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In Search of Botha's Natal Horse


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There are many obscure units in the African campaigns in World War One but they don't come much more obscure than Botha's Natal Horse.

Other than a few references to Botha's Natal Horse in books such as 'Urgent Imperial Service' by Gerald L'Ange and 'Through the Great Thirstland' by Keith Morris I have found out very little regarding the unit.

What I have gathered suggests they were commanded by a brother of General Louis Botha and despite being led by a Boer the unit, from soldiers' names I have come across, appears to have been British. They serve alongside but are not one of the Boer Commandoes in General Myburgh's 3rd Mounted Brigade Right Wing. Working from figures in the Official History their strength was probably around 200 men.

An earlier post on the Great War Forum on 20 November 2002 on 'Botha's Cavalry or Botha's Horse' mixes up these two units (and I'm not sure the Cavalry existed as such) and Botha's bodyguard with Botha's Natal Horse, stating the latter was mobilised in 1915. This is incorrect as another source (on the www.kaisercross.com website) has them serving in Military District No. 6 at Upington during the Boer Rebellion in 1914. Keith Morris' book quotes a Private in Botha's Natal Horse travelling with his mount to Upington by train. This can only be in 1914 as the Rebellion is officially over by December of that year.

As the above hints Botha's Natal Horse should not be confused with Botha's Horse, Botha's Light Horse, Botha's Scouts, Botha's Commando, Botha's Mounted Rifles, Botha's bodyguard, Natal Mounted Rifles and the Natal Light Horse!

So to my interest in Botha's Natal Horse. This lies in a set of medals belonging to one of its men, a Private George W. Grahame.

With Private Grahame's medals came a brief account of how single handed he captured five Germans and their oxen cart laden with 2 machine guns and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. I will come back to this in a future post. Ultimately my intention is to piece together the adventures of Private Grahame and the men of Botha's Natal Horse.

Any information on how Botha's Natal Horse were raised and organised, their adventures in German South West Africa and eventual disbandment would be appreciated. If there is a War Diary its location would be useful to know too.

Many thanks

james w


'Louis Botha or Through the Great Thirstland' by Keith Morris, William Stevens Limited, London, 1915?

'Urgent Imperial Service' by Gerald L'Ange, Ashanti, 1991.

'The Campaign in German South West Africa 1914 - 1915' by Brigadier General J.J. Collyer, Official History of the War, 1937

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If you have access to Ancestry's Medal Index Cards on the internet then three names appear under Botha's Natal Horse.

Good Luck Harry

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  • 3 months later...

Returning to Botha's Natal Horse Private Grahame's medals came in one of Princess Mary's 1914 Christmas boxes. Inside and folded up into a tiny square was a single sheet letter written to his niece Dorothy some time during World War Two (the date is indistinct) giving her the medals. The most relevant part of the letter reads:

"Just a short one this time am sending you Medal Box enclosed in which is… this German button off the hat of a German Sergant one of the five I captured single handed with the 6 oxen and cart on which was 2 Machine Guns and 20000 rounds of ammunition, how to stop them travelling down road. I shot one of the first oxen, that and it then hands up and after they got down I took all their papers got my horse + all good friends in ten minutes. I know enough German for that but spoke enough English as I could German. The button was give me by the Sergant off his hat. When General Botha gave me personally the whole outfit after I had handed over the 2 Guns + ammunition. I have the Report for the prisoners and all troops after this, knew me riding about in this coat after the surrender."

The intriguing part is the capture of five Germans and their oxen cart laden with 2 machine guns and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. No dates or place names are given. The challenge is to find them. Regrettably the Report of the prisoners was not in the tin. This would have helped. The presence of General Botha is, however, another clue.

There are a number of strong contenders: action at Otjimbingwe on 27/04/15, surrender of Windhoek on 12/05/15 and actions at Gaub on 04/07/15 and Tsumeb on 06/07/15. All involved the 3rd Mounted Brigade, to which Botha's Natal Horse was attached, the taking of German prisoners and capture of stores.

And as for the button taken from the German sergeant's hat this was in the tin and shown in the photograph below.

post-36214-025757500 1291843724.jpg

Actually I am not convinced this came off a hat. The Schutztruppe have two styles of hat – forage cap and large bush hat folded up on one side. Both have circular enamel badges with a black outer ring, white inner ring and red centre. I suspect the button is from the coat Grahame writes of riding about in. It could be a cuff, tunic or collar button. Is anyone an expert on Schutztruppe uniforms who could shed some more light on this?

Since my first post I have discovered there were as many as 581 men in Botha's Natal Horse (Medal Roll as recorded on Gentlemen's Military Interest website).

The story will continue and thanks Harry for the tip about checking the Medal Cards. It's on the list of things to do.

james w

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I hope that the following might be of interest -

The Rhodesian Herald of 8 January 1915 reports that:

'It is understood that between four and five thousand members of the burgher commandos, who are now on furlough after completely crushing the rebellion in Transvaal and Free State, will concentrate around Paardrekaal Monument at Krugersdorp from January 5 untill the end of the month, prior to proceeding to the front. The commandos for the larger operations will be brigaded instead of being the traditional independant units, and Col-Commandant Koen Britz, whose magnificent services against Maritz and De Wet will be remembered, has been mentioned in connection with the command of the Krugersdorp Brigade, which will embrace Botha's Natal Horse. After concentration the whole of the burgher forces will proceed to Cape Town to be thoroughly equiped.'

The Mafeking Mail and Protectorate Guardian of 6 June 1915 reports that on the 1 June, Burgher W P Richardson, Bothas Natal Horse, 3rd Mounted Brigade, was captured whilst on patrol.


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Yes very much of interest. Helps to fill in some of the gaps as to their movements prior to the invasion of German South West Africa. Plus I had no idea one of them had been taken prisoner. A whole new avenue opens up!

Many thanks


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  • 7 years later...

Hello James - very late to the party I know ... hopefully you are still watching this forum ...

I have some info re Botha's Natal Horse.

I have pasted some notes made by my gg grandfather, Capt. Edward Sylvester Archer. The notes were almost certainly handwritten by him and later typed out by a family member, so there could be errors, typos, etc. There is more too if you are interested. Sadly no mention of your man Grahame, or any of the men for that matter ...



Served with Bothas Natal Horse late Transvaal rebellion and German West Campayne. I was the originator and organiser of this Regiment which served through the Rebellion and G.W.Campayne to a finish.


My Squadron captured Tsumeb, my centre took the village, my right the three Guns on the hill, my left the position on left. This village held our prisoners who were in a barbed wire inclosure in a pittable condition and were released. This ended the G.W. Campayne.


Bothas Natal Horse was about 125 strong which served through the rebellion. After the rebellion was quieted and a months furlough we marched to Kimberley in route to G.W. Here we joined by the Barberton and Sabie Commanders. This was suggested by the Defence Department so as to make our Regiment stronger for service in G.W. The whole was termed Bothas Natal Horse which was three Squadrons.


Following is the poll of Commissioned Officers of the Three Squadrons.


Bothas Natal Horse
Commandant J. J. Botha
Adjutant - Capt Will van Rooyen,
Dr Capt Briscoe.


A Squadron (Original Bothas Natal Horse)
Capt E.S. Archer Commanding
Troop Leaders, Lieuts Wallie Meek, B Gaulie and Capt Payne (Killed later in G.E.A.)


B Squadron (Barberton Commando)
Major Hazelden Commanding,
Capt Spiers Adjutant
Troop Leaders Capt Currie, Lieuts McDonnell and Lloyd


C Squadron (Sabie Commando)
Major McLaughlen Commanding
Troop Leaders, Lieuts Ronnie McLaughlen, Thorpe and Prinsloo.


B Squadron. These officers were resident in Barberton but connot say if they are still there. I heard that Major Hazelden was in Russia.

C Squadron. These officers were farming, cattle dealing at the Sabie, but do not know their postal address. I am not acquainted with these gentlemen's social positions or honours awarded, but these could be obtained from the Defence Department, Pretoria.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello Steve

This one has been on the back burner for a number of years but still very interested to find out more about Botha's Natal Horse and thank you for posting the info about the three Squadrons.  I only knew a couple of the officer names so this is great stuff.  Any more info on Botha's Natal Horse gratefully received.

thanks again for your interest


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  • 1 year later...

Hi  - anymore news on this unit? The above has been helpful to me as I pick up the research of a relative of mine who served in the unit - 1064 Theodore Strassberg. The only data I have on him is a confirmation from the Army Personnel department (in those far off days when I think national servicemen replied to these sorts of requests) saying that he attested on the 17 October was discharged on the 17 December 1914 - then re-attested on the 19 January 1915 and discharged on the 13 August 1915.  It confirms he got the trio of medals (I don't understand the comment above that "Ancestry's Medal Index Cards on the internet then three names appear under Botha's Natal Horse." - yet there could have been as many as 581 in the unit?).


From a comment in thread above could be that gap from 17 Dec to 19 Jan is explained by the "furlough" between the rebellion and GSWA campaign?


Although I don't the exact address of Theodore Strassberg the family were from the Greytown/Dundee/Newcastle areas. 





Z - Strassberg service.jpg

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