The name popularly applied to the Cape Coloured Corps men or ‘Pandours’ was originally raised by the Dutch East India Company to defend the Cape against British attack in 1795. They formed part of the force of Dutch troops, mercenaries and burgher militia under Col. R. J. Gordon, commander of the Castle garrison. The wounding of an English picket by one of their scouting parties on 3 August 1795 precipitated the English attack on Muizenberg and the fighting which ended in the capitulation on 16 September 1795. The ‘Hottentots’, as they were referred to in 1797, became the Cape Corps under the British, and in 1802, on the restoration of the Cape to the Dutch, became known as the Hottentot Light Infantry.
In 1806, with the return of the British, new terms of capitulation laid down that the battalion could march to Simons Town and enter British service, which most of them did, the corps being re-designated The Cape Regiment, but the name ‘Cape Corps’ still persisted. The corps rendered good service along the eastern frontier, and in Aug. 1827 was re-organised as a cavalry unit and renamed the Cape Mounted Riflemen.
1st World War
The name Cape Corps was revived during the First World War, when two infantry battalions of Cape Coloured men were raised by the Imperial authorities and fought in East Africa and Palestine, their best-known action being the capture of Square Hill in Palestine on 19 Sept. 1918. After the armistice in 1918 the Cape Corps formed an association with a band, which again volunteered for active service in the Second World War, when the Cape Corps was reformed on 8 May 1940 under Col. C. N. Hoy, who had commanded one of the battalions in the First World War. Col. G. A. Morris, who had commanded the other First World War battalion, on 26 June 1940 formed the Indian Services Corps, which on 19 Dec. 1940 – with Indian, Malay and Cape Coloured volunteers – became the Indian and Malay Corps.
2nd World War
The Cape Corps played many roles during the Second World War and, although originally intended as non-combatants, eventually supplemented European manpower in coastal batteries and in field artillery in South Africa, though they were withdrawn from 22nd Field Regiment, S.A. Artillery, before the regiment left South Africa. They fought in both the 15t and 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments in North Africa and, while being used as prisoner-of-war guards in the desert, Cape Coloured Corps men were also put into the line at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942.
A total of 45,015 men served in the Cape Corps during the Second World War, suffering 3,012 casualties, of whom 246 were killed, 470 wounded in action and 515 taken prisoner. The Cape Corps was disbanded in June 1948, though some Cape Coloured men remained in uniform in the auxiliary services in various non-combatant capacities. In 1963 a South African Coloured Corps was established as part of the Permanent Force, with an initial establishment of some good under White officers, and this has replaced the Cape Corps.