Horses of the BSA Police
BSA Police Coronation Contingent 1902
The BSA Police was first formed as a mounted infantry force
and the regiment has always had an association with horses.
The force can trace its equestrianmodus operandi
back to the Bechuanaland Border Police, the Cape Mounted Police
and the Cape Mounted Rifles. Some suggest we could take this
back to the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police of the Cape
Colony. All of these units required greater mobility in the
open veldt and terrain of southern Africa and horses provide
this to the troops.
The first occupation of Mashonaland was conducted with the
assistance of the BSA Company Police working in mounted infantry
columns. The Ordinance of the BSA Company makes specific reference
to the company's police falling under the discipline regimes
of the Cape Mounted Rifleman Act of the Colony. Up until the
mid 1960's police officers conducted much of their patrol
work on horseback and most district stations had horses and
stables. Even in the last days of the BSA Police, it was a
requirement for every recruit to learn how to manage and ride
a horse, and many will recall wake-up calls before dawn, a
dash to the stables to groom and ready their mounts for early
Mounted Trooper 1907
Today, there are few mounted troops utilised in warfare.
Classical cavalry units in their day had been classified as
dragoons, light and heavy cavalry regiments. The dragoons
took on the role of mounted infantry, with horses being used
for transportation into battle, rather than used in actual
combat. The dragoons evolved into scouting and mounted action
troops and this is perhaps similar to the role of the early
pioneers of policing in Rhodesia, particularly during the
offensive against Lobengula, to occupy Matabeleland, and the
subsequent rebellions. The effective use of mounted riflemen
during the rebellions set in place the traditions of a mounted
infantry regiment within the BSA Police.
With the disbanding of the BSA Company Police, the Mashonaland
Mounted Police (MMP) was formed, and a number of volunteer
units were organized, such as the Mashonaland Horse, by men
who had not been absorbed into the new police force. The MMP
inherited the style of its uniform from the Cape Mounted Rifles.
The occupation of Matabeleland, following the Lendy Affair,
was conducted by a large column of volunteers and policemen,
mostly mounted on horseback.
Trooper on Horseback 1923
Subsequent to the occupation of Matabeleland a further police
force, the Matabeleland Mounted Police was formed. In October
1896 both the Mashonaland and Matabeleland contingents of
police were merged and formed into the Rhodesian Mounted Police
(RMP), yet another unit following the mounted infantry formula.
This was soon to be re-named the British South Africa Police.
The BSA Police fought as mounted infantry alongside Imperial
and Colonial Forces during the Boer War in South Africa.
Following the First World War, the BSA Police settled into
its civilian police role in Rhodesia, but it maintained many
of the traditions of a mounted infantry regiment. The function
of police horses changed. Most district stations maintained
their horses and stables for patrol work, although, in some
areas this was not possible with tsetse fly, mostly in the
lowveld regions, which is one of the reasons why camels had
There was another use for the horses, and this use was maintained
well beyond the days of the BSA Police, that being their use
in ceremonial duties. The earliest escorts saw the introduction
of the lance into the regalia of the BSA Police. The lance
is most often associated with cavalry regiments, but Regimental
Orders of 1900 indicated that the BSA Police were to carry
lances on horseback, in place of rifles, when escorting the
Administrator of the Colony. The lances of the BSA Police
were of male bamboo, eight feet in length with chromed steel
point and butt and bearing a blue of gold pennon, crimped
after the fashion of the 16th Lancers.
BSA Police Mounted Escort on the Occasion
of the Federal Governor General's Departure from the Federation
of Rhodesia and Nyasaland circa 1963
The first Royal Escort took place in August 1921 when the
Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught visited Rhodesia.
Perhaps the most notable of the Royal Escorts was that of
HRH King George VI and Queen Elizabeth accompanied by Princess
Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, when they visited Rhodesia
in 1947. A unit of horses and mounted officers travelled to
London and was in attendance at the Coronation of HRH Queen
Elizabeth II in June 1953. Aside from Royal Visits, the BSA
Police provided regular escorts, with all the tradition, pomp
and ceremony over the years, to successive Governors, Officers
Administering Government and Presidents.
Male and Female Officers Participate in
Horse Jumping Event
Equestrian sports were a natural offshoot to police mounted
operations. Much of the 'silverware' for police equestrian
events was presented by eminent persons as early as 1915 indicating
the longevity of police association with equestrian sports.
It was not uncommon for police participants to take part in
horse jumping and other equestrian events during the annual
round of Agricultural shows in Rhodesia. During the mid 1950's
Steve Stephens took RH Kingdom to a Rhodesian high jump record.
The BSA Police held its own mounted sports event each year.
This event was the forerunner of the Annual Police Display
event which apparently originated in 1943, when police horses
participated in a fete to support war time charities, much
to the delight of the crowd. The annual event became such
a huge draw to the general public that attendances thereat
outstripped those of international rugby matches held at the
Horses Return to War
The BSA Police must have one of the last forces to reverse
the trend away from using mounted infantry tactics in warfare.
A group of volunteers set up a mounted unit in Depot, which
would be deployed in a counter-insurgency function, similar
to the renowned Grey's Scouts Unit of the Rhodesian Army.
The unit took the bold step of including black members of
the force on horseback. Their first deployment was to the
Plumtree area in a combat role, but the unit was also involve
in anti-stock theft operations. By all accounts this was a
success. As expected, troops on horseback were more stealthy
and enjoyed greater mobility in counter-insurgency operations.
The Support Unit, which had expanded significantly in the
latter stages of the war, took over the Training Depot mounted
infantry unit in May 1977. Mantle Mounted as it became to
be known, deployed to many areas in Rhodesia, but as was so
typical during the last days of the conflict, the initiative
was too little and too late.
Mounted Officer circa 1965
The earliest uniforms of the BSA Police emphasized the need
for clothing which was conducive to that of a mounted infantry
unit, including breeches, puttees, boots and spurs. Leather
leggings were introduced in the 1930's and breeches, boots,
spurs and legging remained a part of the (No. 1) uniform until
1980. As the motor cycle replaced the horse in later years,
the use of riding breeches continued as part of the cyclist's
attire. This all changes as the police reverted to its role
as mounted infantry within the Support Unit. Camouflage drab
became the order of the day.
The official opening of the new Hampton Stables in Morris
Depot, took place on 2 April 1971. These stables were named
after Harold Cuthbert Hampton, BEM, who joined the BSA Police
in 1919 as a qualified cavalry instructor (trained as a sergeant
in the 5th Dragoon Guards Regiment, in Wiltshire). Hampton
saw action, on horseback, during the First World War, and
was wounded when his horse was shot out from under him in
the Battle of the Somme. He served 20 years in the BSA Police,
all his work associated with the regiment's horses.
Camels of the BSA Police
The use of camels within the BSA Police was a limited experience
for the force. At the turn of the last century, Rhodesia continued
to be plagued with horse sickness and substitute draft power,
such as oxen, were limited in numbers due to the Rindepest.
Donkey draft was considered inadequate and painfully slow.
It was not only haulage that was of concern to police authorities.
Colonel John 'Mad Jack' Flint, who was Commissioner of the
Mashonaland Division of the BSA Police, and who had had previous
experience in India with the use of camels in mounted infantry
roles, proposed the importation of camels to Rhodesia.
Camels used by the BSA Police circa 1910
In 1903 Flint travelled to India to visit his brother-in-law,
who was a senior army officer. In May Flint returned to Rhodesia
with both draft and riding camels, the latter intended for
the BSA Police, from Bikanir and Rawalpindi. He arrived back
with Indian Sikh grooms and an Indian veterinary surgeon too.
Railway trucks, usually used for coal cartage, were converted
with tarpaulin covers to carry the camels by train from Beira,
via Umtali, to Salisbury. The arrival of the camels in Salisbury
caused a stir when those horses and mules, in the vicinity,
smelt the camels and bolted. Apparently camels smell similar
According to Tanser ('A Sequence of Time') a Camel
Branch was set up within the BSA Police with then Corporal
Wane, DSO, in charge (Francis John 593, who was elevated later
to the rank of Colonel and went on to serve with distinction
in the Rhodesian African Rifles as its commanding officer).
He was a great horseman, but knew nothing of camels. This
branch incorporated a training school and was based at the
Transport Camp, which was located on the site of the Belvedere
Airport. There was a camel station adjacent to the Salisbury
CMED site and one might only assume the Transport Camp could
have been close by. Wane left the force, on transfer to the
Native department, shortly after his appointment by Flint.
Lt. Colonel Chester-Master established a riding school at
Sinoia in 1905. Patrols of four of five camels went from Sinoia
into the Zambezi Valley and a number were sent out to various
police stations in their twos and threes. These animals were
prone to foot-and-mouth, mange, and even cirrhosis of the
liver, the latter in common with a few troopers. The general
terrain and soils of the lowveld and drier parts of Rhodesia
were dissimilar to the sands of the Sahara. Most animals suffered
problems with their feet, which needed special tar applications
to the wounds.
When Flint retired from the BSA Police, he was appointed
Government Inspector of Camels. He ended up in Fort Victoria,
running a camel train between the town and Selukwe. This was
short lived, for all but one of the beasts died after drinking
from a cyanide pool (presumably residue to gold mining in
The BSA Police continued to use camels, but deployed them
to drier parts of the country and where the soils were more
inclined to sandy loams. Tanser mentions Tuli and Sipolilo
(which Ludgater 271 recounts years later in Outpost magazine). Some
believe that the CID offices at Gwanda station were at one
time camel stables. Flint also deployed camels to Fort Victoria
and these animals are also feature in the station history
Most officers associated with the 'camel brigade' agreed
their lack of suitability for police patrol work. As an aside,
the postal service also tried draft camels on the mail route
Salisbury-Sipolilo-Feira to Fort Jameson. They were not successful.
Riding camels were used on other postal routes. Some suggest
the BSA Police camel contingent was phased out of service
in about 1910. One camel remained at Tuli until the following
Dogs of The BSA Police
Unidentified Dog Handler with Bloodhound
The first use of police dogs within the BSA Police was believed
to be shortly after the First World War. This was not sustained.
Their re-appearance in service with the CID in 1946 came as
a result of the successes by a member of the branch using
his own dog, a Doberman Pinscher called 'Shumba' to track
criminals. One of Shumba's first tasks was to track three
escaped convicts, who stole a Prisons Department vehicle from
Salisbury Prison, later recovered outside the city, from where
tracking commenced. The three convicts were apprehended.
The more traditional image of a police dog is that of enforcing
order, in crowd control and during riots, but Southern Rhodesia's
first police dogs were mostly used for tracking and searching
for suspects and stolen property, or for evidence or victims
of crime. Patrol dogs were introduced to accompany police
officers on the 'beat' and guard dogs were also trained by
the BSA Police. In later years, the BSA Police, with the assistance
of the South African Police, introduced crossbreeds capable
of tracking and having a more aggressive disposition, primarily
for antiterrorist work. In later years the BSA Police introduced
more specialist dogs for detection purposes, principally labrador
dogs for drug control purposes.
Police Dog 211 Leon
A Dog Tracking Section was formed in 1948 and there is evidence
of dogs PD Echo, PD Emil and PD Ranger being involved in tracking
and successfully affecting arrests of accused persons involved
in serious and petty crime in the late 1940's.
The first mention of the use of a Bloodhound came in 1953,
when PD Sherlock was deployed and successfully tracked a murder
accused. The CID Police Dog Tracking Section evolved in the
mid 1950's and the Dog Section of the BSA Police was established
in 1958, still under the control of the CID, but with Uniformed
Branch personnel handling patrol dogs. Chief Inspector Davenport
(3462) had played a role in this development.
The entire section was moved to Uniformed Branch in May 1962.
Commissioner Spurling was singled out for his contribution
to the advances made in the use of dogs for police work. Spurling
indicated is his unpublished history of the BSA Police that
patrol dogs had far outstripped tracker dogs in numbers and
the continued control by CID had become unnecessary. There
were 76 patrol dogs in use by the end of 1962. The section
transferred to the the command of the Commandant Depot and
a training school had been established.
Jurisprudence would never have allowed the evidence of a
dog on the trail of an accused person, linking the accused
to the scene of the crime, as evidence. The impact of the
pursuit and the police dog's indication, to the accused, was
as good as having left fingerprints at the scene of the crime.
Confessions were not difficult in the circumstances. Evidently
the use of tracking dogs was more successful in less densely
populated rural areas, rather than urban centers.
Memorial Plaque at Police Dog Training Center
McLennan(8691) with Bloodhound
Police Dog Section units were established in most provinces
and extended their function from a simple dog tracking unit
to general patrol work, guard dogs, and crowd control, as
nationalist fervour and political unrest developed in the
country. The onset of guerilla incursions and counter terrorist
operations saw the introduction of several breeds, including
Bloodhounds, Bouvier des Flanders, and Doberman Pinschers
and their cross breeds. Aggressive dogs, with endurance and
a good nose which could survive in the bush were the objective.
One of the BSA Police's more famous dogs was PD 211 Leon
who was deployed on counter terrorist operations in the Tjolotjo
area of Matabeleland. During a skirmish with terrorists, Leon
went missing. His handler, Patrol Officer Spencer Thomas (7009),
was killed during the contact. PD Leon was located 5 weeks
later, some 40 kilometers from the contact site. The dog had
become very wary of humans and was difficult to encourage
back into its new handler's control. PD Leon was trapped in
a cage, borrowed from the SPCA, by Patrol Officer Bob Rankin
(7004). During his 'absence without leave' this dog had lost
15 lbs. and suffered tick sores.
Howard (8604) with PD Caesar
Another incredible dog was PD Brutus, a Patrol and Tracking
dog deployed by Dog Section in Salisbury. Credited with many
successes in recovery of property and apprehension of common
criminals, Brutus had also been deployed in a tracking role
in counter terrorist operations in northern Mashonaland. During
one such patrol PD Brutus was to lose his life in a volley
of bullets fired by a terrorist. Brutus was roaming free ahead
of a patrol and detected the presence of terrorists in a rocky
outcrop. An engagement ensued with a group who had been lying
in ambush. PD Brutus compromised this ambush and saved the
lives of those on the patrol.
PD Caesar was yet another remarkable dog which lost its life
when shot by terrorists fleeing from the a contact with security
forces in January 1978. PD Caesar had a distinguished career
in fighting crime alongside his handler Tim Howard (8604).
This duo were responsible for the effective tracking of criminals
and the recovery of stolen property, which received the attention
of the national press on more than a few occasions. Counter-insurgency
operations drew on the skills and experience of tracker dogs
in combat zones. PD Caesar and Howard were involved in a fleeting
contact with insurgents after a 13km track, when PD Caesar
was released from his harness and attacked a group of terrorists.
He was gunned down, but when found had the remnants of the
terrorist's clothing still lodged in his jaws.
Memorial Plaque at Police Dog Training Center
Three members of the Dog Section are listed on the BSA Police
Roll of Honour:
- Lindani, Kiwa (22716 - Attested: Sep-1974) Constable -
Duty Uniform - Dog Handler: KIA - anti personnel mine, 12-Nov-1977,
Tjolotjo District (Operation Tangent);
- Mutumhe, P (200452) Auxilliary Constable - Dog Section:
KOAS, 12-Dec-1978; and
- Thomas, Spencer Thomas Morgan (7009 - Attested: Oct-1963)
Patrol Officer - Dog Section: KIA - attacked by insurgents,
23-Aug-1967, Tjolotjo District.
BSA Police Patrol Office in
the Mounted Unit - Support Unit.
Images by Dick Hamley