Cape Mounted Riflemen

Cape Mounted Riflemen

The Cape Mounted Riflemen were South African military units. There were two separate regiments of that name, which may be confusing. Some military historians distinguish between them by labelling the first as "imperial" and the second as "colonial".

Cape Mounted Riflemen (1)

The first, so-called "imperial", unit, was formed by the Dutch administration of the Cape Colony in 1793, to enlarge its garrison because of the threat posed by the war in Europe. It was originally called the "Corps van Pandoeren", i.e. "Corps of Pandours", and consisted of Khoisan and Coloured men under White officers.

The British retained the unit after taking over the colony in 1795, and renamed it the "Cape Regiment". When the Dutch resumed the administration in 1803, they changed the name to the "Corps van Vrye Hottentotten", i.e. "Corps of Free Hottentots" and again, in 1805, to the "Hottentot Ligte Infanterie", i.e. "Hottentot Light Infantry".

After British rule was reinstated in 1806, the unit was called the "Cape Regiment" again. In 1817, it was divided into mounted and infantry sections, and was renamed the "Cape Corps of Cavalry and Infantry", or "Cape Corps" for short. When the infantry section was disbanded in 1827, the corps was renamed "Cape Mounted Riflemen".

The unit was deployed in several operations and campaigns: the 4th Frontier War (1811-1812), the 5th Frontier War (1818-1819), the 6th Frontier War (1834-1835), the siege of Durban (1842), the 7th Frontier War (1846-1847), the 8th Frontier War (1850-1853), and the Basuto War 1850-1852.

The CMR were disbanded in 1870. The name was later given to another unit, and in 1915 the earlier name, "Cape Corps", was revived for a unit of Coloured soldiers. The name "Cape Regiment" was revived for another Coloured unit, in 1986.

Cape Mounted Riflemen (2)

The second, so-called "colonial", unit, was formed by the Cape Colony government in 1855, as the para-military "Frontier Armed and Mounted Police". Its function was to maintain law and order in the districts along the colony's frontier with the Xhosa kingdoms in the Transkei.

The FAMP was operationally deployed in the Transkei in 1858, against the Koranna in 1869, in apprehending the Zulu chief Langalibalele in 1873, in Griqualand West in 1875, and in the 9th Frontier War (1877-1878).

In 1878, the FAMP were fully militarised, as a unit of the Colonial Forces, and renamed "Cape Mounted Riflemen".

The CMR fought in the Moorosi campaign in 1879, the Basutoland Gun War (1880-1881), the Matabeleland campaign (1893-1894), the Bechuanaland campaign in 1897, and the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

In 1913, the CMR were incorporated into the new Union Defence Forces as the "1st South African Mounted Riflemen". In World War I they fought in the German South West Africa campaign (1914-1915). In 1922, they were deployed in operations to crush the Rand Revolt on the Witwatersrand.

The 1st SAMR were disbanded in 1926, for financial reasons.


* Castle, Ian. (1991) "The Cape Mounted Riflemen" in "Military Illustrated" No 38.
* Young, P.J. (1955) "Boot and Saddle".

ee also

* Cape Colonial Forces

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