First City Regiment

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First City Regiment
SADF First City Regiment Flash.jpg
SANDF First City Regiment emblem
Active 1875 to present
Country  South Africa
Type Light Infantry
Role Air Assault and Training
Size One Air Assault battalion & a Training Wing
Part of South African Infantry Formation
Army Conventional Reserve
  • RHQ: Drill Hall, Hill Street, Grahamstown
  • Training Base: Fort Ihlosi Training Base, Grahamstown Military Base
  • The Fighting Grahams
    (Airborne Highlanders)
  • During WW2 the FC/CTH wore the Green and Gold Hackle and were nicknamed "the Budgies"
Colours (8)
  1. 1876 Regimental FCVA
  2. 1904 Kings Colour QVR
  3. 1904 Kings Colour FCV
  4. 1905 Regimental Colour QVR
  5. 1905 Regimental Colour FCV
  6. 1965 Regimental Colour FC Damaged by fire
  7. 1969 Regimental Colour FC
  8. 1989 National Colour FC
March Bonny Dundee
Mascot(s) Albany Leopard
  • Founders Weekend closest weekend to 18 November
  • Delvillewood July of each year
Battle honours
Gaika Gcaleka 1877
Basutoland 1880-81
Bechuanaland 1897
South Africa 1899-1902
South West Africa 1914 - 1915
Madagascar 1942
Italy 1944-45
Casino II
The Greve
Gothic Line
Monte Stanco
Monte Pezza
Po Valley
South West Africa/Angola 1976-1989
South Africa 1879
Officer Commanding Lt Col Roger Albert Keeton DWD 2006–
  • The Duke of Kent, Maj Gen, HRH Prince George KG MC GCVO 1935–1942 KIA
  • His Grace the Duke of Montrose KT CB 1946–1961
Honorary Colonel Col Cecil Peter Jones-Phillipson SM (Appointed 2010)
Tartan Graham of Montrose
Company level Insignia SA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Motorised Infantry beret bar circa 1992
SA Motorised Infantry beret bar

First City (abbreviated to FC) is an air assault infantry regiment of the South African Army. As a reserve unit, it has a status roughly equivalent to that of a British Army Reserve or United States Army National Guard unit.[1]


Colony Frontier

The regiment was formed from the First City Volunteers (FCV) of Grahamstown that were formed in 1875 in Grahamstown and the Queenstown Rifle Volunteers (QVR) that were formed in 1860 (Re-raised 1883) in Queenstown and these regiments were formed due to the unrest on the then frontier.

Grahamstown First City Volunteers emblem

The QVR and the FCV fought in the Cape Frontier Wars and the 9th Frontier War (1877–1878). The QVR fought in the Morosi Campaign (1879). The FCV fought in the Basutoland Gun War (1880–1881). The QVR and the FCV later fought in the Bechuanaland campaign (1897), and in the Second Boer War (1899–1902).[2]

Union Defence Force

On 1 July 1913, the QVR amalgamated with the FCV and was incorporated into the Citizen Force of the new Union Defence Force as the 4th Infantry (First Eastern Rifles). It served in German South-West Africa 1914–1915.[2]

However, in 1924 the First Eastern Rifles were renamed the 4th Infantry (First City). The numerical part of the title was dropped in 1932, making the regiment simply First City. First City is never called First City "Regiment" . When spoken of it is "The" First City.

In the mid 1930s, the regiment adopted Scottish uniform, including the Graham of Montrose tartan.

World War 2

During World War II, FC served in the Madagascar campaign (1942). On 5 October 1943, First City, South Africa's senior Scottish unit, was temporarily "married up" with the Cape Town Highlanders to form the FC/CTH which was part of the 12th South African Motorised Brigade of the South African 6th Armoured Division. The "marriage" lasted until 8 May 1945. After completing its training in Egypt, the division landed at Taranto, Italy on 20 April 1944 and fought exclusively in Italy during its existence.[3] In 1946, the regiment was reconstituted as a component of the country's part-time forces and reformed First City.[2]

From 1954 to 1956, FC was amalgamated with the Kaffrarian Rifles, known as First City/Kaffrarian Rifles. In 1956 it reverted to being called First City.

Freedom of the City

  • Grahamstown 4 September 1962
  • Queenstown 25 January 1964

Border War

The regiment served in the South African Border War from 1977 to 1986, and was also involved from 1983 until 1994 in Internal Operations.[clarification needed] The regiment was affiliated with 84 Motorised Brigade, part of 8th Armoured Division.

Post 1994

In 2004 it was decided to rebuild First City and by 2006 the regiment was training its own members as well as members of the Prince Alfred's Guard, The Buffalo Volunteer Rifles and Regiment Piet Retief these all being Eastern Cape regiments. Many members have also been trained in Air Assault. The Regiment has also sent members on UN & AU peace keeping missions to the DRC, Burundi and the Sudan.

2008 saw First City winning the trophy for the best reserve force regiment in the SA Army Infantry Formation. The regiment retained this award for 2009.[1]

Regimental Symbols


  • Bonny Badge: silver crest of Montrose; directly behind the void areas of the badge on the Montrose tartan the following is worn:
    • Scarlet – officers and warrant officers
    • Blue – All other members
    • Maroon – All Airborne qualified members
    • The officers & WOs wear a diamond-shaped tartan backing, while the NCOs and Rfn wear a square tartan backing.
  • Cap badge backing (1935– ): Graham of Montrose tartan. 1935 to 1943 pale red hackle also worn.
  • 1943 to 1945 only a green and gold hackle was worn during this period. FC/CTH
  • Collar badge: albany leopard on a branch
  • Shoulder & epaulette title: "First City"
    • Officers & WOs wear the gold metal epaulette designation on the red tab.
    • NCOs & Rfn wear a gold and green cloth shoulder title
SADF era First City Regiment insignia


Blue Balmoral bonnet with blue and white dicing, with a red toorie in 1935. The regiment's Highland company wore a Tam o'shanter without the toorie from 1906–1913, while the pipers wore a dark blue Glengarry. The new blue glengarry with blue and white dicing has the Maroon toorie to symbolise the regiment's airborne role. (Worn by officers & WOs) The khaki tam o'shanter when worn by air assault members has a maroon toorie. (Worn by S/Sgt/Rfn) The officers and WOs when in service/combat dress wear the light khaki balmoral.


Graham of Montrose. The highland company was kilted in 1906, while the officers and warrant officers were allowed to wear trews from 1935 and the whole regiment was kilted in 1940.


New motto: "Expecto" (be alert/be prepared/I await)

  • Old FCV Motto: Virtute et opera (By Virtue and Deeds)
  • Old QVR Motto: Semper Paratus (Always Ready)

Current Dress Insignia

SANDF era Infantry Formation insignia


Battle honours

Gaika Gcaleka 1877
Basutoland 1880-81
Bechuanaland 1897
South Africa 1899-1902
South West Africa 1914 - 1915
Madagascar 1942
Italy 1944-45
Casino II
The Greve
Gothic Line
Monte Stanco
Monte Pezza
Po Valley
South West Africa/Angola 1976-1989
South Africa 1879


From Colonel-in-Chief To
1935 The Duke of Kent, Maj Gen, HRH Prince George KG MC GCVO 1942
1946 His Grace the Duke of Montrose KT CB 1961
From Honorary Colonel To
1989 Brig Gen A C Chemaly SM MMM JCD 2009
2009 Col Cecil Peter Jones-Phillipson SM Present
From Commanding Officer To
2017 Acting Maj Robin Collins Present
From Regimental Sergeants Major To
2003 MWO Craig Stuart Brown MMM JCD 2013


  1. ^ a b "First City - The Fighting Grahams" (PDF). Republic of South Africa: Defense Reserves. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Unit Info First City Regiment". South African Military Units. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  3. ^ "6 SA Armoured Div". Retrieved 10 November 2017.
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