NEWSLETTER OF THE WITWATERSRAND RIFLES REGIMENTAL AND FAMILY ASSOCIATION
Third Quarter 2014
Greetings to our members, their families and the friends of the Association.
Spring has arrived and after a long winter is most welcome.
On 16th August the monthly Association meeting was dedicated to the100th anniversary of the Regiment’s call up to German South West Africa. (See the article at the end of this newsletter). Prior to our meeting the members moved to our memorial where a WW1 poem was read. The Commanding Officer and our Chairman both laid poppy wreathes whilst the Pipe Major played the lament. The members then moved inside for the meeting which was followed by a special luncheon provided by the ladies.
The Regiment has just completed another phase of training prior to deployment in Sudan which will take place early in the new year.
The Association will be providing “comfort gifts” to the troops prior to deployment as a token of our appreciation to them.
Whilst traditionally a Rifle Regiment does not carry colours this has become problematic for the Regiment at national parades as the Regiment is unable to participate fully as it cannot provide a colour party. It has thus been agreed between the Regimental Council and the Regiment that the Regiment would apply to higher authority for the issuing of colours and to this end application has been made. The battle honours will however continue to be displayed on the Pipe Majors pipes in the form of the existing pipe banner.
Membership continues to grow, particularly since opening up membership to family members.
Membership is not restricted to WR types but is open to anyone who has the interest of the Regiment and the Association at heart.
We have a comprehensive data base of members and their contact details which is available from Roy Brown or the Secretary should members wish to contact other members in their areas. These details can be e-mailed. If members and friends know of
or happen to meet fellow WR veterans with whom we have possibly lost touch, please pass on their details to us through Roy Brown on 011-788-8170.
Annual subs are R50-00 per annum. Please make your cheques payable to Witwatersrand Rifles Regimental Association and forward them to Roy Brown at our postal address which is reflected above.
THE REGIMENTS 100th ANNIVERSARY OF MOBILISATION
During this 100th Anniversary of the start of the First World War we commemorate the Regiment’s mobilisation for what was to be “The war to end all wars”. Little was it realised at the time that the war which “will be over by Christmas” was to continue for four long years and at such a huge cost of human life.
The following is an extract from the Regimental History “A Bugle Calls” (Pg 80/81)
The following order, dated 15th August 1914, was issued to members of the Witwatersrand Rifles:
“CAMP ORDER TO BE COMPLIED WITH IMMEDIATELY
The Government has called out the Unit to which you belong and you are hereby ordered to proceed WITHOUT DELAY for the TRAINING of your company or section, and from there by the first available train to the point where your Regiment has been ordered to assemble.
DATE, TIME AND PLACES OF ASSEMBLY TUESDAY - 18TH AUGUST 1914
A total of 751 personnel of the Regiment thus assembled at Booysen’s Camp. Included among the officers was one who held the Victoria Cross (VC). He was Lt F H Bradley who, as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery, had been awarded the highest British decoration for gallantry at the engagement at Itala on 26 September 1901.
Thus was mobilised the Witwatersrand Rifles for the Regiment’s first real experience of war. The succeeding four years were to see the Regiment’s personnel deeply involved in South West Africa, the Western Front and German East Africa; although only in the first named theatre as an identifiable regiment in its own right. The Rand Daily Mail, in the issue dated Friday 2 August 1940, refers in the column entitled A daily causerie, to an earlier issue of the newspaper, dated 25 August 1914, in which the departure of the Witwatersrand Rifles for South West Africa is recorded:
“The stirring scenes which have been described in the last few days, both in connection with the departure from South Africa and the arrival in Kenya, of the men of the Union forces who have gone North on active service, have their counterpart in a newspaper cutting which at the moment is before me. It is from the “Rand Daily Mail” of August 25, 1914 and it describes in stirring language the departure of the Witwatersrand Rifles from Booysens Camp.
The “WARLIKE WITS”, as the heading calls them, were the first regiment to be despatched north on active service, and they received a magnificent send off from their “comrades-in-arms”, mothers, sisters and sweethearts.” The parting official message to the regiment was given by Maj F. A. Jones, D.S.O., though the regiment had been paraded and addressed earlier in the day by Colonel W.R. Schumacher and Lieut.-Colonel Smyth.
The Transvaal Scottish, who were being left behind, paid the Wits. the pretty compliment of playing them out of camp with their own band of pipers, and “amid the waving of flags, and the vociferous enthusiasms of the troops, away went the lads in khaki to the stirring martial air of “Blue Bonnets Over the Border”.
As the above news item states, the Witwatersrand Rifles was the very first ACF infantry regiment to proceed on active service, embarking at Cape Town on 29 August 1914 for service in German South West Africa.