The Regiment was raised on the 1st of May 1903 from amongst members of the Railway Pioneer Regiment (1899 –1903) and the Rand Rifles, both of which had fought alongside the British Forces during the South African War of 1899-1902.
The Regiment featured very prominently within the mining establishment at the time and its cap badge further re-enforced it's link to the gold mining industry.
In 1906, Witwatersrand Rifles sent a contingent on active service to Zululand during the Bambatta Rebellion, and in 1907, Witwatersrand Rifles absorbed all ranks of the Transvaal Light Infantry.
The outbreak of the Great War saw the Regiment mobilise and depart on war service in German South West Africa. At the end of this successful campaign, virtually all members attested for service in the overseas service battalions many of whom went into the Witwatersrand Rifles company of the 3rd South African Infantry Battalion, which won everlasting fame at the battle of Delville Wood in the Somme. Other members served in the Witwatersrand Rifles company of 7th South African Infantry Battalion which saw service in German East Africa against the forces of General von Lettow Vorbeck.
The 1922 Rand Revolt, saw the Regiment engaged in operations against rebellious miners who were attempting to overthrow the government of General Jan Smuts.
The inter-war years saw the Regiment excel in competitive shooting, something it remains a leading force in, having won the Gold Cup Shooting Trophy during 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003, as well as the Schumacker Cup, for being the Unit with the best marksmanship in the SA National Defense Force in 2010.
During the early 1930's an affiliation was concluded with the Cameronian's (Scottish Rifles), with Witwatersrand Rifles adopting the uniform (including wearing black rank insignia) and many of the customs of this famous British Army Lowland Regiment. This heritage remains integral to the Regiment despite the Cameronian's having disbanded in the 1960's.
South Africa's declaration of war against Germany in 1939 resulted in Witwatersrand Rifles expanding into two battalions. As both battalions were denuded as a result of having to send replacement personnel to combat ravaged units up north, Witwatersrand Rifles was only deployed to Egypt in 1943, there it was amalgamated with Regiment De La Rey, the combined Regiment, the famous WR/DLR or "Royal Boere" saw much action in Italy, particularly at Monte Caprara and Monte Stanco as a component of the 6th South African Armoured Division.
The post World War 2 period of 1946 - 1994, has seen the Regiment on active service in the then South West Africa/Namibia, Angola and internally on the Botswana Border border as well as on urban operational duties. In 1981 the Unit converted from motorised infantry to mechanised infantry - using Ratel Infantry Fighting vehicle (ICV).
In 1999, the Regiment deployed a full Company of 180 volunteers in support of the South African Police Services (SAPS) during South Africa's second democratic election. (Operation Agpanthus)
The Regiment was invited to attend both the Centenary birthday celebration and the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother, who was Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment). The Regiment formed an alliance with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB in 1995) to re-establish and maintain it's Scottish links.
The Regiment celebrated it's Centerary Birthday on 1 May 2003 with an Officers Formal Dinner and a commemoration parade. In 2005 members of the Regiment deployed on peace keeping operations in The Democratic Republic of the Congo and in 2008 & 2009 the Regiment deployed a full company to the Sudan as part of UNMIS (UN Mission In Sudan). In 2010 & 2011 the Regiment deployed a full company on border patrol duties.
The Regiment is one of the few Military units in South Africa that has a street named after it. (Wits Rifles Drive along the N17 highway)
The Regiment has 14 Battle Honours;
Casino II, The Greve, Allerona, Monte Stanco, Monte Salvaro, Florence, Monte Quercia Bella, Sole Caprara, Po Valley, Monte Fili, Gothic Line, Camposanto Bridge, Italy 1944 – 1945 and South West Africa 1914 – 1915.
The Regimental Colours are Black and “Jungle Green”. As such the Regimental members wear black rank insignia.
As a rifle Regiment, Witwatersrand Rifles has maintained the tradition of not carrying Ceremonial Regimental Colours, as a result, the Regimental Battle Honours are displayed on the banner of the Regimental Pipe Major.
The Regimental Cap Badge The Regimental Collar badge The Regimental "Black Douglas Tartan".
The silver Regimental Cap badge has a Maltese cross in the centre to represent the Honour of the Regiment. Next to it is the two rifles representing the Regiments’ status as a Rifle Regiment. On top of the Maltese cross is the bugle, the symbol of all rifle regiments (the bugle that has never sounded retreat). It is surrounded by 10 Protea flowers (the protea is South Africa’s National Flower) the 10 proteas represent the letters CAMARONIAN, in honour of the camaronians to which the Regiment was affiliated. On top is the Camaronian Star and at the bottom the units’ motto “Pro Deo Et Patria” “For God and Country”. Lastly inside the Maltese cross is a mineshaft representing the Regiments strong links to the mining community of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
Regimental motto: "Pro Deo et Patria" (For God and Country). This motto was adopted in 1961, when the Republic of South Africa became a republic, prior to 1961 the motto was "Pro Deo et Rege et Patria" (For God, King and Country).
Regimental headdress: Glengarry (for Junior NCO's) or Kilmarnoch with black hackle (For Warrant Officers and Officers).
The Regiment celebrates it’s birthday in the first of May every year and holds its’ annual “Wits Week” Parade on the Saturday closest to the 16th of April to commemorate the battle of Monte Stanco, the last battle fought by the Regiment in the Second World War and the battle where the Regiment sustained its highest casualty rate.
REGIMENTAL MARCH: WITHIN A MILE O' EDINBURGH TOWN - Click here to download (MP3 - 2,56MB)
MP3 Recording courtesy of Pipe Major Rodney Kuck and the WR Pipe Band.
The Regiment has "the freedom of the city" of the following cities: Germiston, Johannesburg, Barberton
The Regiment has a memorial in the Regimental grounds where commemoration services are held. A memorial was also erected in the town of Barberton during Word War II. Barberton was the last transit camp before the regiment left South Africa to deploy to North Africa. A yearly “raid” is held by the members of the Regiment and the Regimental association to the town of Barberton. The Regiment was awarded the freedom of the City of Barberton in 2002.