Commandant George Hamilton-Browne


Hamilton-Browne was the archetypal colonial adventurer. He was originally from Ulster, born of a soldiering family in 1847. He failed to enter Sandhurst or Woolwich and had to progress the hard way. His deep-seated respect for commissioned officers is clear throughout the biographies he wrote after his retirement. He was almost continuously in action for more than 30 years between 1866 and 1897. Browne started as a driver in the RHA, then served a time in the Papal Zouaves before his first colonial adventure in New Zealand in 1866. This was as far as he could go to avoid the consequences of a duel in Italy that ended with the death of his opponent. He served as a major in Tempsky's Forest Rangers and ended up as a captain in the 1,000 strong Field Force under Colonel Whitmore. He saw a great deal of action in the campaign against the Maori leader Te Kooti. During his time there he learned the Maori language and earned the life-long nick-name of 'Maori' Browne. He left NZ in 1870 and went to Australia where he was badly wounded in the chest. After he recovered he went to the United States to fight against the Sioux.

In 1877 he went to South Africa and met Colonel Pulleine of the 24th who offered him a command position in Pulleine's Rangers, an irregular infantry unit made up of railway navvies, to take part in the 9th Cape Frontier War. There wasn't much fighting and the war soon ended. His next commission was as commandant of the 3rd Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent to serve in the invasion of Zululand. The three regiments of the NNC were made up of primitive black people who had been driven into Natal over the years by the warlike activities of the Zulus. Hamilton-Browne had a low opinion of their usefulness but found that he was lucky enough to have 3 companies in his battalion which were made up of Zulus who had formerly served in Cetshwayo's army but had been driven out by the men under Silhayo's command. These 3 companies contained good fighters, warriors keen to get revenge for their forced exile.

In his book 'A Lost Legionary in South Africa' Browne gives a full description of his activities in the war including the attack on Silhayo's kraal and the events leading up to the catastrophe of Isandhlwana. The NNC were mostly discredited on that day and the 3rd Regiment was disbanded. After the Zulu War he was in the Bechuanland Expedition and then, while in Kimberly, he joined the Diamond Fields Horse. He took part in the 1888 campaign in Zululand and later the First and Second Matabele Wars of 1893 and 1896. The photo shows him as a square-jawed 43 year-old major, adjutant of the Diamond Fields Force c1890. He lived until the age of 69 and died in Jamaica in 1916.

Books by G Hamilton-Browne

With the Lost Legion in New Zealand (Werner Laurie 1900)

A Lost Legionary in South Africa (Werner Laurie 1911)

Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion (Werner Laurie 1912)


Zulu War | Zulu War Significant Individuals





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