South African Military History Society


The curtain raiser at the 11th May lecture meeting took the form of an Anglo Boer War magic lantern slide show given by committee member Lyn Miller. The slides belong to Major Ronald Andrews, JCD and Bar, and were purchased in London by his father in 1902 after the war had ended. They covered the war from October, 1899 to 5th June 1900, as it was assumed that the war was over once the capitals of the Boer Republics had fallen. The commentary gave a wonderful reflection of British attitudes to the war in 1900 with it's obvious pride in the English military tradition and it's paternalistic view of the recalcitrant Boer leaders!

The slides, painted in glorious glowing colours on glass, although very slightly out of focus due to the necessary enlargement, illustrated very vividly various conflicts and personalities of the war. The society would like to express it's thanks once again to Major Andrews for allowing us to show the slides at our meeting.

The main lecture at the society's May meeting was given by Elsabé Brink. Her lecture was entitled "The plight of Johannesburg's Civilians prior to tbe outbreak of the Anglo- Boer War". Mrs Brink's lecture dealt with the Zulus in Johannesburg and their march back to Natal. She opened her well-illustrated lecture with a description of the circumstances which led the Zulus to seek employment in Johannesburg.

It was interesting to hear how the Zulus formed profitable employment which did not require them to work underground. One group made a good living doing laundry. As their numbers were substantial (some 7000 would take part in the march) the Natal Colonial Government appointed an agent to look after their interests. The man chosen was J S Marwick who was a Zulu linguist of some note. He and his brother once joined a group of Zulus, at night, and the fact they were of European descent was only detected at dawn.

As war approached Marwick made considerable efforts to get the Zulus back to Natal but about 7000 remained by the time war approached. The group assembled at the Agricultural Showgrounds (now part of Wits University) and Marwick made strenuous and ultimately successful efforts to obtain permission to move the Zulus to Natal. Mrs Brink described how between the self-discipline of the Zulus, Marwick's diplomatic skills and the commercial instincts of the shopkeepers of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek the journey was successfully made. Mention was made of the difficulties of the march which were well revealed by the contemporary photographs that illustrated the lecture.

Mrs Brink concluded her lecture with a comment that showed that even with a war in progress that the Natal Government Railways employees did not forget that their first duty was to run the railway at a profit. It certainly prevented the Zulus from receiving any compassion for their refugee status. Although history, until recently, has largely forgotten the epic feat of the Zulus led by Marwick, the Zulus did not. When Marwick died the hillsides around the cemetery were covered with Zulus who came to pay their last respects to a man who, although a paternalist, had when the chips were down, carried out his duty.

Mrs Brink's lecture was a fascinating insight into what should be a better-known aspect of the Anglo-Boer War.


On Saturday, 13 May 2000, a small group of 14 members went by coach to the Rustenburg/Swartruggens area to join up with a few members from the Rustenburg Military History Study Group in visiting two battlefields in the area. We went first to the British Military Cemetery at Moedwil, which had been cleared of this season's grass, especially for our visit. Here we heard something of the history of the cemetery from Lionel Wulfsohn, as well as his account of the commemoration that took place there in 1951, attended by many veterans of this Boer War battle on both the British and the Boer War side!

From the cemetery we went to a vantage point overlooking the actual Moedwil battle site where we were given a graphic overview of the battle that took place here on 30 September 1901 by Tour Guide, Peet Coetzee. Unfortunately, time did not allow us to visit the Boer Cemetery at Dwarsspruit.

Our next stop was the Military Cemetery at Swartruggens where the casualties from the Siege of Elands River Staging Post between the 4th and 16th August 1900 were buried. Here we had lunch and a demonstration and an account of the heliograph signalling device.

The afternoon was spent walking the Rhodesian and the Australian defences in the area, and seeing an overview of the battle site from different perspectives. Some of the trenches and sangars that had been recently exposed from the bush in the area were certainly impressive and once the GPS Survey of the site, presently underway, has been completed, and the area mapped out, it is assured of more visitors than in the past. We also heard plans for the official commemoration of the battle on 5 August this year, which will have Australian and Zimbabwean as well as South African participation.


Johannesburg @MEETING = 11 May CR Lyn Miller An Anglo-Boer War Lantern Slide Show

@MEETING = ML Elsabe Brink The Plight of Johannesburg's Civilians Prior to the Outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War


9 March
Philip Everitt The Engineers at War
Frank Bullen All the Queen's Horses and all the Queen's Men

Cape Town

9 March
Major Anthony Gordon The Battle of Pieter's Hill and the Relief of Ladysmith

George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581

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