SA Intelligence Corps

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The beginnings of Military Intelligence

The military in South Africa have been active from the time that Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape and established a stop over for Dutch ships travelling to the Far East.  No doubt, the garrison at the Cape Castle arranged for an early warning system to prevent being surprised by hostile natives and the like.

The Boers have always used scouts to determine what dangers lay ahead when they were on the Great Trek to the interior.  Scouts would analyse the terrain to determine the route forward and also to search for signs of hostile bands of native warriors who were wont to attack the ox wagons as these were a ready source of weapons and animals and equated to survival for them.  An example of such a scout was Hans de Lange.

During the Frontier wars on the border of the eastern Cape and the Transkei scouts were also used.  This was the first time that part time units were raised to defend homesteads and to a lesser extent to assist with the maintenance of law and order. 

The Anglo Zulu War 1879.  By the time the Anglo Zulu war started in Natal the use of scouts was ubiquitous.  This was typified by the use of the local Natal militia units by the British.  The members of these units knew the terrain as this was where they grew up.  They also spoke the local language.  It was a great advantage in the collection of information and also built up trust between the Zulu tribesmen and the colonial soldiers.  The British forces deployed with four major and one minor columns from Durban and Pietermaritzburg using a two pronged advance to get their forces into Zululand. The following units were raised as scouts:-  The Amangwane Scouts.  Raised in northern Natal from anti Zulu tribesmen and were seconded to the Natal Native Horse.  (Tylden.  P 37) and Dunn's Scouts who were raised from Zulus by John Dunn in Zululand in 1879.  (Tylden.  P 76)

The Second Anglo Boer War.  The second Anglo Boer War saw the use of scouts on a large scale on both sides.  The British army deployed its Field Intelligence Department (FID) to coordinate intelligence related activities.  Unfortunately the British Army did not realise the true value of the FID and consequently did not use it to the full. Had things been different the war could have been concluded somewhat earlier.  The Intelligence Corps as a badged corps did not exist per se but infantry, cavalry, Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery provided officers to fulfil the intelligence function.

The ZAR formed a Geheime Politie (Secret Police) department for the express purpose of collecting information.  This department fell under the direct command of Jan Smuts the Transvaal State Attorney of the time.   This Secret Service recruited just over one hundred agents in the pay of the government who operated throughout South Africa and also in Rhodesia, Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique).  (Ref - Dr Kamffer's thesis).  Their work was of very high quality and reports submitted by these agents often included photographs of military equipment in use by the enemy accompanied by detailed descriptions and other supporting information.  Jan Smuts was well aware of the military situation in the British “camp” and the ZAR government was in possession of accurate intelligence on dispositions, the terrain and infrastructure for much of Natal.

General de Wet also saw the need for scouts and appointed Danie Theron to do this work for him.  In turn Theron established a “Corps of Guides” known as the Danie Theron Wielrijders Rapportgangers Corps.  Theron is seen as the father of the SA Army Intelligence Corps.

Shortly after the time of  Union in 1910 the Union Defence Force was established and this was the start of a new structuring process.  The need for operational and tactical intelligence was proved over and over again despite the fact that the Defence Act did not specifically mention the establishment of an Intelligence Corps.

The following scout type units were raised for service in the Anglo Boer War:

Beddy's Scouts.  Raised at Haenertsburg in 1900 and operated in the northern Transvaal.  (Tylden.  P 41)
Border Scouts.  Raised at Upington in May 1900.  Coloured troops only.  (Tylden.  P 44)
Colonial Scouts.  Raised at Pietermaritzburg in November 1899.  Had five squadrons.  (Tylden.  P 68)
Dennison's Scouts.  Raised at Vryburg in September 1900.  Saw action in the western Transvaal.  (Tylden.  P 72)
Driscoll's Scouts.  Raised for service and saw action at the siege of Wepener.  (Tylden.  P 74)

Elliot's Border Scouts.  Raised and served in the Eastern Cape.
French's Scouts.  Raised and served in the Cape province in 1899.  (Tylden.  P 85)
Gatacre's Scouts.  Raised in the Eastern Cape in 1899.  (Tylden.  P 86)
Imperial Yeomanry Scouts.  Raised in 1900.  Served in the Transvaal.  (Tylden.  P 96)
Kitchener's Fighting Scouts.  Raised in December 1900.  Consisted of two regiments.  (Tylden.  P 105)
Le Gros Scouts.  Raised in 1899 at Colesburg.  (Tylden.  P 107)
McLean's Scouts.  Raised in 1901 in the eastern Cape.  (Tylden.  P 110)
Menne's Scouts.  Raised in Natal as part of the Colonial Scouts and operated in the Eastern Transvaal.
Morley's Scouts.  Raised in the eastern Transvaal in 1901.  (Tylden.  P 115)
Struben's Scouts.  Raised in 1900 and attached to 11 Division of the British Army.  (Tylden.  P 188)
Tempest's Scouts.  Raised in June 1901 and served with 17th Bde British Army in north east OFS Brandwater basin.
Warren”s Scouts.  Raised in Griqualand West in 1900.
Warwick's Scouts.  Raised in 1900 and served with British General Methuen in the Cape.