Upon the final expulsion of the Boer forces from Natal and the general settling down of the northern districts, which had been occupied by the enemy for about nine months in 1899 and 1900, the Natal Volunteer Brigade was demobilised at the request of the Natal Government, which had borne the cost of keeping- its forces in the field for a year and was feeling the financial strain. The Commander-in-Chief of the British forces. Lord Roberts, agreed, provided one mounted regiment was left in the field till the end of the war. This unit was formed from volunteers from all the Natal regiments, and was called the Natal Volunteer Composite Regiment. It came into being in October, 1900, the units furnishing the volunteer personnel being the Natal Carbineers, Natal Mounted Rifles, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Border Mounted Rifles, Durban Light Infantry, Natal Royal Rifles and Natal Field Artillery, with necessary detachments from the Natal Volunteer Staff, Medical, Veterinary, Transport and Supply Departments. The strength was 505, in four squadrons. Lieut-Colonel Robert Winter Evans, of the Natal Mounted Rifles, was appointed to the command, and the new regiment at once settled down to its work, forming a unit of the Dundee-Ladysmith-Newcastle sub-district Imperial Command.
Upon the death in action of Lieut-Colonel Evans, in February, 1902, Major Bede Crompton took command with the rank of Lieut-Colonel. During its 21 months of existence, the unit, or portions of it, at various times formed part of many different field commands in the southern and eastern Transvaal, Orange River Colony and Zululand, as well as in northern Natal, and took part in much fighting. Other activities were patrolling the Natal borders, holding isolated key points, escorting convoys, patrolling block-house lines, cleaning up the districts of rebels, chasing raiding parties and the like. The work of the regiment was never monotonous, and at times was exciting.
The unit gained an enviable reputation for its work and many were the encomiums received from high Imperial Army commanders, under whom the regiment or detachments served. Scouting was highly developed, and soon the Natal Volunteer Composite Regiment was famed for this type of work. Amongst its personnel were many men hailing from the districts in which it operated, and consequently they possessed valuable local knowledge and many were linguists in Dutch and Zulu, Men and horses were hardened by a year of previous service and training. Every member owned his own horse, saddlery, equipment and uniforms, and quite soon after formation the regiment or detachments were eagerly sought after by commanders of Imperial independent field units tor the qualities mentioned above, chiefly as scouts, guides, interpreters, intelligence duties and transport experts. The Compiler once heard General French, the famous cavalry leader of the Anglo-Boer War, say that the N.V.C.R. were the finest scouts be had ever known.
The uniform was the then universal khaki, with turned-up brim smasher hat. The badge of the regiment was a scroll bearing the motto, "Ad Finem," surrounding the letters, N.V.C.R., worn on the hat. The letters N.V.C.R. were also worn on the shoulder straps, together with the initial letters of the corps from which the member came.
The unit was armed with the service magazine rifle and service revolver, officers and some other ranks carrying revolvers only.
A picked detachment of 100 all ranks was specially sent to Maritzburg to represent the regiment at the official reception ceremonies attending the visit of H.R.H., the Duke and Duchess of York—later Their Majesties King George V. and Queen Mary. These officers and men had come straight from the scene of severe fighting in the Eastern Transvaal a week before, and the detachment was honoured by being appointed the mounted escort of the Royal party during their stay in Martizburg, the Duke being greatly interested in their work-manlike (though somewhat ragged from recent hard field service) appearance and bearing, and he specially congratulated Lieut-Colonel Evans on commanding such a fine and useful regiment, and the good work it had accomplished. Lord Kitchener, then Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, did the same.
The N.V.C.R. was disbanded on 31st July, 1902, two months after peace was signed, having been employed during the two months from 31st May in repatriation work and military policing duties pending the taking over of these activities by the Natal Police Field Force. The members thereafter returned to their own original units, after 21 months of field service well done.
Honours conferred upon individuals were one DSO, two DCMs, and seven Mentions-in-Despatches.
Casualties sustained were one officer—Lieut-Colonel R. W. Evans—and eleven other ranks killed, and twelve of all ranks wounded, besides five deaths from disease.
Source: Short History Of The Volunteer Regiments Of Natal And East Griqualand, Past and Present. Compiled by Colonel Godfrey T Hurst, DSO OBE VD, Honorary Colonel of the Natal Mounted Rifles.
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