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Regiment de la Rey
Regimental badge
Active 1934 – present
Country South Africa
Allegiance Allied forces
Branch Army
Type Mechanised Infantry
Size Battalion
Nickname(s) RDLR
Motto(s) "Ons Waarsku" (We warn)
Engagements Italian campaign
Battle honours

Italy 1944–45

  • Cassino II
  • Allerona
  • Florence
  • Monte Querciabella
  • Monte Fili
  • The Greve
  • Gothic Line
  • Monte Stanco
  • Monte Salvaro
  • Sole/Caprara
  • Po Valley
  • Campo Santo Bridge
Lt-Col (later Brig) H P van Noorden
Lt-Col WD Basson
Lt-Col J Bester

Regiment de la Rey (abbreviated to RDLR) is an infantry battalion of the South African Army. As a reserve force unit, it has a status roughly equivalent to that of a British Territorial Army or United States Army National Guard unit.

Formation[edit | edit source]

The Regiment de la Rey was established in 1934 as one of the new Afrikaans language Citizen Force units of the Union Defence Force. [1]

The regimental badge depicts a lion's head, in memory of Boer General JH de la Rey, the 'Lion of the West' after whom the regiment is named.

Before the Second World War, battalion headquarters were at Rustenburg in the Transvaal. The unit had company headquarters at Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp and Ventersdorp, with a support company at Brits.

Mrs J E Morkel, daughter of General De la Rey, became the first honorary colonel of the regiment.

The regiment was affiliated to the Northamptonshire Regiment of the British Army.

World War II[edit | edit source]

RDLR was called up for full-time service on 18 July 1940. Because the commanding officer, Lt-Col (later Brig) H P van Noorden, was by then commanding a battalion of the Field Force Brigade, command of the regiment passed to Lt-Col WD Basson.

Badge worn by Wits-delaRey battalion after amalgamation.

The regiment was amalgamated with the Witwatersrand Rifles. After training in Egypt, the new unit, Wits-delaRey (WR/DLR) made a name for itself as one of the motorised infantry battalions of the 12th Motorised Brigade in the 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy in 1944–45.

For almost the entire Italian campaign RDLR was commanded by Lt-Col Jack Bester, until he was appointed to command the newly formed 13th Motorised Brigade.

The regiment distinguished itself particularly in taking Allerona on 15 June 1944, in fighting on Monte Querciabella and Monte Fili, and in forcing the River Greve in July 1944.

WR/DLR were the first on Monte Stanco in the Apennines in October 1944 and scored a spectacular success in the final offensive in Italy when they took Monte Caprara on 16 April 1945.

The unit's casualties were among the heaviest in the division. During the Italian campaign 119 soldiers were killed, 576 wounded and 17 were posted missing in action.

On 1 January 1960 the regiment was renamed Regiment Wes-Transvaal with headquarters at Potchefstroom. After objections and strenuous efforts it resumed its original designation as Regiment De la Rey on 1 September 1966.[2]

Captain 'Doempie' Cloete: A regimental legend[edit | edit source]

Capt MDV Cloete MC, Chaplain to RDLR, 1945.

Captain MDV Cloete, nicknamed Doempie, was a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church who served as regimental chaplain from February 1943 until the end of the war.[3] He was a talented rugby player with a most devastating tackle, an enthusiastic player and, on route marches, would outperform many of the tough infantrymen.

In June 1944, the chaplain captured two German soldiers who had been deliberately left behind near the village of Allerona to harass officers of the Allied High Command. Upon discovering their hidden position behind some bushes to the side of a road, Doempie pushed the bush aside and shouted to the two men in Afrikaans: Kom uit kêrels – die oorlog is op 'n einde ('Come out, guys – the war is over'). They heeded his instructions and surrendered. The only ‘weapon' the chaplain had with him was his short officer's cane.[3]

After World War II, he remained in the Union Defence Force and served as chaplain in various units. From November 1950 to December 1953, he accompanied 2 Squadron SAAF, 'The Flying Cheetahs', to Korea which was South Africa's contribution to the United Nations war effort.

In 1960, the Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of Police determined that there was a need for a well organised Chaplain Corps in the South African Police (SAP). Cloete was appointed Chaplain-General with the rank of colonel to establish the Corps.

He retired from the South African Police in February 1975 with the rank of major-general.

On his retirement, he was the most highly decorated member of the SAP. In addition to the 'usual' 1939–1945 campaign medals, he had also been awarded the Military Cross, the Korean Order of Military Merit, 'Ulchi', the American Bronze Star and numerous SAP medals and decorations.

The Border War[edit | edit source]

The regiment participated in the South African Border War, also known as the Namibian War of Independence, the conflict that took place from 1966 to 1989 in South-West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola between South Africa and its allied forces (mainly UNITA) and the Angolan government, South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), and their allies the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Operation Packer[edit | edit source]

Ratel 90 with Ratel 20 on the right

Operation Hooper, in which the main participants were Permanent Force and National Service members, officially ended on 13 March 1988. A Citizen Force call up provided fresh troops into the SADF-UNITA force which had been tasked to drive FAPLA forces from Cuito Cuanavale. This injection of fresh troops allowed Operation Hooper to move seamlessly into Operation Packer. The objective of the operation was to drive the combined FAPLA/Cuban force back across the Cuito River to the west bank.

The primary assault force which was to 'drive the enemy' out of Tumpo consisted of 13 Olifant tanks with crews from Regiment President Steyn, a squadron of Ratel 90's from Regiment Mooirivier (RMR), a mechanised infantry battalion from Regiment de la Rey and from Regiment Great Karoo, three companies from 32 Battalion, three UNITA regular battalions and two semi-regular UNITA battalions plus a number of other components.[4]

Post-1994[edit | edit source]

The regiment is one of only six mechanised units in the SANDF Reserve Force.[5]

1 RDLR took part in the 50th anniversary parade of Regiment Mooirivier in Potchefstroom on 23 July 2004.[6]

2 SA Infantry Battalion, situated in Zeerust, deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from October 2005 to May 2006. A full company of 1 Regiment De La Rey (1RDLR) deployed with them.[7] one mortar platoon 1RDLR – KMDT BOET SCHOEMAN

Battle honours[edit | edit source]

  • Italy 1944–45
  • Cassino II
  • Allerona
  • Florence
  • Monte Querciabella
  • Monte Fili
  • The Greve
  • Gothic Line
  • Monte Stanco
  • Monte Salvaro
  • Sole/Caprara
  • Po Valley
  • Campo Santo Bridge

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Potgieter, DJ (1971). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Nasou Limited. pp. 657. ISBN 978-0-625-00324-2. 
  2. Institute for Security Studies
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wulfsohn, Lionel (June 1996). "'Doempie' Cloete: A Legend In His Own Lifetime". SA ISSN 0026-4016. http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol103lw.html. 
  4. Nortje, Piet (2004). 32 Battalion. Cape Town: Zebra Press. ISBN 978-1-86872-914-2. 
  5. Reserve Force Council Northwest Region
  6. Reserve Force Volunteer magazine of 2005
  7. The Reserve Force Volunteer magazine of 2007

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