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South African Commandos

UNITAS - United We Stand

The History of Commandos

The first Commando rode out against marauding Bushmen in 1715 in the Cape, all the members serving at their own charges, choosing their own officers, and deciding their course of action in open debate. The last, or presumably the the last, horsed Commando operated on the Witwatersrand during the Revolt of 1922. The men were paid, fed and equipped by government, and the appointment of officers was controlled to a very large extend. In between these two dates every variation of pay, supply and appointment of officers is found; the first large scale issue of arms and clothing with pay occurred in 1880, when the Cape called out its Commandos for service in the Basutuland Rebellion. The call up was by levy, substitutes were allowed, and cases occurred where these men were elected as officers.. The senior commandant of one of the largest groups, duly elected, was an Englishman, son of a Leicestershire farmer, who did extremely well.[1]

On 13th April 1846 the Commissariat at the Cape asked for tenders for 1500 great coats and forage caps for the Burghers. It would be of interest to know if the caps were drawn and worn on service. They would be round with a wider top. This note sent by J. J. Hulme is a very early instance of a clothing issue to Commandos. (Cape Town Mail)

The Cape men were called out again for the Langberg campaign of 1897, this being their last appearance in the field before Union. Apart from the Commandos of the short-lived Republic of Natal in the eighteen-forties, the system was not much in evidence in that Colony, though burghers were in the field in 1861, and there is a note in a book of the fifties, which states that "volunteer corps were proposed (in 1854) so as to avoid the conscription of the Burgher Law with its loose undisciplined organisation."

The Militia Reserves of the Natal Militia Act of 1894 were definitely Commandos, and were in force for the Zululand Rebellion. The Orange Free State relied solely on Commandos, and all efforts to set up any other organisation on foot were severely put down, although Bloemfontein did supply a volunteer unit for the Basutu wars.[2] In the Transvaal volunteer units were encouraged to a limited extend, though all were swept into the Commandos when war broke out in 1899. The stress of the long S.A. War, which began in that year, led to the leaders, both in the O.F.S. and Transvaal, to put sharp limits to the election of officers, to do away with the popular Councils of War, where anyone could give an opinion, and to arrange for pay to be given in the event of victory.

The Union Defence Act of 1912 provided for Commando organisations, under the name of Defence Rifle Associations, with definite age limits. But when war broke out with Germany in 1914, and rebellious Commandos took the field against the Government, for a short period in that year, men of any age, who could sit on a horse and handle a rifle, were taken for service. The Cape men were used as Commandos in the fighting along the Orange River with Germans and Rebels, but the Transvaal and O.F.S. men were properly regimented and uniformed and lost even the name of Commandos. They were known as Mounted Brigades in G.S.W.A. and as S.A. Horse in G.E.A.

[1] The Commandant referred to was Sir John Frost, K.C.M.G., 1828 to 1918. He served with Buller in the Ninth Kaffir War.
[2] Bloemfontein Rangers.
Source: "The Armed Forces of South Africa 1659 - 1954", by Maj G. Tylden
Commando Stable Belt (Photo: Louis Lategan)
Commando Stable Belt (Photo:Louis Lategan)
Some Commando Units of the SADF
SA Commandos Links
Medals awarded to Members of the South African Commandos
Medal NameRankDate of ActionUnitNotes
 van Heerden, J.H.Cmdt  Middle Karoo Commando Threw a live grenade clear of training group at risk of his own lifeView more...
HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)
Aucamp P.J2 Lt11-Nov-75 11 Commando  View more...
HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)
 Gregory A.TRfn 28-Jan-87* Insele Commando  View more...
HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)HONORIS CRUX - Second Type (HC) (1975)
Holm J.WCapt § 23-Nov-75 Danie Theron Combat School § - Killed in action.View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Bouwer, F.Major  Vanderbijlpark Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Burger, D.J.Commandant  De Deur Commando (later known as the Meyerton Commando)  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
De Leeuw, S.A.Major  West Rand Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
De Villiers, J.C.O.Major  Springs Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Gouws, E.H.Temporary Commandant  West Rand Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Hattingh, P.A.Major  Vanderbijlpark Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Smith, J.A.Commandant  Delmas Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Van der Walt, H.B.Lieutenant  Vanderbijlpark Commando  View more...
DE WET DECORATION (DWD)                                                                                                                                                                                 DE WET DECORATION (DWD)
Van Zyl, E.S.Commandant  Krugersdorp Commando  View more...
Members of the SA Commandos on the Roll of Honour
YearForce NumberRankNameDate Of DeathUnit
19646107503PteDummer B.I.1964/03/03Tygerberg Commando
197472592280N Rfn Christello A.M. 1974/08/2811 Commando
197573245037NCplSnell D.B.L.1975/07/2111 Commando
197571511018N Rfn Venter B. 1975/11/1211 Commando
197567728378PECaptHolm J.W. (HC)1975/11/23Danie Theron Combat School
1975 RfnVenter P.J.1975/12/0111 Commando
197669154888KVCaptDuvenhage G.1976/04/13Benoni Commando
197671368484KTCplBarnard J.P.H.1976/05/03Kempton Park Commando
197667451302KTRfnCustard L.W.1976/05/05Kempton Park Commando
197673118127KTCplHenderson C.H.1976/08/07Cradock Commando
197673511776KTRfnBekker H.A.1976/08/26Boksburg Commando; Bravo Group at Woodpecker Base
197605516950PE Capt Cloete J.S. 1976/08/31Danie Theron Combat School
197673528234BA Rfn Ehlers C.F. 1976/09/1311 Commando
197673406480BARfnMalan J.H.1976/10/2511 Commando
197771349229KTRfnBotha J.J.1977/01/17Springs Commando
197772253644KTRfnOosthuizen F.F.1977/02/09Meyerton Commando
197776848209KVRfnKotze C.H.1977/04/03South Coast Commando
197772512734KTRfnPietersen W.J.1977/05/05Boksburg Commando
197769410728KTRfnTesnar C.M.A.1977/07/16Lydenburg Commando
197763166268KTCplVan Zyl A.P.1977/09/11Tygerberg Commando
197708093777KV Lt Le Roux P.L. 1977/10/14Delmas Commando
197768986223KTCplStrydom K.C.1977/10/17Klein Karoo Commando
197770398011KTRfnBaum J.F.1977/10/29East Park Commando; Sector 70 Headquarters
197774232281BGRfnBuys D.L.1977/11/2611 Commando
197774764077BACplWilcox M.A.1977/11/2611 Commando
197774239856BGRfnKretzmann L.D.1977/11/2811 Commando, attached to 53 Battalion
197770499553KTCplKotze C.R.1977/12/08West Coast Commando
197768201748KTRfnKruger J.H.P.1977/12/08Bloemfontein Commando
197770446117KTSgtKruger A.J.1977/12/27Bronkhorstspruit Commando
197878667482KDRfnSwanepoel H. (Mrs)1978/06/17Bronkhorstspruit Commando
197873427494BGRfnDu Plessis J.C.1978/09/2111 Commando
197877526820BGRfnCloete A.W.1978/10/0611 Commando
197974842519KVRfnNel W.A.1979/01/20Soutpansberg Commando
197971387286KTRfnVan Drutten J.H.1979/03/21Lydenburg Commando
197976245679BG Cpl Rix R. 1979/04/1311 Commando
197977547784BGRfnAtherton P.W.B.1979/07/1111 Commando
197976279454BARfnMostert J.G.A.1979/12/0711 Commando
198070272224KT2 LtVan Heerden W.G.1980/02/29Noordvaal Commando
198072462153 Rfn Du Plessis I.G. 1980/08/31Noordvaal Commando
198075351973BTSmnDu Toit T.A.1980/12/24Orange Free State Command Signal Unit; University of the Orange Free State Commando
198177374536BGPteBotha A.J.1981/01/2311 Commando
198173239311KTRfnViljoen P.J.1981/03/17Pietermaritzburg Commando
198173578437KV Lt Fourie J.J. 1981/08/13Gobabis Area Force Unit
198279648515SPRfnKouswab J.1982/04/15Etosha Area Force Unit
198267302257BGRfnPotgieter J.H.1982/04/1561 Mechanised Battalion Group; Etosha Area Force Unit
198274846544PE2 LtVan der Westhuizen D.R.1982/04/1561 Mechanised Battalion Group; Etosha Area Force Unit
198201166180PEColCoetzer J.A.1982/07/14Danie Theron Combat School
198272365984BTPteVan Zyl J.A.1982/11/15Kimberley Commando
198376524644KTRfnAboud A.1983/01/06Virginia Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198374420910KTRfnDiedericks J.H.1983/01/06Goudveld Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198372477734KTRfnDu Toit B.J.1983/01/06Goudveld Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198371375679KTCplEde R.A.1983/01/06Brakpan Commando, Group 34 Headquarters
198372459506KTRfnGriesel F.M.1983/01/06Goudveld Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198371291868KTRfnVan der Merwe J.L.1983/01/06Goudveld Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198372241417KTRfnUzzel P.1983/01/08Goudveld Commando; Group 34 Headquarters
198374468430BTRfnThirion A.J.B.1983/08/03Boksburg Commando
198378554656BTRfnBoshoff G.M.1983/11/10Witbank Commando
198574542200BTRfnTheron P.J.1985/05/08Germiston Commando
198508087504KV Maj Uys J.P. 1985/09/10Bothaville Commando
198608051088KVCaptCloete C.J.1986/10/16Sasol Commando
198665934903KVCmdtGoosen W.1986/10/16Sasolburg Commando
198677875029RV Rfn Bronkhorst N.C.M. 1986/11/21Ermelo Commando
198666213299KVSgtLabuschagne G.B.1986/11/23Virginia Commando
198779521167BT Rfn Riekert A.G. 1987/06/19Brakpan Commando
198770434790KTRfnBurger W.P.1987/12/08Gordonia Commando
198765436966KV Rfn Van der Merwe D.R. 1987/12/08Gordonia Commando
198872542145KHRfnWolmarans N.J.1988/10/16Bethal Commando
199083416552BGPteDe Bruin G.S.1990/03/01Danie Theron Combat School

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