Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Volunteer Military Units – The Initial Iterations

The initial impetus to establish some form of volunteer military force in Port Elizabeth arose due to the perpetual threat posed by the warring Xhosa tribes.

To augment the British forces stationed in the Cape, especially in times of crisis, the British established volunteer military units throughout the Cape Colony. In the beginning they were typically of short duration to meet a specific threat posed to the colonists but later these temporary units would be replaced with units of a more permanent nature.

This blog will cover all such volunteer forces and units until the first disbandment of Prince Alfred Guards in 1860.

Main picture: February 1835 – Arrival of Harries’ Troop from Palos Kraal with WM Harries in the centre

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Prince Alfred’s Guards: In the Line of Fire

Up until 1942, Prince Alfred’s Guards had always been an infantry unit. This was to change after the Battle of Alamein when it was converted into an armoured unit forming part of the 6th Armoured Division. It was at this juncture that Lt. Arnold (Coley) Colenbrander was posted into this Port Elizabeth unit as a tank commander. This blog covers the miraculous escape by Coley when his tank, an M4 Sherman, was destroyed by a German 75mm anti-tank gun outside Celleno in northern Italy, killing three of his crew.

Main picture: Coley’s Sherman after the battle at Cellano on 10th June 1944. Coley was in the turret when the shell struck the tank

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Donkin Lighthouse – The Light on the Hill

Donkin Lighthouse & Pyramid in 1899


Because they are in such close proximity to one another, I have often considered this lighthouse and the adjacent pyramid as being contemporary structures. Nothing could be further from the truth. This blog, largely based on the 1986 thesis by Jon Inggs, provides the historical detail from the conceptualisation to the erection of the Donkin Lighthouse.

The combination of the pyramid and the lighthouse symbolises Port Elizabeth and is so integral to Port Elizabeth that it could be considered as its trademark. The unique combination very nearly never came into existence as the Harbour Master, Mr H.G. Simpson favoured dismantling the pyramid and using its stone to construct the lighthouse.

Main picture: Signal Ball at Donkin Lighthouse in 1860s

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