The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 5 No 6 - December 1982

Prince’s Horse - (A Note)

by Comdt J.J. Hulme JCD

This unit is noted by Major Tylden, in the second of the Addenda to Armed Forces of South Africa to have been a small unit raised in Kimberley, presumably for the Northern Border campaign of 1878. The source quoted is the South African Medical Record, 1915, Vol 13, p 134.

In his 'History of Medicine in South Africa’, Dr Edmund Burrows quotes the same source which was presumably, an obituary on Dr James Perrott Prince (1838-1915) a Canadian born American who had fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War and who arrived in South Africa in 1866. He was licenced to practise in Kimberley in 1873 and was a partner of Dr Leander Starr Jameson (of Raid fame, the associate of C.J. Rhodes and later Prime Minister of the Cape Colony). In a rebellion in the the seventies he raised his own unit, Prince’s Horse.

From a reading of an official source, however, it is unlikely that the unit’s existence was officially sanctioned. The hostilities concerned were the Rebellion in Griqualand West during 1878. The Administrator of Griqualand West, Col W. Owen Lanyon, took the field to command military operations and the conduct of the civil administration was taken over by the Recorder of Griqualand West, Mr Justice Barry.

On 6 June, 1878, Lanyon wrote to Barry from Schmidt’s Drift* and the following extract from his letter is relevant.
‘I learn that Dr Prince and Mr Webb have made a very liberal offer in regard to raising volunteers, some forty, to aid which they guarantee £300 each, but they want them to be, as it were, free lances, and to have a campaign on their own plan. This would, I fear, hardly do, and one has quite enough to do to look after those under one’s immediate eye, without having an almost irresponsible body acting where one knows not. Besides which the opportunities of communication in this country are so difficult, indeed almost impossible, on account of the great risks run by messengers, that an independent and weak column would only be a source of danger and anxiety. In civilised warfare it would all be very well, but here the result of being trapped would be extermination and also loss of prestige to the white man. I have therefore felt compelled to refuse the offer, though grateful for the liberal spirit which prompted the same’.

Further evidence on the matter may come to light, but in view of the fact that Lanyon, both senior military commander and the highest civil authority in the territory was not sympathetic, it is highly unlikely that Prince’s Horse ever came into existence.

* Blue Book A.30-’78. Copy of Further Correspondence on the subject of the Recent Native Disturbances in Griqualand West.

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