Originally formed on 24 May 1854, the Royal Durban Rifles were gazetted as the Durban Volunteer Guard on 27 January 1855, with a strength of 120. In the years that followed, the D.V.G. became all but defunct, but in 1873 it was renamed the ‘Royal Durban Rifles’. After the defeat at Isandhlwana a parade of volunteers in Durban was ordered for 24 January; among those attending were the Durban Mounted Reserve, the Royal Durban Rifles and the Durban Volunteer Artillery. At
the parade, the three corps were tasked to protect Durban from possible invasion by the Zulu.
The following report referring to the Royal Durban Rifles appeared in the Natal Mercury:
‘The following order has been issued to the Royal Dublin Rifles, the members of which corps assembled under Captain McNeil, who was accompanied by Lieutenant Nolan, at the time named: “In compliance with instructions received, the corps will assemble on the Market-square at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday), the 26th in marching order, to proceed to the Umgeni, there to be encamped until further orders. Wm. Randles, Captain commanding.” ’They were in full marching order, and numbered about eighty: ‘After a good deal of shaking hands, &c., many of the volunteers having been accompanied by their sweethearts, the heavily laden train moved off.’
After approximately seven weeks camped at the Zingari cricket ground, the fear of Natal being invaded by the Zulu had lessened to such an extent that both the Royal Durban Rifles and the Durban Volunteer Artillery were recalled home. Dismissed to their homes, they remained on duty until the end of the war.
102 Medals were awarded to the Royal Durban Rifles, all of them without clasp.