A New Zealand Antique Arms Association project
By Henry Firmston
The Boer Republics of the Oranje-Vrijstaat (OVS) and the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) declared war on the might of the British Empire on the 11th October 1899 and finally surrendered on the 31st May 1902. In the nearly three years that came between they gave the British, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “a jolly good lesson”.
The Burgers of the two republics were organised into “Commandos”; loose collections of mounted riflemen, based on their district or town of origin. They were required to have, a horse, rifle, ammunition and to report for service when called on by their government. To encourage regular rifle practice local Wapenschouws (weapon shows) were held, where the burgers competed in rifle competitions. The large proportion of burgers who lived off the land, farming and hunting, ensured that a good number of the Boers were excellent shots and fine horsemen.
After the Jameson raid, of 1896, the governments of the ZAR and OVS embarked on extensive programmes of upgrading their firearms, with large purchases of the new Mauser rifle and millions of rounds of ammunition. At the outset of the Boer War the two republics had, 50,000 Mausers, 43,000 Martini Henrys, 10,000 Westley Richards, 6,000 Guedes, 3,000 Lee Metfords, and 100 Krag-Jorgensens.
The early military successes of the two republics stunned the British and brought a call for assistance from throughout the Empire, the colonial nations of the Empire responded with enthusiasm. The troops supplied by Australia Canada and New Zealand served with distinction, from the time of their arrival until the end of hostilities. A grateful Britain rewarded it’s faithful Dominions with trophies, the spoils of war, with which to commemorate their part in the British victory.
The governments of Australia and New Zealand were rewarded with gifts of captured Boer rifles and artillery pieces.
In an endeavour to record the details of the South African Trophy rifles, the rifle serial numbers, and other pertinent details (many Boers made decorative carvings on the stocks of their rifles), the NZAAA intends to create a register of SAT numbered rifles. The intention of this register is to provide a record of the rifles, their SAT numbers and other details, as a research tool. It may not be widely recognised but these SAT numbered rifles are unique to NZ and are therefore of historical significance.
Persons with examples of these historic rifles in their collection are asked to submit the details of their rifle/s for inclusion on a rifle register, to be available on the NZAAA web site.
The register would be anonymous, with only those rifles that are held in the public domain, having their ownership details noted (with the owner’s consent). Members are requested to send information to; email SAT Rifle Register or to
Fax 04 586 0896
Ph 04 589 5391
Members may also send information in care of:
The Wellington Branch NZAHAA.
SAT Rifle Register
PO Box 50713
The information requested includes;
Rifle serial number
Bolt serial number
OVS / ZAR markings
Bolt Handle, Bent / Straight
Rifle or Carbine
Original order or Sporterised
Carving or other non-standard markings (a picture would be appreciated).
Persons who supply details are requested to provide a telephone number, e-mail or other contact so that they may be contacted if there are any questions regarding details of their rifles.
Published NZ Antique Arms Gazette, June 2004 pages 6 & 7