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History of the Transvaal Horse Artillery PDF Print E-mail
Written by CO Hurst   

1904 - 2006

Established on the 17th of March 1904 as Lys Volunteer Corps, the regiment was from inception dependent on horse transport. The regiment's name was later changed to the Transvaal Horse Artillery Volunteers, remaining as such until 1911, when the present name was adopted.


At the outbreak of the First World War the regiment was sent to German South West Africa where it fought its first wartime action in September 1914 at Sandfontein. In March 1915 the unit distinguished itself at Riet and later the THA accompanied Gen. Coen Brits's mobile column that outflanked the German Fort at Namutoni. Members of the THA volunteered for service with the South African Heavy Artillery in Palestine, Egypt and Europe for the remainder of the First World War.


The inter-war years saw the growth of the THA from a single battery to a three-battery regiment, and the introduction of mechanical "horses" in the form of porté lorries. During the 1922 Strike, the THA was involved in the Battle of Brixton Bridge and in the clearing of Fordsburg. The regiment was formally associated with the Honourable Artillery Company of London in 1937, due to the relentless efforts of Brig F.B. Adler. This association survived the years of isolation and is alive and well today.


The Second World War really proved to be the testing ground for the THA, on its engagements up through Africa, the Western Desert and finally Italy. Marching with General George Brink, the regiment made a tremendous contribution to the Italian defeat in Abyssinia.

The most memorable action was, however, at Sidi Rezegh in the Western Desert on a winter's Sunday, 23rd November 1941. Forming part of the 5th SA Infantry Brigade Group, the Regiment suffered considerable losses at Sidi Rezegh, but performed prodigious feats, firing over open sights at the invading panzers of Rommel's Afrika Korps. The Regiment managed to save 5 of its 24 guns and recovered a further 7 guns later.


Following on the collapse of the defences of Tobruk in June 1942, the THA lost RHQ and its 8th and 9th Batteries, except for one troop of 8th Battery that, together with the Coldstream Guards, were the only units to drive out of the fortress in formation. The remaining (7th) Battery of the THA was attached to 7 Field Regiment and took part in the stupendous barrage at El Alamein during October 1942. Later 7th Battery joined the 4/22nd Field Regiment and saw action throughout the Italian Campaign.


Post war events have included the THA's 50th Jubilee Celebrations in 1954, bestowing of the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg in 1964 and the transfer of the Regiment's headquarters from Auckland Park after 62 years in 1967 - first to Doornkop and then the old police barracks in Marshall Street.


The THA was called up for three months' active service in 1976, during which period it spent several months in Angola and South West Africa.


On 17 March 1979 the Regiment celebrated its 75th anniversary with a mounted parade through the streets of Johannesburg during which the Mayor of Johannesburg took the salute.


During Exercise Eagle Hill in 1979, the unit was once again called up for operational duty in South West Africa, only this time as infantry. After a quick conversion the unit was re-mustered into companies, platoons and sections and packed off. Although in a changed role, the unit had upheld its tradition of never failing in its duty and by all accounts was a highly successful if unorthodox battalion.

In 1981 the Regiment once again headed for the operational area. The 7th and 8th Batteries saw action in a huge pre-emptive strike into Angola called Operation Protea. The operation was a great success, and there were no THA casualties.


In 1983, the Regiment took on the task of manning and running an operational artillery base in Sector 70 SWA.

1984 must go down in the history of the Regiment as one of the busiest and most successful post-war years. The Regiment took part in the divisional exercise at the Army Battle School (Lohathla) called Operation Thunder Chariot. The capability of the Regiment was confirmed with the Regiment not only achieving the highest unit evaluation in the Division, but the highest ever recorded in the history of the Army Battle School.


In 1985 the Regiment was once again used in an Infantry role and were deployed with the following combat groups in Sector 10 of South West Africa Command: Combat Group Juliet (7th Battery), Combat Group Kilo (8th Battery) and Combat Group Lima (9th Battery). These operations were preceded with a 3-week training period at Oshivelo, South West Africa. The THA contingent in each of these groupings formed part of a composite company of infantry.


In 1986 the THA took part in a mechanised parade to celebrate the Centenary of the City of Johannesburg. The parade comprised those units who had been awarded the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg. The parade was marked by a medal parade were eight Honoris Crux Medals were handed to various recipients.


1986 saw the Regiment also serve in various COIN roles at several locations in the Republic. The Regiment also participated in Exercise Octava under the auspices of 72 Motorised Brigade.


In 1987 the Regiment was once again deployed in an infantry role in various locations around the Republic. The Regiment participated in Exercise Ferratus at the Army Battle School as part of a Brigade Tactical HQ.


In 1988 the Regiment participated in Exercise Visarend held in Potchefstroom that was in essence an impromptu Exercise for all artillery units. The Regiment provided observers for a junior leaders course evaluation exercise.


In 1989 the Regiment participated in a Brigade Exercise, Exercise Vasvat at the Army Battle School in Lohatla as a full regiment of three batteries. The Regiment was downgraded in Prime Mission Equipment from the 155mm G4 to the World War Two vintage 140mm or G2 Gun. The THA performed well despite suffering the indignation and achieved a very high evaluation mark and reported no losses of equipment during the exercise.


In the course of the total re-organisation of the SA army in 1990, the THA absorbed the following Regiments and units into their establishment: 7th Medium Regiment, 2 Locating Regiment and Johannesburg Artillery Regiment. This also marked the closure of 72 Brigade and the moving of operational command to 7th South African Division. The THA retained their identity as the 3rd most senior South African Artillery Regiment.


In 1991 the Regiment took part in Exercise Excalibur III at the Army Battle School in Lohatla, under the command of 7th SA Division. In 1991 the SA Artillery re-organised their structures to make way for 6 gun batteries, and this was graciously adopted by the THA.

In 1992 the Regiment received their National Colours at a parade in Johannesburg from then Chief of he Army, Lt Gen G.L. Meiring.

In 1993 the Regiment took part in Exercise Excalibur IV at the Army Battle School in Lohatla. Despite numerous problems experienced with equipment and vehicles the THA managed to outperform all other units during the field exercise.


In 1994 the THA celebrated their 90th Anniversary with a Colours Parade held at the SA National Museum of Military History. This marked the first occasion since 1936 that the THA had paraded their 13 Pdr Horse Drawn Gun on parade with a team of horses and gunners as well as Escort Riders. The 3rd edition of the THA’s History, Wherever Destiny Leads, The History of the Transvaal Horse Artillery, 1975 to 1992, was also launched at this occasion.


The THA repeated the feat of parading their colour again on the Defence Force Day Parade in 1996, when the THA’s horse drawn 13pdr lead the colour parties of all SANDF Regiments on this combined Mechanised and Marching Column Parade.

In 1996 the Regiment participated in Exercise Southern Cross at the Army Battle School as a composite battery along with Natal Field Artillery. This was to be the very last field exercise under 7th SA Division, and the THA utilised the 155mm G5 Gun/Howitzer, despite being earmarked as a GV6 155 mm Gun/Howitzer Regiment. This exercise also saw the first non-white gunners ever to be deployed as members of the regiment. This served as a turning point in the Regiment’s history and paved the way for the unit’s survival in the years to come.


In the years between 1996 and 2001, the regiment was under command of the 7th SA Division, but this was to be temporary as the whole SANDF was then re-organised and this process saw the end of the traditional structures of Brigades and Divisions and all units were moved under command of Corps specific Formations. In 2001 the SA Army Artillery Formation was formed and the THA moved under command and control of the SA Army Artillery Formation.


In 2004 the THA celebrated their Centenary with a well-attended Mess Dinner at the Rand Club, which saw over 199 guests comprising of past and serving members of the THA as well as many high profile guests. The Honourable Artillery Company sent an official contingent across to attend this event. As part of the Centenary Celebrations the THA exercised their Freedom of the City of Johannesburg with a combined Mechanised and Marching Column Parade through the streets of Johannesburg. This saw the THA parade their PME, the GV6 Gun for the first time in the mechanised column. Councillor C. Walters, received the salute on behalf of the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, accompanied on the podium by Maj Gen RC Andersen, THA Honorary Colonel and Brig Gen M.R. Notshweleka, GOC SA Army Artillery Formation.

In 2006 the THA was tasked with the responsibility of providing Ceremonial Gun Salutes Support to the SA Army Artillery Formation for all Ceremonial Gun Salutes within the Gauteng Region of South Africa.