Monday, 18 October 2010




In the early days Manicaland, like the rest of Rhodesia, depended entirely on the police and Volunteers for protection. As early as 1893 Dr. 3ameson proceeded to Salisbury to organise a corps of Volunteers, and in 1898 an ordinance was passed inaugurating the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers. They were organised into partly mounted and partly dismounted units at Salisbury, Umtali and Fort Victoria in Mashonaland and at Bulawayo and Gwelo in Matabeleland. In outlying districts where the population warranted it, rifle companies were formed, the members were not required to drill but to have an annual course of musketry. The S.R.V. were therefore men called out for service as a regiment, yet many members volunteered and took part in the Boer War and the Great War.

The volunteers had been functioning steadily in Manicaland from the time of the Mashona Rebellion. Major Robert Graham Snodgrass was the first Officer Commanding Southern Rhodesia Volunteers and served in the Mashona Rebellion 1896 - 1897. Captain T.B. Hulley took over from him and served as Officer Commanding for many years and then Colonel Methuen took over command. The Drill Hall, a fine building constructed in 1898, was spacious, and drilling at night was preferable as then most people were off duty. Lt. Reginald Bray was the Staff Lieutenant for the Eastern Division in 1895, He served throughout the Mashonaland Rebellion, and became an instructor to the S.R.V. in Umtali District in 1898. He was a strict disciplinarian and a good old Sergeant Major type. If orders were not obeyed the offenders were soundly trounced, regardless of rank!

The S.R.V. were presented with at least twenty or twenty four excellent band instruments which were made full use of under the instruction of Mr. Watson, a former bandmaster, familiar with several musical instruments. He collected a number of enthusiasts in Umtali and with constant practices in the Drill Hall, licked them into shape. The result was that in a short time Umtali had a remarkably good band with eager, competent and efficient performers.

Another addition to the Volunteers was the mounted section. Those who provided their horses received payment in return for their use. The Drill Hall stables were in great demand because so many men had to come into Umtali from long distances, and stable their horses at night. Once a year combined manoeuvres were hectic, the men having to find and groom and feed their horses and turn out spick and span for parade. On one occasion the Volunteers were ordered to charge on horseback over an undulating field. Their enemy, the ant bear, had riddled the field with holes and must have been amused as horsemen were going down like ninepins in all directions! They ended up by leading their mounts to prevent broken fetlocks.

In 1920 it was decided to disband the active units of the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers and to retain the rifle companies in outlying areas. These companies were responsible for units in the towns, which were organised under the Cadre System to allow for expansion when necessary, it being assumed that those who had seen service during the Great War would be available for some time, if

Page 81

required, to take part in the defence of the territory. There was not a great deal of interest taken in this system of organisation.

Cadet units were also started for youths who were over school age.

Territorial Forces consisted of territorial active forces, and the Territorial Force Reserve. Instructors were drawn partly from the British Army and partly from the South Africa Police.

The following were the numbers in each district:

Chipinga 14 19
Melsetter 14 12
Umtali 36 52
Makoni 42 95


Cecil Rhodes, whilst staying with his old faithful friend Mr. Longden in Melsetter, predicted that war was bound to come in a few years' time, Mr. Longden, at that time, had just returned from one of his missions to Gungunyana. The Portuguese were striving to obtain Gazaland, therefore they made a complaint to the British Government, and Mr. Longden found his name being brought up in the British Parliament. One day he remarked bitterly to Rhodes: "Wedon't 'seem to do anything right". "Don't be discouraged", replied Rhodes. "It will come all right in the end. You must remember that the British Government is anxious to get a naval base, preferably at Lisbon, to prevent the German Government from getting it, because a hostile fleet between the Channel, Fleet and the Mediterranean would be disastrous in the Great War which, is bound to come in the near future. The British Government does not want to quarrel with the Portuguese. This seems to be the reason for the final arrangements of boundaries between Rhodesia and Mocambique".

Mr. Longden, years after on his way to America, disembarked from a German ship 'General' two days before the British declared war on Germany. Opposite Buckingham Palace he joined the surging crowd that roared its loyalty to the King and Queen standing on the balcony. The inevitable took place - war was declared on the 4th August, 1914; a war which was to be the war to end all wars! It was a ruthless war, the old British Lion was unprepared and fast asleep as usual. All capable men were needed immediately and as there were no instructions to prevent anyone from leaving the country, the war prevented progress as minors, farmers, civil servants, clerks and shop assistants rushed to join the forces, thus the mines flooded, farms deteriorated and businesses dwindled.

After intense training, regiments were on their way to one of the fronts, their first objective being German South West Africa, a campaign which lasted less than a year before the Germans were defeated. No sooner had the 1st Rhodesian Regiment returned, when the 2nd Rhodesian Regiment was formed. The rate of pay did not deter men enlisting, it being thirteen pence per day! In 1916 the Regiment arrived in German East Africa. From bitter experience and punishment they soon learnt what a formidable enemy they were fighting in Von Lettow;

Page 82

their opponent was tough, the country through which they were fighting was rough, rugged bush covered and malaria infested. This took a much greater toll of lives than German bullets. When the Rhodesians arrived off Mombasa, Von Lettow1s initial offensive into British East Africa was already grinding to a halt as their superiority in men, arms and ammunition was gradually diminishing.

The Germans made a certain stand at Saliata, a heavily fortified hilltop in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. The Allies attacked, but were thrown back with heavy losses. Only the Rhodesians held their ground, stayed to fight rearguard action to give the main forces time to reorganise, but Colonel E.A. Capell who was the Officer Commanding, described the disaster. "Men of the two broken regiments streamed through our ranks getting to safety and yet the Rhodesians stood their ground, quietly shooting when targets offered, quietly enduring the shell fire that our guns had failed to silence." The attack on Salaita was a frontal one which was totally unnecessary. General Smuts arrived a few days later to take over all command in East Africa. He climbed a large baobab tree and after inspecting the enemy stronghold, gave it a complete go-by and outflanked it. Threatened with encirclement the Germans hurriedly left. Latema battle followed on, and was more or less a replica of Salaita. Unfortunately before nightfall the battle was not ended, and it ended up in confusion. The Germans and Rhodesians and South Africans could not see each other, and when shouting waited in order to determine whether the opponents had guttural voices or not! At daybreak patrols found that the Germans had abandoned their positions.

The Rhodesian casualties were fifteen killed, two missing and forty three wounded. The German casualties were ten times as great. A few days later twenty six Rhodesian men were taken away in ambulances to the rear, their temperatures varying from 100º F to 104º F. Though their strength was dwindling fast the Rhodesians continued to chase Von Lettow deeper into Tanganyika. The war deteriorated into a series of short spurts, but indecisive actions. On March 29th, 1917 the badly depleted: Rhodesians. were ordered home to recuperate.

Of the 1 038 Officers and men who hat) fought with the Regiment during its two years in East Africa, only 270 returned to the Civic Welcome in Salisbury.

Manicaland's contribution to the First World War, like that of the rest of Rhodesia, was outstanding, in men. money and kind. At the outbreak of the war the total number of European males in the territory between the ages of fifteen and forty four did not exceed 11 000, yet excluding the police, who were retained in the country, no less than 6 613 Rhodesians, over sixty percent, were accepted for military duty. In addition to the Europeans, 2 750 Africans joined the Forces, and a platoon was attached to the King's Royal Rifles. Other units served with the Southern Rhodesia Colours, and the Rhodesia Native Regiment. Both these units penetrated far into the enemy territory of what was 'then German East Africa In the first Rhodesia Native Regiment of five hundred men, including fifty four European Officers and non-commissioned Officers, all distinguished themselves and firmly withstood numerically superior German forces.

Just before the end of the war a mysterious disease called Spanish influenza was sweeping through countries with an appalling death rate. All precautions to prevent it from reaching Rhodesia

End of Page 82

ailed, and many members of the forces on route to their homes were held up, especially the 2nd Rhodesia Native Regiment, which lost a great number of men through the epidemic. This took place just outside Zomba, now Malawi. Throughout Manicaland the Africans were dying like flies, deserting their villages to got away from the plague. Many of them died in the veld. The Umtali hospitals were full, and the schools and Drill Hall were used for the Europeans, and the show buildings in Darlington for the Africans and non-Europeans. The epidemic spared neither the young nor the old, black nor white, and the loss of prominent citizens was heavy. It was a town of mourning. No one knows how many thousands died in the reserves, without assistance. However, after the good news of the signing of the Armistice on November 11th, our grief and mourning were forgotten and tremendous rejoicing took place; but afterwards men found it difficult to settle after four years of war.

End of Chapter

Click Here To Return to Index

Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the booklet made available by Neill Storey. Thanks Neill.

The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.

The family of the author have given permission for ORAFs to load this booklet onto the Internet.
Thanks top the family and special thanks to Heather Curran.

Thanks to
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail him



At 11 November 2012 at 17:35 , Blogger Jerry Arienzale said...

Dear My Hulley, My name ias Jerry and I reside in Canada. I have 2 original photographs for sale. 1 is of the Zeederburg coach taken in 1897. The other is of a regatta in Umtali taken in 1903. Both are framed in Zimbabwian Teak. Would you be interested in them or know of a museum or antique collector that would want them . My email address is If you respond I'll send you pictures of them. Kind regards Jerry


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home