Saturday, December 8, 2012

Natal Volunteer Units: Victoria Mounted Rifles 1862-1888

The Victoria Mounted Rifles were inaugurated September 1862, first parade at HQ Verulam on 1 November in that year. About 50 members were enrolled.

The following officers were immediately appointed:
 Geo Adams J.P.  Major
 J Vacey-Lyle J.P.  Captain  (sometimes Vacy-Lyle)
 Henry Binns  1st Lieutenant and Adjutant
 Wm Lister  2nd Lieutenant
 J Stanton  Quartermaster

In 1867 Major Adams retired and was succeeded by Captain H Townsend, then in 1868 Captain Anthony Wilkinson took over command of the Corps. He was succeeded by Captain Charles Manning in 1873.

September 1873 saw the coronation of the Zulu King, Cetewayo, and a detachment of ten volunteers from the Victoria Mounted Rifles, under Captain Harry Escombe, were part of Theophilus Shepstone's escort to Zululand on this occasion.

Captain Henry Binns, a founder member of the Corps, took over command in 1875. By the end of 1878 when the Zulu War broke out, Captain Charles Saner* was in command and the VMR were mobilized for active service. The following men left Verulam on 2 December 1878 for the Zululand frontier:

Captain Saner
Lieutenant Robarts
Lieutenant Acutt
Quarter-Master Plant
Quarter-Master Sergeant Foss
Sergeant Major Armstrong
Farrier Sergeant Grove
Sergeant Galloway
Corporal Knight
Corporal Hobday
Corporal Acutt
Lance Corporal Todd
A Blamey
J C Blamey
L Coates
E Coates
E Dykes
J Dykes
H Fynney
H Galloway
H Godden
J Jackson
C Manning
A Mitchell
H Plant
F Rathbone
H Reed
C Jackson

During the Anglo-Zulu War, the Corps, as part of the Natal Volunteer Force, saw action at the battle of Inyezane on 22 January 1879 and the relief of Eshowe.

Captain William R Cowley** took command of the Corps in 1886, followed by Captain Harry Sparks until 1887 when the Stanger Mounted Rifles were amalgamated with the Victoria Mounted Rifles and Captain Friend Addison, previously OC Stanger Mounted Rifles, took over command of the enlarged unit. When all the coastal units of Natal amalgamated in 1888 as the Natal Mounted Rifles, the VMR ceased to exist as a separate Corps.

* Charles Taylor Saner, born 1850 in Yorkshire, emigrated to Natal in the early 1870s and farmed at Verulam. He married Mary Blaine, daughter of Dr Blaine, magistrate of Verulam. After the Anglo-Zulu War, Saner joined a gold-mining company in the Transvaal and became manager of Van Rhyn Estates. His four sons served in the Anglo-Boer War.

** William Cowley, born 1852 in Fairford England, came to Natal in 1859, and farmed in the Little Umhlanga Valley. He was one of the VMR's best shottists. (The unit produced numerous brilliant marksmen.)

Uniform: Blue cloth, scarlet facings; black cloth helmet with white plume for officers, black plume for other ranks. Buttons and helmet badges were embossed with monogram V.M.R. surmounted with a crown, silver for officers and white metal for other ranks. The kepi replaced the helmet in undress order. No shoulder straps were worn and the Corps did not adopt a collar badge.

Members provided their own horses, uniforms, saddlery and other equipment. Arms, ammunition and field equipment were supplied by the Government. At first armed with the Terry and Snider carbine, this was replaced in 1875 by the Swinburn-Henry carbine firing a .450 lead bullet. Officers carried swords and revolvers. Ammunition was carried in a pouch slung to a cross-belt, white leather with black pouch for full dress, and brown leather belt for service order. Colonial pattern saddlery was used.

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