Natal Telegraph Corps 1903-1914

For all discussions relating to British military and naval matters of the Edwardian and immediate pre-First World War period, 1901-1914.

Natal Telegraph Corps 1903-1914

Postby Burgher » 23 Apr 2014 17:42

I'm busy buying a Webley Mark III with the markings "NTC" and "V6". A local South African colonial history firearm expert identified the markings as those of the Natal Telegraph Corps, which has opened up a new world to me!

According to the "Short History Of The Volunteer Regiments Of Natal And East Griqualand, Past and Present" compiled by Colonel Godfrey T Hurst, DSO OBE VD, Honorary Colonel of the Natal Mounted Rifles, the official year of formation of the Natal Telegraph Corps is 1903, but detachments which comprised the nucleus of the unit were in existence since 1890 as the signalling personnel of the Natal Volunteer Regiments. The members of these detachments were regular members of their regiments, but, upon the mobilisation of the Natal Volunteer Brigade, 1899, for the S.A. War, the signalling detachments were withdrawn from their units and were formed into a signalling unit in charge of Lieutenant E. K. Whitehead, of the Natal Volunteer Brigade Staff. The unit was hastily formed and somewhat loosely organised. After the war the personnel returned to their own regiments, but the temporary organisation of the N.T.C. was retained in being during the interim before the Natal Telegraph Corps formally came into existence in 1903, when the unit organisation and former personnel were absorbed into a new permanent signalling corps, under the above title. The headquarters were in Pietermaritzburg, and the recruiting area was the whole of Natal, but mainly to Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

The peace establishment of the new corps was 50, all ranks, in two troops as a mounted unit, but on mobilisation for active service this establishment was considerably increased by recruitment from the postal and telegraph services of Natal. The first and only commanding officer was Captain F. Prater, who held the command till the corps amalgamated in 1914 with the Transvaal Signalling Corps, shortly afterwards (1915) being incorporated with the South African Field Telegraph and Postal Corps which, in 1928, was absorbed into the South African Corps of Signals then formed.

The uniform of the Natal Telegraph Corps was the regulation khaki serge, mounted pattern with royal blue shoulder straps edged with red piping. The original head-dress was the smasher felt hat with turned-up left brim bearing the block letters N.T.C. as a brooch, but previously as members of the established regiments before the birth of the Natal Telegraph Corps, they wore the uniform of the unit to which they belonged, being distinguished as signallers by an arm-badge of crossed flags. As a separate unit the corps wore as a badge a device of crossed Morse flags with a telegraph pole with arms in the centre, N. on one flag, T. in the centre, and C. on the right flag. Shoulder and hat titles were N.T.C. in three-quarter inch brass block letters. Collar badges and buttons in brass bore the device of crossed Morse flags with the motto " Je Suis Pret" — I am ready.

The unit was apparently quite involved in the 1906 Zulu Bambatha Rebellion.
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