British Natal Native Contingent

  • Anglo-Zulu War
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

The ''Natal Native Contingent'' was part of a 3 Branch, South African Military Force – composed of local Native and European Officers and NCOs (British, German, Dutch and Swiss). A large portion of these Forces would go on to augment The British Colonial Army of South Africa, during The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The initial ''Force'' was The Natal Mounted Police. Formed in 1873 – They served as a form of Border Patrol and Constabulary, along The Cape Colony (British) and Zulu Empire. They were considered a Para-military Organization - modeled on The British Military (Rank structure). Armed with Light Carbines, the majority of The Force was mounted (due to the vastness of The South African Border Region. However, their numbers were never large (several hundred to police several thousand miles). Most Settlers (mostly Dutch Boers), formed their own Militias to combat possible Zulu aggression.



With the impending hostilities between The British Empire and The Zulus, the need to bolster the already under strength Army. To further augment The Natal Mounted Police and Colonial Army, in 1878 – The Native Contingent was formed. This consisted of an Infantry Branch and a Cavalry (Horse) Branch. The Infantry Branch consisted of (10) Companies culled from several surrounding Native Tribes. These were ''natural Enemies'' of The Zulu, The Basuto and Mponso Tribes. In total, 1,000 Irregular Infantry were recruited. (90) British Officers and NCOs were seconded to The Contingent as Command. Almost from the start, The British Army High Command resisted any form of turning The Contingent into ''proper fighting Soldiers''. While Britain had for Centuries used local indigent persons to form Colonial Militias and related – a series of rebellions proved this recruitment method problematic (eg ''The Sepoy (Indian) Rebellion'' of 1857). The NNC Commander, Colonel Anthony Durford – nonetheless trained all Branches as best He could. The NNC received basic ''drill, ceremony and marching'' instruction.


The NNCs Infantry Branch was forbidden to carry rifles. They used their traditional weapons of Spear and Shield. Further, They were not issued Uniforms (having to wear their traditional loincloth). The only ''Uniform'' component, was that all NNC wore a Red Scarf, tied to their head. In this, British Soldiers would know who ''NOT'' to shoot! British and NCOs seconded to The NCC, wore ''Khaki Tan'' Trousers and Black Tunics, to differentiate them from The Regular Army. They were often Volunteers, with many being former British Serving Officers (Reserved), living in The Cape. Most were fluent in several local Native languages (especially Zulu). Regardless of The British Army High Command's opinion, The NNC performed admirably in combat. At The Battle of Isandlhwana in 1879, The NNC fought with a determination – side by side with their British components. Likewise, they died with them as well.


The NNC would continue as a Irregular Force throughout The War – mostly as a Border Force. Afterwards, The Contingent was formally disbanded – with The Force going back to ''Civilian Life'' in 1879-1880.