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South African Forces

Natal Mounted Rifles

Rough But Ready

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Natal Mounted Rifles - (5 members)

The Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR) can trace their origins back to 25 Sep 1862. It became a mechanised unit prior to World War 2 and used Steward and Sherman tanks during WWII. They continued as a balanced and fully combat ready Tank Regiment and saw duty in SWA during the Border War and formed part of 81 Armoured Brigade from 1975 until 1983, then as part of 84 Motorised Brigade from 1983. The Regimental strength was buoyed by the regular intakes of national Servicemen during this period.

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Rough But Ready


RE: Natal Mounted Rifles

On the 23rd March 1854, a military unit known as the Royal D’urban Rangers was established. This Unit, consisting of 8 Officers and 40 other ranks, was raised for the defence of D’urban and outlying settlements. Capt James Proudfoot was appointed the first Commanding Officer. Other Units were formed to provide a military presence, and included the Victoria Mounted Rifles and the Durban Mounted Rifles. In 1888 these small coastal Units were amalgamated into one Regiment, the Natal Mounted Rifles. The Units amalgamated were the Victoria Mounted Rifles, the Alexandria Mounted Rifles, the Durban Mounted Rifles, the Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles and the Isipingo Mounted Rifles. In 1913 the Border Mounted Rifles joined the NMR to form the 3rd Mounted Rifles (Natal Mounted Rifles). The BMR crest of the Boot, and the motto “Rough but Ready”, were adopted as the new crest and motto of the 3rd Mounted Rifles (NMR).

The first Officer Commanding, Natal Mounted Rifles, was Capt Friend Addison (1888-1896). The Regiment was involved in the Anglo-Zulu War fighting engagements at Nyezane on 22 January 1879, the same day as the battle of Isandlwana, and later in the Ango-Boer war with the opening engagements at Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899. Elements of the NMR were in Ladysmith during the Siege, and in the relief column that raised the Siege.

World War 1 saw the Natal Mounted Rifles serving in German South West Africa as the 3rd Mounted Rifles (NMR). The NMR also saw service in other theatres of War through the involvement of serviceman in other Units and formations – for example in the South African Brigade at Delville Wood.

In 1932 the name NMR was re-instated, and on 1st July 1934 the NMR was officially “dismounted” and began training on the Maxim and then the Vickers machine guns. In 1936 the NMR became a mechanised Unit, and in the same year affiliated to the 3rd Kings Own Hussars (raised in 1685). This affiliation still exists with the Queens Royal Hussars who succeeded the King’s Own Hussars. It is through this affiliation that many of the NMR’s cavalry traditions are still in evidence.

The NMR prepared for World War 2 in camps at Oribi in May 1940. Further training, as part of 9 Brigade, took place at Louis Trichardt. On the 14th October 1940, the NMR embarked on board the Llangibby Castle for Mombassa, arriving there on the 21st October. They entrained here for Gilgil in Kenya, to meet up with their transport that had come overland. From Gilgil, the NMR advanced towards Abyssinia, and on the 16-18 January 1941 successfully fought its first engagement at El Yibo. The Regiment went on to the Western Desert where it was equipped with Stewart and Sherman tanks. The Regiment fought at El Alamein, Gazala, Dadaba, Bir Temrad, ultimately moving on to Italy to fight in the Italian Campaign. It was in Italy that the NMR saw the cessation of hostilities.


RE: Natal Mounted Rifles

The post World War 2 period saw the NMR engaged in peacetime training and exercises involving armour. The SA Army Armoured Corps developed it equipment and doctrine based on World War 2 experience, and the new post World War 2 technologies that were emerging. The NMR saw duty in South West Africa during the Border conflict. The Regimental strength was buoyed by the regular intakes of national Servicemen during this period, and in 1992 when conscription was terminated, that the present volunteer system of recruitment came into being. This volunteer system has had the effect of broadening the base of recruitment into the Regiment.

Source: Customs & Traditions, History and Insignia of the South African Armoured Corps, 2nd Editiom...

RE: Natal Mounted Rifles

The Natal Mounted Rifles traces its history back to 1854 when it was known as the Royal D’Urban Rangers. The Corps was a mounted unit and the men were armed with swords and rifles while their task was the protection of the citizens of what was then D’Urban (named after Sir Benjamin D’Urban).

As the town increased in size, no fewer than seven Natal Militia were incorporated into what became known as the Natal Mounted Rifles. The Regiment has served KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa with pride and has participated in every major conflict since the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The Regiment’s baptism of fire in that war was at Nyezane on the 22nd January1879.

The NMR served throughout the 118 day Siege of Ladysmith and participated in the action on Wagon Hill on the 6th January 1900. After the Natal Campaign had ended, members of the NMR joined the Volunteer Composite Regiment and were amongst the first Colonial volunteers to serve beyond the borders of the Colony of Natal. These men then served with General Sir Leslie Rundle’s Eighth Division in the Orange Free State until October 1900.

During the 1906 Poll tax (‘Bhambatha’) Rebellion, the NMR participated in several theatres of operation and was present at the decisive Battle of Mome Gorge on the 10th June 1906.

At the outbreak of WW1, the regiment became the 3rd Mounted Rifles
and was attached to the 8th Mounted Brigade with the Central Force in the German South West African Campaign.

The NMR remained mounted until 1934 when the Union Defence Force was ‘modernised’ and the regiment became mechanised infantry. During WW2, the Regiment was mobilised again – on the 3rd June 1940 – and posted to the 2nd South African Infantry Brigade for service in Abyssinia and North Africa. Some of the men were retrained and served in armoured cars and light tanks in a reconnaissance role. In 1934 the NMR was amalgamated with the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, SA Tank Corps and was equipped with the legendary Stuart and Honey tanks. In 1944, the Regiment was amalgamated with the South African Air Force Armoured Car Battalion for service in the Italian Campaign. Later that year, the Regiment resumed the role of infantry in the Apennines, leaving the drivers only in a tank role and in 1945 they joined the 13th Brigade as Infantry. The men of the NMR were awarded an impressive number of medals, decorations and awards, including no fewer than two MBEs, one DSO, one DCM, 9 Military Crosses and 18 Military Medals!

After WW2, the NMR resumed peace time activities and the Regiment was equipped with Mk 1V Marmon Herrington and Ferret armoured cars. In 1968, the NMR was re-equipped and converted into a tank regiment once again – this time with the British Centurion Main Battle tank. This tank has since been upgraded to the Regiment’s formidable ‘Olifant 1A MBT tank.

The NMR was deployed to the South West Africa / Namibia operational area on numerous occasions and the Regiment was amongst the last to be withdrawn from Angola during that conflict.

Since the 1994 Democratic Elections, the NMR has undergone several training exercises and continues to recruit members into its ranks. It boasts a Regimental Pipe Band and is affiliated to the 3rd King’s Own Hussars. The Regiment’s motto is ‘Rough But Ready’.

Source: Ladysmith Municipality Heritage Commemorative Brochure – 2 July 2011...

RE: Natal Mounted Rifles

The Whole Regiment was mobilised at the end of January 1976. It went into training at De Brug in Bloemfontein until + - 26 February 1976.
C Squadron NMR was then mobilised to Grootfontein, South West Africa. The Squadron was 181 Personnel strong. Attached under Command were elements of RHQ, HQ and Personnel from 81 Brigade, Tiffíes and Signals. With C Squadron as well, were five Permanent Force Personnel who manned Slurpy. They serviced the engines of the Semel Tanks.
This was the first time that Tanks had been operationally mobilised since the 2nd World War.
This was also the first time that the then new Tank Overall and Jacket had been issued and used operationally.
With us were 8 Semel Tanks and 7 Mk 3 and Mk 5 Centurion Tanks.
The Tanks were mobilised by road from Bloemfontein. As there were only 4 Low Bed Transporters so they had to be shuttled backwards and forwards. C Squadron also took over the 4 Transporters until one's wheels broke off.
Certainly from C Squadron point of view it was the first time that we were issued and fired the Black Head APDS Round.
We were mobilised from Grootfontein into Training at Oshivelo, from there to Ondongwa and a few days later to Ruacana where we established our forward Base.
From Ruacana the Regiment was tasked by 84 Brigade to do an area survey from Chitado to 6km short of Cahama. This was undertaken by the Leader Group of the Squadron, therefore certain members of the Squadron wear the Cunene Clasp and the Regiment has the Battle Honour.
C Squadron was relieved by B Squadron on the 20th April 1976 who were also based at Ruacana. B Squadron were later relieved by elements of A Squadron.
During the period end February to April, C Squadron fell under the Command of 7 Division, Brigadier Paul Roos, Officer Commanding.
Officer Commanding C Squadron, Major B.K.E. Heam
Squadron Sgt Major W.O.2. P.N. (Nunkie) Alexander
Attached Permanent Force Advisor, Major A.J. van Niekerk

[Information provided by Col Bruce Hearn, and sent in by Hilton Naish]...

RE: Natal Mounted Rifles

Natal Mounted Rifles Regimental Colours

The Colour is worked in fine silk on a dark blue field, symbolic of the S A Armoured Corps, and is fringed with green, brown and silver. green and brown are the regimental colours and silver relates to the insignia of the Regiment. The Regimental title and badges are mounted in the centre with the motto Rough bu Ready on a scroll beneath. A wreath of proteas encircles the insignia with battle honours arrayed, 10 on either side, in order in which they were won.

The first Colour - a standard of scarlet and gold consecrated by the Bishop of Natal - was presented to the Royal Durban Rangers (a parent corps of NMR) at Pietermaritzburg on May 24 1858 and was deposited in St Paul's Church in Durban in 1874.

In 1904 the Kings' Colour was presented to the regiment at Pietermaritzburg in October by HRH Princess Christian on behalf of King Edward VII. in March 1947 a Regimental Colour was presented by King George VI at the SA Military College at Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte).

The present Colour was presented to the regiment by the Army Chief of Staff, Combat General C.A. Fraser, at Durban on May 20, 1966,...

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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET


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