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Source: Review of the South African Constabulary, 1900 - 1908 by Colonel R S Curtis

In September 1900 Lord Roberts instructed Major General R S Baden-Powell, CB, to draw up a scheme for a Constabulary Force for the Transvaal (including Swaziland and Orange River Colonies) to be ready for work by June 1901, under the orders of Lord Milner as High Commissioner

At that time it was thought that the country was about to settle down to a peace, and it was considered that for normal peace times a force of 6 000 Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men might suffice. In view of the probable early restoration of peace and withdrawal of part of the Military Forces, the Commander-in-Chief agreed to hand over the new Force proportion of Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men to 20 per cent of each Corps to form it with Horses, Saddlery, Arms, Transport, etc., as required, and to furnish it with medical treatment through the Army Hospitals.

On the 22nd of October 1900, Lord Roberts issued a Proclamation, known as Proclamation 24, under which the South African Constabulary was raised and has worked ever since.

The Force was first organised in four Divisions, each commanded by a Colonel, assisted by a Staff. There were 3 divisions in the Transvaal, and one division in the Orange River Colony. Each division was sub-divided into Troops of 100 men, each under the command of a Captain and Lieutenant.

As hostilities showed no signs of ceasing, it was gradually found that the Army were unable to carry out the agreement proposed by the Commander-in Chief, and consequently the Inspector-General (Major-General Baden-Powell) was obliged to establish Recruiting Offices in Cape Colony and Natal, and to arrange for recruits from overseas, both from England and Canada. In addition, arrangements had to be made for obtaining remounts in South Africa, Australia, North America etc.

Arrangements also had to be made for obtaining Transport, Equipment, Saddlery, etc., and finally, the Army being unable to meet the Force’s medical, vetenary, and building requirements. Medical, Vetenary and Works Departments had to be organised.

In December 1900, it was decided that the establishment should be further increased to 10 000 men.

In 1901, in addition to the other Division, a Reserve Division was raised.

From the time the Force was raised until the end of the War it was not able to undertake Police duties, but was employed as a Military Force under the Commander-in Chief, and was constantly engaged in field operations and on Blockhouse lines

9 Officers and 85 men were killed in action or died from wounds, and 213 Officers and Men were wounded, whilst 274 Officers and Men died from sickness

Very shortly after the termination of the War, orders were issued for the various Troops to take up with all possible speed their distribution over the whole face of the two new Colonies. The organisation of the Force enabled this distribution to be carried out without any difficulty or delay, and a Troop and a self-contained Unit of 100 men was sent to occupy each Sub-District, its Headquarters acting as a support and supply depot to its several small outstations, which were then dotted about the surrounding country.

In this way a network of Posts and Patrols was established in a very short space of time, in such a manner as to ensure every farm was visited once a week. The furthest boundaries of the country were regularly patrolled in every direction, including the Portuguese and Tongaland Frontiers.

By the beginning of August 1902, 28 Districts, 64 Sub-Districts and 210 Stations were occupied

The immediate effect of this was to bring the Natives into a state of order, and to enable the repatriation of the Burghers to proceed without delay or danger to them. Property was protected and assistance given to the Burghers requiring it. In this way the relations between the Burghers and the Constabulary started on a very satisfactory footing.

The Resident Magistrates took up their duties in August 1902, with the Force to uphold them and to give effect to their instructions.

The Native Commissioners, after explaining the new regime to the various tribes, were enabled to carry out the disarmament of the Natives throughout the country.

In November 1902, peace was so far secured and promised for the future, that it was considered advisable to reduce the Force to its normal peace establishment of 6 000 men.

A re-organisation of the Force now became necessary, and although the Divisions were retained, the Troops as a Unit was abolished, and each Division organised accordingly to the Magisterial Districts. Each District was allocated a certain number of men, and were sub-divided into Sub-Districts and Posts. A few Mobile Troops were retained as a Reserve ready for service at any moment on emergency.

The extraordinary number and variety of duties imposed upon the Force an hardly now be realised (see Appendix 4). The following extract from the report of the South African Constabulary Commission of 1905 will perhaps give sufficient record :-

“In discussing the question of performance of extraneous duties by the Constabulary, the origin of how it arose should be noted.

“On the termination of the War, the Constabulary were the only Department which extended its sphere of action to extent any extent throughout the two Colonies, and instructions were given that they were to be of general assistance to everyone in getting things in order towards the settling down of the Country, not merely to Government Departments

“These instructions they have loyally carried out, and the useful work they have performed towards this end, quite apart from police duties, must be incalculable.”

In June 1903, an Order in Council was issued by which the South African Constabulary were brought under the financial control of the Inter-Colonial Council, who, for the year 1903-1904 voted funds for a personnel establishment of 6 000 Europeans and 2 024 Natives, of which 952 were Native Police.

During that year further reductions took place, and 5 000 Europeans were estimated for the year 1904-1905, which was further educed in the Estimates of 1905-1906 to 4 000 Europeans.

At the meeting of the Inter-Colonial Council held in June 1905, it was resolved to appoint a Commission to enquire into the administration and organisation of the Force.

As a result of the Commission, the Force, from the 1st July 1906, was organised into 2 Divisions, viz, the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, so far as regards Police work. In addition, a Depot was continued in each Colony, and 5 Mobile Columns were retained as a Reserve.

The titles of Officers were altered from a Military character to that of a purely Police character; for instance Captains became Inspectors; and Lieutenants became Sub-Inspectors; but owing to the provisions of the Proclamation under which the Force was formed, it was necessary, in dealing with discipline, to retain the Military titles, but for all other matters the Police titles were adopted.

The re-organisation of the Force was carried out without difficulty, as the various Divisions in the Transvaal had previously abolished, viz:-

Reserve Division,                            from 1st October 1901,

Eastern Transvaal Division,           from 1st January 1905,

Western Transvaal Division           from 1st July 1905,

Northern Transvaal Division          from1st October 1905

Medical, Veterinary, and Work Departments were abolished

The numbers provided for in the Estimates for the year 1906-1907 were 3 700 Europeans, and  further reduced in the Estimates for 1907-1908 to 2 776 .

During the year 1907-1908 further reductions have taken place at the request of the Government of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, and the Force on 1st May 1908. Stood at a strength of 1 742 Europeans, of which 1 068 are in the Transvaal and 674 in the Orange River Colony.

The Swaziland District was abolished as a unit of the South African Constabulary from the 1st of April 1907 and a local police force substituted.


As soon as the Districts were organised in the latter part of 1902, steps were taken to instruct all members of the Force in police duties. Circulars were issued explaining the various Laws, etc., and classes were assembled to hear lectures, and examinations were held from time to time.

The circulars, etc., were ultimately embodied in 1905-1906 in a “Catechism on Criminal Law” for the Transvaal, and in a “Police Code” in the Orange River Colony.

Sets of Police record books were arranged, and issued to all Stations and Posts according to local requirements.

Every Non-Commissioned Officer and Man of the Force now carries a note book in a leather cover, in which he enters his movements, any incident he notices or is brought to his notice. On return from patrol or beat he hands the pocket book to his Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the Station Occurrence Book, who extracts any portion necessary to that record.

The Occurrence Book is the daily diary of a Station or Post, and in it are entered at once with the time all duties and movements of NCO’s and Men, horses etc., complaints laid, arrests etc.

Where a complaint or charge is made in the Occurrence Book, with a reference to the umber of the Docket in which the documents concerning the case are at once inserted. The number of the docket and a short description of the complaint is then entered on the Register of Charges Refused. If evidence is produced to justify police proceedings, the record is transferred to the Register of Charges Accepted. If prosecutions follows, the docket is handed to the Public Prosecutor for the necessary further action, and after trial the docket is returned for the Station or Post’s retention. The leather cover of the note book remains with the NCO or Man till worn out, but as the note books are filled up, they are replaced, and the completed note books filed at the Station or Post concerned.

By the above system no point of police work should be lost sight of, and full records exist, whether it be merely the patrolling of a farm, or full working up of a murder case.

Every endeavor has been made to train the men to rely on themselves to work up a case, however complicated and in only special circumstances have the services of the Criminal Investigation Department detectives been requested.

Till March 1st 1903, several of the towns, including Bloemfontein, in the Orange River Colony, were policed by a special force designated as the Orange River Colony Municipal Police. On that date it was absolved in the South African Constabulary, who since that date have undertaken the whole policing of that Colony, including detective work.

In the Transvaal, till March 1903, the Transvaal Town Police and the South African Constabulary each employed a detective staff. This duplication led to complications and the South African Constabulary detective branch was abolished, and since this date, when a detective is required the District Commandant applies direct to the Chief Detective Inspector, Johannesburg. This system has worked satisfactorily and without any friction. If the Chief Detective Inspector for any reason wishes to send a detective into a rural district, he invariably informs the District Commandant, so that the latter may be prevented from taking separate action.

The laudatory remarks of the Chief Justice of the Circuit Courts held in the early part of 1908 on the police work of the Force bear out the belief that the training of the men has been successful.

Appendix 10 shows the returns of arrests and convictions since the termination of the War. The percentage of undetected crime has been :-

Year            Dates                             Transvaal             O R C

1903                                                                                    Not Recorded

1904                                                                                    Not Recorded

1905               July to December                 3.6                               4.8

1906                                                               4.5                               5.5

1907                                                               4.9                               7.9

1908               January to March                 3.7                               3.0

The duties of the Public Prosecutor have until recently been performed throughout the two Colonies by the Officers and Men of the Force, except at Circuit Courts and the Courts on the Witwatersrand and Pretoria.

The following is an extract from the report of the District Administration Enquiry Committee with reference to these services for the law Department Transvaal :-

“We desire to place on record the almost unanimous praise which the Magistrates give to the Officers of the Constabulary for the manner in which they have conducted the work of prosecutions before the Court”

Officers of the Force held these appointments in many cases but as the courts settled down, they were replaced gradually by civilians.

These appointments have been and are still often held by members of the Force


In common with other South African Police Forces, it was necessary to give the Officers and Men a certain amount of military training. The drill in use by the Mounted Infantry was taken as a standard, and all ranks were instructed in simple movements, riding, the use of the rifle, Maxim gun, and semaphore signalling.


Training of Men – Owing to the dispersion of the Force in large numbers of small detachments, it was impossible to lay down a fixed annual course of musketry, and therefore District Commandants were authorised to expend 100 rounds per annum for each Officer or man on such practices as they considered most advantageous. A report was called for annually, on 1st July, as to the methods in which the ammunition was expended. This system has proved quite satisfactory.

Recruits - Each recruit fires a course more or less in accordance with the Musketry Regulations of the Army. 162 rounds were allowed per recruit, and in addition 5 rounds per recruit were allowed for the further training of men who did not reach the required standard.

Maxim Guns – 600 rounds per Maxim Gun were fired annually

Revolvers – As a result of recommendations of the South African Constabulary Commission, 1905 every NCO and Man has been issued with a Webley Revolver, which has been found far preferable to a rifle for patrol work. Each recruit expends 24 rounds in revolver practice, and each Officer 60 rounds in annual practice.

The awards gained by the Force at open competitions show the military training has not been unsuccessful. I place on record here a few of the successes in 1907 :-

a)    Second Place – Governor’s Cup, Transvaal Police

b)    Winners of the Abe Bailey Cup, Transvaal Bisley

c)    Winners of the Section Riding and Jumping, Transvaal Volunteer Tournament

d)    Winners of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Individual Jumping, Transvaal Volunteer Tournament

e)    Winners of the Officers’ Individual Jumping, Transvaal Volunteer Tournament

f)     Winners of the Officers’ Lemon Cutting, Transvaal Volunteer Tournament


These consisted of Troops of about 80 mounted men each, fully equipped with transport, etc., stationed at different accessible places for use in case of emergencies. The necessity for them has gradually diminished, and the last column was disbanded on the 1st of April 1908, and a small but very necessary Reserve substituted at the 2 depots.

They have been found extraordinarily useful for many purposes, of which the following are a few instances :-

  • Reinforcement of the Swaziland Police during the trial of the Swazi Queens;
  • Patrolling various parts of the country during native unrest, 1903, 1904, 1905 and 1906;
  • Forming cordons for the prevention of spread of cattle diseases;
  • Isolation of the insanitary area and of patients in Johannesburg suffering from plague;
  • Forming a cordon around the Witwatersrand for the capture of Chinese deserters and the prevention of outrages;
  • Reinforcing the Transvaal Town Police during the Miners’ Strike in 1907
  • They have also been frequently used for ceremonial purposes, such as bodyguards, escorts etc.


Depots for training of recruits for classes of instruction in various subjects, breaking in of remounts, etc., formally existed in each Division, but as the Divisions gradually disappeared, one Depot was formed for the Transvaal, which was successfully quartered at Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Heidelberg, Potcheifstroom, and Pretoria, and another Depot for the Orange River Colony at Sydenham, near Bloemfontein. In addition to instruction of recruits in police and military work, lectures were given on first surgical aid to the injured, on rudimentary veterinary methods, horse management, etc., and all English-speaking men received lessons in the Taal, and Dutch-speaking men in English.

The curriculum of the recruit’s course at the Transvaal Depot, which I give below, explains the procedure from the time a recruit joins till he is passed out for duty :-

Drill and Musketry                            128 Hours

Riding                                                147

Stables, Fatigues, etc                      308

Police Work                                       72

Dutch or English Lessons             54

Signaling, etc.                                   66

First Surgical Aid to Injured            15

Veterinary Matters                            36

Total                                                    826 Hours or 103,5 Days

Since I have been Inspector General, I have always considered it as one of the most important of my duties to supervise the training of recruits, and I have frequently visited the Depot, spoken to every recruit shortly after he joined, and finally, when he is brought up for passing from the Depot, examined him personally in drill, riding, knowledge of police work, of rifle, and Maxim Gun work, of veterinary and rudimentary surgical knowledge, and of his bi-lingual capabilities, and enquired if he had any complaints. I do not remember a single complaint from the many hundred recruits I have inspected.

I consider a Training Depot one of the most important features of a Police Force, and this Depot should be within close access of the Chief of the Force, who should frequently watch the instruction of recruits, and supervise their training and arrangements for their personal comfort and contentment


Immediately after the War, it was found difficult to get Native Constables for District police work, especially in the Western Transvaal, but by recruiting in East Griqualand and Natal this difficulty was to a great extent overcome. As a whole the Native Constables have been found very useful. Owing to their short periods of service, it has been necessary to train them in districts, which training has proved sufficient.

To encourage them to continue serving for more than 12 months, a system was inaugurated, some 18 months ago, of offering a native 6 weeks’ leave on half pay at the end of 12 months’ service, such leave pay being given to him on the return from leave: this has been proved advantageous, and ensures keeping natives for longer periods, thus increasing their usefulness.

At one time, natives who were dismissed in one District endeavored to enlist in another District, but identification by fingerprints will diminish this evil.

In the larger District, where there are big native populations, the Native Constables are invaluable, and possess great moral power owing to their uniforms and their status as Constables.


The horses have been obtained from various sources, the greater proportion from Australia. The following figures give the main sources of supply :-

Country                     Number                     Ave Cost

Australia                    9 476                          £33 : 0s

Argentina                     250                          £26 : 15s

North America             200                          £48 : 0s

Army                           1 858                          £31 : 4s

During the War, it was found that the horses sent direct up country after the long sea voyage suffered to a very great degree from the change of climate, and from the long train journey, and were useless or broke down very quickly. A Depot was therefore formed at Hillcrest, near Durban, where all imported horses were kept to acclimatize from 2 to 4 months, and were also broken in.

After the War the rail journey improved and it was easy to make arrangements for feeding and watering en route, and horses were brought direct up country from the ships and sent to various Districts and Depots, and Hillcrest Depot was abolished.

The question of the best type of horse for the Force has been much discussed. Attempts have been made to obtain horses locally bred, but the supply has never been equal to the demand.

I consider that for police purposes, until the local breed has improved and the supply increased, it is best to import them from Australia; a three-quarter bred animal, and, in the batches of remounts, to include as many mares as possible; the age should not exceed 6 years.

With a view to encouraging breeding, any application from a farmer to exchange a gelding belonging to him for a mare has always been sanctioned, provided the gelding was suitable for police work.

The chief loss in horseflesh has been due to horse sickness, and up to the present, no effective remedy against the disease has been found

In 1903, 32 horses were bought from Steinmaker’s Horse at a cost of £50 each, which were guaranteed as salted, but were not a success.

Mules - Mules have also been obtained from many sources, but except for a few instances have been obtained locally and not imported.

1 747 South American mules were purchased at a cost of  £22 : 8s each, and 1 823 mules from various sources, including the Army and Repatriation Department, at £24 : 6s each

Within the last few years all mules employed in horse sickness districts have been immunised under Dr Thacker’s process, which has proved a great success. Horses in bad horse sickness districts are soon to be replaced by riding mules.

Oxen and Donkeys – have been obtained locally

Transport – The bulk of transport vehicles, harnesses, etc., was originally obtained from Army sources, but latterly purchases have been made from local contractors.

Owing to the devastated condition of the country after the War, it was necessary to employ a very large quantity of transport in order to supply men and animals at Outposts, but as the Force gradually decreased and the local transport of the country improved, railways were built, and agriculture developed, a rapid decrease was made, and now forage is usually obtained by contract, the terms of which involve delivery to the Post. Other transport required is usually obtained by means of local contracts.

The transport of the Force is now reduced in most Districts to :- One light, 4 wheeled cart, which is used for inspection purposes and one for use as a light ambulance, and also a light trolley to transfer men, luggage, ammunition, etc., from place to place.

In the mountainous parts of the Transvaal, pack mules and donkeys are used, and the Military pattern packsaddles have been found preferable to other patterns experimented with.

Forage and Rations – The Force being constituted during a time of War, the rations both for men and animals, had necessarily to be arranged on a basis of free rations supplied by the Government. All sources of supply and the machinery for distribution being monopolised by the Army Service Corps, that organisation was utilised for the supply of provisions and forage for the South African Constabulary, not as an integral portion of the Army in the field, but as a separate Administration purchasing its supplies from Army stocks and repaying the Imperial Exchange for the issues.

The supplies so purchased from time to time by the South African Constabulary, split up as it was into many detached Columns and Troops in various parts of the Transvaal, Orange River Colony, Cape Colony and Natal, were duly accounted for in the Monthly Supply Reports of Supplies purchased and consumed, which were rendered, often under the most adverse conditions, by each Unit throughout the 18 months of active service which constituted the early history of the South African Constabulary.

On the declaration of peace and the closing of Army Stores Depots, steps were taken to arrange with South African merchants for the supplies for the Force which was entering upon the civil duties, and by 1st January 1903, these arrangements were completed and brought into effect.

Practically all supplies consumed during 1903 were imported from overseas.

During 1904 the country showed signs of a recovery from the effects of the War, and accordingly a certain proportion of the forage required was procured from local sources. This proportion steadily increased during the following 3 years, until in 1908 the whole of the forage requirements of the Force are being purchased from local sources within the two colonies. In order to attain this result it has been necessary to discard oats and substitute mealies in the grain ration for animals, owing to the impossibility of obtaining sufficient oats from local sources. This change of food was introduced very gradually, as practically all horses were imported animals unaccustomed to mealies.

In August 1904, the ration of 10lbs of Oats gave way to 6lbs of oats and 4lbs of mealies. The proportion of mealies was increased every month, until by 1906 that grain entirely replaced oats as an article of fodder for animals. The change thus gradually effected was accomplished without injury to the animals, and while leaving their efficiency undiminished, rendered possible a very appreciable reduction in the expenditure on forage. The daily forage ration, which in 1903 had cost approximately 1s : 8 1/2d including transport, was in 1906 reduced to 1s : 2d including transport.

Still further reductions were made in 1906 by the introduction of the system of a “running account of forage’. This system allowed each Divisional Commandant to increase or decrease temporarily the ration issued to his animals as local circumstances might render expedient or possible, provided he kept within a certain limited allowance per head per annum: at the same time it compelled him to record the actual stock of forage held every month, and prevented the accumulation of unrecorded surplus stocks. In many Districts, where good grazing was obtainable, it was found that the animals kept their condition and did their work on rations 2 or 3 lbs. less per diem than the forage scale. Under the running account system this daily saving was duly recorded, and economy showed itself in the reduction of the animal expenditure on forage.

Between 1906 and 1908 the powers of Officers to purchase forage for cash when procurable locally at, or under, fixed prices were considerably enlarged, as it was recognised that the District Commandants had gained sufficient experience of their Districts since the War to enable them to take advantage of fluctuations in the local markets and to use their discretion in buying supplies for cash whenever obtainable at favorable prices. The effect of this step was soon apparent by a further reduction in the cost of fodder.

The system eventually evolved now gives the District Officer much greater freedom, both in purchasing supplies and in the quantities on which he feeds the animals under his command, and economy has at the same time been obtained, as the cost per diem of a horse’s forage is now 11d.

The average ration of forage now issued for the whole year round is :-

Horses                                   14 lbs. per diem

Riding Mules                        12

Transport Mules                   10

Oxen                                        7

Donkeys                                 5

Rations – The conditions under which personnel of the Force was enrolled during the earlier years of its existence included the issue of free rations to both Europeans and Natives. During the War rations were issued in kind, but shortly after hostilities ceased, men quartered in outlying districts were given the option of drawing a monthly allowance in lieu of rations. The cash allowance was fixed at 1s : 6d in 1902, but as supplies became more plentiful and less costly, the allowance was reduced to 1s : 4d per day in 1904, and again in to 1s : 3d in 1905.

The following table shows the graded decrease in the cost of rations :-

European “A” Scale        Years                                   Cost per Day

                                             1900 – 1901                       1s : 4d to 1s : 5d

                                             1902                                     1s : 5d to 1s : 4 1/2d

                                             1903                                     1s : 5d

                                            1904                                      1s : 4d

                                            1905                                      1s : 3d

                                            1906                                      1s : 0 1/2d

Native “B” Scale              Years                                Cost per Day

                                            1900 – 1901                     1s : 1d

                                            1902                                  1s : 0d

                                            1903                                  0s : 10d

                                            1904                                  0s : 10d

                                            1905                                  0s : 10d

                                            1906                                  0s : 9d


Native “C” Scale             Years                              Cost per Day

                                            1900 – 1901                  6d

                                            1902                               6d

                                            1903                               6d

                                            1904                               6d

                                            1905                               6d

                                            1906                               5d

Clothing and Equipment – One of the most difficult problems of the Force which had to be solved in the early days, was the question of clothing and equipment

In October and November 1900, it was known that large numbers of men would join the Force from the Army and from overseas sources early in 1901. The Ordinance Store Department of the Army was known to be overwhelmed with requests for clothing and equipment, many of which would not be supplied with for some months. The pattern of clothing for the Force was to be different from that of the Army, consequently special patterns and arrangements had to be made and obtained from England.

Owing to the delays consequent upon the continuance of operations, the clothing did not arrive on time to issue to the men, and in many cases Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of the Constabulary took to the field in active operations in the civilian clothes they enlisted in in England. Arrangements were then made to clothe the men before they embarked at Southampton, and on arrival in Cape Town or other South African Ports they were issued with rifle and accoutrements, so that they were more or less equipped to take to the field on arrival at their various Stations.

Camp equipment, ammunition, arms, saddlery, etc., were obtained from the Army as soon as they could be spared, but the Force was not completely equipped until the War was nearly over, and at that time an enormous amount of reserve stores, designed to meet the requirements of a continuance of hostilities, were en route to South Africa. Coincident with the reduction of the Force came the influx of stores and equipment for 10 000 men, and the storehouses, inconvenient and insufficient as they were, became exceedingly congested.

Endeavors were made to return all military stores to the Army or kindred Administrations, but they were in a similar plight, and the Force was left with an enormous stock of articles which it had proved were practically useless for the purpose. The Force continued diminishing, but the stocks, though they did not increase, could not be reduced in the same proportion.

The various Units, scattered all over the country without proper accommodations utilised a great amount of the camp equipment, but there was a large surplus of saddlery, ammunition, etc. Which could not be used. As the Force decreased it became essential that some steps be taken to diminish the stocks, which were deteriorating owing to insufficient storage, and endeavors were made to sell them at various centres by auctions, but it was found that the Army and other administrations who had become overstocked by anticipating war requirements were competitors on the same market, and in addition, the local merchants, who had imported largely on the conclusion of hostilities agitated considerably against the competition by Government Departments.

The only means left to dispose of these surplus stocks was to sell them gradually in very small quantities throughout South Africa, and this procedure has been adopted until the present time, and it is hoped that the bulk of the military equipment as apart from police equipment will be disposed of by the 30th June 1908.

After the War, as each Troop settled down to its Sub-District, it was necessary to supply it with a small reserve of equipment etc., in case of mobilisation occurring or an emergency happening on which it had to take to the field. The country gradually settling, these small stocks were concentrated at 4 centres, viz. Pretoria, Heidelberg, Potchefstroom, and Bloemfontein, from which they are being disposed or issued.

During active service and afterwards it was necessary to supply the Men with clothing in kind, but on the reorganisation of the Force on the 1st July 1906, a consolidated rate of pay was introduced out of which the men found their own clothing.

The uniform originally laid down for the Force was khaki, with a Stetson hat, which is now in the course of replacement by blue frocks and khaki pantaloons in the case of mounted men, and blue frocks and trousers in the case of dismounted men, and by the “Egyptian Army” helmet in the case of headdress.

The system of the men providing uniform out of their pay has proved satisfactory, and has led to a considerable simplification of accounts.

In the early regulations dealing with equipment, all articles were allowed a certain life, and any article becoming unserviceable before that period was brought before a Board of Officers, who recommended whether the circumstances of the case entailed the part-worn cost of the article being charged against the individual or against the State. This procedure, owing to the exceptional circumstances under which the Force has served, has proved cumbersome, and it is for consideration whether it would not be better to discontinue allotting a period of life to articles, and when they are reported as worn out, to hold a Board of Enquiry to ascertain whether the use to which they have to be put justifies their being replaced.

Appendix 5 shows the scale of clothing and the average annual cost, 1904 and 1907

Appendix 6 shows the scale of equipment of a mounted man in 1904 and 1907, and also a dismounted man in 1907

Appendix 7 shows the average cost of equipping a man in 1901 and 1906

The system of accounting for stores and equipment has been for each Commandant of a Unit, such as an Officer Commanding a Troop, or a District Commandant, to keep a ledger in which all articles received, issued or duly struck off are recorded. These ledgers are checked annually with their receipts and issue vouchers at headquarters, and queries raised if necessary. A further check was kept on the accounts by the regulation that any Officer, before proceeding on leave or quitting the Force, should hand over his stores and equipment to his successor in the presence of a Board of Officers or a qualified Officer specially sent down from Headquarters. A further check was made by the Audit Department of the Inter-Colonial Council, who periodically went around representatives to check accounts with stock.

The accounting for stocks, etc., has on the whole been very satisfactory.

There is no doubt that there has been a very considerable amount of loss on equipment, stores, etc., purchased in the early days of the Force, but it was unavoidable, as requisitions had to be placed in good time to meet the requirements of hostilities, and when the hostilities had passed it was impossible to liquidate without such losses.




The Army during the War was unable to assist in the matter of providing buildings, defences, etc., to the Force, so a Works Department had to be organised, and artisans were specially enlisted in Pretoria.

During hostilities little was done except in the erection of temporary shelters and defences, hiring houses, etc., in which an expenditure of  £47 967 was incurred.

immediately after the War a number of empty houses occupied for various purposes by the Force had to be vacated as their owners returned. A permanent hutting scheme was drawn up and buildings started as soon as possible.

£58 392 was expended out of the Annual Estimates ending 30th June 1902

£152 327 out of the Annual Estimates for the year 1902 to 1903

The system of providing funds for buildings out of the Annual Estimates was found inconvenient, and in 1903-1904 a loan was obtained from the Transvaal Government of  £380 000, which, with the exception of an unexpected balance of  £38 921 was drawn as follows:-

1903-1904                              £ 206 258

1904-1905                             £ 89 988

1905-1906                             £ 30 903

1906-1907                             £ 13 930

The loan is gradually being repaid by annual votes of the Inter-Colonial Council, interest being charged at 4 per cent, an amount of £50 000 per annum going towards the redemption and in payment of interest. On the 39th June1908, the balance of the loan due to the Transvaal Government will be £123 937

From the 1sy July 1906, in accordance with the recommendations of the South African Constabulary Commission, the Works Department was abolished, and all buildings, etc., passed under the control of the two Public Works Departments, who since that date have undertaken all new works and maintenance, and also paid lodging allowance, rents, etc., where accommodation was not available. The Force now, with a few exceptions, may be said to be fairly well housed and stabled.


At the end of the War, 460 members of the Force were in the South African Constabulary Hospitals and, in addition, 117 men in Military Hospitals.

As the Force gradually dispersed over the country in small detachments, it was necessary, as District Surgeons and local Civil Hospitals were non-existent, to establish small South African Constabulary Hospitals in the Districts.

After the men had recovered from the strain of War and the exposure after the War, due to living under canvas and in very indifferent buildings, the health of the Force rapidly improved. The ratio, per thousand men, of men constantly non-effective from sickness was 54.66 during the year 1902, which decreased to 36.44 for the year 1903. The ratio for the Army in South Africa for the year 1903 was 58.12 : and the average for the 10 years 1890-1899, was 55.72

With the reduction of the Force, and in the establishment of District Surgeons and Civil Hospitals, a corresponding decrease was made in the numbers of the Medical Establishment, though the cost did not similarly diminish, as payments were necessary to the District Surgeons and Civil Hospitals.

The Medical Officers in the early stages after the War not only attended to the members of the Force, but also attended the civilian population whenever their services were required.

The numbers voted by the Inter-Colonial Council for the Medical duties for the year 1903-1904 were :-

12          Officers

12          Nursing Sisters

195       Non Commissioned Officers and Men, and

30          Natives

The total of the Medical Vote was £52 091. This Staff has gradually been reduced, until at present no South African Constabulary Hospital exists, and only the Medical member left in the Force is the Adviser to the Inspector General.

It is impossible to give statistics as to the health of the Force since 1904, as no records have been kept of the number of admissions and nature of diseases treated : but the health of the Force may be said to be very satisfactory.


The history of the Veterinary Department is very much the same as the Medical Department.

Immediately after the termination of hostilities, contagious diseases such as glanders, rindepest, red-water and pleuro-pneumonia were raging throughout the two colonies. At the request of the Director of Agriculture of the Transvaal in the latter part of 1902, the South African Constabulary took over the control of these diseases for a period of six months, with satisfactory results. The number of outbreaks of contagious diseases dealt with by the Veterinary Staff of the Force during that period in the Transvaal alone amounted to :-

Rindepest                              33

Lung Sickness                     17

Red Water                             11

Glanders and Farey            33

As the District Veterinary Surgeons were established, the Department was gradually reduced.

The Inter-Colonial Council voted Funds in 1903-1904 for :-

11          Officers

220       Non Commissioned Officers and Men, and

60       Natives

And the total Veterinary Vote, excluding cost of remounts, was  £34 888

At the present time there only remains the Veterinary Officer in each Colony, who are assisted by a Farrier Sergeant in each District


General Remarks - The Paymaster’s Department, like the others of the South African Constabulary, was organised under unusual circumstances. Arrangements had to be made for dealing with the initial expenditure, estimated at £1 447 735, together with an annual expenditure of £2 394 190, on lines sufficiently to accord with the requirements of the Colonial Office Regulations to be included in the Accounts of the Civil Administration, and at the same time to be organised so as to be adaptable for a Military Force in the field during the War, and for a Civil Police Force in times of peace, without drastic changes being involved.

When the Force was proclaimed on the 22nd October 1900, there was not an Officer or Clerk appointed to the Department. Applications were made to the Army for a few trained Officers or Men, but not one could be spared. The services of a few experienced Officers were obtained from other South African Police Forces, and the subordinate Staff, as they were obtained, were trained under those Officers.

The system gradually got into working order, and at the end of the War, there was a Chief Paymaster and Accountant-General, with a Staff at Headquarters, and a Paymaster at each Division.

As the Force decreased, the Pay Department was reduced, and on the re-organisation of the Force on 1st July 1906, all pay accounts were concentrated at Headquarters.

During the year 1906-1907 only 47 queries were raised officially by the Auditors on the Accounts of the Force, none of which resulted in a disallowance.

Estimates and Expenditure – I show below the Net Estimates and Net Expenditure since the Force was established :-



£ Net


£ Net Expenditure

£ Saving

22 Oct 1900 to 30 Jun 1902

3 841 923

3 154 467

687 318

Year July 1903 to 1903

2 505 904

2 595 523


Year July 1903 to 1904

1 520 061

1 317 755

202 306

Year July 1904  to 1905

1 106 800

1 029 088

77 712

July 1905 to Jun 1906

- 989 180 : Supplementary 83 617

1 072 797

1 019 934

52 963

July 1906 to June 1907

889 000

767 898

124 162

July 1907 to Jun 1908

732 782

602 782

130 000


£11 689 359

£10 397 287

£1 292 072


Of the total sum of £11 689 350, £4 500 000 were voted by the Imperial Government

Savings on Estimates – The saving of £1 292 072 (2s : 2d in every Pound) out of the various sums voted from time to time by Parliament, after considerable discussion, shows that the economy was carefully studied, and that a reduction of expenditure was made immediately it was possible.

Rates of Pay – The original Conditions of Service gave the NCO’s and Men varying rates of pay, in addition to which they were given rations, clothing, equipment, horses if required, forage, barracks, and medical attendance : but on re-organisation of the Force on 1st July 1906, all ranks were brought into a consolidated rate of pay so far as rations and clothing were concerned – i.e. a Constable instead of getting 5s : 0d per day, rations, clothing, horses, etc., received 6s : 6d per day, but did not receive rations and clothing.

Re-Engagement Pay – After 3 years engagement, a Non-Commissioned Officer or Man became entitled to an extra 3d per day, and for every successive 2 years afterwards became entitled to a further 3d per day per period, the total re-engagement pay not exceeding 2s : 0d per day.

Local Allowance – In consequence of the high cost of living in various parts of the two colonies during the War and afterwards, a local allowance was granted, but was discontinued on the 30th June 1906. An allowance is still given to men quartered in unhealthy districts.

Payment during the War – During the War it was found impossible to pay the men up to date, but immediately after the conclusion of hostilities an endeavor was made to square up all outstanding pay, and it is satisfactory to record that this was done before the end of August 1902.

Cost per Head – The cost per head, European, has gradually decreased, and is now, I consider at the minimum.

The cost per head, European is tabled below

Year                           £ per Annum

1900-1902                       233

1902-1903                       231

1903-1904                       230

1904-1905                       221

1905-1906                       211

1906-1907                       200

The cost per head of European and Native Constable combined, in 1907-1908 will be about  £172

The above average cost includes various items such as stationery, transport, medical assistance, etc., which in other police forces are usually borne by the departments.

Payments Overseas – the payment of bills for stores, supplies etc., obtained in England or overseas, was arranged by the Crown Agents until latterly, when it was taken over by the Agent-General for the Transvaal.

The relationship between the Crown Agents and the Agent-General have been most satisfactory throughout.

In the original Conditions of Service an undertaking was given that any Non-Commissioned Officer or Man who had enlisted overseas, would at the end of 5 years’ service, be given a free passage to the country from which he came, and, in addition, after 5 years’ service, was entitled to a months’ pay for each year of service.

It was thought advised in 1904, limit this liability, and all the men engaged after 5 years were paid a gratuity of 5 months’ pay, on the understanding that such payment cancelled any further claims under the original conditions of service. The sums required for passage and gratuity were voted annually by the Inter-Colonial Council and funded.

After the 4th January 1909, no liability will exist for gratuities and the bulk of the passages, if not all, should have been given, or money in lieu thereof.

Gratuities have been paid to 2 505 Non-Commissioned Officers and Men amounting to £118 087.

Passages, or payment in lieu were paid for 2 174 Non-Commissioned Officers and Men amounting to £22 850

Retirement – Until 1st July 1906, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men were not entitled to any gratuity, pension, etc., except in the case of injury, disease etc., contracted on duty : but in accordance with the recommendations of the South African Constabulary in 1905, a Superannuation Scheme was passed by the Inter-Colonial Council by which generally all the members of the Force became entitled to pensions at the age of 50, and that Officers on retrenchment, abolition of office, or re-organisation, be entitled to a months’ pay for every year of service.

The system adopted for the retrenching of Officers and Men has been to select those considered least suitable for police work and to give them due notice and any leave for which they might be eligible. In the heavy entrenchment of 1907-1908, Officers and Men were given pay in lieu of any leave due to them, in a lump sum, to enable them to either leave the country or have a small capital at their disposal to start another livelihood.

Benevolent Fund – In November 1901, it was decided to set aside the fines recovered from members of the Force for offences against discipline, to form a Benevolent Fund, and all payments out of the Fund are sanctioned by the High Commissioner. The funds are placed on fixed deposit at a bank at current rates of interest bringing in the last 2 years an income of over  £900 per year

Appendix 8 shows a Statement of Account of the Benevolent Fund

Grants are made to deserving cases and families of deceased men, assistance towards passages of invalids, families of members, or ex-members of the Force, and in the case of Men retrenched during the year 1907-1908, a grant of  5 was given to every Non-Commissioned Officers or Men retrenched. The cost of the administration of estates of deceased men of the Force is defrayed out of the Fund.

The approximate balance standing to the credit of the Fund, as at The 30th June 1908 will be £24 000

Steps have been taken to place memorial Brasses in the Bloemfontein & Pretoria Cathedrals to the memory of the members of the Force who died while serving in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony respectively during the existence of the Force.

The estimated cost of £600 will be borne by the Fund

Band Fund – A small band was formed in 1904 and was partly supported by a yearly grant of £420 from the government and partly from a stoppage of half a days’ pay from each Officer of the Force. The membership of the band were usually considered as a Reserve to the Mobile Columns, and were generally quartered in Johannesburg. Civil engagements were entered into which increased the income of the Fund.

On recommendations of the SAC Commission in 1905, the band was abolished from 1st July 1906, and the bandsmen either returned to ordinary police work, or were given a free discharge with a small gratuity from the Fund.

In 1907 it was determined to close the Fund and to refund the Officers who were serving on the 30th June 1906 with their subscriptions, and devote the balance remaining, after disposing of the assets to a Memorial Maintenance Fund.

A statement of the Band Fund Account from August 1904 to 31st May 1908 is shown in Appendix 9

The credit balance will be paid to the Maintenance Memorial Fund from which it will probably be handed over to the branches of the Loyal Woman’s Guild in either colony, for the upkeep of the graves of officers and men of the Force.


The regulations for discipline which was framed under the Proclamation 24 of 1900, laid down the procedure on which offences against the schedule contained in the Proclamation are dealt with. The many principles is that every man before trial has the right to say whether he will be tried by his immediate Superior Officer or by the next Superior Officer, the latter having the power to refer the case back to his Junior for trial and sentence if he considers it advisable. All punishments are reviewed by the Assistant Inspector-General of the colony concerned, and in the case of sentences, by the Board of Officers, they are sent for confirmation, will, where the sentence exceeds imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any period exceeding 14 days, or fine exceeding £1, submit the original proceedings in the case to the Inspector-General for revision if necessary.

This system has worked very well, and the discipline of the Force may be said to be very good, and in support of my opinion I quote from the report of the District Administration Enquiry Committee, which was composed of the Magistrates of long standing who had travelled every district in the Transvaal, the following extract :-

“It is well known to us that, so far as discipline is concerned, the condition of the South African Constabulary leaves little to be desired”

The system of dealing with complaints is that any member of the Force who considers himself aggrieved should state his case in writing to his next Superior Officer, who, unless he can deal with it, forwards it through the usual channels to higher authority. In case any Officer refuses to forward a complaint to superior authority, the member aggrieved is allowed by Regulations to send a copy of his complaint to the Superior Officer, at the same time sending a copy of the complaint to the original officer complained to. Of the few complaints received, the experience obtained shows that the procedure is satisfactory.


Among the heavier extraneous duties performed by the South African Constabulary, the following may be mentioned :-

  • Compilation of the Census of 1904
  • Compilation of Voter’s Roll
  • The supervision to a great extent of the Elections in both Colonies

Another extraneous service carried out by the Force was the establishment of a special cordon round the Witwatersrand to prevent the desertion of and perpetration of outrages by the Chinese labourers imported to work on the gold mines. This work was originally undertaken by the Mobile Columns of the Force, but in April 1906, it became evident that, owing to the Zulu unrest, it might be necessary to dispatch these Units to the Natal frontier and various parts of the Transvaal to allay any disturbances which might arise, and in the report of the Special Commission formed to investigate the cause and control of the Chinese outrages, it was recommended that in the event of the Mobile Columns of the South African Constabulary being required elsewhere, they should be replaced by locally raised special constables.

On the despatch of the Mobile Column to various parts of the Transvaal, a Force was raised called “Special Burgher Police”, amongst the farmers and other inhabitants around the Rand. They were clothed as civilians, and carried a revolver and a duty badge and were allowed a horse, forage, and a ration allowance. They were instructed that their duties were not those of ordinary policemen, but they were only to endeavor to capture Chinese deserters. After the establishment of a cordon, and the increase of safeguards from desertions from the mines, the numbers of desertions quickly diminished, and the Special Burgher Police, so far as the South African Constabulary is now concerned, was abolished in the latter part of 1917.

Relations with other Administrations and Departments – The relations between the Force and other Administrations and Departments of the two colonies has been most cordial throughout


I place on record, in Appendix 1, a telegram received from Lord Kitchener on handing the Force over from Military to Civil Control, an extract from a speech by the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain in the House of Commons in 1903, and a copy of the General Order issued by His Excellency the High Commissioner, Lord Selbourne, when the administration of the Force passed from his hands.

I also attach, in Appendix 2, a list of the principal officers concerned in the command and administration of the Force.

I would finally, on the behalf of all Members of the Force, past and present, desire to express their deep thanks to His Excellency the High Commissioner for the generous support and sympathetic consideration that he and his predecessors have always shown towards the South African Constabulary’

R S Curtis

South African Constabulary

Auckland Park,

June 1st 1908

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