South African Military History Society


MAY 2000

At our 24th Annual General Meeting on 13th April, the Honorary Treasurer, Mr.Bob Buser, reported that our finances are in a healthy state. Regrettably, increases in postage tariffs and copying forced a slight increase in annual subscriptions, however our membership has remained almost constant, a few members having resigned due to advanced age, and new members joining the ranks, and we now have 100 members.

The previous Committee was elected unopposed.
Chairman: Derek O'Riley
Vice Chairman: John Mahncke
Hon.Treasurer: Bob Buser
Members: Maj Tony Gordon, Johan van den Berg.
Robin Smith was confirmed as new member.

Any member, not present at the AGM, but wishing to obtain a copy of the Balance Sheet can telephone Bob at (021) 689 1693

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE is one of the glorious disasters that befell the British Army, and which has intrigued military historians ever since. Robin Smith presented us with a superbly illustrated, well researched lecture not only of this famous incident, but of the entire catalogue of conflicts in this area, at the same time drawing analogies between this and subsequent engagements, and the much larger German army advance into Russia almost 90 years on. The charge itself was a 30-minute action in the Crimean war lasting more than two years. France and Britain, allied with Turkey, went to war with Russia, principally in the Crimea in the Black Sea. The objective of the Allies was to capture Sevastopol. On 25 October 1854 the Light Brigade was only at forty percent of its strength due to cholera having reduced its ranks to that of a regiment. Five cavalry regiments took part in the charge. They were commanded by Maj.Gen Lord Cardigan, who reported to Lt.Gen Lord Lucan, commander of the Cavalry Division, but they both hated each other, and this undoubtedly led to the Light Brigade's ruinous attack down the Balaclava plain against Russian guns and rifles. Furthermore, ambiguous orders and interpretations resulted in confusion, and although the Russian battery was destroyed, losses of men and horses were such that the Brigade was no longer a fighting force. There were two more major engagements, both at Inkerman, ending with British victories. But winter proved a worse adversary than the Russians, and operations ceased until warm weather arrived (together with the army's warm greatcoats - six months late!). On 18 June, an attempt was made to storm the defences of Sevastopol which was a total failure. A further attack on 17 September succeeded and the Russians evacuated the city. The British army now reinforced and well supplied was keen to continue the war, however pressure from Austria forced the Allies to open negotiations with Russia and a peace agreement was concluded in March 1856.

Sevastopol once again became a strategic objective, when German armies advanced into Russia in 1941. General v.Manstein fought a masterly campaign to capture and subdue the Crimea, although outnumbered by his enemy, and by December his 11th Army and the 3rd Roumanian Army had fought their way to the outskirts of the city. But when the Russians managed to land 200 000 troops at Feodosiya, the Germans had to withdraw to counter the new threat, eliminating two Russian armies in the process. In May 1942, the assault was resumed, this time with success, and the port was firmly in German hands.
Two years later, in 1944, the position was reversed when huge Russian formations were brought to bear on Sevastopol. Totally outnumbered and outgunned, the German 17th Army stood its ground after Hitler had refused to give permission to a withdrawal, and when they were eventually allowed to retreat, losses and casualties suffered were of a magnitude comparable to the disaster at Stalingrad.
Through a visit to the Crimea, Robin has become intimately acquainted with this area, the port and its history, and his presentation closed with a report about present-day Sevastopol, supplemented by slides about people, conditions, monuments and fortifications.


11 May 2000

Post 2nd World War, i.e. 1961 to the present.
Talk by Col.J.McGregor plus Video

8 June 2000

(Their part in the Normandy Invasion, a Bridge too far, and the Battle of the Bulge)
Illustrated Talk by Stan Lambrick

13 July 2000

Talk by Mr. J.P.Creighton

WELCOME TO NEW MEMBERS: Colin Campbell and William Rudd

SUBCRIPTIONS: Members who have not yet paid their 2000 subscription are reminded to do so soonest.
Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (off 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 /