Bambatha Rifles

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Bambatha Rifles
Witwatersrand Rifles
Wits Rifles Insignia.jpg
SANDF Witwatersrand Rifles emblem
Active1 May 1903–present
Country South Africa
RoleMechanised infantry
SizeOne battalion
Part ofSouth African Infantry Formation
Army Reserve
Motto(s)Pro Deo et Patria (Latin)
(For God and Country)
MarchWithin a mile O' Edinburgh town
Anniversaries1 May 1903
(Regimental Day)
Colonel of the RegimentCol. (Hon) J.L. Job, SM MMM JCD
Company level InsigniaSA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Mechanised Infantry beret bar circa 1992SA mechanised infantry beret bar circa 1992.jpg
SA mechanised infantry beret bar circa 1992

The Bambatha Rifles (formerly the Witwatersrand Rifles) is a reserve mechanised infantry regiment of the South African Army.



The Witwatersrand Rifles (often familiarly known as the "Wits Rifles or the Wit Rifles") was formed by proclamation on 1 May 1903 and absorbed the 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.

Bambatha Rebellion[edit]

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

Absorption of the Transvaal Light Infantry[edit]

Transvaal Light Infantry insignia

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

World War 1[edit]

The regiment was mobilised again when World War I broke out.

German South West Africa[edit]

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.

Western Front[edit]

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.

East Africa[edit]

Other members of the regiment served in the Witwatersrand Rifles company of 7th Infantry ACF, which served in German East Africa against the forces of General von Lettow-Vorbeck.

Rand Revolt[edit]

The inter-war years saw the regiment deployed during the 1922 Rand Revolt, when rebellious South African Communist Party 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.

World War 2[edit]

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 was amalgamated with Regiment de la Rey. This combined regiment, was nicknamed the "Royal Boere" and saw extensive action in Italy as part of the South African 6th Armoured Division, particularly at Monte Caprara and Monte Stanco.

Border War[edit]

From 1970 until the first all-race democratic elections 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.

Post 1994[edit]

When conscription ended in 1993, the regiment began an active recruitment drive to maintain reserve troop strength. During South Africa's second democratic election in 1999, the regiment deployed 180 volunteers in support of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Late in its history the Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment attracted volunteers for regular part-time training.

Scottish tradition[edit]

To maintain its Scottish links, the regiment had formed alliances with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and the King's Own Scottish Borderers (now amalgamated into the Royal Scots Borderers). Up to the disbandment and name change, members of the regiment continued to maintain their traditional Scottish Lowland uniforms and traditions and uphold very high standards of discipline and effective military training.

The regiment also had an active pipe band as well as one of the top shooting teams in the country and was ably supported by a Regimental Council, a very active Regimental Association and a Ladies Committee up to the point of the renaming process.


The Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment provided troops for internal operations in support of the South African Police Service and on the border (as part of Operation Corona) as well as for United Nations peacekeeping operations in the DRC and the Sudan.[1]

Name Change[edit]

In August 2019, 52 Reserve Force units had their names changed to reflect the diverse military history of South Africa.[2] The Witwatersrand Rifles became the Bambatha Rifles, and have 3 years to design and implement new regimental insignia.[3]

Freedom of Entry[edit]

The Regiment holds the Freedom of the Cities of Johannesburg and Germiston as well as the town of Barberton.

Commanding officers[edit]


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

Railway Pioneer Regiment[edit]

Witwatersand Rifles[edit]

1st Battalion[edit]

From Honorary Colonel To
1908 Col. Sir, L. Phillips – Bart 1937
1909 Col. R.W. Schumacher – Ffennel 1923
1937 Col. J.G. Hamilton 1971
1937 Col.The Hon. C.F. Stallard 1971
1972 Brig. J.B. Bester 1985
1985 Lt Gen. W.R. Van Der Riet 1988
1989 Maj Gen. W.N.A. Barends 2002
2002 Col. (Dr.) J.L. Job 2019
From Officer Commanding To
1903 Lt Col. J.G. Hamilton c. 1905
1906 Lt Col. T.J. Macfarlane c. 1908
1908 Lt Col. R.W. Schumacher – Ffennell c. 1909
1909 Lt Col. C.B. Saner c. 1912
1912 Lt Col. J.W. Smyth c. 1919
1919 Lt Col. S.B. Schlam c. 1923
1923 Lt Col. R. Dukoff – Gordon c. 1928
1928 Lt Col. W.C.M. Howarth c. 1931
1931 Lt Col. W. Crewe – Brown c. 1936
1936 Lt Col. L.F. Sprenger c. 1939
1939 Lt Col. W. James c. 1942
1942 Lt Col. H.C. Sumner c. 1943
1943 Lt Col. J.B. Bester c. 1945
1945 Lt Col. W.R. Van Der Riet c. 1946
1946 Lt Col. G.M. St.L. Daines c. 1951
1951 Cmdt. C.J.R. Nicholls c. 1956
1956 Cmdt. E.C. Harris c. 1962
1962 Cmdt. C.L. Pitt c. 1965
1965 Cmdt. R.C. Gradige c. 1968
1968 Cmdt. C.J. Derby–Lewis c. 1973
1973 Cmdt. D.C. Fletcher c. 1981
1981 Cmdt. (Dr.) J.L. Job c. 1986
1986 Cmdt. A.E. Dixon – Seager c. 1989
1989 Lt Col. K.J. Townsend c. 1997
1997 Lt Col. E.L. Carton – Barber c. 2002
2002 Lt Col. C.E. Casey c. 2005
2005 Lt Col. M.F. Robberts c. 2007
2007 Lt Col. J.C.L. Valentine c. 2013
2013 Lt Col. L.H. Malakoane c. 2014
2014 Lt Col. S.G. Mooketsi c. 2015
2015 Maj. A.M. Mosehlana c. 2016
2016 Lt. Col. G. Mazibuko c. 2019
From Regimental Sergeant Major To
1903 Unknown 1910
1910 WO1. G. Eliot 1914
1914 WO1. G.H. Forsyth (Later Capt.) 1915
1915 WO1. W.K. Lawson 1916
1916 WO1. W.R. Watson 1917
1917 WO1. D. Smith 1918
1918 Unknown 1932
1932 WO1. J. Suttie 1940
1940 WO1. E. Owen 1943
1943 WO1. C.H.C. Wheeler (KIA) 1944
1944 WO1. C.W.B. Walsh 1946
1946 WO1. R.W. Thorpe, JCD 1961
1961 WO1. A.J. Norton 1963
1963 WO1. R.W. Thorpe, JCD 1968
1968 WO1. D. Morton 1971
1971 WO1. J.M. Bruigom, PMM, JCD 1981
1981 WO1. M. Bonette, JCD 1988
1988 WO1. A.E. van den Berg, JCD 1992
1992 WO1. D.J. Vosloo, JCD 1997
1997 SWO. D. Williams, JCD 2006
2006 SWO. M.M. Motlohi 2019

2nd Battalion[edit]

From Honorary Colonel To
From Officer Commanding To
1940 Lt Col. W.A.D. Cherrington c. 1941
From Regimental Sergeant Major To
c. 1940 WO1. W. Watson c. 1941

Regimental Symbols[edit]

  • 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 was 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).

Previous Dress Insignia[edit]

SADF era Witwatersrand Rifles insignia

Current Dress Insignia[edit]

SANDF era Infantry Formation insignia

Honours and Affiliations[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

As a Rifle regiment, the Witwatersrand Rifles did not carry colours. Instead the honours banner was displayed on the pipes of the Pipe Major. The Witwatersrand Rifles had 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[edit]



  1. ^ "WITWATERSRAND RIFLES" (PDF). Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  2. ^ "New Reserve Force unit names". defenceWeb. 7 August 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Renaming process has resulted in an Army structure that truly represents SA". IOL. 16 August 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2020.

External links[edit]