units. Its overall strength was 273, organized in three companies, one with each of the three invading columns, It was responsible for the repair of roads and tracks, The company in Pearson’s column was commanded by Captain Beddoes.
Natal Carbineers (1855- ). Known for three weeks as the Pietermaritzburg Irregular Horse, the Regiment was raised on 15 January, 1855, and gazetted on 13 March of that year. In 1861 the Regiment was 85 strong, and although the original troop was recruited in Pietermaritzburg, troops were soon established in Richmond, Karkloof, Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, and Dundee. The Carbineers served against Bushmen in the 1850s and l860s, and in 1873 against Langalibalele, incurring casualties. At Isandlwana they lost two officers and nineteen other ranks.
Natal Mounted Police (1874-1913). This unit represented the only permanent force in Natal. Initially this force had very little support from the Colonial authorities, the Commanding Officer (Major, later Major General Sir John Dartnell), having a difficult time trying to obtain arms and equipment. In 1894 the title was changed to the Natal Police. When Shepstone annexed the Transvaal in 1877, Sub-Inspector Phillips, with 25 NMP, formed the sole escort. The unit sent 80 personnel of all ranks to the Zulu War, of whom 26 were killed at Isandlwana.
Newcastle Mounted Rifles (1876-9). This was a Northern Natal regiment raised in 1876, and served in the Zulu War of 1879 with a strength of 16. The unit was present at Isandlwana and lost seven men. During the course of the war it was merged with the Natal Carbineers.
Buffalo Border Guard (18 73-80). This was a small Natal unit approximately 30 strong, raised on 2 October, 1873 and disbanded in 1880. Its Commanding Officer in the column was Captain Robson, Only three of its members escaped from Isandlwana.
All the above units were commanded by Major Dartnell of the Natal Mounted Police.
This column also included the 3rd Regiment, Natal Native Contingent, under the command of Major William Black of the 24th (who replaced its previous commander, Cmdt R. Lonsdale), and a unit of the Natal Native Pioneers, under the command of Captain J. Nolan.
Frontier Light Horse (1877-9). This Regiment is included with other Colonial units with profound reservations. L.L. Gordon (p.l96) catogorizes this unit as an Imperial regiment, as the personnel were paid, equipped, and maintained by the Imperial Government, and in no way were under the control of the Colonial authorities.
However, it has been included within the context of Colonial regiments as it was raised within Cape Colony, and thus not contained within the mainstream of tradition of the British Regular Army. It was raised by Lt F. Carrington of the 2nd/24th Regiment at Kingwilliamstown, Cape Colony, in 1877. The command soon passed to Major (as he then was) Redvers Buller. During September and October, 1878 the Regiment saw service against Sekukuni, and in November returned to Natal. Its strength in the Zulu War was 216. On 28 March, 1879, the unit, which acted as a rearguard during the withdrawal from the Hlobane Mountain, lost almost 20% of the 156 of all ranks engaged. The Regiment’s Commanding Officer in the column, Captain Robert Barton of the Coldstream Guards, was killed at Hlobane, and was succeeded by Captain Cecil D’Arcy.
Border Horse (1879). This was raised and commanded by Lt Col Weatherley, an ex-Imperial officer, in the Transvaal, for the Zulu War. The Regiment, 61 strong, lost its commanding officer, and 38 of all ranks killed, and one wounded, at Hlobane. It served under Major Dennison at Kambula and in the Sekukuni campaign.
Baker’s Light Horse (1877-8, 1879, 1880-2). This Regiment was also designated as Baker’s Horse, but it is referred to as Baker’s Light Horse in the Medal Roll for the Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal. Major J.F. Baker, who commanded the unit, raised it three times. The first time was in the Eastern Province of the Cape for the Ninth Frontier War. Disbanded at the close of hostilities, it was once more raised at Port Elizabeth in 1879 for the Zulu War, with a strength of 240, and served at Hlobane and Ulundi. It was disbanded once more in August, 1879, and Baker again raised his regiment in Natal on 2 October, 1880, with a strength of approximately 200, and served in the Griqualand East area throughout the Basutoland rebellion. It was retained after the end of hostilities in April, 1881, and formed part of the garrison of the disturbed sector of Griqualand East. It was proposed that the Regiment be retained in the Cape Service as the Cape Cavalry, but the proposal was rejected and the Regiment disbanded.
Ferreira’s Horse (1877-81). Colonel Ignatius Ferreira, CMG, raised three irregular mounted corps at Pretoria during the first occupation of the Transvaal. The first saw service against Sekukuni in June, 1878. The second, with a strength of 115, served in Wood’s column, and also took part in the capture of Sekukuni’s Mountain in 1879. The third corps was known as the Transvaal Horse, had a strength of 300, and included two 9-pr field guns. It was in action in Leribe, in Northern Basutoland, where it served until disbanded in August, 1881.
Uys’s Commando (1879). In the Official History of the Zulu War (1879) this unit is referred to as the Burgher Force. Its Commanding Officer, Commandant Piet Uys, was killed at Hlobane Mountain. The strength was 45, all members were unpaid relatives of Uys, and they performed excellently.
All the Colonial units in Wood’s column were commanded by Lt Col Buller.
This comprised the 1st Regiment, Natal Native Contingent, 5 troops of Natal Native Horse, Sikali’s Horse (which consisted of C, D, and E Companies of the lst/3rd NNC, drawn from Sikali’s Reserve, and mounted), and a rocket battery.
Natal Native Horse (1879, 1888, 1899-1902, 1906). Regimented in 1879, this unit was formed from 5 separate groups of Natives living in Natal. The men volunteered for service, father to son, from 1866 to 1906; serving as scouts on their own ponies, and upon occasions as transport men. The men were first employed in 1866 against raiding Bushmen. In 1879 Colonel Durnford took five troops with him to Isandlwana, where they fought well, shot their way out of the encircling Zulus, and covered the far bank of the Buffalo river to cover the flight of the survivors. They claimed that they wished to take Durnford with them, but he refused, preferring to fight to the death (as indeed he did). All contemporary accounts speak well of the work of the NNH, especially at Hlobane and Kambula, and in the reconnaissance work before Ulundi.
The groups which saw most service during the Zulu War of 1879 were Hlubi’s Batlokwa from near Rorke’s Drift, men of a Basuto tribe who had never owed allegiance to the Basutoland Paramount Chief; and Christian Swazis and Zulus from the Edendale and Driefontein missions. Other groups were the Amangwane from Northern Natal, who had an old and bitter feud with the Zulu kings, and men of South West Natal, of Zulu origin, under Chief Jantji.
This Fifth Reserve column, commanded by Colonel H. Rowlands, was initially stationed at Luneberg. In addition to the Cape Mounted Riflemen (Colonial), Schutte’s Corps, and Eckersley’s Contingent, it also comprised originally the Border Horse and Ferreira’s Horse. However, as these latter units were, during the course of operations, later transferred to Buller’s Command, they are discussed under Wood’s Column.
Schutte’s Corps (1879). This consisted of Transvaal Volunteers raised for the Zulu War. The commanding officer was Captain Schutte.
Eckersley’s Contingent (1879). This unit comprised Transvaal Natives raised by Mr Eckersley, RM, for service in the Zulu War and against Sekukuni. Its strength was 207.
Cape Mounted Riflemen, Colonial (1855-1913). One should be careful to distinguish this Regiment from that raised by the Imperial authorities in 1806, and bearing the same name. The Colonial Regiment was raised in 1855, with the designation of the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police. Its name was changed to the Cape Mounted Riflemen in 1878. The FAMP had an original strength of 17 officers and 500 other ranks, and until the disbanding of the Imperial CMR carried out police duties in the Eastern Province of the Cape. After that date (1870), it was increasingly called upon for military duty, either in the form of active service, or in occupying areas in which there were native disturbances. When the new title was adopted in 1878, the name of the older Imperial regiment was deliberately chosen. Colonel H.G. Moore commanded the Regiment between 1878 and January, 1879; succeeded by Colonel Z.S. Bayly, between January 1879 and 1892.
Natal Volunteer Guides (1879). Commanded by Captain Addison of the Stanger Mounted Rifles, this unit was formed from various contingents of the Colonial mounted volunteers, i.e., the Durban Mounted Rifles, Stanger Mounted Rifles, Alexandra Mounted Rifles, and Victoria Mounted Rifles. It served at Gingindlovu.
Lonsdale’s Mounted Rifles (1879). Known as Lonsdale’s Horse, it was raised by Cmdt. R. La T. Lonsdale and, to reiterate, was formed from the European NCOs of the NNC after Isandlwana. It had a strength of 236, divided into 8 troops. It also served at Gingindlovu.
John Dunn’s Scouts (1879). Dunn was of English descent and became known as the ‘white Chief of Zululand’. 150 members of this native unit served at Gingindlovu.
Natal Light Horse (1879,). This was raised from a troop of the Frontier Light Horse in March, 1879, Its strength was 138 and the Commanding Officer of the unit was Captain Whalley. It served at Ulundi.
Raafs Horse (or Raafs Transvaal Rangers,) (1879). This was raised by Cmdt. Pieter Raaf (later CMG) with a strength of 138, and enlisted both European and Coloured personnel. The unit recruited large numbers from Kimberley. It served in the attack upon Hlobane, at Ulundi, and afterwards served in the capture of Sekukuni’s Mountain.
In a summary of this account of the Colonial units, a
number of important points should be observed. First,
one may well question the validity of the term ‘regiment’
in the foregoing discussion, when the numbers of many
of the units were so small. One may justify the use of
such a designation by reference to the definition of the
term in ‘Jane’s Dictionary of Military Terms’ (comp. by
Brigadier P H C Hayward. London, Macdonald &
Jane’s, 1975). The definition states:
‘It has no tactical significance as such, but is the military home of its members and enshrines their loyalty and traditions.’
Numbers are therefore irrelevant, the essential characteristic being homogeneity of tradition.
Second, the bracketed dates refer to the duration of the regiment as a homogeneous unit, irrespective of change of name. Third, the subsequent histories of those units which continued in existence after the campaign of 1879 have been omitted, with a view to confining the discussion to the Zulu War. Fourth, it will become apparent from the foregoing discussion that there was a distinct lineal relationship between those Colonial regiments which first advanced into Zululand, and those formed after Isandlwana. To reiterate, the Durban Mounted Rifles, Alexandra Mounted Rifles, Victoria Mounted Rifles, and Stanger Mounted Rifles, sent contingents to the composite force known as the Natal Volunteer Guides; many of the NCOs of the Natal Native Contingent transferred to Lonsdale’s Horse; the Natal Light Horse was formed from the Frontier Light Horse. Moreover, a unit known as the Natal Horse (also Bettington’s Horse) was formed from the NCOs of the disbanded 3rd/NNC. The Natal Horse was disbanded during the course of hostilities.
Fifth, the record of many of the regiments during the course of the campaign should dispel the impression that they were composed of ‘comic opera’ soldiers. This observation applies equally to those units which did not survive, or did not long survive, the close of hostilities, One thinks of the courage and tenacity displayed by Buller’s mounted troops at Hlobane, and specifically of Uys’s Commando, Baker’s Light Horse, the Frontier Light Horse, and the Border Horse. Further, the fact that two members of the Frontier Light Horse gained the VC during the War (Captain D’Arcy and Sergeant O’Toole, in the reconnaissance before Ulundi) characterizes the general calibre of these units.
Sixth, the composition of the Natal Native Horse, including dissident Zulus, Basutos, and Swazis, should lead one to reconsider before categorizing the war as a racial conflict. It was, rather, a conflict between opposing powers. (One should note that, in discussing this unit, the usual bracketed dates have been replaced by single ones. This procedure has been followed as this force did not possess any continuous existence as a homogeneous unit, but was raised in response to specific military emergencies).
Seventh, one should note the existence of a regiment which, although raised at the outset of the war, did not advance into Zululand with the invading columns. This was the Kaffrarian Vanguard, formed by Frederick Schermbrucker in the Eastern Cape. At the outset of hostilities he collected together 42 of his German neighbours, equipped them as infantry, named them the Kaffrarian Vanguard, and brought them to Natal. Chelmsford sent them to guard their German compatriots in the Luneburg area and, after Isandlwana, had them mounted. It served in the attack upon Hlobane.
Although listed in the Official History as the Kaffrarian Rifles, this latter corps has no connection whatsoever with the unit which served in the Zulu War of 1879.
At this point, it is perhaps apposite to more closely identify the Imperial regiments which were contained within the advancing columns, briefly referred to in the general introduction. Pearson's column included the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Regiment of Foot (the 'Buffs’) 6 companies of the 99th Regiment; and detachments of Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. Glyn’s column included 7 companies of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment and 2nd Battalion of the 24th, a detachment of Royal Artillery, and a company of Royal Engineers, supported by the Natal Native Pioneers. Evelyn Wood's column included the 90th Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 13th Regiment, and a detachment of Royal Artillery. One should also note the presence of the Royal Navy, represented by a contingent of 174 sailors and 42 Marines from HMS Active, under Commander Campbell, RN, and attached to Pearsons column.
The Army List of l878 records 109 regiments of Foot, which, since the abandonment of titling by names of Colonel in 1751 , or since their raising (whichever was later) had been designated by number. Most of the numbered regiments would be seen to bear a territorial title, or county affiliation, there having been a general grant of such titles in 1782. In addition to these Regiments of Foot, the Infantry’s comprised two other types of Regiment; the Foot Guards and the Rifle Brigade.
The order of seniority in which the following regiments appear is based upon the order of precedence followed in the Army List of 1878. This order is as follows with regard to those unit’s participating in the Zulu War - Guards Cavalry, Cavalry, Royal Regiment of Artillery, Corps of Royal Engineers, Regiments of the Line, Commissariat and Transport Department, Ordnance Store Department, Medical Department, Royal Marine forces.
1st King's Dragoon Guards (1685-1959)
Raised principally in London during the Monmouth rebellion in 1685, between 1685 and 1714 its designation was The Queen’s (or 2nd) Regiment of Horse; between 1714 and 1746 the King’s Own Regiment of Horse; and between 1716 and 1959 the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards. Brigaded with the Household Cavalry, and commanded by Lord Edward Somerset, the Regiment gained much distinction at Waterloo. It subsequently served in the Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, China and India, returning to England in 1866. A detachment, under Major Richard J.C. Marter, captured Cetewavo after Ulundi.
17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own) (1759-1922)
Formed in 1759, between the date of raising and 1763 the Regiments designation was the 18th Light Dragoons; between 1763 and 1766 the 17th Light Dragoons; between 1766 and 1769 the 3rd Light Dragoons: between 1769 and 1822 the 17th Light Dragoons; between 1822 and 1876 the 17th Lancers; and between 1876 and 1922 the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge’s Own). The Regiment served in the Crimea (where it formed one of the five regiments which took part in the 'charge of the Light Brigade’.) Subsequently it served in India (1858-65), after which it returned home. The Regiment was stationed at Hounslow and Hampton Court when, in February, 1879, it received orders to proceed to Natal, where it served at Ulundi.
Royal Regiment of Artillery (1722- )
One should be careful to distinguish between the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery (founded 1793). Prior to the former Regiment’s raising, when guns were needed to serve at home or abroad, a train of artillery had to be authorised by Royal Warrant, and was disbanded again upon the cessation of hostilities. This system naturally led to much confusion and delay (e.g. in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 it took so much time to mobilize an artillery train that the rebellion was over before the guns were ready). Thus, it was decided to organise a permanent force of artillery, and so on 26 May, 1716, two companies of artillery were created by Royal Warrant of King George I, and were formed at Woolwich. Six years later, on 1 April, 1722, these two companies were grouped together with the companies at Gibraltar and Minorca to form the Royal Regiment of Artillery. In 1833 King William IV granted the Regiment the privilege of bearing the Royal Arms over a gun bearing the motto ‘Ubique’ (‘Everywhere’) followed by ‘Quo fas et gloria ducunt’ (‘Whither right and glory lead’). In 1855 the Board of Ordnance was abolished, and the RA, together with the Royal Engineers, came under the Commander-in-Chief and the War office, like the remainder of the Army. (Prior to this both were controlled by the Master-General of the Ordnance, who was in charge of the Board of Ordnance). In 1859 the RA companies ceased to be organised into battalions, and were brigaded instead, at the same time being referred to as batteries instead of as companies. These batteries were divided into field batteries and garrison batteries.
Corps of Royal Engineers (1716- ).
With the introduction of cannon a Board of Ordnance was established in the early fifteenth century to administer all matters relating to the King’s fortifications and works, his arsenals and military equipment. The military engineers, surveyors, and artillerymen required for these tasks were retained on the Board’s permanent establishment. Ordnance trains, officered by ‘military gentlemen’ of the Board of Ordnance, and consisting of impressed skilled engineer tradesmen and gunners, were raised as required for specific campaigns and disbanded when no longer required. The Artillery and Engineers were, in 1716, constituted as separate establishments.
In 1722 the Soldier Artificer Company was formed at Gibraltar for the construction of fortifications. This was the first unit of permanent engineer soldiers in the British Army and was commanded by officers of the Corps of Engineers. In 1787 the Corps of Engineers was granted a Royal title.
In the same year a corps of Royal Military Artificers was formed for the construction of seaward defences at home and overseas as a precaution against a French invasion. Officers for this corps were supplied by the RE. In 1797 the Gibraltar soldier artificers were absorbed into the Corps of Royal Military Artificers. The title of Royal Military Artificers was changed to that of Royal Sappers and Miners in 1812, to denote the changing role of the military engineers during the Peninsula War. In 1856 the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners was absorbed into the Corps of the RE, thereby ending the long standing anomaly whereby officers and soldiers of the engineer arm of the British Army were members of two distinct corps.
There is a very close relationship between the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Royal Regiment of Artillery. This applies to both their origins and their subsequent administration, as discussed above within the context of the RA.
2nd Battalion, 3rd (East Kent, The Buffs,) Regiment of Foot
This Regiment traces its origin back to a ‘Holland’ regiment in 1572, under the command of a Captain Thomas Morgan. It cannot, however, claim seniority over the 1st Regiment of Foot (The Royal Scots) as it was not absorbed into the English establishment until 1665. The Regiment was one of those sent to the Netherlands by Elizabeth 1, to assist the Dutch Protestants in their rebellion against Spanish control. Between 1665 and 1689 it was known as the Holland Regiment; between 1689 and 1708 as Prince George of Denmark’s Regiment; between 1708 and 1751 as The Buffs; between 1751 and 1782 as the 3rd (or The Buffs) Regiment of Foot; and between 1782 and 1881 as the 3rd (East Kent - The Buffs) Regiment of Foot.
The name ‘Buffs’ appears to have originated from the colour of parts of the uniform or equipment, although which specific parts remains a subject of dispute. The long and distinguished service of the 3rd Foot is part of the history of all the major campaigns of the British Army. Its first VCs were gained in the Crimean War. A 2nd Battalion (the third formed) was added in 1858.
The 2nd Battalion had previously served in the Ionian islands and the West Indies. Towards the end of 1878, the HQ, and 5 companies of the Buffs, which had been scattered over a wide area of Natal, were ordered to concentrate at Thring’s Post, near the mouth of the Tugela river. Early in November, three more companies arrived from Mauritius, at which time they were ordered to construct an earthwork on the right bank of the river, which subsequently became known as Fort Pearson. The Regiment served at the Battle of Inyezane. Two companies of the 3rd were subsequently present at the Battle of Gingindlovu, having been detached from Pearson’s column for convoy duties, and thereby escaping being besieged at Eshowe, like their regimental comrades. The Regiment formed part of Crealock’s 1st Division in the second invasion of Zululand.
1st Battalion, 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light
Infantry) Regiment (1685-1959).
The Regiment had been formed in 1685. Between this date and 1688 it was designated Colonel The Earl of Huntingdon’s Regiment of Foot; between 1688 and 1751 its title changed with the Colonel’s name; between 1751 and 1782 it was known as the 13th Regiment of Foot; between 1782 and 1822 the 13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot; between 1822 and 1842 the 13th (1st Somersetshire Light Infantry) Regiment; and between 1842 and 1881 as the 13th (1st Somersetshire) (Prince Albert’s Light Infantry) Regiment.
The Regiment fought at Dettingen in 1742, and after the Battle of Fontenoy (1745) it returned to England, to play a major part in the Battle of Culloden (1746). The 13th were converted to Light Infantry in 1822, as its changed designation of this year suggests. In 1838 the Regiment attained lasting fame during the 1st Afghan War, for its defence of Jellalabad. For three months it beat off besieging Afghan tribesmen until relieved. ‘The London Gazette’ of 30 August, 1842, announced that Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to honour the Regiment in recognition of the distinguished gallantry displayed in the Burma and Afghan campaigns. The honours took the form of granting a ‘Royal’ title (i.e. ‘Prince Albert’s Light Infantry’); changing the Regiment’s facings from yellow to blue (the latter being the colour normally reserved for Royal regiments); and granting a mural crown super-imposed ‘Jellalabad’ as a badge.
The 13th had served in the Crimean War, and was not a stranger to South Africa; having been sent to Cape Colony in 1856, where it was stationed on the Eastern Frontier during the disturbances of 1856-7. After subsequent service in India, Gibraltar, and Malta, it had returned to South Africa for service in the Sekukuni campaign. The Regiment participated in the defence of Kambula, and later served at Ulundi.
2nd Battalion, 21st (Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot
When first raised in 1678, the Regiment was issued with fusils instead of muskets (hence its title). Between 1678 and 1686 its designation was Colonel The Earl of Mars Regiment of Foot; between 1686 and 1707 the title changed with the Colonel’s name. Between 1707 and 1712 its official designation was the Scots Fusiliers Regiment of Foot; between 1712 and 1751 the Royal North British Fusiliers Regiment of Foot; between 1751 and 1877 the 21st (Royal North British) Fusiliers Regiment of Foot; and between 1877 and 1881 as the 21st (Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot.
It is difficult to find any major engagement of the British Army in which the Regiment is not represented. The 2nd Battalion was raised at Paisley in 1858, and served at Madras, in Burma and the Andamans, and again at Madras, between 1863 and 1873. It was stationed at Curragh Camp when, in February, 1879, it was ordered to embark for active service in Natal. The Regiment served at Ulundi.
24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (1689-1969)
(later South Wales Borderers).
The Regiment was founded in 1689, and between that date and 1751 was known as Colonel Sir Edward Dering’s Regiment of Foot. Later, the title changed with the Colonel’s name. (In 1702 the Duke of Marlborough was Colonel). Between 1751 and 1782 the Regiment was known as the 24th Regiment of Foot; this designation changing to the 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, the title held between 1782 and 1881.
It is a sobering thought to those who would disparage the role of fate in regimental histories that the Regiment which found itself trapped at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift had been characterized throughout its history by perpetual ill luck. Indeed, this point is made by ‘The Graphic’ on 22 February, 1879, in commenting upon the history of the Regiment. Certainly, no Regiment of the Line could excel them for reliability, and their traditions of steadiness and bravery extended back through Alexandria (1801) and Malplaquet (1709) to Blenheim (1704). On the other hand, the 24th had been a consistently ill-fated regiment. Its first operation outside the British Isles had been a disastrous raid on Brest (1694). 1741 found the Regiment at the mismanaged, fever ridden siege of Cartagena (present Colombia); an operation which cost the 24th 12 officers and 800 other ranks. Fifteen years later it was one of the regiments which had to surrender when Admiral Byng failed to relieve Minorca. In 1777 the Regiment had to capitulate once again with Burgoyne at Saratoga. At Talavera (1809), the 2nd Battalion had lost almost half its strength in assisting the Guards Brigade. In 1810 the 1st Battalion had embarked in five transports to attack Mauritius, but French warships had found the convoy. Two transports, containing the Colonel and five companies, were captured after an all-day fight. The Colours and Regimental records were thrown overboard before the enemy boarded.
It is germane to note, in referring to the ill-fated character of the Regiment, that the advance into Zululand in January, 1879, marked almost exactly the thirtieth anniversary of Chillianwallah (13 January, 1849). The officers of both battalions had dined together two days before the advance, at Helpmekaar. Captain William Degacher, second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, proposed the toast, ‘That we may not get into such a mess again, and better luck next time’. Twenty one of the officers present were to die in action within the forthnight (including the proposer of the toast).
With regard to Chillianwallah, ‘The Graphic’. report
‘At Chillianwallah on the 13th January, 1849, being badly supported by the Native Regiments of its brigade, the 24th had to bear the attack of four times its number. The men fought gallantly, contending the ground inch by inch, but they were then beaten as completely by the Sikhs as the Regiment has now been by the Zulus. Their loss was 300 rank and file and 14 officers, amongst whom was their gallant leader, Colonel Pennycuick and his two sons.’
‘The Graphic’ also quotes a report of ‘The Times’
relating to a further reverse which the 24th suffered
during the Indian Mutiny:-
‘The Regiment met with another reverse during the Indian Mutiny, when a detachment of the Regiment under Colonel (now General Sir Charles Ellice), was moved rapidly down from Rawul Pindi to disarm the 14th Native Infantry at Jhelum . . . though the 24th acted bravely they were driven off with heavy loss (their Colonel being dangerously wounded), abandoning a gun to the Mutineers, who during the night effected their escape unmolested.’
‘The Graphic’ concludes:-
‘It is not often in the space of thirty years a regiment can point to three reverses.’
The 1st Battalion had been in South Africa since 1874. (One should note that this was not the Battalion’s first experience of South Africa. In 1806 it had participated in the attack upon Cape Town). It had served against the natives of the Transkei. In 1877 the Galekas and Gaikas had attacked the Fingoes, a tribe under British protection. Lt Gen Sir Arthur Cunynghame, who was GOC at the Cape, went to punish the Galekas and Gaikas with a small force comprising approximately 50 mounted infantrymen of the lst/24th Foot, the 88th Foot, and a Naval Brigade, under Captain Wright, from HMS Active and Florence. The lst/24th had also used its mounted infantry units in aid of the civil power against the European malcontents in the Diamond Fields country in the vicinity of Kmmberley. Afterwards, these units had served against the Galeka and Gaika tribesmen at Quintana, crushing the rebellion against the native chiefs. On 9 March, 1878, the 2nd/24th arrived in South Africa from England, and the two battalions of the Regiment for the first time served in the same country and under the same command (although the 2nd Battalion only participated in the last few months of the campaign).
It was perfectly consistent with the ill fate that had marred the Regiment at Brest, Cartagena, Minorca, Saratoga, Talavera and Chillianwallah, that the two battalions were to be united in the massacre at Isandlwana, in which 6 full companies of the 24th died without a single survivor.
57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot (1741-1881).
Raised in 1741, with the title of the 57th Regiment of Foot, it was subsequently re-numbered the 46th in 1748. Between 1755 and 1757 it returned to its original re-numbering. Between 1757 and 1782 it was known as the 57th Regiment of Foot, and between 1782 and 1881 as the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot.
The 57th served in the Peninsula War, Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, New Zealand (1861-6), and Ceylon (until February, 1879, when it was ordered to South Africa). The 57th served at Gingindlovu, and formed part of Crealock’s 1st Division.
58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot (1740-1881).
Between its raising in 1740 and 1748 the Regiment was successively designated the 58th Regiment of Foot the 47th, and later the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire, In 1756-7 it reverted to its original numbering of the 58th, but was re-numbered the 56th. Between 1755 and 1757 it was the 60th Regiment of Foot, re-numbered to the 58th. Between 1757 and 1782 it was known as the 58th Regiment of Foot; and between 1782 and 1881 as the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot.
The 58th Foot was one of the five regiments which manned Gibraltar during the siege of the island (1779-83); for this the Regiment was granted the castle and key device for a cap badge, and the battle honour, ‘Gibraltar’. The Regiment had fought under General Wolfe at Quebec (1759), and performed distinguished service at Alexandria (1801); for this latter action it wears a sphinx as an embellishment on buttons and badges. Between 1864 and 1874 the Regiment was stationed in Bengal. When ordered to proceed to Natal, it was stationed at Dover. The Regiment served at Ulundi.
3rd Battalion, 60th or The King’s Royal Rifle Corps
There is a previous unit (the 60th Regiment of Foot. 1741-8), with which this Regiment claims no connection. Raised in 1755, in 1755-6 it was known as the 62nd (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. Between 1756 and 1824 it was re-designated the 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. In 1824 its title changed to the 60th (Duke of York’s Rifle Corps). Between 1824 and 1830 it was known as the 60th or the Duke of York’s Own Rifle Corps. Between 1830 and 1881 its designation was the 60th or The King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
This Regiment is quite distinct from other Line Regiments, in so far as it was raised to deal exclusively with the problem of guerilla warfare. It was raised in America, and was recruited mainly from American colonists. The first Colonel was the Earl of London, who happened to be the then Officer Commanding English forces in America. The Regiment’s first active service was against the French in Canada who, with their Red Indian allies, were disputing British rule in North America; these hostilities formed part of the Seven Years War (1756-63), which was fought also in Europe and India. In response to the exigencies of ‘bush’ warfare, the 60th Foot adopted light, inconspicuous clothing and equipment (in marked contrast to the standard red coats of the British Line Infantry, its uniform of rifle green distinguishing it from that of other infantry regiments during the Zulu War). Further, it adopted simple drill movements controlled by bugle calls. In short, it took every possible step to ensure rapid movement combined with a high level of marksmanship. In 1759 the 60th played a leading role in the capture of Quebec. The unique character of the Regiment was further exemplified during the Peninsula War, during which, armed with the Baker rifle (contrasted with the smooth bore ‘Brown Bess’ musket of other infantry regiments), it performed outstanding service in scouting, skirmishing, and convoy duties. The Regiment’s long service record includes the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, in which the 60th particularly distinguished itself at the siege of Delhi (1857). The 3rd Battalion was raised in Dublin in 1855. It embarked for India in August, 1857, and served in India, Burma, and Aden unti] 1871, when it was sent home. It was stationed at Colchester when, in February, 1879, it was ordered to Natal. The 60th served at Gingindlovu and formed part of Crealock’s 1st Division.
80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment of Foot
Two previous regiments numbered the 80th were raised and subsequently disbanded prior to the appearance of the Staffordshire Volunteers in 1793. Between this date and 1881 it was known as the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment of Foot. The Regiment was represented at Isandlwana by the presence of one mounted infantry detachment. One of the survivors was Pte W. Wassal, whose heroism earned the award of the VC. The Regiment shared a sombrely appropriate characteristic in common with the 24th, in view of their joint presence at Isandlwana; viz, a measure of ill-luck in its history. On three occasions the Regiment was shipwrecked in troopships, at one time losing all its records and mess silver (reminiscent of the experience of the 24th in 1810). Further, the Regiment had been involved in the action at Myer’s Drift, five miles beyond Luneberg, where the road crossed the Intombi river. At this point, on 12 March, a company of the 80th, under Captain D.B. Moriarty, sent out to escort a convoy, was attacked by a strong force of Zulus, and lost 62 of all ranks, in addition to 15 natives, 2 waggoners, and the civilian surgeon.
The 80th had served extensively in South Africa. In 1856 it proceeded to the Cape, where it was stationed on the Eastern Frontier during the frontier war of that year. It subsequently served in India and Ceylon, and returned to England from India in 1866. Between 1872 and 1877 it served in the Malacca straits and China. In 1877 it proceeded to South Africa once again and served in the Sekukuni campaign. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1879 it was attached to the Reserve column of Colonel Rowlands, and was stationed at Luneberg (whence the main supply route between the Transvaal and Natal started). The regiment served at Ulundi.
88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment of Foot (1793-1881).
Two previous regiments numbered the 88th were raised and disbanded prior to the appearance of the Connaught Rangers. Between its raising in 1793 and 1881 the Regiment was designated the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment of Foot. The Regiment’s record of service can truthfully be said to be one of brilliant daring and high zeal. Its nickname of ‘The Devil’s Own’ was conferred upon it by General Picton during the Peninsula War, in response to the 88th’s utter contempt for danger. The Regiment was the subject of Wellington’s famous anecdote, ‘I don’t know what effect they will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me.’ At Bussaco (1810), the Regiment defeated a force five times its superior in strength. The 88th served in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, serving in India until 1870. It had served in the frontiers wars of 1877-8. At the outbreak of the Zulu War the Regiment was widely dispersed; its HQ was at Kingwilliamstown, one company was at St. Helena (whence it was transported to South Africa on HMS Shah), and three companies at Mauritius. After Isandlwana, the HQ and one company transferred to Pietermaritzburg, whilst the three companies marched to Fort Tenedos, where they acted as a reserve until after the relief of Eshowe. Three companies remained at Mauritius. The 88th served in Crealock’s 1st Division.
90th Perthshire Light Infantry (1794-1 881).
Raised in 1794, the titles of the Regiment have been - between 1794 and 1815 the 90th Perthshire Volunteers; and between 1815 and 1881 the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry. The Regiment had as its first colonel Thomas Graham, Laird of Balgowan. During the Peninsula War, at Barrosa (1811), Colonel Graham had found himself and the 90th Foot abandoned by the Spanish, but nevertheless fought and defeated a vastly superior French force. It had served with distinction during the Crimean War. Later, it had served in the Indian Mutiny, and remained in India until 1869. The Regiment had served previously in South Africa; in the frontier war of 1846-7, and on the Eastern Frontier in 1878, prior to its being included in Wood’s column. The 90th served at Kambula and Ulundi.
91st (Princess Louise’s Argyllshire) Highlanders
The Regiment was raised in 1794. Three previous regiments ranked as the 91st, all being disbanded before the appearance of the one under discussion. Between 1794 and 1798 it was designated as the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. Between 1809 and 1821 its designation was simply the 91st Regiment of Foot. During this period its distinctive title was probably discarded for the same reason that the Highland dress was abandoned at the same time i.e. both were considered to be an impediment to recruiting. Between 1821 and 1864 it was known as the 91st (Argyllshire) Regiment of Foot; between 1864 and 1872 as the 91st (Argyllshire) Highlanders; and between 1872 and 1881 as the 91st (Princess Louise’s (Argyllshire) Highlanders.
In 1802 the Regiment raised a 2nd Battalion in Scotland, but this was disbanded in 1816. One should observe the close association of the 91st with South Africa. The Regiment had served in the Cape, participating in the frontier war of 1846-7, and the wars of 1851-3. After the latter the senior Battalion returned home, but a smaller 2nd (or, as it was termed, ‘Reserve’) Battalion, which had been formed at the Cape, remained in the Colony until 1856, when it was sent home and absorbed into the senior battalion. Moreover, its namesake regiment of 1794-6 had actually been raised in the Cape. Prior to the Zulu War of 1879, it had been stationed in England; before which it had served in India (from the latter part of the Indian Mutiny until 1869). The 91st had been stationed at Aldershot when it received orders to proceed to South Africa. It served at Gingindlovu and Ulundi.
94th Regiment of Foot (1823-1881).
Between 1823 and 1881 the Regiment was known as the 94th Regiment of Foot. Four previous regiments had been allocated the number 94 as their designation. The 94th served in Gibraltar and Malta (1828-34), followed by 15 years continuous service in India. In point of fact, a major portion of their operational career appears to be associated with the sub-continent. The Regiment was back in England in 1854, but returned to Karachi in 1857 and served at Peshawar, on the North West Frontier, and in central India, until 1868. It served at Ulundi.
99th (The Duke of Edinburgh’s) Regiment of Foot
This Regiment made its appearance in 1824 as the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot (its title between 1824 and 1874). Between 1874 and 1881 it was known as the 99th (The Duke of Edinburgh’s) Regiment of Foot. The Regiment served in New Zealand (1845-7), and in China and Japan in the 1860s; after which it served in the Cape and Natal until its return home in 1869. It was stationed at Chatham when, in November, 1878, it received orders to embark for South Africa. The 99th served at Gingindlovu and Inyezane.
Naval Brigade (including the Royal Marines).
Naval Brigades had been engaged with the Army in various campaigns during the latter half of the nineteenth century, including the Indian Mutiny, the 1860 China War, the Abyssinian expedition of 1868, and the Ashanti War of 1873-4. During the course of the Zulu War, contingents from HMS Active, Shah, Tenedos, and Boadicea assisted the land forces at Inyezane, Kambula, and Gingindlovu.
With reference to the Royal Marines (1755- ), from 1664 a number of Line Regiments had served as marines for various periods, and a number of regiments were raised especially as Marines during the late seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century. The present Corps of Royal Marines was raised by the Board of the Admiralty in 1755. In 1859 the RM were converted to a Light Corps, comprising separate divisions of Royal Marine Light Infantry and Royal Marine Artillery. The RMLI and RMA amalgamated as a single Corps in 1923. In 1870 the abolition of the Woolwich division reduced the number of RMLI companies to three. When one considers the drain upon the borne establishment entailed by the despatch of reinforcements, after Isandlwana, one cannot help regretting the fact that Britain never exploited the opportunity to expand the Royal Marines in order to form an elite expeditionary force, to cope with the recurrent crises necessitating the despatch of a few battalions to distant theatres of war.
Commissariat and Transport Department and Army Service
Corps (1875- ).
This unit was formed in 1875 when the Control Department and the Army Service Corps (founded by Cardwell in 1870) was disbanded. The Commissariat and Transport Department’s successors were the Commissariat and Transport Staff and Army Service Corps (1880-1), and the Commissariat and Transport Corps (1881-8). The Department’s personnel were closely involved in the campaign of 1879. One corporal and two privates of the unit were included among the casualties of Isandlwana, whilst Acting Assistant Commissary J.L. Dalton was awarded the VC at Rorke’s Drift. Assistant Commissary W.A. Dunne and Acting Storekeeper W.A. Byrne were also present, together with three other ranks. In the final drive on Ulundi, General Crealock’s Division included 50 personnel, General Newdigate’s 60, and General Wood’s Flying Column, nine personnel from the Department, which was thus represented at Ulundi.
Ordnance Store Department (1875- ).
This was the second department formed from the old Control Department. The close relationship between the Commissariat and Transport Department, and Ordnance Store Department should be noted. To reiterate, both had formed components of the Control Department. (Prior to absorption into the Control Department, the Ordnance Store Department’s duties had been performed by the Military Store Department and the Military Store Staff Corps). Further, in 1877 the four companies performing Ordnance Store duties were separated from the Supply and Iransport Companies and styled the Ordnance Store Branch of the Army Service Corps.
A further change was effected in 1880, when a Royal Warrant divided the Department into a superior section, recruited from combatant officers of the Regular Army (retaining their rank), and a subordinate section of commissioned officers with the rank of quartermaster, carrying the honorary rank of lieutenant or captain, according to service. In 1881 the title Army Service Corps was abolished in relation to the Ordnance Store Department, and the companies performing Ordnance Store duties were designated Ordnance Store Corps. Subsequently, the Regiment's designation changed to Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
Army Medical Staff (or Army Medical Department)
The Army Medical Staff owes its existence as an independent department to a Royal Warrant of 1873, which abolished the appointment of regimental medical officers, subject to certain conditions and reservations. A member of the Army Medical Staff (Surgeon Major Reynolds) gained the VC at Rorke’s Drift. Various works refer to Surgeon Major Reynolds as being a member of the Army Hospital Corps, ignoring the fundamental distinction between this unit and the Army Medical Staff (which will become apparent below). (Both were amalgamated into the RAMC in 1898). The citation to his VC refers to his being a member of the Army Medical Staff. (It is of interest to note, however, that Colonial regiments continued to appoint their own medical officers.)
Army Hospital Corps (1855-98).
In 1855 the Medical Staff Corps was formed, consisting of the non-commissioned ranks of the Army’s medical services. In 1857 this designation was changed to the Army Hospital Corps.
Several points should be noted in conclusion to this history of Imperial units. First, as with the Colonial units, the post-Zulu War campaign histories, and subsequent regimental re-organizations, etc., have been omitted, and for the same central reason; viz., to focus discussion upon the campaign of 1879 itself. Second, as with the Colonial regiments, the bracketed dates refer to the duration of the Regiment as an independent, homogeneous unit, prior to amalgamations, etc. Third, the title allocated to the unit under discussion is that held at the time of the Zulu War.
All these points are matters of organization. However, further observations should be made with regard to historical perspective. First, the British Army which served in the campaign was a fledgeling, imperfect version of the force which was to serve in two world wars. The outstanding anomalies which separate the 1914-45 Army from the Victorian Army had been removed during the course of the l870s. The purchase of commissions had been abolished by the Regulation of the Forces Act (1871), which had also centralized control of the Militia and Volunteers, removing them from the former authority of the Lords-Lieutenant of the counties. Thus, the Regular Army had finally been absorbed into one military system. Similarly, the War Office Act had subordinated the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of State for War, as the latter’s principal military adviser. Second, it is interesting to observe the large number of regiments which had experience of South Africa at the time of the Zulu War; viz, the 13th, 24th, 80th, 90th, and 99th. This powerfully suggests not only that South Africa was the source of recurrent military crises; but that Colonial defence continued to be inadequate throughout the nineteenth century, to meet these crises. The reasons for such a reluctance by the South African colonists to organize regular forces upon a large scale are rooted in social factors, as discussed in the introduction to the Colonial units.
Throughout this article, there has been the endeavour to create a balance between factual information and analysis. This question of balance has determined the inclusion of what might be termed the thematic dimension, in addition to the purely historical.
Thus, the delineating characteristics of the Colonial defence forces have been examined, with a view to probing the reasons for the different patterns of units provided by Natal on the one hand, and the Transvaal and the Cape on the other. This endeavour to maintain a balance between fact and analysis has similarly determined the arrangement of subject matter. To have grouped both Imperial and Colonial units under engagement, for example, or alternatively, in some arbitrary order, would have obscured the very different traditions which had moulded the Colonial and Imperial forces. The concept that the two forces merit separate discussion is reinforced also by the differing tactical infrastructures of the Line infantry (the heart of the campaign) and the mounted colonial volunteers (its nerves, so to speak). Thus, whilst the major engagements of the Zulu War featured the static defence of the Imperial infantry - the square (Gingindlovu and Ulundi) and volley firing (Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Kambula), the Colonial cavalry attained expression in pursuit following the main engagement (Gingindlovu and Ulundi), daring raids upon native kraals (the attacks of the Frontier Light Horse, directed from Wood’s entrenched camp at Kambula Kop), and reconnaissance (e.g. that before Ulundi.)
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