British and Colonial Forces


At the end of the (First) Matabele War in December 1893 the volunteer units that had been involved were disbanded and a new force named the Rhodesia Horse Volunteers was formed. At the same time the Matabeleland Mounted Police was formed as a forerunner to the British South Africa Company Police (BSACP). In 1894 the Matabeleland Native Police were formed and placed under the control of Native Commissioners. The force was dispersed about the different districts and proved unreliable, defecting to the Matabele. On 18th July 1894 the British South Africa Company jurisdiction over Matabeleland was confirmed by Order in Council. The Jameson Raid (December 1895 / January 1896) involved 500 BSACP taken from Rhodesia to attack the Transvaal, leaving only the Rhodesian Horse Volunteers in Rhodesia (often cited as one of the causes of the Rebellion).

When the Rebellion started in March 1896 laagers were formed at Bulawayo, Gwelo, Belingwe and Mangwe and each case field forces were formed of volunteers (although it was a condition of entering the country as a settler that all able-bodied men were required to join the field forces). These field forces acted independently of each other and of Imperial forces until the arrival of relief forces in May 1896. At this time they were assimilated into columns commanded by Imperial officers and the volunteer tag abandoned. Once the the situation had been stabilised the volunteer forces were disbanded, the Bulawayo Field Force on July 4 1896.

The main relief force was the Matabeleland Relief Force comprised of paid volunteers and some regular army units commanded by Colonel Plumer. Recruited in South Africa it took until May 14 to arrive in Bulawayo. A second column from Salisbury consisted of 150 mounted men under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Beal of the Rhodesia Volunteer Horse. The column set out on the 18th April having been delayed by the difficulty in finding oxen for the wagons due to the rinderpest outbreak. After engagements with the Matabele the column relieved Gwelo on May 1 and continued to join up with the Matabeleland Relief Force eventually reaching Bulawayo on June 2nd.


Dennis Bishop has catalogued the British Order of Battle at British Order of Battle
A summary can be found here