Before Ladysmith was invested, the Hon. T. K. Murray, ex-Colonial Secretary, suggested that the Rifle Associations of Natal, which were on a different footing from the Volunteers, should be called out. The authorities did not see their way to adopt this suggestion, but General Wolfe-Murray, commanding the lines of communication, asked Dr Murray to come to Mooi River as soon as he could with the men he could gather. Forty-eight hours afterwards Mr Murray was at the appointed place with 80 well-mounted men, each carrying three days' rations. Within a few days the numbers had increased to 150, and during the first three weeks of November - a most critical period, as the Boers were pushing across the Tugela and the regulars were only arriving - Murray's Horse performed most valuable service, patrolling a very wide district, and probably leading the enemy to believe that lower Natal was better protected than it really was. The regular troops having arrived before the end of November, Murray's Horse was disbanded. The Lieutenant General Commanding in Natal issued the following order: "The services of the Irregular Corps raised by the Honourable T. K. Murray, CMG, having been dispensed with owing to the arrival of reinforcements from the Cape, the Lieutenant-General Commanding desires to place on record his high admiration for the patriotic spirit with which the men of this corps responded to the call to arms at a critical time, and the efficient manner in which they performed the military duties required of them".
Source: Colonials in South Africa by J Stirling
This irregular corps was raised in Natal, mostly in Pietermartizburg district, during the last week in October, 1899, and took the field in the Anglo-Boer War early in November, about 80 strong, under the Hon. Thomas Keir Murray, ex-Colonial Secretary of Natal, who held the rank of Commandant. Within a week the strength had risen to 150. No military rank was held by members, they being purely civilians who had volunteered to assist in a military capacity the military forces in any possible way in face of the invasion of Natal by the enemy forces early in the war, their rapid advance down country and the investment of Ladysmith. The members provided themselves with everything—horse, arms, equipment, uniforms and other necessaries at their own cost, and they served without any pay or allowances, except rations and ammunition. Their particular efficiency lay in their value as scouts, guides, interpreters and intelligence work. Many of the members had an intimate knowledge of the districts operated in, were good Zulu and Afrikaans linguists and full of veld craft. This force was really a commando, with an organisation, or absence of any, similar to the system of Boer commandos, but with military discipline.
The first and urgent duties of the corps were that of patrolling the districts south of the Tugela River, and putting up at big a show of force as possible during the critical fortnight following the retirement of the British forces across the Tugela River, closely beset by the enemy in strength, pending the arrival of reinforcements from Cape Town and overseas, being hurried northwards to stem the tide of invasion. These duties Murray's Horse carried out with great determination and efficiency. Thereafter a portion of the force was released from their military duties, but Commandant T. K. Murray, and the bulk of the unit, now known as Murray's Scouts, remained on active service with the Natal Field Force until the relief of the beleaguered Ladysmith on 28th February, 1900, when they, too, were released from military service and returned home.
Source: Short History Of The Volunteer Regiments Of Natal And East Griqualand, Past and Present. Compiled by Colonel Godfrey T Hurst, DSO OBE VD, Honorary Colonel of the Natal Mounted Rifles.
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