The South African Military History Society
Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Light Horse Regiment Centenary

The Imperial Light Horse Regiment/Light Horse Regiment, the oldest Regiment in the former Transvaal, celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1999.

The "Reformers Regiment" subsequently known as the Imperial Light Horse Regiment was established with the approval of Queen Victoria in September 1899.

Although the first assembly took place at the showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg, the Regiment was really born in Johannesburg after discussions between its founders Col. Aubrey Woolls-Sampson, Major Walter "Karri" Davies, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Capt. Charles Mullins.

Command was given to Col. J.J. Scott-Chisholme of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers who led 444 officers and men, chosen from 5000 volunteers, to their first engagement at Elandslaagte on October 21 1899.

So distinguished was their performance there that Capt. C.H. Mullins and Lt. R. Johnstone were each awarded the Victoria Cross. Col. Scott-Chisholme was tragically killed during the battle.

The Regiment then saw service at the Siege of Ladysmith and another V.C. was won, this time posthumously, by Trooper H. Albrecht at Wagon Hill above the town. After Colenso, Spion Kop and the Relief of Ladysmith the ILH were specially selected to join the Mafeking Relief Column under Col. Brian Mahon.

Late in 1900 the 2nd ILH was formed under Major Duncan McKenzie and both Regiments were employed throughout the Transvaal and Orange Free State Republics until the end of the war. A fourth V.C. was won by Surgeon Captain Thomas Crean at Tyger Kloof near Bethlehem in 1901.

In 1906 a Squadron was called for duty with the Transvaal Mounted Rifles to quell the Zulu Rebellion in Natal and Zululand.

The Regiment progressed in the years of peace until the first Rand Revolt in 1913 when together with other ACF Units and Commandos they were mobilised by the Government to assist the South African Police maintain Law and Order during the general strike.

After Great Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, General Botha, on behalf of the South African Government, agreed to assist and as a result both units of the Regiment took part in the South West African Campaign. The Battle Honour Gibeon was won by the 2nd ILH at this time. The Regiment was placed on reserve after the Great War and it was only after violence broke out on the Rand in 1922 that the ILH was again used in a peace keeping role after Martial Law was declared and the Battle of Ellis Park, with tragic consequences, was fought.

The Second World War, however, highlighted the courage and determination of the men of the ILH. The 1st ILH was brought up to strength in 1939, and the 2nd ILH reformed. Although both were Infantry Battalions, the 2nd Regiment was soon transferred to the South African Tank Corps to form the 13th Armoured Car Company, which in turn amalgamated with Royal Natal Carbineers to create the 6th Armoured Car Regiment. Later, a further amalgamation with the 4th Armoured Car Regiment formed the 4th/6th ACR under command Lt. Col. Robert Reeves-Moore M.C. who was later awarded the Bar to his M.C. for the armoured breakthrough in the final stages of the El Alamein Battle.

The 1st ILH had sailed from Durban in a large convoy bound for Suez on April 10 1941. They were to provide the advance party for the 2nd Division and it was in June that their first task of digging the defences at El Alamein began. Although unspectacular then, it was there less than a year later, that the 3rd Brigade as part of the 1st Division was to earn the undying destinction of being the first to stop Rommel's all but successful thrust to drive the allied forces out of Egypt. In December of 1941 the Division was given orders to clear the coast between Bardia and Tobruk. Outstanding achievements included a daring sweep along the coast road and the destruction of the German tank workshops when 22 enemy tanks were destroyed. On December 31 1941 the final thrust on Bardia together with RLI commenced, and although the casualties were heavy, this together with the Gazala Defence, played a major part in stopping Rommel's advance towards the Nile Delta. Then on October 23 1942 the ILH formed the left flank of the spearhead when the 8th Army attacked El Alamein under General Montgomery. Soon afterwards the Regiment was reorganised back in South Africa and the First and Second Regiments together with Kimberley Regiment were amalgamated to form the ILH/Kim. Regiment under Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore D.S.O., M.C. and in September 1943 again sailed for Egypt to join the 6th Armoured Division in the role of a motorised Battalion. Then in April 1944 the Division sailed for Italy and ILH/Kim.R. was attached to the 12th S.A. Brigade which was operating on a front in the mountains above Cassino. After a series of fierce battles north of Rome the unit triumphantly entered Florence on August 4 1944. After a brief rest the Division came under command of the American 5th Army and was given the task of attacking the Gothic Line on the southern slopes of the Apennines. In September heavy fighting culminated in the capture of Monte Bagno at the cost of almost a quarter of the Regiment killed or wounded. The fighting continued until the capture of Monte Salvaro or point 826 where ILH/Kim.R. drove the enemy off the rocky peak after sustaining heavy losses. After the winter in March 1945 the 6th S.A. Armoured Division broke through the last of the German defences around Bologna and the army headed for Venice with the objective of routing the enemy before static defences could be formed along the River Po. Fittingly the last serious engagement took place at Finale south of Venice, where the overwhelming strength of the allies forced the enemy to surrender thus ending the Italian Campaign and the Regiments tour of duty overseas.

After the War the Regiment was resussitated as an Armoured Regiment and equipped with Sherman Tanks. The fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1949 included a review of the Regiment by the Minister of Defence Hon. F.C. Erasmus, and the unveiling of a Memorial Plaque by Field Marshal the Rt. Hon. J.C. Smuts at St Mary's Cathedral honouring those of the Regiment who had laid down their lives during the Second World War. The Diamond Jubilee, ten years later was noteworthy for the conferment of the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg as well as Mafeking and Ladysmith. The grand finale to these celebrations was the unveiling and dedication of the Regimental War Memorial, a Crusader Tank, mounted on a plinth outside the Association Hall. This Memorial has now been transferred to the Regimental Headquarters at Kelvin in Sandton.

In October 1959 the Hon. F.C. Erasmus issued a defence reorganisation policy statement in which the disbandment of the Regiment was to take place. Serious consternation prevailed and a delegation from the Regimental Council tried in vain to meet with the Minister. Soon afterwards a Cabinet reshuffle took place and the new Minister of Defence, the Hon. J.J. Fouche had the foresight in January 1960 to rescind the decision. However with the institution of the Republic and the break from the Commonwealth the Government decided to change the name to the Light Horse Regiment. An unpopular decision particularly with those who had served with distinction in the ILH but the new name was reluctantly accepted.

The Regiment continued to serve the S.A.D.F. as an Armoured Car Regiment and in 1975 with the strength close to 2000 a decision was taken to split the Regiment into 1 Light Horse Regiment and 2 Light Horse Regiment. The Units served 72 Motorised Infantary Brigade and 81 Armoured Brigade respectively and duty included the Border War in Northern South West Africa/Angola which saw frequent tours by the Regiment or Squadrons making up Battle Groups. LHR was also deployed in a peace keeping role in the townships of South Africa in the late 1980's and early 1990's in an effort to curb the violence which had errupted in the country.

After the elections in 1994 the newly formed S.A.N.D.F. embarked on a rationalisation campaign which affected a large number of citizen force units. Some were closed completely while others, mainly the so called traditional regiments were scaled down or amalgamated with other units. In March 1997 1 LHR and 2LHR were reformed into a single Regiment once again, and will continue to serve as a Citizen Force Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment for the foreseeable future. Officer Commanding is Lt. Col. Wim Alberts M.M.M.

The Regiment received the Kings Colour from Princess Christian on Houghton Estate in 1904 and from King George VI (Colonel in Chief at the time) at Voortrekkerhoogte in 1947. Regimental Colours were presented in 1947, and then in 1969 by the Hon. P.W. Botha at Milner Park. The National Colour was presented to 1 LHR and 2LHR in 1993.

In total 31 Battle Honours have been awarded to both Regiments, 23 of which are currently displayed on the Regimental Colour.

The Light Horse Regiment will continue to serve and protect the people of South Africa with dedication and honour.

In order to preserve our 100 years of History we are establishing a museum at the Regimental Headquarters. We are looking for donations or loans of any memorabilia, photographs, uniforms, medals and books which have an ILH/LHR connection. If you are able to assist, please write to R. Scheublé at P O Box 1441 Kelvin 2054 or telephone any of the following after hours:
Roger Scheublé +27(0)83-653-8731
Heinrich Janzen +27(0)82-809-6039
Tony Girling +27(0)82-804-9944

South African Military History Society /