South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.264 Cape Town Branch


MALAYAN EMERGENCY had its origins in the late 1920s when a small group of Chinese-based Communists sought to overthrow the British colonial administration and establish a Communist-controlled republic. Ironically, when Japan invaded the Peninsula in 1941, the British supported the Communists in a joint campaign against the Japanese. But once the war was over, the battle for Malaya re-started and became a costly thorn in the side of Britain for a further dozen years, while the sun of the British Raj slowly set east of India forever.

So, when our speaker at our Society evening on 13 January 2000, the Rev.William Goble and his wife Grace arrived in Singapore in 1954, they were immediately confronted by the conflicting emotions of a multi-cultured people who were still immersed in a political and military struggle. This influenced and guided Bill in his missionary and teaching work as house parent, padre and administrator of an expatriate prep-school for missionary children in the Cameron Highlands near a British army school. Bill was also elevated to the post of honorary, unpaid army padre for many of the British units that did their duties close by from time to time.

The shameful surrender of Singapore and the infamous railway of death from Thailand into Burma still haunted its survivors, as well as soldiers and civil servants who served in Malaya in 1954. Just two years before the war in Korea had come to an end, with the terrorist skirmishes beginning.

It was against this backdrop that our speaker painted a unique as well as most interesting canvas of remembrances about happenings and people, down-to-earth and eccentric. Interspersing his presentation with poetry readings and anecdotes, he kept the audience entertained with descriptions of days long past of a sometimes quasi-colonial lifestyle. He mentioned the names of the Cameron Highlands and Bangkok, where he was made Chairman of the Chaplancy Board and, besides other duties, helped the American soldiers serving in Vietnam to heal and overcome their psychological and physical wounds. With his portrait of the dangerous but also beautiful jungle in all its myriad manifestations some of our older listeners could only but agree. It was especially the bamboo that captured Grace and Bill's fancy, so much so that they named their house in Cape Town Singing Bamboo, because they could never forget the sound of the bamboo groves clashing noisily in the monsoon winds.

Bill and his wife remembered their life during those colourful if often painful fourteen years with fondness, and since they were fluent in Thai and had a smattering of Malay, made friends among the locals.

Maj Anthony Gordon, who had served in Malaya at the same time, was able to add to Bill's chronicle with a few stories of his own, and also brought with him his old accoutrement used over there, with the smell of mud and grass still adhering to it. It was a most enjoyable evening, and members now look forward with great interest to a further episode in the Far East travels of the padre.


This year's Membership Renewal Forms are enclosed. Members are asked to kindly complete the forms and mail them in the enclosed pre-paid envelopes as soon as possible.


10 February 2000

Talk by Prof.Kay de Villiers

9 March 2000

Talk by Maj Anthony Gordon

13 April 2000

CONFLICT IN THE CRIMEA, 1854-56 and 1942-44
Illustrated Talk by Robin Smith

DRIVE FOR NEW MEMBERS: To attract new members, the Committee has printed a Poster which will be available at lecture evenings, and can also be obtained from the Scribe. Our aim is to put Posters up in the following places: Sports Clubs, Social Clubs, Museums, Libraries, Moth Shell Holes, Universities, Schools, Book Shops, Churches, in fact anywhere where there is a public notice board. It would be appreciated if Members could help to publicise our Society as our number is, unfortunately, gradually shrinking by resignations due to old age.


SOCIETY JOURNAL: Full Members are advised that the December 1999 issue will be available in the near future. Delays were experienced at the Printer's in Durban, but we have been informed that changes instituted should lead to regular supplies from now on.

BOOK CORNER: A Volume of "Twenty Significant Historic Battles of Kwa-Zulu-Natal 1818 - 1901" has been produced by Art Publishers. The text is by Durban Branch Member Ken Gillings. Further information can be obtained from Johan v.d.Berg.

NEW BOOKLISTS FROM: Johan v.d.Berg (tel. 939 7923) and Rodney Constantine (tel. 61 3980) are now available. Anyone who would like to receive further information please phone direct.

MUIZENBERG HISTORICAL SITES: Rhodes' Cottage and The Posthuis have been taken over by the Muizenberg Historical and Cultural Society and are open to the public. An entrance fee is payable.

Meetings are held on the second Thursday of every month at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line. Visitors are welcome. Tea and Biscuits will be served.

John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /