The Cape Corps was one of the oldest organised military units in South African history, tracing its ancestry back to a “Corps of Bastaard Hottentotten” raised in 1781 from the Khoikhoi at the Cape during the first Dutch administration.
However, indigenous troops assisted the Dutch as early as 1661 when “Kaapmans” (Cape men) stood with the colonists against the “Gonnamans”. The corps, retained by subsequent British and Dutch administrations – under various names1, had both a military and a policing function – police services as they are known today, were then not yet in being.
Sadly, the Cape Corps’s history, then and later was intertwined with white suspicion and racism. Two battalions were raised during World War One “for hostilities only”. The white officered units were allowed Coloured non-commissioned officers and these were promoted from the Coloureds-only ranks. The units distinguished themselves in Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and Palestine, most especially at Square Hill near Megiddo in September 1918.
White insecurity ensured the unit, when re-established in 19362 (September 3), remained unarmed. Despite this insult, Coloureds rallied to the flag and served as transport troops, storemen, musicians and stretcher bearers. Cape Corps stretcher bearers earned enduring fame for their bravery under fire at El Alamein, but sadly not the thanks, for long, of their paler countrymen.
The Cape Corps was re-established in September 1963 as the SA Coloured Corps Training Centre, tasked with training coloureds in support roles, such as chefs, clerks, stretcher bearers, medical and health orderlies. By 1965 the Corps band was already earning kudos on the national stage. In February 1966 the first batch of lance corporals were promoted to full corporal and in November the first corporal was promoted sergeant. Further promotions followed – in 1970 the first warrant officers were appointed. Around that time public pressure also forced a name change and “Coloured” was substituted with “Cape”.
In January 1973 the unit started training one-year service volunteers and from that year Coloureds could also be commissioned as officers. The first 11 were commissioned in May 1975. In 1976 infantry training commenced and later that year a fully trained company was detached on operational duty – the first since 1916. During this deployment and officer and two NCOs were wounded in a contact with the enemy. In 1978 the unit received its colours – bearing its World War One battle honours. On the last day of 1979 the Cape Corps expanded into a corps school, 1 SACC Battalion and the SACC Maintenance Unit. On December 31, 1985 the corps school was disbanded and 2 SACC Battalion was established the next day, as was the Cape Regiment, a segregated reserve unit. 3 SACC was established at Kimberley.
On March 31, 1992 all SACC units were disbanded. The next day 9SAI was established in their place. No reason for the name change was ever given. It appears those irresponsible for the move acted in anticipation of what their new masters might think. It was also during this time that the Special Forces were renamed, a decision later reversed by President Nelson Mandela and Defence Minister Joe Modise, who saw nothing wrong with the nomenclature. It is hoped that pressure can be brought to bear to return the old name to current usage – after all, 9SAI used to be what soldiers at 8SAI called the prison next door.
Current role: Sea-landed motorised infantry
Current base: Eersterivier, Cape Town
Cape of Good Hope4
East Africa 1916-7
East Africa 1917-8
Motto: Fortiter et fideliter (Boldly and faithfully) Ebenhaeser (Thus far the Lord has led us)
1 Corps of Bastaard Hottentotten 1781-2, Corps van Pandoeren, 1793-5, Hottentot Corps 1796-1801, Cape Regiment 1801-3, Corps Vrye Hottentotten & Hottentot Ligte Infanterie 1803, The Cape Regiment 1806, Cape Corps 1820, and Cape Mounted Riflemen 1827-1870. The Cape Corps was re-established in 1915 and disbanded in 1919, reconstituted on May 8, 1940 as a noncombatant service corps with a pioneer battalion and five motor transport companies, later expanded to include motorised infantry battalions, prisoner of war escort and guard battalions, peak strength 23,000. Disbanded in 1945. Reactivated in 1957 but disbanded by the National Party government in June 1948 (according to regiments.org, www.regiments.org/regiments/southafrica/inf/capecorp.htm, accessed May 31, 2006).
2 According to a 9SAI information sheet. Major G Tylden and regiments.org give the date as 1940.
3 Inherited from the SA Cape Corps.
4 Awarded 1n 1841 for service during the 4th, 5th and 6th Frontier Wars. Not inherited by subsequent incarnations.
5 All awarded in 1926 and inherited by the SACC Service Bn in 1978.