Brett. Hope you don't mind me posting this. Its just to good not to add to this section of the forum.
"The Buffalo Border Guard (BBG) was the volunteer regiment of the early settlers in the Dundee district of Natal between 1873 and 1879. It took its name from the Buffalo River, which formed the border between the Colony of Natal and Zululand. It was made up of mounted men, who never exceeded 30 in number. Contemporary volunteer units elsewhere in northern Natal were the Newcastle Mounted Rifles (NMR) and the Weenen Yeomanry, while the larger Natal Carbineers (NC), which had its headquarters in Pietermaritzburg, came to serve in northern Natal as well.
The uniform of the BBG included a black pillbox cap, with a band of black braid on which a silver badge with a buffalo head on a wreath was mounted. The tunic was black cord with black velvet facings and white metal buttons with buffalo head and BBG title. The breeches were also black and were worn with black leather boots. The men were armed with Martini-Henry rifles and Webley revolvers.
The BBG was formed in October 1873 during the Langalibalele Rebellion and was under the command of James Rorke, after whom Rorke’s Drift was named. Rorke was succeeded by J S Robson, another of the early settlers in the district. In 1878, Robson was appointed Border Agent for the Buffalo border. He formed and took command of the Border Police, which was comprised of Natal Zulus armed with traditional weapons. The command of the BBG then passed to Lieutenant William Craighead Smith.
During 1878, several disaffected Boers left the BBG and they were gradually replaced by English settlers. By 16/12/1878, the BBG’s strength was 20 men, while this regiment’s Zulu War medal roll lists 25 men, of which only one received the medal without the 1879 clasp. Three medals were unclaimed and returned to Woolwich.
Fort Pine, which is about 20 kilometres south-east of Dundee, was built in 1878 as a Natal Mounted Police (NMP) post, but by December it became the headquarters for the BBG, which had been mobilised to patrol the adjacent border with Zululand. Further south near Helpmekaar the border was patrolled by the NMR and NC. The NMP and Border Police were also active along the Buffalo River border.
As tensions grew along the entire border with Zululand, Imperial troops were deployed and several battalions of the Natal Native Contigent (NNC) were raised to strengthen the Colonial contribution to the defence of Natal. On 11/12/1878, the British High Commissioner in Natal presented an ultimatum to the Zulu king that essentially required the Zulu nation to forfeit its independence by 10/1/1879. Anticipating that the ultimatum would be rejected, the Imperial forces and their Colonial allies prepared to invade Zululand on 11/1/1879. The British Commander, Lieutenant-General F A Thesiger (later Lord Chelmsford) arranged his forces in five columns along the Zululand border.
The BBG was part of the Colonial force in No. 3 (or Centre) Column that crossed into Zululand at Rorke’s Drift under the command of Lord Chelmsford. The NMP and Natal Volunteers, which had been commanded by Major John Dartnell of the NMP, were placed under the command of Major J Russell of the 12th Lancers, while Dartnell was appointed to Chelmsford’s staff.
After crossing into Zululand, the Centre Column camped on the eastern slopes of the hill known to the Zulus as Isandlwana. On 21/1/1879, Chelmsford dispatched a force of Colonials under Major Dartnell and the NNC under Commandant Lonsdale to search for the Zulu army east of Isandlwana. The Colonial contingent was made up of about 100 NMP, 30 NC and 20 NMR and BBG. Remaining at the Isandlwana camp were 34 NMP, 26 NC, 15 NMR and 8 BBG. The BBG Officer Commanding, Lieutenant W C Smith, was away on a cattle-buying expedition.
The Isandlwana camp was overrun by the Zulu army on 22/1/1879 and most of the men there were killed, including three from the BBG. They were Troopers Emry, Gutridge and Wehr. Two of the men had died while trying to escape along the route to what became known as Fugitive’s Drift on the Buffalo River. Their unrecognisable bodies were found months later in the undergrowth at the foot of a cliff. The surviving five men from the BBG escaped by crossing the Buffalo River back into Natal, after which they sought refuge, first at Rorke’s Drift and then at Helpmekaar on the road between Greytown and Dundee. There was a widespread fear that the Zulus would invade Natal, so safety was sought as far from the border as possible. Quartermaster D McPhaill of the BBG went as far as Newcastle.
The Colonial contingent under Major Dartnell and others that had been on patrol returned to the overrun camp on the evening of 22/1/1879 and spent a restless night camped among the bodies of their dead comrades. They heard the gunfire from the Battle of Rorke’s Drift but they only learnt of the successful defence of the Drift the next day after the surviving elements of Centre Column retreated back across the Buffalo River. The looted camp at Isandlwana was abandoned and the bodies of the dead were left unburied and were to remain so for several months.
The Buffalo border region was in a state of fear and demoralization for several weeks after the Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, but gradually composure and order was restored. On 7/2/1879, the BBG and NMR were posted to Fort Pine, from which they carried out patrols along the adjacent Buffalo River. Before the war started, many local settlers had already taken refuge at Fort Pine and, after the Battle of Isandlwana, their numbers were swelled by other refugees seeking a safe haven. By 25/1/1879, there were 350 settlers at Fort Pine. What had been suitable accommodation for the 25 strong BBG before the war became grossly overcrowded and unhealthy. By early March, many people had taken ill and some had to be sent as far as Newcastle for treatment.
Helpmekaar became the assembly point for the reinforced Centre Column that was to reinvade Zululand. In spite of the growing size of the Imperial army and regular patrols along the Buffalo River by both Imperial and Colonial troops, the situation remained tense and there were many false alarms. With the focus on Helpmekaar, the needs of small outposts such as Fort Pine were neglected and units such as the BBG were required to provide their own rations, rather than being supplied by the commissariat at Helpmekaar.
The former officer commanding the BBG, J S Robson, was given command of Fort Pine and he reported that on 12/2/1879 there were 54 settlers able to bear arms, as well as 39 men from the BBG and NMR. The morale of the settlers at Fort Pine was low and they complained about their lot. Gradually as tension along the border eased, settlers began to move away from the fort and by May almost all had left.
The BBG and NMR remained at the fort and continued to patrol the border between Landman’s and Robson’s Drifts. Further south punitive raids across the Buffalo River had started as early as 4/2/1879. On 28/2/1879, it was the turn of 16 men from the BBG and NMR under Lieutenant W C Smith to cross the river at Robson’s Drift in search of a 50-strong body of Zulus. The latter retired without engaging the settler soldiers. Raids and counter-raids across the Buffalo River took place sporadically and the BBG and NMR remained on high alert.
It was during this period on 23/4/1879 that the BBG and NMR submitted a petition to Major Dartnell requesting that they be released from service. This request was turned down.
In time, the focus of the British preparations for the second invasion shifted northwards from Helpmekaar and Rorke’s Drift to Dundee and Landman’s Drift, with Fort Pine again being in something of a backwater. On 2/5/1879, there was an alert at Fort Pine that a large group of Zulus had crossed the Buffalo River in their patrol area. This proved to be another of the false alarms that characterized this period of the war.
During May Lord Chelmsford decided that the dead at Isandlwana should be buried and anything of value salvaged from the battlefield. On 21/5/1879, a large well-guarded force crossed into Zululand from Rorke’s Drift and made for Isandlwana. The Colonial units that had lost men during the battle, including the BBG, were represented. The Imperial and Colonial soldiers scoured the battlefield and, where possible, identified the bodies of their dead comrades and buried them in hastily dug graves.
Most of the Colonial dead were found clustered round the body of Colonel A Durnford, with whom they had made a desperate last stand. Durnford was an officer of the Royal Engineers, who had been posted to Natal in 1873. A few months later he took part in the Langalibalele Rebellion and was wounded in the skirmish at Bushman’s River Pass, where three Carbineers were killed. In spite of this inauspicious start to his stay in Natal, he came to be a respected member of the Colonial community.
The final burials at Isandlwana began on 20/6/1879 and once again members of the BBG joined other Colonial units in this grim task.
The reinvasion of Zululand by what was then known as the 2nd Division began from Landman’s Drift at the end of May. The NMP and Natal Volunteers were not part of the invasion force, it having been decided that further casualties would not be tolerated by the Colonists. This decision upset many of those in uniform, who would have preferred to have been given an opportunity of avenging their dead comrades.
The invading columns of the Imperial forces converged on the Zulu capital of Ulundi, where the final decisive battle of the Anglo-Zulu War was fought on 4/7/1879. With the military power of the Zulus broken, the demobilsation and repatriation of troops began. Early in August, members of the BBG and NMR returned to their homes. All had tired of soldiering and, since the pacification of Zululand seemed to have been achieved, both the BBG and NMR disbanded permanently.
Although short-lived the BBG had made its mark on the military history of South Africa. The badges worn by the men and the medals awarded to them are sought-after rarities that are a reminder of men from Dundee during a turbulent time in the history of Natal.
The colony’s senior volunteer regiment, the Natal Carbineers, replaced the small volunteer units of northern Natal after 1880. The BBG’s successor was the Dundee Troop of No.7 Squadron, NC, which fought in both the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and the Natal Rebellion (1906). The link between Dundee and the NC continued after 1914 when a second battalion of the NC was established in northern Natal. This battalion served in both World Wars, but was disbanded in 1954 by the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, which had come to power in 1948."
Henderson, S. 1979. The Turbulent Frontier – Biggarsberg and Buffalo at the
Crossroads. In: The Zulu War and the Colony of Natal. Pietermaritzburg:
Natal Provincial Administration.
Laband, J P C, Thompson, P S & Henderson, S. 1983. The Buffalo Border
1879 The Anglo-Zulu War in Northern Natal. Durban: University of Natal.
By Brett Hendey. Taken from the Victorian War forum.