Military Wiki
Witwatersrand Rifles
Active 1 May 1903–
Country South Africa
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Role Mechanised infantry
Size One battalion
Part of Army Conventional Reserve
Garrison/HQ Germiston
Motto(s) Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country) (Latin)
Lt Col. L.H. Malakoane
Colonel of the Regiment Colonel John Job, SM, MMM, JCD
Tartan Douglas

The Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment is a mechanised infantry regiment of the South African Army. As a reserve unit, it has a status roughly equivalent to that of a British Territorial Army or United States Army National Guard unit.


The Witwatersrand Rifles (often familiarly known as the "Wits Rifles") was formed on 1 May 1903 by members of the Railway Pioneer Regiment and the Rand Rifles, both of which had fought on the British side during the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902. As befitted a regiment based from the gold-rich Witwatersrand region, it had a very close relationship with the mining establishment of the time; and its cap badge further emphasised this link.

The Regiment first saw action during the Bambata Rebellion of 1906, when it deployed a contingent to (the then) Zululand.

In 1907 the Regiment was further strengthened when it absorbed the Transvaal Light Infantry Regiment.

The regiment was mobilised again when World War I broke out. The first action that it took part in was the South African invasion of German South West Africa (now Namibia). After the successful conclusion of this campaign, virtually all members volunteered for overseas service. Most of the volunteers were consequently assigned to the 3rd South African Infantry Battalion. (Due to the South African military law of the time, soldiers could not be forced to serve overseas, nor could existing military units be deployed there.) The most well-known action that this unit took part in was the Battle of Delville Wood in the Somme. Other members of the regiment served in the Witwatersrand Rifles company of 7 South African Infantry Battalion; this unit which served in German East Africa against the forces of General von Lettow Vorbeck.

The inter-war years saw the Regiment deployed during the 1922 Rand Revolt, when rebellious South African Communist Party white miners attempted to overthrow the government of General Jan Smuts.

In the early 1930s the Regiment affiliated with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) Regiment of the British Army. As a consequence, the Witwatersrand Rifles adopted the uniform and many of the traditions of this Scottish Lowland regiment. Despite the Cameronians' disbandment in 1968, the Wits Rifles still continues this heritage today. As a result of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Regiment was expanded to two battalions. However, due to the battalions being used to supply replacements in a piecemeal fashion to depleted South African units taking part in the North African Campaign, the Witwatersrand Rifles was only deployed as a coherent unit (to Egypt) in 1943.

During its service in North Africa, the Witwatersrand Rifles were amalgamated with Regiment de la Rey. This combined Regiment, nicknamed the "Royal Boere", saw extensive action in Italy as part of the South African 6th Armoured Division, particularly at Monte Caprara and Monte Stanco. From 1970 until the first all-race democratic election in 1994, the Regiment saw action in the South African Border War in South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola as well as on the South Africa/Botswana border and in South African townships. During South Africa's second democratic election in 1999, the Regiment deployed 180 volunteers in support of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

To re-establish and maintain the Witwatersrand Rifles' Scottish links, the Regiment has formed an alliances with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Commanding Officers


  • Lt Col. J.E. Capper, RE (1899–1903) (Later Maj Gen. J.E. Capper, KCB, KCVO)


  • Lt Col. J.G. Hamilton, MVO (1903–1905) (Later Hon. Col.)
  • Lt Col. T.J. Macfarlane, CMG (1906–1908)
  • Lt Col. R.W. Schumacher – Ffennell (1908–1909) (Later Hon. Col.)
  • Lt Col. C.B. Saner (1909–1912)
  • Lt Col. J.W. Smyth, VD (1912–1919)
  • Lt Col. S.B. Schlam (1919–1923)
  • Lt Col. R. Dukoff – Gordon, VD (1923–1928)
  • Lt Col. W.C.M. Howarth, VD (1928–1931)
  • Lt Col. W. Crewe – Brown, VD (1931–1936) & (29 April 1942 – 9 August 1942)
  • Lt Col. L.F. Sprenger, DSO, MC, VD (1936–1939)
  • Lt Col. W. James, ED (1939–1942) & (10 February 1943 – 5 July 1943)
  • Lt Col. H.C. Sumner, MC, MM, VD (9 August 1942 – 20 February 1943)
  • Lt Col. W.A.D. Cherrington, VD (2 Bn) (1940–1941) (Later Col. W.A.D. Cherrington, VD)
  • Lt Col. J.B. Bester, DSO & Bar (1943–1945) (Later Brig. J.B. Bester, DSO & Bar and Hon Col)
  • Lt Col. W.R. Van Der Riet, MC (1945–1946) (Later Lt Gen. W.R. Van Der Riet, SSA, SM, MC and Hon Col.)
  • Lt Col. G.M. St.L. Daines, ED (1946–1951)
  • Cmdt. C.J.R. Nicholls, ED (1951–1956)
  • Cmdt. E.C. Harris, ED (1956–1962)
  • Cmdt. C.L. Pitt, JCD (1962–1965)
  • Cmdt. R.C. Gradige (1965–1968)
  • Cmdt. C.J. Derby – Lewis (1968–1973) (Acting OC: 1967–1968)
  • Cmdt. D.C. Fletcher, SM, JCD (1973–1981)
  • Cmdt. (Dr.) J.L. Job, SM, MMM, JCD (1981–1986) (Later Hon. Col.)
  • Cmdt. A.E. Dixon – Seager, MMM, JCD (1986–1989)
  • Lt Col. K.J. Townsend, SM, MMM, JCD (1989–1997)
  • Lt Col. E.L. Carton – Barber, JCD (1997–2002) (Later Col. E.L. Carton – Barber, JCD)
  • Lt Col. C.E. Casey, JCD (2002–2005)
  • Lt Col. M.F. Robberts (2005–2007)
  • Lt Col. J.C.L. Valentine (2007 – 2012)
  • Lt Col. L.H. Malakoane (2012 – present)

Colonel-in-Chief (This Honorary post officially fell away in 1961 when the Union of South Africa became a Republic)

  • HM Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) (1947–1961) (unofficially 1947 – 2002)

Honorary Colonels

  • Col. Sir, L. Phillips – Bart, VD, (MLA) (1908–1937)
  • Col. R.W. Schumacher – Ffennel (1909–1923)
  • Col. J.G. Hamilton, MVO (1910)
  • Col. The Hon. C.F. Stallard, DSO, MC & Bar, ED, QC (MP) (1937–1971)
  • Brig. J.B. Bester, DSO & Bar (1972–1985)
  • Lt Gen. W.R. Van Der Riet, SSA, SM, MC (1985–1988)
  • Maj Gen. W.N.A. Barends, SM, MC & Bar (1989–2002)
  • Col. (Dr.) J.L. Job, SM, MMM, JCD (2002 – present)

Regimental Symbols

  • Regimental motto: "Pro Deo et Patria" (For God and Country). This motto was adopted in 1961, when the Republic of South Africa became a republic, prior to 1961 the motto was "Pro Deo et Rege et Patria" (For God, King and Country).
  • Regimental march: "Within a Mile O' Edinburgh Town".
  • Regimental anniversaries: Regimental Day (1 May), Monte Stanco Day (20 April).
  • Regimental Freedoms: Germiston, Johannesburg, Barberton.
  • Regimental badge: A Maltese cross within a wreath of ten Protea flowers, with a rifle on each side of the cross. The cross is surmounted by a stringed bugle and in the centre of the cross is a mine shaft in a circlet. At the top of the wreath is the Cameronian Star and on the base of the wreath is a scroll with the inscription "Pro Deo et Patria".
  • Regimental headdress: Glengarry or Kilmarnoch with black hackle.
  • Regimental tartan: Douglas (trews).

Honours and Affiliations

Battle honours

As a Rifle regiment, the Witwatersrand Rifles does not carry colours. Instead the honours banner are displayed on the pipes of the Pipe Major. The Witwatersrand Rifles has the following battle honours:

  • First World War:
    • South West Africa 1914–1915
  • Second World War:
    • Italy 1944–45
    • Cassino II
    • Allerona
    • Florence
    • Monte Querciabella
    • Monte Fili
    • The Greve
    • Gothic Line
    • Monte Stanco
    • Monte Salvaro
    • Sole/Caprara
    • Po Valley
    • Campo Santo Bridge

Sister Regiments


External links

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