Transvaal Scottish Regiment

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The Transvaal Scottish
RSA Transvaal Scottish Logo.png
Cap Badge of the Transvaal Scottish
Active 1902–Present
Country  South Africa
Branch  South African Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Motorised Infantry
Size One battalion
Part of South African Infantry Corps
Garrison/HQ The View, Parktown Johannesburg
Motto Alba nam Buadh (Scotland, Home of the Virtues)
March The Atholl Highlanders
Commanders
Current
commander
Lt Col D.D.Smythe JCD[1]
Insignia
Tartan
Hackle Red

The Transvaal Scottish Regiment is an 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.

History[edit]

John Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine, who later became the 7th Duke of Atholl, established the regiment after the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1902. Its initial membership consisted of volunteers from Scottish units that had fought in the war who chose to demobilise and remain in the colony. The new unit wore his family tartan and took the form of an oversize battalion with companies in a number of major Transvaal towns.

The unit first saw service during the Bambatha Rebellion. “C” company of the Natal Rangers was recruited from men of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment (then called the Transvaal Scottish Volunteers).

World War One[edit]

In 1914 during the Maritz Rebellion, when men who supported the recreation of a Boer South African Republic rose up against the newly created government of the Union of South Africa, the Regiment was called up once again and saw action suffering one casualty. After the official outbreak of the First World War the Transvaal Scottish took part in the invasion of German South West Africa as part of the South-West Africa Campaign in late 1914 with a second battalion (2nd Transvaal Scottish) being raised for the campaign. Their most serious encounter with German Forces took place near Trekkoppies when a superior German Force attacked 2nd Battalion. They suffered their first casualties of the war with 2 killed and 13 wounded. After the conquest of German South West Africa the 2nd Battalion was disbanded, while 1 Transvaal Scottish spent the remainder of the war in reserve.

To join British Imperial Forces for the war in Europe, 4th South African Infantry Regiment was raised (also known as the South African Scottish) because the 1912 Defence Act restricted the Active Citizen Force from operating outside of South Africa. This was a kilted unit wearing the Murray of Atholl tartan and two companies were drawn from members of the Transvaal Scottish.

After a short campaign in North Africa against a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in 1915, the SA Scottish were sent to France. Here they took part in the Battle of Delville Wood as part of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In the days between July 15 and July 19 the total casualty rate was at 74 percent of those who had gone into action. By the end of July the South African Scottish suffered 868 casualties. The final German forces were driven from Delville Wood after an Allied assault on 3 September 1916. After Delville Wood the shattered SA Scottish were reformed and served on the Western front, in particular at Vimy Ridge, the Somme, the Battle of Passchendaele, Marrieres Wood and the Battle of Messines. Other members of the Transvaal Scottish saw service in the Scottish company of the 9th South African Infantry in the East African Campaign. After the conclusion of hostilities at the end of World War I members of the Regiment returned home and after demobilisation, continued with their civilian lives.

Inter-war Period[edit]

The Transvaal Scottish Regiment was once again called up in 1922 to help maintain law and order and quell the armed uprising of miners during the Rand Rebellion. In one encounter near Boksburg 12 members of the Transvaal Scottish, including an officer, were killed. The Regiment along with the Witwatersrand Rifles and the Royal Durban Light Infantry, cleared Fordsburg of the last rebels on March 14, 1922. By the end of the revolt another 5 had lost their lives and 60 had been wounded.

World War Two[edit]

In 1936, 2 Battalion was raised once again in anticipation of World War II and when war finally broke out in 1939 a third battalion was formed.

The 1st Transvaal Scottish took part in the Allied offensive during the East African Campaign in order to take Italian East Africa (modern day Ethiopia and parts of Somalia). They engaged Italian forces in several engagement in Addis Ababa, Combolcia, Dessie and finally at their mountain fortress at Amba Alagi. The battalion was next sent to Egypt, to take part in the relief of Tobruk. In November 1941 the 1st Brigade, with which 1 Transvaal Scottish was serving, was attacked by a strong German force at Taib-el-Essemand, but successfully repulsed the attack.

In 1942 in the Battle of Gazala the 1st battalion defended against several attacks on the Gazala Line before joining the Eighth Army's retreat to the Alamein Line in Egypt, although a portion of the battalion was trapped and taken prisoner at Tobruk in June 1942. 1 Transvaal Scottish now joined the British Eight Army in the Second Battle of El Alamein where they halted the German assault on Egypt. Early in 1943 the battalion returned home to South Africa. There the unit was converted to armour, joining 1st SA Armoured Brigade.

In North Africa the 2nd Transvaal Scottish, together with two battalions consisting of members of the South African Police, served in the 6th South African Infantry Brigade. They assisted in the construction of the famous "Alamein Box". 6th South African Infantry Brigade attacked the fortified town of Sollum on 11 January 1942 as part of Operation Battleaxe and went on to fight in the battles of Bardia, Acroma Keep and Gazala. At Bardia, Sollum and Halfaya both German and Italian troops were forced to surrender to the Brigade. The majority of the battalion, along with the entire South African 2nd Division, was captured when the "fortress" of Tobruk fell at the end of the Battle of Gazala.[2]

3rd Transvaal Scottish took part in the East African Campaign in Ethiopia, in particular the three-day attack on Mega, Ethiopia. After this the battalion was sent to Egypt to take part in Operation Crusader, where it suffered heavy losses at the battle of Sidi Rezegh in November 1941. After Sidi Rezegh, 3rd Transvaal Scottish was temporarily disbanded. Over two hundred men from the Transvaal Scottish died in World War 2.

Members of 3rd Transvaal Scottish who were captured in North Africa were shipped to occupied Europe. Some were on the merchant ship Sebastiano Veniero when the Royal Navy submarine HMS Porpoise sank her off the Greek coast in December 1941. Sebastiano Veniero '​s crew beached the ship at Methoni in the Peloponnese, where many of the PoWs took their chances to swim ashore. A 3rd Transvaal Scottish lance corporal, Bernard Friedlander, swam ashore with a rope, which took him 90 minutes. The rope was then used to haul a cable ashore, which was made fast on land and used by nearly 1,600 survivors to reach safety.[3] In July 1945 Friedlander was awarded the George Medal.[4] In 1947 King George VI toured South Africa, and at a ceremony in Johannesburg on 31 March personally decorated Friedlander with the medal.[3]

Post-war 1945-1974[edit]

All three battalions were reconstituted in 1946, with the 3rd battalion being converted to artillery as 7th Medium Regiment (3TS). This unit was disbanded in 1959 and many members were transferred back to the Transvaal Scottish. Earlier, in 1953, the 1st and 2nd battalions had been amalgamated, although in 1971 the 2nd Battalion Transvaal Scottish was once again revived.

South African Border War[edit]

After the Portuguese withdrew from Angola in 1975, Civil War broke out in the country and 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish was deployed in southern Angola from South-West Africa. Later in the same year the 2nd Battalion deployed to the Caprivi Strip where they would eventually help develop a form of highly mobile counter-insurgency operations (COIN-ops) using Mine Protected Vehicles[disambiguation needed] throughout the war.

In 1983, Company Sergeant-Major Trevor (“Porky”) Wright was awarded the Honoris Crux after he distinguished himself when his isolated company base in north-western South-West Africa was attacked by heavily guerilla fighters. Wright personally firing a machine gun from the hip at one point and supervised ammunition replenishment throughout the course of the enemy attack. Another event, which occurred two years prior to the attack, was also brought into consideration for the commendation. Wright noticed a primed hand grenade which had been accidentally lobbed near his fellow troops during training and risked certain death when he picked up and hurled the grenade away. In 1984 a company led by Captain George Brownlow from 2 Transvaal Scottish achieved notable successes with the capture of two insurgents. Captain Brownlow was later awarded Southern Cross Medal. In the 1980s 2 Transvaal Scottish became the first Citizen Force unit to deploy on the borders with Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The 1990s[edit]

Later in the early 1990s, when the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa were taking place, 1st and 2nd Transvaal Scottish were assigned internal stability roles in townships where unrest and violence broke out.

The regiment's last major service was to remain on standby throughout the country's first fully democratic elections on 27 April 1994. The Transvaal Scottish had helped assure the peaceful transition to democracy, and with it, signalled their own willingness to build a new South Africa. During 1997 as a result of the rationalisation measures within the South African National Defence Force the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Regiment were once again amalgamated.

In 1995 a 44-strong Transvaal Scottish party visited the battlefields of the Somme in France, their former Colonel-in-Chief, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, their allied regiment The Black Watch as well as the Atholl Highlanders and their clan chief, Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl, at Blair Castle in Scotland. In the party was Lt. Bruce Murray and his brother, Cpl. Lord Murray, both relatives of the Duke of Atholl.

The 21st Century[edit]

On 4 August 2000, a regimental colour party took part in a parade in London to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and in 2002 representatives of the regiment returned to London for the funeral of their former Colonel-in-Chief. In 2002 the Regiment celebrated 100 years of service with a colour parade at King Edward VII School in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Difficulties in obtaining the normal level of funding to carry on peacetime activities of recruitment and training saw a decline in the activities of the Regiment in the years immediately following 2002. Under the guidance of the current Commanding Officer of the Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Don Smythe JCD, the Regiment has in recent years overcome a number of obstacles and is again fulfilling an active role within the South African National Defence Force. The Red Hackle, worn for over 70 years by soldiers of the Transvaal Scottish, is once again regaining its place of prominence on parades as well as on active service duties.

Since 2007 members of the Regiment have taken an active part in United Nations peace keeping operations in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"A” company of the Transvaal Scottish was deployed in 2010 to take part in the United Nations Mission in Sudan, while “B” Company was deployed to defend the country’s borders.

Building on the hard work and success of the past few years the Regiment is currently in the process of raising and training “C” Company.[5]

The Regimental headquarters are now in The View, Parktown, originally the house of Sir Thomas Cullinan.

Regimental symbols[edit]

  • The regimental tartan is the "Murray of Atholl", except for the pipers who wear the "Murray of Tullibardine". Both tartans symbolise the regiment's connections to the Dukes of Atholl, and thus to the Atholl Highlanders. Since 1938, members have worn the red hackle on their khaki tam o'shanter as a symbol of the regiment's connection with the famous Black Watch Regiment. As part of their formal uniforms, officers and Warrant Officers Class I of the regiment carry Basket-hilted claymores instead of the more typical swords.
  • The regimental badge depicts a Scottish thistle on a scroll bearing the motto Alba nam Buadh (Gaelic for "Well done, Scotland" or "Scotland, home of the virtues"). It is surrounded by a heraldic strap and buckle bearing the regiment's name, all on the Star of the Order of the Thistle.
  • The regimental March is the "Atholl Highlanders".

Alliances[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

The Transvaal Scottish has the following battle honours on its regimental colours:

In addition, the regiment (along with the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment) still claims fifteen "missing" battle honours awarded for service in France and Flanders to the 4th South African Infantry (South African Scottish) battalion; these include some of the most famous in South Africa’s military history:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Transvaal Scottish (DOD)". www.army.mil.za. RSA Department of Defence. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Fact File:Transvaal Scottish". DefenceWeb. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Lettens, Jan; de Neumann, Bernard (2 June 2013). "MV Sebastiano Veniero [+1941]". WreckSite. wrecksite.eu. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37185. p. 3765. 20 July 1945. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Transvaal Scottish". www.rfdiv.mil.za. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 

External links[edit]