Raised as No. 3 Troop of the Natal Horse at Rorke’s Drift in February 1879, the unit was formed from the officers and non-commissioned officers of the disbanded 3rd Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent. The Natal Horse comprised of three troops: No. 1 Troop under Captain de Burgh, No. 2 Troop under Captain Cooke and No. 3 Troop under Captain Bettington. The first two Troops were sent to join Crealock’s 1st Division on the coast and No. 3 troop moved up to Utrecht and became part of the 2nd Division. Henceforth, it became ‘Bettington’s Horse’.
Claude Albemarle Bettington had grown up in New Zealand, working as an ostler and keeping a livery stable before coming to South Africa in 1872. Rapidly promoted, he took leave of the 1st/1st Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent in April 1879, when he took charge of Bettington’s Horse.
The corps was originally involved in patrols on both sides of the Buffalo River, the Times of Natal detailing one such adventure:
‘On Tuesday, Captain Bettington and about eighty men crossed the Buffalo, and patrolled to Baltee’s Spruit; then down past John Uys’ house on Conference Hill, down the Blood River; after bivouacking there for the night, they crossed the Blood River at Bemba’s kop, and patrolled up to the range of hills to the east; they there saw a few natives and started in pursuit, but they got away leaving their kraals, however, unprotected. The patrol burned these, and then moved off eastwards to another range, and bivouacked there for the night.’
As part of the invading force Bettington’s Horse was involved in a large number of further skirmishes and took part in the Battle of Ulundi. The only battle casualties suffered by the unit were Troopers Abel and Rogers, who died with the Prince alongside the cattle kraal.
Originally 60 strong, by the end of hostilities the regiment has increased to 112 men. The regiment was disbanded at Durban in October 1879.
68 Medals were awarded to Bettington’s Horse, 63 of them with the ‘1879’ clasp.