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Light Infantry - Rand

The Rand Light Infantry


"Vincit qui patitur".
(He conquers who endures.)

Battle Honours

South West Africa 1914-15
Western Desert 1941-43
Alamein Defence
El Alamein


The Rand Light Infantry originated shortly after the South African War when, on October 1, 1905, the Transvaal Cycle Corps was formed as a volunteer regiment after the British troops had sailed home. Being volunteers the men had supplied their own bicycles and almost immediately experienced their baptism of fire when 24 men and an officer, part of No.3 Section of the Transvaal Light Infantry, were sent to put down the Bambata Rebellion in Zululand.

On its return the Cycle Corps recognised the possibilities of mechanisation and the rear seats of a de Dion Bouton were replaced by a platform and heavy machine guns. This inspired the addition of two more armoured cars creating a motorised fighting unit and in 1909 led to a change in name to the Transvaal Cycle and Motor Corps.

After Union in 1910 and the end of the volunteer movement, the Rand Light Infantry got its present title and was organised under the Defence Act as an Active Citizen Force Unit. It was first mobilised during the industrial unrest of 1914 to guard the Newlands subway and the Braamfontein station using motorcycle mounted despatch riders.

At the outbreak of World War 1 all A.C.F. units were called up and the RLI was stationed at the Booysens Shooting Range before leaving for Cape Town and the Wouth West Africa Campaign on September 7 1914. First action in this campaign was at Luderitz Bay on September 26 1914 and the RLI spent nine months chasing German forces, suffering light casualties - two dead and eleven wounded.

The first King’s Colour was presented to the Regiment in 1921 and a year later the unit was involved in the fighting during the mineworkers strike. It’s main task was patrol duties on the Witwatersrand and casualties were two dead and three wounded. First Regimental Colour was presented to the RLI in 1932.

It was North Africa during World War II that the RLI really carved a name in military annals taking part in front line engagements and earning battle honours at Bardia, Gazala and El Alamein. Called up in June 1940, the regiment embarked for Egypt a year later where it was joined by 150 RLI transport personnel from the 1st South African Division in East Africa. Unit strength was 900 but unhappily 300 of these men were never to return home.

After the surrender of Rommel’s Afrika Korps the Regiment returned home to be merged with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles. They were trained in armour, sending reinforcements to the South African Sixth division in Italy. As an amalgamation of the Duke’s, Scottish and RLI it went to Italy as an infantry unit.

In 1947, during the Royal Visit to south Africa, a new King’s Colour was presented to the unit and it received the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg on its 50th Anniversary, October 1, 1955.

Background to the Alliance

The RLI were allied to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1932. This alliance fell into abeyance during the period of secession and was resurrected in April 1995 with The Light Infantry.


Wednesday, 17 October, 2007 15:24

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