Saturday, August 13, 2016

Gentlemen in Khaki 5


In the second half of the 19th century there were a number of semi-military police forces in South Africa. These arose out of the need to maintain law and order over large areas and difficult terrain in the many districts of which the country was comprised.

One of these units was the Natal Mounted Police, which was first raised after the Langalibalele Rebellion in 1874 and saw action in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. This corps continued to serve through the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 (at the Siege of Ladysmith) and the Bambata Rebellion of 1906, until finally being incorporated into the South African Mounted Riflemen in 1913. The force numbered just over 300 at the beginning of the Anglo-Boer War. Many of its members were recruited in England in the early years of the corps and it’s interesting that some of these men are individually-named on passenger lists, coming out on such ships as the Kinfauns Castle and Roslin Castle in the 1880s. 

Natal Police Trooper Maynard died at Ladysmith
These lists occur in the European Immigration Department registers (source code EI) held at Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository. If an ancestor was in the NMP, the chances of finding out more about him are good. The history of the corps is told in Holt’s ‘The Mounted Police of Natal’. 

16 volumes of original NMP records are preserved at Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository. 

This treasure trove includes nominal rolls, enlistment registers from 1874-1913, records of service covering that period, and a roll of individuals granted Long Service and Good Conduct Medals 1882-1907. That’s not all: a search of the NAAIRS index on the words ‘Natal Mounted Police’ brings up over 500 files of various types – Colonial Secretary’s Office correspondence, Magisterial archives etc – each containing useful material.

Similarly well-documented, the Cape Mounted Police came into existence in 1882.  Enrolment records are held in the Cape Town Archives Repository, and searches on the NAAIRS index would be beneficial for anyone in pursuit of a CMP ancestor.

The Cape Mounted Riflemen, a totally separate semi-military entity from the above, started off as the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police (FAMP) circa 1855, with the change in title dating from 1878. Their history is recounted by Basil Williams in his ‘Record of the Cape Mounted Riflemen’ and again NAAIRS offers a large number of references to files concerning the CMR, held in the Cape Archives Repository. 

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