Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Colonials in the Zulu War

Numerous Colonial units served in the Anglo-Zulu War 1879: they're often difficult to classify. The Frontier Light Horse, for example, was a Colonial mounted volunteer force raised at Kingwilliamstown in the Cape Colony but as its members were paid by the British government the unit didn't fall under the Colonial authorities. It was described as 'a tough, informal fighting force, the nearest English Colonial equivalent to a Boer commando. You had to be able to ride and shoot. You took your own horse with you when you joined ...'.  This could be said about any of the Colonial mounted corps.

Then there were the irregulars: Imperial mounted units raised in South Africa, such as Raaff's Horse (also known as the Transvaal Rangers), largely recruited in Kimberley. Not in the same category as any of the above, the Natal Mounted Police (later called the Natal Police) was a permanent force which had existed since 1874. 26 of its members were killed in action at Isandhlwana and of the 3 who happened to be at Rorke's Drift on 22/23 January 1879, 2 survived (Troopers Lugg and Green).

For a detailed list of Colonial units taking part in the Zulu War see

The Colonial mounted volunteers made up somewhat for the dearth of British cavalry in the early phase of the war. Though they played a valuable role, Colonial troops were not highly thought of by British Army regulars.

More on the Colonials in the next post.

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial, Pietermaritzburg, Natal

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