Fact file: Cape Town Rifles (Dukes)


Recognised by Major Tylden1 as the oldest Cape infantry unit, the Dukes were raised as the Cape Rifle Corps on November 28, 1855. The name changed to the Cape Royal Rifles in February 1856 but this was not approved and the name changed to the Cape Town Rifles the next year.2

After a visit to Cape Town, Prince Alfred, for whom the Prince Alfred’s Guard is named, requested that this unit also bear his name, in the form of his title and on September 30, 1876, the Cape Town Rifles became the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles, known as The Dukes.

The regiment provided forces for the 9th Frontier War (1877-8). During the Zulu war of the next year, the regiment provided two companies to relieve Imperial troops in the Transkei. Troops were also mobilised to garrison the Cape. The unit was again mobilised in 1880 for operations with HQ Column in Basutoland, taking part in every action of consequence. A contingent took part in the Langberg campaign of 1897. Two battalions were raised for line of communication duties during the South African War. Troops were also seconded to Kitchener’s Horse and the Colonial Light Horse.

The unit served again during the German South West Africa campaign and contributed to various overseas contingents. By then it had become the 2nd Infantry, Active Citizen Force and had dropped the word “Volunteer” from its title. The Dukes formed part of 1 SA Brigade for the fighting in Ethiopia, serving with 12th African Division there and with 1 SA Division in North Africa. Part of the regiment served with 6 SA Armoured Division in Italy. The current name would have been forced on the unit in 1961.

Current role: Motorised infantry.

Current base: Cape Town

Battle honours:

  • Gaika-Gcaleka 1877

  • Transkei 1879

  • Basutoland 1880-1881

  • Bechuanaland 1897

  • South Africa 1899-1902

  • South West Africa 1914-1915

  • East Africa 1940-1941

  • El Wak

  • The Juba

  • Combolcia

  • Amba Alagi

  • Western Desert 1941-1943

  • Sidi Rezegh

  • Gazala

  • Alem Hanza

  • Alamein Defence

  • El Alamein

Motto: Semper Eadem (Always the same)

1Major G Tylden in The Armed Forces of South Africa, City of Johannesburg Africana Museum Frank Connock Publication No 2, Johannesburg, 1954.

2 According to a unit history sheet.