|Identified on the reverse by a period inscription as Mr H. Garland this cabinet photograph depicts an officer or senior
NCO of the Natal Mounted Rifles. He is in all likelihood the same H. Garland who as a trooper in the Victoria He
wears the 1877-79 South Africa Medal (which is often referred to as the Zulu War Medal) with the single clasp
awarded for that war. The Natal Mounted Rifles were formed in 1888 from several Zulu War-era volunteer units
including the Victoria Mounted Rifles (VMR), the Stanger Mounted Rifles, the Alexandra Mounted Rifles and the
Durban Mounted Rifles.
The son of a prominent Natal resident Thomas William Garland of Kent and his wife Henrietta, Garland was born at
Verulam, Natal on 24 September, 1854.
He enlisted as a trooper in the VMR in 1877 and served as previously stated in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, receiving
a Mention in Despatches for actions around the mission station at Eshowe. After the war he continued with the Natal
volunteers serving for some 18 years total and eventually rising to the rank of Quarter-Master (30 October, 1885).
This photograph probably shows him while holding that rank. He does not seem to have done any active service during
the Anglo-Boer War.
He was active in several other organizations including the Kearsney Rifle Association and the Zulu Border Rifle
Association. He made his living in civilian life as a draper and auctioneer. On 7 May, 1881 he married Miss Elizabeth
Stanley of Chatham, Kent. The couple had at least one child, Leslie Caskell Garland who died at the age of two in
Garland became something of a celebrity in Stanger in his later years being referred to as "Old Alph" by the locals.
In Carel Birkby's 1937 book Zulu Journey the author describes having a billiards game with Old Alph as he recounts
his memories of early Natal and his part in the Anglo-Zulu War. One interesting event took place at Eshowe. While on
vedette duty he slipped off to have a swim and was almost caught by the Zulus. In the book he also laments the fact
that as a boy he did not buy a section of land in D'Urban for the then asking price of £1 per acre. By the time Alph
was playing his billiard game the same land was selling for £7 per square foot! In the book the author describes
Garland as roaming "around the hot town with a smile and a joke and a challenge to billiards for everyone." Birkby
also stated a game of billiards with Garland was like "a cross between a literature lesson and a music-hall turn.".
These descriptions are somewhat at odds with the formidably stoic looking figure in the above photo.
In Zulu Journey Old Alph makes no mention of serving during the Anglo-Boer War. Perhaps the subject never came
up but it could also imply as I surmised above that by the turn of the century his soldiering days were behind him. No
mention of him has been found in the medal rolls associated with the Anglo-Boer War.
He lived to the ripe old age of 85 years, dying on 16 October, 1939 and was buried at the cemetery at Stanger.
A special thanks to Mr. Cameron Simpson for providing additional biographical details on A. H. Garland.
William Laws Caney - Photographer
Late of D'Urban & Kimberly, South Africa