The names of 52 Reserve Force units – all Army – were changed in August last year to better reflect South Africa’s military history.
This saw mostly the co-called colonial names such as SA Irish and Transvaal Scottish effectively removed. At the time of the name change announcement it was indicated that regiments and units make individual arrangements to preserve their history, including colours and battle honours.
One which took it to heart is the former Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR), now Queen Nandi Mounted Rifles (QNMR) with work starting well ahead of the name change announcement.
Last April, four months ahead of the announcement via an SA Army Bulletin, the regiment opened a new museum at its headquarters.
The Reserve Force website reports current Officer Commanding Lieutenant Colonel Siyanda Cele and four predecessors, lieutenant colonels Alec van Rooyen, Bruce Hearn and Mike Rowe as well as Colonel Pat Acutt were present for the event.
The site reports: “QNMR is based at what was Durban’s first airport, the Stamford Hill Aerodrome. Across the road from Durban Country Club, it is situated on Eastern Vlei, filled in by unemployed men on a works programme during the Great Depression. Designed in 1936 the airport was opened on 26 April 1937. In July, a two-day air show was held in which 67 aircraft mounted an impressive display for a large crowd. Durban quickly outgrew its first airport. In less than 20 years, Louis Botha airport at Reunion was opened.
“Seeking a new headquarters, the then NMR Board secured the vacant airport terminal in 1956 and has been there since. Strongly influenced by the Art Deco style, in vogue at the time, the symmetrical plan of the airport is that of a fuselage with angled wings. Copies of original plans are on display at QNMR.
“The new museum is in part of the wing where there was originally a spacious waiting area and restaurant for departing passengers.
“The museum displays cover all major campaigns in which QNMR participated. Those of World War I utilise part of the display which was mounted at the Old Court House as part of Durban’s commemoration of the centenary of the war.
“The Second World War display includes Abyssinian shoes and bags, a camel seat and a “dog” biscuit, saved from an army ration pack in 1941. Always hard, this one was signed by NMR troopers and framed. There are more recent ration packs (including the current halal version) on display. Medals and an impressive display of the regimental silver are also housed in the museum.
“Hand-in-hand with this project is a new website which should soon be operational. This will cover most aspects of QNMR history, current events, personal memoirs and 1 700 photographs. Included will be a history of the Royal D’Urban Rangers (1854-1869). The only known copy was thrown out in a skip in 2000 in a typical clean-out. Fortunately Captain Nigel Lewis-Walker saw it and saved it in the nick of time. He was presented with a bound facsimile copy of the history by chairman of the NMR Board, Alec van Rooyen, in grateful appreciation for his efforts.”
The post notes the QMNR museum “bears testament to a proud volunteer regiment which still stands tall in the modern South Africa”.
What is now QMNR is the oldest tank regiment in South Africa. It was founded as the Royal D’Urban Rangers in March 1854 and then became Natal Mounted Rifles ahead of its third name change in 165 years of existence.