Fact file: First City Regiment

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Raised on October 7, 1875 and gazetted on November 18, this is the country’s senior Scots regiment and wears the Graham of Montrose tartan.

A mounted infantry company served in the Transkei for three months during the 9th Frontier War of 1877. A contingent served with HQ Column during the Basutoland conflict in 1880, suffering casualties at Lerotholi’s kraal on October 31. In January 1881 a second contingent relieved the first and on February 15 formed the face of the square at Ramabidikwe, which was charged by the Basuto. The Dukes and PAG were on the same face of the square.

First City and the Uitenhage Volunteer Rifles raised four companies of mounted infantry for the South African War under the name “Marshall’s Horse”. First City also deployed a 500-strong battalion on line of communications duties.

From 1913 to 1924, the regiment formed the left wing of the 4th Infantry, Active Citizen Force. First City served in German South West Africa as the 4th Infantry, mainly manning blockhouses along railways.

In 1930, the regimental signals section set a world record for distance, sending and receiving a signal 70 miles (about 100km) at night. The regiment served again during World War Two, providing a composite unit (with the Cape Town Highlanders) for 6 SA Armoured Division.

From 1954 to 1956, the regiment was amalgamated with the Kaffrarian Rifles, known as First City/Kaffrarian Rifles. In 1956 reverted back to First City.

The regiment served in the South African Border War from 1977 to 1986, and was also involved from 1983 until 1994 in internal operations.A decade of decline followed. In 2004 it was decided to rebuild First City and by 2006 the Regiment was training its own members as well as members of the Prince Alfred’s Guard, The Buffalo Volunteer Rifles and Regiment Piet Retief, all being Eastern Cape regiments. Many members have also been trained in air assault techniques. The regiment has since sent troops on United Naions and African Union peacekeeping missions to the DR Congo, Burundi and the Sudan. A full rifle company was deployed to the Congo. In 2008  First City won the Trophy for the best Reserve Force regiment in the SA Army Infantry Formation. The Regiment retained this award for 2009.

Current role: Air Assault Infantry

Current base: Grahamstown

Battle honours:

  • Ntaba-Ndoda
  • Gaika-Gcaleka 1877-78
  • Basutoland 1880-81
  • Bechuanaland 1897
  • South Africa 1899-1902
  • Monte Stanco
  • Po Valley
  • Chiusi
  • Gothic Line
  • Casino II
  • Monte Pezza
  • The Greve
  • Florence
  • Italy 1944-45
  • Sole/Caprara
  • SWA/Angola 1976-1989

Motto: Previously: Virtute et Opera (By virtue of deeds, motto of Grahamstown and the Clan Pentland. The city was named for Colonel John Graham). Now: “Expecto” (Be Alert/Be Prepared/I await)



Pic: Lt Col Roger Keeton, OC since 2006, wearing the Regiment’s Glengarry.