Guides, Patrols, Intelligence and Scouting Units in German South-West African Campaign 

Scouts and Guides in South Africa

Although the purpose of this article is only to provide a listing of the officers and men of the small exclusive Units, it will be essential to give a short background.

At the outbreak of WW1, before the UDF was ordered to invade German South-West Africa (GSWS),  the General Staff of the UDF was requested to gather intelligence regarding the German activities on the border between the two countries and the activities of the German Forces within GSWA. 

The first intelligence unit under Major CBJ Grobler was formed, consisting of 7 officers and approximately 40 men.  This unit, known as Grobler’s Scouts, was tasked to collect information of the German town of Swakopmund and the surrounding areas. Grobler’s Scouts can be considered the first official Scouting unit.

In the same instant another Scouting Unit, Belfield’s Scouts (sometimes referred to Belfield’s Mounted Scouts), was sent to German Tanganyika to collect information about Von Lettow Vorbecks activities. (South African Intelligence Corps History and Insignia, 2020)

The Must-have book for all South African military enthusiasts, “The Armed Forces of South Africa by Major G Tylen” is an invaluable and essential guide.   Try to acquire the 1982 reprint as it includes addenda and corrigenda.  (Tylden, 1954)

Armed Forces of South Africa (Tylden) – A must for SA Collectors

A superb and informative website has been created on SA Intelligence Units and can be found at https://www.freewebs.com/saintcorps/the-world-wars. This website covers WW1 Scouting Units

Another good website to consult is Imperial Research at http://www.imperial-research.net/gswa_oob.htm. A tremendous amount of information on SA Units can be found here.

Scouts, Intelligence Units, Guides and Patrols in GSWA only

A Scout Unit allocated to each Mounted Brigade – both Left and Right Wings

A roll of Scout and Guides Units in the Rebellion and GSWA is as follows: (name, where served and official designation):

Botha’s Scouts                               (5R/L)         21st Intelligence Unit 

Celliers Scouts                                (4R/L)         6th Intelligence Unit  

Collins Scouts                                 (2L)            16th Intelligence Unit 

De Brug Patrols                                                part of commandos

De la Reys/Oosthuizens Scouts     (1R)         13th Intelligence Unit 

1st Rand Intelligence                                        7th Intelligence Unit 

1st Mounted Brigade Scouts 

Enslin’s Horse                                (4L)            8th Intelligence Unit 

Glen Patrols                                                      Part of the Commandos

Groblers Scouts                             (1L)            Marico Commando 

Helgaardts Scouts                         (3R)           17th Intelligence Unit 

Hunts Scouts                                  (3L)            18th Intelligence Unit  

Intelligence Staff                                              

Kimberley District Patrols                                Part of the Cape Commandos 

Lemmers Scouts                             (1L)            14th Intelligence Unit 

Midlands Scouts                                               Part of the Cape Commandos

Naudes Scouts                                                 Part of the Transvaal Commandos 

Oosthuizens Scouts/De la Reys       (1R)       13th Intelligence Unit 

Prinsloos Guides                                               Part of the Transvaal Commando

2nd Mounted Brigade Scouts 

Special Intelligence 

Swarts Scouts                                (2R)            15th Intelligence Unit 

Uys’ Scouts                                    (1R)            22nd Intelligence Unit  

Vermaas Scouts                                               Calvinia Ruiter/Comdo

The 8th Intelligence Unit merged into Enslin’s Horse

Notes on Mounted Brigades:

1 – 1st Mounted Brigade Right (R) / Left Wing (L)

2 – 2nd Mounted Brigade Right (R) / Left Wing (L)

3 – 3rd Mounted Brigade Right (R) / Left Wing (L)

4 – 4th Mounted Brigade Right (R) / Left Wing (L)

5 – 5th Mounted Brigade Right (R) / Left Wing (L)

The Scouts in Tanganyika and German East Africa will the subject of another article, but in brief, I have seen the following:

Belfield’s Scouts 

De Jager’s Scouts 

Van Deventer’s Scouts 

Their Service Medals (1914-15 Stars)

All men serving in the German South-West Africa Campaign are entitled to the 1914-15 star.   The issue of the 1914-15 star would automatically qualify them for the British War Medals (BWM), and Victory Medal as the Star is not issued on its own.

Many of these men transferred to other units later in the war, and their BWM and Victory Medals may be issued to other units. (refer my previous article on WW1 naming).

I have never encountered medals named to the Patrols or Guides and I believe these to be named to their parent Commando.

Scouts in the 1914 Rebellion 

It has always been a contention that many of these Scouting units were involved in the 1914 Rebellion.   Many years ago the author owned a group including a 1914-15 Star named to Uys’s Scouts who served in the Rebellion.  In the Gordon Bickley registers of citations for GWSA, there is a Mention in Dispatches (MID) to a Scouting Unit for an event that took place during the rebellion and not in the GWSA campaign. 

A question has always been raised, if a man served in a Scouting Unit in the Rebellion only, did he received a WW1 Trio?

Records held with the SADF 

There are a series of Box’s held in the SADF archives relating to WW1 medals. Box no 11 is detailed “Scouts”. The contents thereof are papers and documents relating to:

Bothas Scouts

Celliers Scouts 4th Brigade Left Wing

Collins Scouts 2nd Brigade Left Wing

De le Rey Scouts (previously called Oosthuizens) 1st Brigade

General File – sailings from Cape Town

General Staff Intelligence and others – lists of names

Grobler’s Scouts 1st Brigade Left Wing

Helgaardt Scouts

Lemmers Scouts 

Naudes Scouts 

Prinsloo Guides 

Uys Scouts 1st Brigade Right Wing 

1914/15 Star Correspondence

I have found other boxes also contain information on Scouts 

Box 2 – Uys Scouts (attached Marico Commando) HS Uys 

Box 12 –  Calvinia Ruiter (was Vermaas Scouts)

If anyone is interested in obtaining information from these files, please contact researchers listed on my credits page. 

The Medals and their naming 

The 1914-15 Stars, BWM and Victory Medals, are all named in South African style as detailed in my previous article.

All 1914-15 stars carry the Rank, name and Unit / Regiment the man served in. Thus all medals issued to the Scouts can be easily identified and named as noted below. The Afrikaans name for Scout is Verkenner and medals are found named with the words to the units:

Scouts /Scts

Verkenners/ Verknrs

“X”th Intell

Intelligence Dept

Intel Staff

Intelligence Staff 

Intelligence

1st / 2nd M B Scouts 

Example of naming to 1st Mounted Brigade Scouts on British War Medal

Naming variations vary as these were small units, and the instruction to the RMP could have varied on each occasion a batch was sent to be stamped.

Botha’s Scouts –

Reverse – the naming of Botha’s Scouts – note the SA style naming and nice Irish naming on page 3 of the roll

Grobler’s Scouts – 

Reverse showing naming to a Burger (Private) Grobler’s Scouts. Note SA Style naming – page 3 of the roll

In command Major CBJ Grobler – 7 officers and 40 men

Uys’ Scouts – 

Reverse showing naming to an Officer (Lt) in Uys’ Verkenners / Scouts – note SA Style naming

In command Major H S Uys – 8 Officers 

Now onto the Nominal Rolls.

I was my original intention to transcribe the rolls.  However, after careful consideration, I decided to publish copies of the rolls as I have them in my possession.   Firstly I will not make any errors, but I believe seeing the actual documents will give fellow collectors the same thrill of discovery I experienced when I found them.

Unfortunately,  I have not found all the rolls.  Many documents were damaged or have been misfiled over the years, but I am sure that after this start more will be found in due course and published.

Botha’s Scouts 

Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 1
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 2
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 3
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 4
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 5
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 6
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 7
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 8
Botha’s Scouts Nominal Roll – 9

Grobler’s Scouts 

Grobler’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 1
Grobler’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 2
Grobler’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 3
Grobler’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 4

Prinsloo’s Guides

Prinsloo’s Guides Nominal Roll – 1 Page only

Uys’ Scouts 

Uys’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 1
Uys’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 2
Uys’s Scouts Nominal Roll – page 3
Uys’ Scouts Nominal Roll – page 4
Uys’ Scouts Nominal Roll – page 5
Uys’ Scouts Nominal Roll – page 6

Tylden, G., 1954. The Armed Forces Of South Africa, With An Appendix On The Commandos. Johannesburg: City of Johannesburg Africana Museum.

Imperial-research.net. 2020. Imperial Research – South African OOB. [online] Available at: <http://www.imperial-research.net/gswa_oob.htm> [Accessed 30 May 2020].

South African Intelligence Corps History and Insignia. 2020. South African Intelligence Corps History And Insignia. [online] Available at: <https://www.freewebs.com/saintcorps/the-world-wars> [Accessed 30 May 2020].