Transvaal Scottish Regiment

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The Transvaal Scottish
RSA Transvaal Scottish Logo.png
SANDF Transvaal Scottish emblem
Active1902 to present
Country South Africa
TypeLine infantry
RoleMotorised infantry
SizeOne battalion
Part of
Garrison/HQThe View, Parktown Johannesburg
Motto(s)Alba nam Buadh (Scotland, Home of the Virtues)
MarchThe Atholl Highlanders
Battle honours
Natal 1906
South West Africa 1914 - 1915
East Africa 1940-41
El Wak
The Juba
Amba Alagi
Western Desert 1941-43
Sidi Rezegh
Alem Hamza
Acroma Keep
Alamein Defence
El Alamein
Not Awarded
Egypt 1916
Somme 1916
Delville Wood
Ypres 1917
Menin Road
Messines 1918
Hindenburg Line
Cambrai 1918
Pursuit to Mons
France and Flanders 1918
Le Transloy
Scarpe 1917
Lt Col D.D. Smythe JCD[1]
Company level InsigniaSA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Motorised Infantry beret bar circa 1992
SA Motorised Infantry beret bar

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 Army Reserve or United States Army National Guard unit.



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.

Bambatha Rebellion[edit]

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).

Maritz Rebellion[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.

World War One[edit]

German South West Africa[edit]

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.[2]

Western Front[edit]

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. During its time on the Western Front, the South African Brigade and its Scottish heritage 4th Battalion, first served a lengthy stint with the British 9th (Scottish) Division, and following the Brigade's decimation in March 1918, was reconstituted and incorporated in September into the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division until the end of the war.[3]

East African Campaign[edit]

Other members of the Transvaal Scottish saw service in the Scottish company of the 9th SA Infantry ACF 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 II[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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] In July 1945 Friedlander was awarded the George Medal.[7] In 1947 King George VI toured South Africa, and at a ceremony in Johannesburg on 31 March personally decorated Friedlander with the medal.[6]

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 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. (A number of other members of the Company were awarded the CSADF medal for their brave and heroic actions, now known as the Military Merit Medal. One of these members 2lt Lance Houghton went on to command the 2 Battalion in 1992). Another event CSM Wright was involved in, 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 Transvaal Scottish was assigned to command of 72 Brigade in this era.

SADF era Cap detail 72 Brigade Transvaal Scottish

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.

SADF Transvaal Scottish Regiment 75 anniversary commemorative letter

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[when?] 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.[8]

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".

Previous Dress Insignia[edit]

UDF era WW1 South African Scottish or 4th Infantry Regiment beret badge

During WW1 the Union Defence Force established the 4th Infantry Regiment which was unique in that it was the South African Scottish, raised from the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders, and wearing the Atholl Murray tartan. This regiment's collar badges were identical to those of the Cape Town Highlanders but bore the Latin motto "Mors Lucrum Mihi" (Death is my reward) in place of the usual Cape Town Highlander wording. (Death is my Reward), was the family motto of the first Officer Commanding SA Scottish, a Lieutenant-Colonel F.A. Jones.

UDF and SADF era Transvaal Scottish insignia

Current Dress Insignia[edit]

SANDF era Infantry Formation insignia


Sister regiments[edit]

3 Battalion Transvaal Scottish was converted to 7 Medium Artillery Regiment and garrisoned in Benoni.

Battle honours[edit]

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

Transvaal Scottish 2nd Battalion Battle Honours

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:

Pipes and Drums[edit]

The Regimental Pipes and Drums is one South Africa's oldest and most well known pipe bands, dating back to 1902. It is also considered as one of the best pipe bands in the country. The regimental tartan is worn by the drummers while the pipers wear the "Murray of Tullibardine" tartan. The Pipes and Drums are led by Senior Bagpiper Craig Whitley and Senior Drummer Antony Evans.[9][10]


From Colonel-In-Chief
Transvaal Scottish Volunteers
1906 King Edward VII 1910
1910 John Stewart-Murray, 7th Duke of Atholl KT 1910
From Colonel-In-Chief
Transvaal Scottish
1907 John Stewart-Murray, 7th Duke of Atholl KT 1910
1931 Lt Genl. HRH the Prince of Wales KG MC etc. later King Edward VIII 1936
1937 King George VI 1952
1956 Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother 1961
From Colonel of the Regiment
Transvaal Scottish Volunteers and Transvaal Scottish
1908 Col. Sir William Dalrymple KBE VD 1941
1943 Col. J.N. Mackenzie 1977
From 1 Transvaal Scottish To
1973 Col. Ian Mackenzie DSO n.d.
From 2 Transvaal Scottish To
1973 Col. W.E. Dalrymple ED 1976
1977 Col. E.S. Thompson ED n.d.
From Commanding Officer
Transvaal Scottish Volunteers
1902 Lt Col. Gordon Sandilands 1908
1908 Lt Col. H.C. Boyd 1909
1909 Lt Col. J. Dawson-Squibb DSO VD 1910
From Commanding Officer
Transvaal Scottish
1910 Lt Col. J. Dawson-Squibb DSO VD 1919
1920 Lt Col. D.M. MacCleod DSO MC DCM 1923
1923 Maj. R.T. Ford 1925
1925 Lt Col. C.S. Rendall VD 1929
1929 Lt Col. M.G. McCalgan DCM 1935
1935 Lt Col. D.F. Smitheman OBE ED 1936
1953 Cmdt. I.D. Klapka ED 1959
1959 Cmdt. R.S. Lawrence JCD 1963
1963 Cmdt. S.J. Whitford JCD 1970
From Commanding Officer
1 Transvaal Scottish
1914 Lt Col. J. Dawson-Squibb DSO VD 1915
1936 Lt Col. D.F. Smitheman OBE ED 1940
1940 Lt Col. E.P. Hartsorn DSO DCM ED 1941
1941 Lt Col. N.B. Getliffe DSO ED 1941
1941 Lt Col. Olsen DSO ED 1942
1942 Lt Col J.C. Ferguson OBE ED 1943
1943 Lt Col. W.C.R. Hedding 1946
1946 Lt Col. Olsen DSO ED 1950
1950 Lt Col./Cmdt. D.N. Carpenter 1953
1971 Cmdt R.G. Poultney JCD 1977
1977 Cmdt. R.E. Wilmot 1977
1978 Cmdt G. Grigoratos JCD 1979
1979 Cmdt. J.B.R. Findlay JCD 1982
1982 Cmdt. R. Hammond 1986
1986 Cmdt. G. Bousfield 1990
1990 Cmdt G. Stevens MMM 1993
1993 Cmdt. T.P. Page n.d.
From Commanding Officer
2 Transvaal Scottish
1914 Lt Col. Gordon Sandilands 1914
1914 Lt Col. H.J. Kirkpatrick DSO 1915
1936 Lt Col. W.E. Dalrymple ED 1942
1942 Lt Col./Cmdt. E.S. Thompson ED 1951
1951 Cmdt. J. Connolly 1952
1953 Maj. H.A. Balme JCD (acting) 1953
1971 Cmdt S.J. Whitford JCD MMM 1971
1972 Cmdt. P. Middleton JCD 1975
1976 Cmdt L.F. Alexander JCD 1987
1987 Cmdt. A.J. Bekker 1992
1992 Cmdt L.W. Houghton MMM n.d.
From Commanding Officer
3 Transvaal Scottish
1939 Lt Col. W.H. Kirby MC 1941
1941 Maj. R.G. Rosser MC 1942
1942 Maj. R.J.Southey ED 1942
1946 Lt Col. Ferguson OBE ED 1947
1947 Lt Col./Cmdt. N.N. Webster JCD 1954
1954 Cmdt. S.P. Kirsten JCD 1955
1956 Cmdt. G.W. Comley 1960
From Regimental Sergeant Major To
From Transvaal Scottish Volunteers To
1902 WO1 D.M. Macleod DCM 1905
1905 WO1 J.H. Pearce 1908
1908 WO1 D.M. Macleod DCM 1910
From Transvaal Scottish To
1910 WO1 D.M. Macleod DCM 1912
1912 WO1 G.A. Adam 1914
1914 WO1 J. Lawson DCM 1915
1920 WO1 P. Keith MC DCM 1921
1921 WO1 D. Brown DCM 1925
1925 WO1 C.F. Morgan 1928
1928 WO1 W.D. Parsons 1939
1954 WO1 B.R. Cockcroft MC 1955
1955 WO1 J. Geddes 1956
1956 WO1 D.T. Hamilton 1957
1957 WO1 A.T. Blume JCD 1969
1969 WO1 H.J. van Staden JCD 1971
1988 WO1 S.L. Henderson n.d.
From 1 Transvaal Scottish To
1914 WO1 J. Lawson DCM 1915
1939 WO1 J.F. Hossel 1940
1940 WO1 H.W. Prescott 1941
1942 WO1 E. Stokes (acting) 1942
1941 WO1 R.W. Anderson 1944
1944 WO1 M. Kleiman 1945
1946 WO1 M.H. v W Klopper MM 1947
1947 WO1 J Geddes 1954
1971 WO1 W.V. Mülders JCD 1974
1974 WO1 N.G. Bennetts JCD 1988
From 2 Transvaal Scottish To
1914 WO1 J. Cameron 1915
1936 WO1 B.R. Cockcroft OBE 1952
1971 WO1 H.J van Staden JCD 1979
1979 WO1 D.J.B. Horton JCD 1983
1983 WO1 H.J van Staden JCD 1984
1984 WO1 T. Wright HC MMM JCD n.d.
From 3 Transvaal Scottish To
1939 WO1 J.M. McCalman 1940
1940 WO1 J.R. Alexander 1941
1941 WO1 W.J. Cloete 1942
1946 WO1 J.F. Chabant 1948
1949 WO1 S.C. Lightening 1954
1953 WO1 C.A. Laker JCD 1960


  1. ^ "Transvaal Scottish (DOD)". RSA Department of Defence. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  2. ^ History of the Transvaal Scottish, by H. C. Juta, Johannesburg, Hortors, 1933
  3. ^ Saga of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment, ed. by C. Birkby, Cape Town, Howard Timmins, 1950
  4. ^ "Fact File:Transvaal Scottish". DefenceWeb. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  5. ^ Kleynhans E.P. ARMOURED WARFARE, THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE IN EAST AFRICA, 1940-1941 Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University, 2014
  6. ^ a b Lettens, Jan; de Neumann, Bernard (2 June 2013). "MV Sebastiano Veniero [+1941]". WreckSite. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  7. ^ "No. 37185". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 20 July 1945. p. 3765.
  8. ^ "Transvaal Scottish" (PDF). Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  9. ^ Pipes & Drums
  10. ^ The Transvaal Scottish Pipes & Drums Republic of South Africa


  • Mitchell, J.H. (1994). Tartan on the Veld - The Transvaal Scottish 1950-1993. Transvaal Scottish Regimental Council, Johannesburg.

External links[edit]