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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 4 days ago #44800

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Early in 2015, my hitherto unknown grandmother was identified as being a member of a German family that had settled near Port Shepstone in Natal in 1883. After some research on these German settlers, and the unhappy events that resulted in my mother's birth, I decided to link the settler's story to their role in my main field of interest, the military history of Natal.

Amongst other discoveries, I was pleased to find that my grandmother's three brothers and a cousin had served in one of Natal's volunteer regiments, the Border Mounted Rifles (BMR), during the Boer War, so that is my excuse for recording an aspect of the regiment's history on this forum in the posts that follow.

The BMR is not one of Natal's illustrious regiments, and it existed under that name for only 20 years, but those two decades were the closing ones for the Colony of Natal, and ones that were of great historical significance, not only for Natal, but for the whole British Empire.

The BMR's history is recorded in detail elsewhere (see 'References' at the end of the last post of the series), so my emphasis is on the Germans who served in it.

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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 4 days ago #44801

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German settlers in Natal and the Border Mounted Rifles


The Border Mounted Rifles (BMR) recruited in Alfred County on the lower South Coast of the old Colony of Natal, and in the adjacent areas inland as far as the Drakensberg. Although made up mostly of men from Britain, or descendants of earlier British settlers, the ranks of the BMR were at least initially supplemented by a significant number of men from Norway and Germany. Families from both these countries had centred their settlements in Alfred County in the vicinity of Port Shepstone and the nearby villages of Marburg and Izotsha (formerly Umhlangeni).

Most of the German settlers came to Natal under the auspices of the Hermannsburg Mission, and it was the missionary Peter Stoppel who was instrumental in building up the Alfred County German community. Stoppel had established the Marburg Lutheran Mission Station in 1867, but his main “Move to Africa” initiative started in 1883 and it continued intermittently thereafter.

The settlers came mainly from what had by then become the Prussian Province of Hanover, but which had formerly been a state with close links to Britain through their shared Royal Family, the House of Hanover. By the second half of the 19th Century, economic and political problems in Germany caused great hardship amongst the population, and emigration, especially to America, took place on a large scale. Although the Alfred County settlers were by contrast relatively few in number they had an influence in the area that is still evident today.

The settlers had left the problems in Germany behind them, but their settlements in Alfred County were also faced with many hardships and difficulties. Some families moved onto farms that had already been abandoned by earlier settlers from Norway. This was due to commercial agricultural production being hampered by the small size of their farms, and the long distance to the larger urban markets in Natal, while roads, railways and bridges were either absent or inadequate. In the early 1880’s, it took two weeks for a wagon-load of farm produce to reach the market in Durban, the largest town in Natal.

Augusta Bense (born Albers) was 11 years old when she arrived with her family at Marburg in 1883, and later she recorded her memories of this period in her life (Bense nd).

The accommodation for most of the families was rudimentary. Augusta wrote that the thatched roof of their house leaked “and when it rained we got wet …. [and] we had to climb into wet beds. This was completely different to our life in [Germany] – there our grandmother would often warm our blankets in front of the stove before we went to bed, but now we were in Africa!”

In the early 1880’s there were no roads in the Marburg area, only footpaths through the grassland and bush. Even though Augusta was not yet a teenager, she had duties to perform, including walking to Marburg 8 miles away to shop for the family’s groceries. She wrote that her mother “often came to meet me as she felt uneasy that something might happen to me as there were no bridges over the river and she felt guilty that I had to carry such a heavy load.” Although such behaviour in that area would be unthinkable today, even then her mother had good reason to worry. Amongst Augusta’s frightening experiences were getting lost in the bush with two other girls, and in the process losing the bread they were carrying. On another occasion, her brother Friederich was waylaid by two local tribesmen and robbed of the bread he was carrying. Augusta also records a meeting she had with a large python, and running away from a black mamba. It was all very different from the life that her family had left behind.


Augusta also mentions a very important development relevant to the later involvement of some of the Alfred County men with the Border Mounted Rifles. She wrote:
“During 1884 a military corps was founded, the ‘Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles’ [UMR]. Captain Bru-de-Wold [a settler from Norway], Sergeant Lugg [from England] and Sergeant Sangmeister [from Germany] were the commanders-in-chief. All the volunteers received a horse, saddle and rifle, as well as 10 pounds per year to look after the horse. This was a great help to many people as they now had a horse with which they could ride to work.” The UMR initially had a “numerical strength of about 60, which increased to over 100 within four years.” (Goetzsche 1971: 48). The names of the first 28 Norwegians to join the UMR are known, but not those of the English and German recruits.

The Volunteer Regiment (‘militia’) system in Natal was developed by the Colonists to deal with both real and perceived threats from the indigenous peoples to the north (Zulus), south (Pondos), and west (Basutos). The system had already been tested in the Langalibalele Rebellion (1873) and Zulu War (1879), and it was these events that led to the formation of additional regiments such as the UMR.

Military service would not have been unusual for the German settlers. Almost within living memory Hanoverian regiments had fought with the British against the French during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), including at the Battle of Waterloo, where each of the British divisions had a Hanoverian brigade attached to it. In addition, during these wars the British had raised a regiment for their own army, the King’s German Legion, which was made up largely of Hanoverians. A similar German Legion was later raised during the Crimean War (1853-1856). After that war ended, many of the Legionnaires were settled in the eastern part of the Cape Colony, not far from the Natal border.

Hanover’s army was also involved in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), when it sided with Austria. Although the Hanoverians won the Battle of Langensalza, a few days later it surrendered to a superior Prussian force, and Hanover became an unwilling province of Prussia. A few years later, the Hanoverians fought on the Prussian side in the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871). There may well have been veterans of these wars amongst the Hanoverians who settled in Natal in 1883.

Two families with the surname Bakeberg had arrived with the 1883 settlers. Their life in Germany had been centred on a farm at Baven, near Hermannsburg in Hanover, which had been in their family since at least the 14th Century. It passed to the eldest son in successive generations, and, according to a living member of the Bakeberg family, other sons “mostly joined the army (the mounted cavalry, called Die Hussaren)”. Enlisting in the UMR would not have seemed strange to the Bakeberg men, and others amongst the settlers.

In 1888, the UMR and the other three coastal mounted regiments (Durban Mounted Rifles [DMR], Victoria Mounted Rifles [VMR] and Alexandra Mounted Rifles [AMR]) were amalgamated to form the Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR). This regiment was divided into a Right Wing with its headquarters in Durban, and a Left Wing with its headquarters in Port Shepstone. The Left Wing was comprised of the pre-existing UMR and AMR, and in 1894 it became a separate regiment, the Border Mounted Rifles (BMR), with its headquarters at Ixopo. The Right Wing retained the Natal Mounted Rifles name and headquarters.

The two most senior officers in the new regiment were both from German families. The Commanding Officer was Major John Frederick Rethman, who was born in Ixopo on 15/1/1852. His family had arrived from Bramsche, near Osnabruck, in Germany in 1848. In 1866, Osnabruck became part of the Prussian Province of Hanover. The Rethmans were amongst the earliest German settler families in Alfred County. Major Rethman commanded the BMR throughout the Anglo-Boer War, and was Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir George White, Officer Commanding the Ladysmith garrison (London Gazette, 1/2/1901). He left the regiment after the war and was later a member of the Natal Legislative Assembly. He died on 13/7/1936.

Major Frederick William August Sangmeister was born in Liebenau, Hesse-Cassel, in Germany, on 18/6/1852. This state became part of the Prussian Province of Hesse-Nassau in 1868. Sangmeister emigrated first to the United States of America, and then came to Natal in 1876. He married in Natal and settled in Port Shepstone, where he was a Justice of the Peace. In 1912, he became a Senator in the Government of the Union of South Africa. He died on 17/10/1939.
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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 4 days ago #44802

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By the time the Anglo-Boer War started in 1899, the numbers of Germans and Norwegians in the BMR must have been proportionately far fewer than the English, since the added AMR recruitment areas centred on Umzinto and Ixopo, which were overwhelmingly inhabited by British settlers. At that time, the Boers (‘Dutch’) were largely confined to northern Natal and there were no Boer names on the BMR rolls. It was the war that would bring many of the southern Natal Germans into regular contact with the Boers for the first time.

The list below was taken from the Natal Volunteer Record (1900) and Goetzsche (1971: 86-91), and it is of the men known, or believed to be German, who served with the BMR during the Boer War. It is not necessarily exhaustive.

Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) J F Rethman, Officer Commanding
Major W A Sangmeister DSO
Sergeants R von der Heyde, H Rethman, A Ringo
Farrier-Sergeant H Bakeberg
Trumpeter-Sergeant A Barth
Corporals F Bakeberg, A Borchard, J H Garbers
Trumpeter T B Bremner
Troopers G Bakeberg, W Bakeberg, G A Behrens-Senegalden, A Bosse, H Buhr, C Dagefoerde, J Dehrmann, C Gottschalk, J Kaiser, B Klusener, H Klapprott, W Letthuisen, J Lupke, F Lupke, H R Mason*, A V Mason*, H Norden, F Norden**, H Rasmussen, T M Rethman, J Rossler, F Schutte, O Strauss, [no initial] Thies, and W Uhlmann.
The 36 men account for about 12% of the BMR’s total strength of 286 men on mobilisation.
* Augusta Bense reported that the Marburg community included “A farmer, Mr Mason [who] was a rich and respected German, she an English lady of high family and a pretty woman.” Mason’s nationality is confirmed in an official document that records him as “Prussian”. H R and A V Mason were his sons. ‘William Victor Mason’, the father, may have adopted an anglicised version of a German name, perhaps Wilhelm Viktor Maurer.
** F Norden is listed on the Queen’s South Africa Medal roll, but not on the nominal rolls in the Natal Volunteer Record (1900) and Goetzsche (1971). There may be other such discrepancies, but they are unlikely to add many to the number of Germans recorded here.

The BMR was mobilised on 28/9/1899, and the regiment was posted to Ladysmith, where it arrived on 2/10/1899. On 13/10/1899, the men were assigned to patrol the towards the Orange Free State border. On 17/10/1899, the BMR had its first contact with the Boers at the foot of Tintwa Pass in the Drakensberg foothills, and the next day it retired towards Ladysmith.

On 21/10/1899, the bulk of the regiment occupied Rifleman Ridge to keep an eye on the Free Staters, while Number 1 Troop, 4 [Port Shepstone] Squadron accompanied the Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR) to Elandslaagte (Natal Volunteer Record 1900). The NMR, with 4 Squadron, BMR, and the Newcastle Troop, Natal Carbineers (NC), attached, played a peripheral part in the Battle of Elandslaagte, which ended in a decisive victory for the British. The men first guarded the rear, and later they assisted in recovering the wounded from the battlefield. They had no casualties. Although the NMR and Newcastle Troop were awarded the Elandslaagte clasp on their Queen’s South Africa Medals (QSA’s), the only member of 4 Squadron, BMR, to get this honour was Squadron Sergeant Major (later Major) J R Greer from Ixopo (Biggins 2004). Why the other men from 4 Squadron were overlooked is not known.

On 24/10/1899, a strong British force that included the BMR met the Boers north of Ladysmith at Rietfontein (also known as Modder Spruit, or Tinta Nyoni) in order to distract their attention from General Yule’s men, who were retreating from Dundee and approaching Ladysmith from the east. The Battle of Rietfontein turned into a defeat for the British, who suffered many casualties. The BMR together with other Colonials captured a hill ahead of the Boers under heavy fire and engaged the advancing enemy with rifles and a Maxim gun. According to regimental records, the Port Shepstone Maxim Troop under Sergeant Ringo “did effective work at a range of 1400 yards” (Goetzsche 1971). Satisfied that a clear road had been secured for the retreating Dundee column, the British force retreated to Ladysmith. The Natal regiments again came under fire as they retired from the hill.

The BMR suffered its first casualties at Rietfontein; two men killed and ten wounded. The latter included the Germans, Troopers J Dehrmann, H Norden and O Strauss. (Strauss later died of dysentery in Ladysmith, the second BMR soldier to succumb to disease during the Siege.)

Jordi (2015) has recorded that on 25/10/1899 “a noted journalist came upon the Border Mounted Rifles and had this to say:
‘Eight miles or so along the road I came upon the Border Mounted Rifles, saddles off, and lolling on the grass. All farmers and transport riders from the … frontier, lean, bearded, sun-dried, framed of steel and whipcord, sitting the horses like the riders of the Elgin marbles, swift and cunning as Boers, and far braver, they are the heaven-sent type of irregular troopers. (Steevens 1900: 68)’.” According to Steevens, it was the BMR that first made contact with the Dundee column as it neared Ladysmith on that day.

On 30/10/1899, in a vain attempt to stem the Boer advance on Ladysmith, the British launched a major attack on the Boers to the north and east of the town, but they were repulsed with heavy losses. The BMR accompanied other Colonials in the attack of Lombard’s Kop, but they played a minor part in the action and had only two men wounded.


On 2/11/1899, the encirclement of Ladysmith by the Boers was completed and the long siege of the town began. On 3/11/1899, an attack to test the Boer line was launched south-west of Ladysmith by way of Long Valley towards Lancer’s Hill (Bester’s Kop). The Imperial Light Horse (ILH) led the advance supported by the Natal Volunteers. They soon came under Boer fire and the advance ended in disarray. The ILH suffered many casualties, while the BMR had four men wounded, including the Adjutant, Captain W Arnott. While still under fire, Arnott was first attended to by Major R W Evans, Officer Commanding the Natal Mounted Rifles. Surgeon-Lieutenant (later Captain) H T Platt, the BMR’s Medical Officer, took over from him until the stretcher bearers arrived. Platt’s gallant action was commended by Goetzsche (1971), who also records the following:
Major Rethman and Lieutenant Andreasen [of the BMR] had a narrow escape from death during the battle. A shell burst within two or three yards of them, and so severe was the explosion that onlookers thought that they must have been killed or, at least, severely wounded. They escaped unscathed.”

The BMR next took part in the successful raid on the Boer-held Gun Hill. On the night of 7-8/12/1899, 500 Natal Volunteers and 200 men from the ILH supported by a detachment of Royal Engineers attacked the guns that had been taking part in the bombardment of Ladysmith. The Boers quickly abandoned the summit of Gun Hill and the attackers damaged a ‘Long Tom’ 6” gun and 7” howitzer with explosives. The breech-block and ramrod of the ‘Long Tom’, as well as a Maxim gun, were captured. The raid itself was carried out by the ILH and RE’s, while the Volunteers, including 200 men from the BMR, covered the flanks of the attackers. There were no casualties amongst the Volunteers, and only a few amongst the ILH.

On 6/1/1900, the Boers launched their only large infantry attack on Ladysmith. They attacked the hill south of the town known to them as Platrand, and to the British as Caesar’s Camp in the east and Wagon Hill in the west. The NMR and BMR played a peripheral part in the battle at Caesar’s Camp. Although the British suffered heavy casualties, the Boer attack was defeated. The BMR lost four men killed and four wounded. Major Sangmeister was amongst the wounded.

Other BMR casualties during the Siege were largely caused by disease, mainly enteric (typhoid). Seventeen men died of disease and one was drowned. The Germans who died were Troopers G A Behrens-Senegalden, O Strauss, and W Uhlmann.

An accolade for the Germans during the Siege came with the appointment on 8/12/1899 of Trumpeter Bremner as Orderly Trumpeter to the British General Sir Archibald Hunter.


Although most men in the BMR were besieged in Ladysmith, a few escaped it, and they took part in the operations to relieve the town. The men included Lieutenants Stuart and Wilson, who had been withdrawn before the Siege began, as well as some of the men wounded at the Battle of Rietfontein, whose wounds required attention away from Ladysmith. Others were outside Ladysmith for reasons unknown, but perhaps for illness or on compassionate grounds.

The men who received the Relief of Ladysmith clasp on their QSA’s, rather than the Defence of Ladysmith clasp, were:
Lieutenant J B Stuart (Accidentally wounded on 6/10/1899)
Lieutenant R W Wilson (Wounded at Colenso on 15/12/1899)
Corporal J Anderson
Troopers A G Andersen, J W Howes (Rietfontein), J W Kirkman, H R Mason*, H Norden* (Rietfontein).
* Germans

Troopers W W Jay and C C Stuart (Rietfontain) were recorded as being with the Relief force (Goetzsche 1971), but were issued medals with the Defence clasp, probably in error. This was certainly the case with Trooper H R Mason, whose medal with the Defence clasp was returned and re-issued with the Tugela Heights and Relief of Ladysmith clasps. Jay and Stuart may not have bothered to effect the change.

Two men (Troopers N L Davey and E W Wynn) were recorded on the medal roll with Relief clasps, but as entitled to the Defence clasp by Goetzsche (1971). There are notes on the medal roll that Davey served with the ‘Scouts’, and Wynn with the Natal Naval Volunteers. This could account for the error in Goetzsche (1971).

Whatever their actual number, the men not besieged were attached to the Composite Regiment (Major H Gough) of the Mounted Brigade (Earl of Dundonald) in General Buller’s army. Except for one company of Imperial Mounted Infantry (2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps MI), the Composite Regiment was made up of mounted Colonials. They were:
One squadron each of the Imperial Light Horse and Natal Carbineers; an unknown number of men from the Natal Police (Field Force and Estcourt District Police); 26 men from the Natal Mounted Rifles; and about 10 men from the Border Mounted Rifles.

Although active throughout the period of the Ladysmith Relief operations, the Composite Regiment is chiefly remembered for ending the Siege late on the afternoon of 28/2/1900. The 2nd KRRC MI held back on that occasion, evidently heeding an order from Lord Dundonald, whereas the Colonials led by Major Gough, who, on his own initiative, saw a way open to Ladysmith and galloped into the town to end the 118 day Siege. A picket from the defenders under Captain R Vause, BMR, was amongst the first to meet the relieving column on that historic occasion (Goetzsche 1971). Lord Dundonald and other mounted troops, including Lieutenant Winston Churchill then of the South African Light Horse, arrived later.

Most, but not all the Composite Regiment Colonials took part in that historic event. Although the names of officers present are recorded, those of only a few other ranks are known. They were two men each from the Natal Carbineers and Imperial Light Horse (Gibson 1937). Otherwise, other ranks present can only be confirmed by supporting information in contemporary official documents. In the case of the BMR, no such documentary proof has come to light. One such confirmed claim is known to exist in the case of Tpr H E Symons of the Natal Carbineers.


After the Siege was lifted, the Colonials were allowed a period of rest and recuperation. The BMR, with their numbers reduced to about 180 men, moved to the farm, Highlands, between Estcourt and Mooi River. In April, the regiment rejoined Dundonald’s Mounted Brigade, and it took part in driving the Boers out of northern Natal and into the south-eastern Transvaal Republic.

The Natal Volunteers were authorised to serve only within the Colony, so they returned to serve out the remainder of Buller’s campaign in Natal itself. One member of the regiment who did not immediately return to Natal was Major Sangmeister. Instead, he left the BMR and was attached to the Canadian regiment, Strathcona’s Horse, which had arrived at the front during June. Sangmeister’s role was probably to assist the Canadians in settling in with the Mounted Brigade. The Canadians saw action for the first time on 1/7/1900. In a report to Lord Strathcona, who founded the regiment, the Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel S B Steele, stated that on 13/7/1900 “Major [Sangmeister] of the Border Mounted Rifles …. was in charge of a troop …. [and] he was rather in-cautious in approaching the [Boer] position with the result that he himself fell into the hands of the enemy with four of my men whilst two were wounded ….”. (AngloBoerWar.com Forum). This incident occurred at Plat Kop, Transvaal. Sangmeister was released on 12/9/1900. He later served at Barberton, first as Assistant Provost Marshal and then as District Commissioner. He rejoined the BMR after the war, and retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1906.

Once back in Natal, there were few contacts with the Boers. The most serious occurred on 5/9/1900 when a party of Boers ambushed four BMR Troopers near the Buffalo River. One man was wounded, but he escaped with two others, while the fourth was captured.

The release of the Natal Volunteers from their military obligations was signed by Lord Roberts on 23/9/1900, and, starting on 1/10/1900, the men were discharged. The BMR arrived in Pietermaritzburg on 9/10/1900, from whence the men were dispersed. In September 1901, the Volunteers were recalled to duty because of a threatened invasion by the Boers from Zululand. After the threat receded, the Volunteers were again discharged.

After the end of the Natal campaign and the demobilisation of the Volunteers, the men were given the opportunity of continuing in service outside of Natal by joining a new regiment, the Volunteer Composite Regiment (VCR). Fifty-one members of the BMR joined the VCR, and they included the following Germans:
Troopers G Bakeberg, H Buhr, C Gottschalk, and H Rasmussen.
Clearly, most of the Germans chose to return home in October 1900, although they remained on call until the war ended on 31/5/1902.

During the Ladysmith Siege and Relief, none of the BMR Germans were killed in action, and only three died of disease. Goetzsche (1971: 83) records that while “No fewer than 180 members of the Regiment were in hospital at one time during January, [strangely] enough only No 4 [Port Shepstone] Squadron remained fairly well up to strength.” Evidently, the German, Norwegian and English settlers of Alfred County were tough!

Of the Germans in the BMR during the war, only Major Sangmeister was decorated for his services. He was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette, 4/12/1903), and awarded the Distinguished Service Order, “In recognition of services during operations in South Africa, 1899-1900, the reward to bear the date 29 November 1900.”

All the men in the BMR who served during the war were awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal (QSA), while the few who went on to serve in the Volunteer Composite Regiment also received the King’s South Africa Medal (KSA).
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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 4 days ago #44803

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Although there are indications that many of the Germans resigned from the BMR after the war ended, at least five of those listed earlier stayed on and were awarded 20-year long service medals in the years after the war. Both Lieutenant-Colonel Rethman and Major Sangmeister were awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officer’s Decoration, while B Klusener, H Norden and H Rethman were awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal. Since Norden’s medal was awarded in 1904, he must have been one of the founder members of the Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles in 1884. This is also known to apply to the two officers, Rethman and Sangmeister, and it is safe to assume that it applies to Troopers Klusener and H Rethman as well. Other men who joined in 1884 must have left the regiment in 1902 or 1903, since they fell short of the 20-year requirement for the awards.


By the time of the 1906 Natal Rebellion by disaffected Zulus, German representation in the BMR was much reduced. On the roll of 251 names, only 12 (5%) were identified as Germans. They were:
Squadron Sergeant Major H R Mason*
Sergeant A Bosse*
Farrier-Sergeant M Ringo
Corporals J Lupke*, A V Mason*
Trumpeter W Klusener
Troopers J E R Barth, F H C Behrmann, H Dehrmann, F Klusener, F F W Vetter, P Vetter
* Also served during the Anglo-Boer War.
Ringo, the Kluseners, and J Dehrmann had name-sakes, presumably kin, in that war.

Although by then retired from the BMR, Lieutenant-Colonel Sangmeister was appointed Commandant, Port Shepstone and District.

Most men in the BMR (213) were awarded the Rebellion Medal with the 1906 clasp, indicating that they were on active service for more than 50 days. The 38 men who served between 20 and 50 days received the Medal without the clasp. They included four of the Germans listed above (H R Mason, W Klusener, Barth and Dehrmann), as well as those of seven Norwegians. This suggests that at least part of the Port Shepstone Troop had reduced service during the Rebellion.

The most likely reason is that these men were active only during the first phase of the Rebellion (9/2/1906 to 15/3/1906), when it was confined to southern Natal. Two of the BMR’s Troops (Umzinto and Port Shepstone) initially guarded the Pondoland border, but later joined the rest of the regiment in its patrols in Alexandra County. All the regiments stood down in mid-March.

Much to the dismay of its men, the BMR was not remobilised after the second phase of the Rebellion began in Zululand. Other regiments were recalled to service on 1/5/1906, but the BMR remained in southern Natal in case there was renewed unrest there. Eventually on 14/6/1906 the BMR was called up for service in Zululand, but perhaps excluding part of the Port Shepstone Troop, which was on call to Colonel Sangmeister in order to keep a watchful eye on the Pondoland border. The BMR had no casualties during the Rebellion. The final demobilisation for all the regiments took place on 30/7/1906.


The BMR was one of the regiments sent to Zululand during 1907 to keep order during the arrest of the Zulu King Dinizulu. This proceeded without incident and after a month the regiments stood down.

The most likely reason for the decline in German enlistment after the Boer War, was the growing anti-German sentiment amongst the British settlers in Natal. Also, the local Germans increasingly identified with the political aspirations of the Boers. Germany had long supported the Boer Republics, and it was responsible for arming their military with both rifles and artillery during the 1890’s. Since the Natal Germans maintained both the German language and traditions, their ties with their former homeland were strong, and they would have been well aware of its support for the Boers.

While the divide between British settlers in Natal and their German compatriots began during the Boer War, it intensified as the first decade of the 20th Century progressed. In Europe, German militarism was on the rise, and pro- and anti-German feelings were everywhere evident, with Britain, France and Russia being the countries where developing anti-German sentiments were strongest.

Always loyal to the country many still referred to as “home”, most British Natalians slavishly followed the anti-German sentiment that came to a head in August 1914 with the start of World War I. Nevertheless, there were still Germans, and indeed by then a few Boers as well, in the ranks of the BMR. On 1/7/1914, the BMR re-amalgamated with the Natal Mounted Rifles, and its final nominal roll included a few of the familiar surnames recorded above, and two new ones. The two additions were H E R Bense, who was likely a member of the family that Augusta Albers had married into, and W F A Stoppel, who was a likely descendant of Missionary Stoppel, the founder of the Marburg Lutheran Mission Station in 1867.

The men of German extraction on the final roll were:
Sergeants D H F Klusener, A V Mason
Corporal C F F Rethman
Troopers H E R Bense, H D Rethman, A Klusener, G W H Klusener, W F A Stoppel, W G Vetter, T P Vetter.
These ten men represented about 8% of the 132 men who attended the BMR’s final parade.

All went on to serve with the Natal Mounted Rifles, then known as the 3rd Mounted Rifles, in the German South West African campaign, where the enemy this time were other Germans. They joined another eight men with German surnames on the NMR nominal roll of that time. In all, these men represented only 3% of the approximately 600 total number.

The men who served in German South West Africa were awarded the British 1914/5 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal.


AngloBoerWar.com Forum.

Bense, A. No date. Account of the Alber’s Family Journey to South Africa in 1883.
Translated by Sheila Cockbain. Publishing history unknown.

Biggins, D. 2004. Elandslaagte – Account and Medal Roll. Token Publishing,
Honiton, Devon.

Gibson, G. 1937. Story of the Imperial Light Horse. G.D. & Co.

Goetzsche, E. 1971. The Official Natal Mounted Rifles History.
Published by the Regiment in Durban.

Jordi, P. 2015. What do we know about Hinrich Norden?
Unpublished manuscript.

London Gazette.

Natal Field Force Casualty Roll. 1980. Reprinted by J B Hayward & Son, Polstead,

Natal Medal Roll. 1906. Reprinted by the Naval and Military Press.

Natal Volunteer Record. 1901. Robinson & Co, Durban.

Steevens, G W. 1900. From Cape Town to Ladysmith. William Blackwood & Sons,
London & Edinburgh

The National Archives, Kew. WO100/Border Mounted Rifles QSA medal roll.

Brett Hendey
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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 4 days ago #44805

  • Frank Kelley
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Good heavens Brett,
What strikes me with this is simply that if His Majesty George the First had actually met someone other than wretched Sophia of Celle, any potential son would not have married Caroline and there would have been no "Hanover's" well, not here, anyway! :ohmy:
Great thread Brett and a superb regiment too!
Kind regards Frank

Brett Hendey wrote:
The settlers came mainly from what had by then become the Prussian Province of Hanover, but which had formerly been a state with close links to Britain through their shared Royal Family, the House of Hanover. By the second half of the 19th Century, economic and political problems in Germany caused great hardship amongst the population, and emigration, especially to America, took place on a large scale. Although the Alfred County settlers were by contrast relatively few in number they had an influence in the area that is still evident today.

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German settlers and the Border Mounted Rifles 6 years 3 days ago #44815

  • Rory
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Very well done Brett - as was the case with your write-up on Murray's Horse I wouldn't be at all surprised if this work ends up as a definitive study of the BMR.



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