South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.265 Cape Town Branch

MARCH 2000

MEDICAL ARRANGEMENTS have become the mainstay of every fighting force anywhere in the world. This fact was underlined by our guest-speaker on 10 February, Prof Villiers. From his vast store of knowledge we were treated to a well illustrated lecture with rare photographs depicting medical facilities, or the lack of them, during the Anglo/Boer War.

On the British side, the facilities arrived from Gt. Britain by boat, and many stationary hospitals were set up in key locations and supplied from bases such as Cape Town. There were also hospital trains, even hospital ships. However, the RAMC, being a very young service, could not cope with the demands made on it, and civil surgeons were appointed to help.

The biggest problem was transporting sick and wounded soldiers from the frontline to hospitals, and for this they used not only stretchers, but also Indian dhoolies and waggons drawn by horses, mules or oxen. The tremendous number of typhoid cases complicated evacuations, since they were higher than actual battle casualties in some areas.

As an aside our speaker debunked the myth of Dum-Dum bullets being used during the war. He explained that ordinary bullets hitting rocks or ricochetting ones, often caused terrible wounds.

The Boer Armies could make use of an extensive medical system including: Het Transvaalsche Roode Kruis, Oranje Vrijstaatsche Ambulance and Private and Foreign Ambulances. Due to the vast spread of Boer forces, small stationary hospitals could not perform a significant role, and it therefore fell to regional and district ambulances to play their part, with doctors often having to keep themselves and use their own transport. and instruments.

For transport mules, donkeys and oxen were used, while the nurses were all male, except for some of the foreign contingents.

The various medical organisations, though, differed much in quality. For instance, the NZASM trains, hospitals, doctors, pharmacists and carriages were well equipped, but the Transvaalsche Roode Kruis never got of the ground because the government was not interested in supporting them, and the ensueing chaos ended only in Jan 1900. As the only formal military medical service, the Staatsartillerie was well equipped and organised.

After the battle of Elandslaagte an information bureau was established for wounded and killed combattants which eventually worked very well with a Burger identification index system which extended even to prisoners.

Locally formed ambulances included Jewish-, French- and Skandinavian contingents who did very good work, and there were also German, Dutch, Russian, Dutch-Russian, Belgian-German, Swiss, Irish-American and Dutch-Indian Red Cross ambulances.

Tony Gordon thanked our speaker for his presentation, and it is hoped that we may induce Villiers to give us another lecture about his special field in the not too distant future.


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

11 May 2000

THE ROYAL ARTILLERY COMMANDO GUNNERS, Post 2nd World War: 1961 to the present.
Talk by Col.J.McGregor plus Video

URGENT NAVAL HISTORY ENQUIRY: Any member who has knowledge or information on propeller(s) of BRITISH LIGHT CRUISERS of the period 1890 - 1910, i.e. type, details of size, shape, makers, is asked to contact Maj Anthony Gordon at 671 4500.

BOOK CORNER: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ZULU EMPIRE by fellow member Alan Mountain. The book deals with the Life and Times of Shaka, Dingane and Mpande, and also covers Zulu domestic life of this period. It is illustrated with archival and contemporary photographs and pencil sketches. Contact Alan at 794 7850 or at P.O. Box 659, Constantia, 7848.


NAMAQUALAND-ANGLO/BOER WAR WEEKEND: Hosted by the Okiep Country Hotel from 20 to 24 April (Easter Weekend). The programme covers the period prior to the siege of Okiep, the battle of Springbok, the surrender of Concordia and the relief of Okiep. It includes illustrated lectures as well as battle-site visits. For further information please contact Norman Featherstone at 02774 41060.

NEWSBREAK: A charitable endowment fund to support the Castle's Military Museum was launched at a special meeting of the Friends of the Castle Military Museum on 23 February. The Castle and its Military Museum are a major drawcard not only for Capetonians and Cape Town's tourists, but also for, scholars and students alike. However, its future and potential for expansion have been uncertain. The new Castle Military Museum Foundation will provide executive management support for the Museum and will give it a new lease of life. It will also facilitate fundraising and sponsorship, and will market the Museum effectively.

The Foundations' primary objective is to promote the public's awareness and enjoyment of the true story of the Cape's (and thus South Africa's) military history, leading to a unique CASTLE EXPERIENCE.
It will also seek to conserve artefacts and property of a Cape heritage nature, to ensure that these are not lost, destroyed or exported.
A number of new informative exhibits have been created and the Museum plans to develop further exhibits, with interactive audio-visual displays and other events and activities that visitors can participate in and enjoy. The Foundation has been formed by the S.A. Military History Society, Cape Town Branch, represented by Maj Anthony Gordon and Cdr Mac Bissett (Simon's Town Naval Museum) as founder members, and the Cape Town Military Heritage Trust, which represents Cape Town's five traditional volunteer regiments: the Cape Field Artillery, the Cape Town Rifles (Dukes), the Cape Town Highlanders, the Cape Garrison Artillery and Regiment Westelike Provincie, acting in partnership. These five regiments are also campaigning for the Cape Corps to be recuscitated and restored to its rightful place as Cape Town's most senior volunteer unit. The Foundation will be chaired by Advocate Dave Mitchell of the Cape Town Highlanders. Its other trustees are Dr John Austin, Col Ozzie Baker, Cdr Gerry de Vries, Maj Cecil Graham (Hout Bay & Llandudno Heritage Trust) and Mr Natie Greef, Curator of the Castle Military Museum.
The Minister of Defence has been invited to become the Foundation's Chief Patron.
As far as the Castle Complex itself is concerned, considering the new focus on core business in the S.A.N.D.F. and the anticipated closing down of Western Province Command, the Museum will play an important role in presenting a TOTAL CASTLE EXPERIENCE. This Newsletter will keep members informed about developments, and anyone wishing to join the Foundation or contribute to its goals and objectives may contact Mr Natie Greef at the Castle Museum, P.O. Box 1, Cape Town 8000, or tel 469 1153/fax 469 1089, or telephone Tony Gordon at 671 4500 or John Mahncke.

The meeting was followed by another of Dr. Dan Sleigh's outstanding, tongue-in-cheek, superbly illustrated slide talks on the Dutch East India Company at the Cape. He highlighted the strategic significance of the Cape in the evolution of international trade and colonisation between East and West over the last 500 years. This led directly to the building of Cape Town's Castle of Good Hope in the 17th Century. It is South Africa's oldest building and was the country's first seat of government and the cornerstone of its subsequent history and development.

DRIVE FOR NEW MEMBERS: Our promotional flyers are still available as well as additional copies of our Newsletter to be sent to interested parties. Please contact John Mahncke

Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each months at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (of f Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line. Visitors are welcome. Donations R 3.00, (students and scholars free). Tea and biscuits will be served.

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

South African Military History Society /