The Natal Militia: Defence of the Colony, 1893-1910

Paul Thompson


Natal was a small British colony of settlement in southern Africa which was the scene of fighting in the Anglo-Zulu War, the Anglo-Boer wars of 1881 and 1899-1902, and the Zulu rebellions in 1888 and 1906. The British settlers depended on the mother country for protection for half a century, but after 1893, when the Colony became self-governing, they had to provide for their own defence. They established a small, well trained field force of Volunteers, but it was found to be inadequate in the South African (Second Anglo-Boer) War. In the post-war reassessment of Imperial Defence and Army Reform, Natal modernized quickly, and established a well armed and (relatively) efficient Militia based on compulsory manhood training. In the process settler society was militarized and imbued with Imperial patriotism. When the Colony became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910, its Militia offered an example for the new Union Defence Force.

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