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  #1  
Old 12-12-11, 08:53 PM
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Brian Conyngham Brian Conyngham is offline
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Default Natal Royal Regiment (Artillery Section)

Natal Royal Regiment (Artillery Section)

For many years prior to the Anglo Boer War there had been in Pietermaritzburg an infantry regiment known as the Natal Royal Rifles, but by the latter half of 1902 the Corps was very much below strength and consideration was being given to its dissolution. In an endeavour to revive it, Frederick Spence Tatham, who was a member of the Legislative Assembly representing the capital and a one-time judge of the Natal Supreme Court, was asked to take command. He was no amateur soldier for he had seen action in Basutoland in 1880-1881 as a young man he had come back to Natal with a medal and clasp. In the Anglo Boer War he had been in the battles of Elandslaagte, Rietfontein and Lombard’s Kop, not forgetting the action of 6th January 1900 concerning the defence of Ladysmith. In 1900 he had been at Laing’s Nek, had seen service east of Pretoria, and had become a Rate XIII Intelligence Officer. In 1900 found him operating in the Orange Free State from April to June and in Zululand till October. His name appears in Sir G. White’s despatches of 2 December 1899 and 23 March 1900 and in the London Gazette of 8th February 1901. He came out of the war with the Queen’s Medal with five clasps.

Tatham agreed to the proposal on condition that a battery of artillery was also formed as part of the new corps. Sanction was finally granted for this and the Natal Royal Rifles became the Natal Royal Regiment, which included both infantry and artillery, with F.S. Tatham as commanding officer of the entire regiment.

Going into details, we have F.S. Tatham’s own account of the circumstances under which the Regiment was formed. In 1901, Lord Kitchener, then Commander-in-Chief, South Africa, told Tatam, in reply to a suggestion that the War Office would probably consent to give the guns of one of the Field Batteries then operating in South Africa to the Natal Government would raise a citizen battery. Tatham then asked Sir Albert Hime, Prime Minister of Natal, if permission could be obtained to raise a battery. Hime agreed on condition that Tatham also would take command of the Natal Royal Rifles and form the two into a composite body. Tatham agreed subject to the proviso that the move be regarded as an experiment to be abandoned if it did not work. At the close of the War the guns were duly handed over and the battery raised.

His son, A.T. Tatham, points out that what his father was attempting to form was a Corps on the lines of the Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest Volunteer Organisation in the Empire, with a combined artillery and infantry nature.

One of the preliminary problems would be the supply of the large number of horses required to pull a whole battery of guns. The Natal Secretary for Lands and Works informed Tatham that the military authorities would be able to supply the Government on repayment with up to 100 horses fit to draw heavy guns. It was decided to accept this offer and the body turned to for the horses was Messrs Porritt and Dick, who were required, in turn, to supply any number of horses up to 100 on requisition, making up from their own supply of horses any deficiencies in the number of Government horses due to sickness or other causes. This agreement was to be valid for three years.

A meeting was held in the Y.M.C.A. Hall in Pietermaritzburg on the 4th June 1902. Major F.S. Tatham was in the chair and the meeting was addressed by Mr R.D. Clark, Headmaster of Maritzburg College and an old officer of the Natal Royal Rifles. Clark gave an inspiring address which was punctuated by applause. Amongst other sentiments he felt that any country that could be proud of was worth fighting for, was worth dying for (applause), and that the object of the meeting that night was, though it seemed a strange nemesis , when peace had only just been proclaimed, to prepare for war (laughter). He felt that it was a hackneyed phrase ‘If you want to keep peace, be prepared for war’, but if there had been any lesson taught them by the colossal events of the past two and a half years, it was that. He, finally, wanted to see ‘Maritzburg’, the capital of the Colony, in front of the movement for peace (applause). He was followed by Major Wales, who said that they ought to be thoroughly satisfied with themselves inasmuch as they had chosen Major Tatham to be their future O.C. Tatham then outlined the proposal for the reorganisation and urged the youth to join one of the volunteer units in Natal. There were to be 150 artillerymen recruited, he concluded, out of 1000 in the regiment, but that did not include the Maxim detachment.

He said that Messers J. Fraser, W. Whittaker and Dr. Currie, with Captain Smith and himself, would form the nucleus of the officers. At the close of the meeting it was announced that 15 names had been handed in.

After this, the harness for the battery, which had been made locally, having been delivered, frequent Mounted Drills- O.C. Parades- were held, these taking place on the outskirts of the town and on Sunday mornings at least twice a month, each parade being of between three and four hours duration.
Porritt & Dick’s horses, which during the week were pulling trolleys through the streets, were harnessed in as gun and wagon teams, with the drivers mounted on the near left side horses, controlling a pair of horses. There was, naturally, some initial trouble, but as time progressed the horses became accustomed to the change. One of the conditions of his contract was that Dick’s horses be available whenever they might be required. This was no real hardship except during the Annual Camp or for the 6 month period of the Zulu Rebellion.
During Easter 1903 the Natal Royal Regiment held a Regimental Training Camp at Hermannsberg, in which the new battery participated, still only with four guns, The guns fired their first live shells on 14th April, taking up a position on an eminence to the north-east of the camp and engaging a target on the opposite side of the valley at a range of 3325 yards, putting in some fine practice. The timing of the shrapnel shell was admirable. Then, after 50 rounds were fired, the infantry extended in skirmishing order, advanced to the position just fired on, the guns meantime firing several rounds of blank.

In the afternoon the N.F.A. batteries from Durban, under Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Taylor, had a practice from the Camp Parade Ground at the same target at a range of 3700 yards.
The strength of the two groups at the camp was as follows:

Units:

N.R.R. Artillery: 4 Officers, 65 Other Ranks, 64 Horses, 4x15 Pounders and 2 Maxims.

N.R.R. Infantry: 3 Officers, 63 Other Ranks and 1 Horse

N.F.A. Brigade: 6 Officers, 87 Other Ranks, 88 Horses and 6x15 Pounders.

Evidence of the admirable training of R.S.M. Brace is already manifest, for a report in the local press stated that the N.F.A., though they brought their guns smartly into action, were not so successful in finding the range. The artillery of the N.R.R. produced astonishing results, and if their range finders, layers and other specialists continued to give such a good account of them selves they would one day rival a regular battery. And one must not forget that they were competing with a war-tried unit.
Both Downes and A.T. Tatham mention that it was at this camp that the first signs of a breakaway were manifested, although neither specified the exact nature of the threatening split.
During Easter 1904 there was another camp, this time at Nottingham Road. It was at this camp that draft horses direct from the Argentinean Pampas was received by the battery for training purposes. They were completely un-broken. This was more or less accomplished in the spare time between parades, and by the end of this exciting camp the majority were tractable.

At this camp, in an annual meeting, Lt.-Col F.S. Tatham announced that he was retiring from the command of the regiment owing to reasons of health and his own private affairs and that the command would devolve upon Dr. Currie. Though it was not stated at the time it is most likely that his resignation was to clear the way for the division of the two arms of the unit. The infantry branch would retain the original designation of the corps and the artillery would be incorporated into the N.F.A. and would in future be known as “C” Battery, N.F.A.

So ended the experiment of a composite N.R.R. after barely two years in existence.

Due to the low numbers in the N.R.R. Artillery section and their short existance, the N.R.R. Artillery Badges can be considered scarce.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg NRR Art cap badge.jpg (79.4 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg NRR Art cap badge 1.jpg (48.2 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg NRR Art Shoulder title.jpg (96.1 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Natal Royal Regt infantry 1.jpg (64.7 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Natal Royal Regt infantry 2.jpg (47.2 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Natal Royal Regt shoulder title 1.jpg (87.1 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Natal Royal Regt shoulder title 2.jpg (36.6 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg Natal Royal Regt comparison.jpg (73.3 KB, 11 views)

Last edited by Brian Conyngham; 12-12-11 at 09:02 PM.
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  #2  
Old 13-12-11, 02:58 AM
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iaindh iaindh is offline
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Very, very Interesting Brian, and as you say, the badges very scarce.

regards,

Iain
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Old 13-12-11, 06:04 PM
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Thanks Brian, most interesting. Regards Andrew
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Old 14-12-11, 12:58 PM
7923BSAP 7923BSAP is offline
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Good one Brian, most interesting history
Bill
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Old 14-12-11, 03:37 PM
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Hi, Seen as we are on post Boer War NRR badges, I thought that I would add these few. Slouch hat badge, Officers side cap badge and pouch badge. Regards Andrew
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Old 14-12-11, 03:50 PM
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Very good , and some super badges, Kevin
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Old 14-12-11, 03:56 PM
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Very nice badges Brian & Andrew; I have lots of collecting to do still!

regards,

Iain
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Old 14-12-11, 05:58 PM
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Brian Conyngham Brian Conyngham is offline
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Andrew

Some nice NRR badges in your collection......seldom seen I might add, even down here in KZN.

Thanks for posting.

Brian
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  #9  
Old 05-12-17, 05:46 AM
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Great history, does anyone have any Natal Royal Rifles / Regiment buttons to show please.

Thanks Wayne
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  #10  
Old 06-12-17, 03:38 PM
natal01 natal01 is offline
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I have these buttons
Mike
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File Type: jpg nrr2.JPG (103.8 KB, 9 views)
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