Military Wiki
Light Horse Regiment
Country  South Africa
Branch South African Army
Type Armoured Car Regiment
Garrison/HQ Mount Collins in Sandton, Johannesburg
Motto(s) Patria et Libertas
(Country and Liberty)[1]

The Light Horse Regiment (LHR), formerly the Imperial Light Horse (ILH), is a reserve unit of the South African Army. The regiment is an armoured car reconnaissance unit. It is part of the South African Army Armour Formation and is based at Mount Collins in Sandton, Johannesburg.


The unit was raised in Johannesburg for service in the Second Anglo-Boer War on 21 September 1899 by Col. Aubrey Woolls-Sampson, Maj. Walter Davies, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Capt. Charles Mullins, it was named the Imperial Light Horse with the approval of Queen Victoria. First muster of the Regiment took place in Pietermaritzburg. Informally known as the "Reformers Regiment" after the 10 later ILH officers that served on the Reform Committee, or more commonly the Uitlander Regiment by the Transvaal Government and ZAR Forces.

Imperial Light Horse Memorial on Platrand, Ladysmith

The first commander of the Regiment (consisting of 444 officers and men, chosen from 5,000 volunteers) was Col. John James Scott-Chisholme, who led the unit at its first engagement, the Battle of Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899. During this battle two Victoria Crosses were awarded (to Capt. Charles Herbert Mullins and Lt. Robert Johnston) and Col. Scott-Chisholme was killed, leading from the front.[2]

The Regiment subsequently saw service at the Siege of Ladysmith (where another Victoria Cross was awarded – to Trooper Herman Albrecht at Wagon Hill) Colenso, the Battle of Spion Kop and the Relief of Ladysmith.[3] At Spioenkop, the ILH was successful in capturing Commandant Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo, the commander of the Carolina Boer Commando.[4] The ILH was then specially selected to join the Mafeking Relief Column under Colonel Mahon. Eight men under Major Karri Davies of the ILH were the first to enter Mafeking on the night of 16/17 May 1900 to break the siege, followed up by the joint relief columns the following morning. 209 men who had been involved in Relief of Ladysmith and 33 who had been besieged there were in Mahoon's Column as were 420 men who had been in the Defence of Kimberley.[5]

In late 1900 a second battalion – the 2nd Imperial Light Horse (2 ILH) – was formed, under Major Duncan McKenzie. Both Regiments then went on to fight in the South African Republic and the Orange Free State Republic until the end of the war. A fourth Victoria Cross was awarded – to Surgeon Captain Thomas Joseph Crean – due to his actions at Tyger Kloof Spruit near Bethlehem in 1901.


In December 1902 the Regiment was reorganised at Johannesburg as two Wings in the volunteer Transvaal Army, but in 1904 the left Wing was separated and redesignated the Western Rifles.

A Squadron from the ILH served with the Transvaal Mounted Rifles in 1906 during the Zulu Rebellion in Natal and Zululand. The next action the Regiment took part in was the First Rand Revolt in 1913 when it, together with other military units, was mobilised to assist the South African Police during a general strike and rebellion.

On 1 July 1913 the Regiment was redesignated as the 5th Mounted Rifles (Imperial Light Horse) and transferred to the Active Citizen Force of the Union Defence Force.

World War I

The Regiment took part in the German South-West Africa Campaign as the 5th Mounted Rifles as part of South Africa's contribution to World War I, where the battle honour Gibeon was won by the 2nd ILH. Individual members served in the German East Africa campaign, in Egypt, Palestine and France. After the end of the war, the Regiment was placed on reserve until the Second Rand Revolt of 1922, when it was again mobilised to assist the South African Police and fought in the Battle of Ellis Park.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II the 1st ILH was brought up to strength and the 2nd ILH reformed. Although both units were infantry battalions, 2 ILH was soon transferred to the South African Tank Corps to form the 13th Armoured Car Company, which in turn was amalgamated with Royal Natal Carbineers to create the 6th Armoured Car Regiment. This unit later amalgamated with the 4th Armoured Car Regiment to form the 4th/6th Armoured Car Regiment.

The 1st ILH sailed from Durban to Egypt on 10 April 1941, as advance guard of the South African 2nd Infantry Division. Less than a year later the Regiment, as part of the 3rd Brigade of the South African 1st Infantry Division, played a crucial part in stopping Rommel's Afrika Korps during the First Battle of El Alamein. The unit subsequently took part in other fighting in North Africa, including the Second Battle of El Alamein.

The Regiment was subsequently shipped to South Africa where it was reorganised – 1 and 2 ILH Regiments were amalgamated with the Kimberley Regiment to form the Imperial Light Horse/Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR). This combined Regiment sailed for Egypt again in September 1943 to join the South African 6th Armoured Division in the role of a motorised battalion under command of Colonel R. Reeves-Moore, DSO, MC.

In April 1944 the Division sailed for Italy, disembarking at Taranto on 21 April[6] where the ILH/KimR was attached to the 12th South African Motor Brigade, which was operating on a front in the mountains above Monte Cassino. After a series of battles north of Rome the Regiment entered Florence on 4 August 1944, then as part of the 11th South African Armored Brigade.

The South African 6th Armored Division was then placed under the command of the United States 5th Army and was given the task of attacking the Gothic Line, which culminated in the capture of Monte Porro del Bagno in September 1944. During the heavy fighting almost a quarter of the Regiment was killed or wounded. After taking part in other actions, including breaking through the German defences at Bologna, the Regiment fought its last serious engagement at Finale south of Venice. The ILH Band led the Allied victory parade at Monza on 14 May 1945.[7] The ILH/KimR were then occupied with guarding duties in northern Italy and returned home in August 1945 for demobilisation.


The Regiment was reformed as an armoured regiment in South Africa's Citizen Force and equipped with Sherman tanks in 1949.

In October 1959 the then Minister of Defense, Frans Erasmus, proposed a defence reorganisation plan, which included the disbandment of the Regiment. However, a cabinet reshuffle took place soon afterwards and the new Minister of Defense, Jim Fouché rescinded the decision in January 1960. During the same year the Union of South Africa became the Republic of South Africa and left the Commonwealth and thus the decision was taken to change the name of the unit to the Light Horse Regiment.

The Regiment went on to serve the South African Defence Force as an armoured car Regiment. In 1975, when the unit's strength reached about 2000, a decision was taken to split the Regiment into 1 Light Horse Regiment and 2 Light Horse Regiment. These two Regiments formed part of 72 Motorized Infantry Brigade and 81 Armoured Brigade respectively.

Both Regiments took part in the South African Border War in Northern South-West Africa and Angola and were also deployed in South Africa's townships in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

After the first fully democratic South African elections in 1994, the then newly formed South African National Defence Force embarked on a rationalisation campaign, as a result of which 1 LHR and 2 LHR were reformed into a single Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment – The Light Horse Regiment – in March 1997.

Regimental symbols

The Regimental device for both headdress and collar dogs are a set of crossed flags mounted on lances. The flags are those of the RSA and the Regiment.

  • Regimental motto: Imperium et libertas (Latin: "Empire and Freedom") as the ILH and Patria et Libertas (Latin: "Country and Freedom") as LHR.
  • The Regiment received the King's Colour from Princess Helena Christian in 1904 and again from King George VI (the Regiment's Colonel-in-Chief at the time) in 1947. Regimental Colours were also presented to the unit in 1947, and then again in 1969 by the Hon. P.W. Botha. The National Color was presented to 1 LHR and 2 LHR in 1993.
  • During the Regiment's sixtieth anniversary celebrations in 1959, the Freedom of the Cities of Johannesburg, Mafeking and Ladysmith were awarded to it.


Battle honours

In total 31 battle honours have been awarded to 1 LHR and 2 LHR, 23 of which are currently displayed on the Regimental Color:

  • South Africa 1899–1902
  • Defence of Ladysmith
  • Relief of Ladysmith
  • Natal 1906
  • South West Africa 1914–1915
  • Gibeon
  • Western Desert 1941–43
  • Marsa Belafrit
  • Bardia
  • Gazala
  • Alamein Defence
  • Alamein Box
  • El Alamein
  • Italy 1944-45
  • Cassino
  • Celleno
  • Florence
  • The Greve
  • Gothic Line
  • Monte Porro del Bagno
  • Monte Vigese
  • Monte Salvaro
  • Po Valley

The Battle Honours Elandslaagte and Relief of Mafeking, which the regiment had assumed, were disallowed when pre-Union battle honours were reviewed by the SA Defence Force in the 1960s.

See also

  • The Sea Wolves

Notes and references

  2. Nevinson, Henry. "IV – BATTLE OF ELANDS LAAGTE". Ladysmith – The Diary of a Siege. 
  3. Churchill, Winston. "XXVI – THE RELIEF OF LADYSMITH". London to Ladysmith via Pretoria. 
  4. "GEN. PRINSLOO CAPTURED.; Is Made a Prisoner by the Imperial Light Horse." (PDF). New York Times. 31 March 1901. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  5. Medal Roll of the Queen's South Africa Medal- Defence of Mafeking Bar
  6. ORPEN, N. Victory in Italy. Purnell, Cape Town. 1975
  7. ORPEN, N. Victory in Italy. Purnell, Cape Town. 1975 (Also see for overview of the book [1])

External links

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