South African Military History Society



The announcement that fellow member Helmoed Heitman would present his annual State of the African Continent Address, secured us a large audience, and we were not disappointed. Regrettably, since he spoke to us some 16 months ago, nothing much has changed, on the contrary, borders which had been safe until now, are under threat of being sliced open, with political, ethnic and terrorist battles pulling this continent further away from a peaceful solution to its multifacetted problems. From Eritrea and Somalia, the DRC, Uganda and Burundi, just to mention a few, the unimpeded flow of arms and ammunition virtually guarantees disinvestment in our country, and the inefficient UN peacekeepers fail everywhere they are deployed.

Another menacing development is the proliferation of pirate ships or fast motor launches, who ply their trade along the African Westcoast and along the coastlines of Kenya nand Tanzania, making shipping routes unsafe.

To counteract these disturbing situations, South Africa really needs a strong defence force, but here we are dismally lacking. The Army, with its overblown, partially inefficient and top-heavy command structure and racial problems, stemming from forced integration of the old SADF, MK and APLA, will have to be thinned down at the top and reconstructed from the bottom up. This will require sensitive handling, patience and dedication, - and time! The air force needs beefing up, there seems to be little going on, but it is hoped that senior command is gearing itself and all units up to take over the new aircraft, once they have arrived for service. Fortunately, helicopter pilots were able to show their mettle during flood- and fire emergencies.

The Navy appears to be the exception. Expecting to be supplied with four super-modern frigates in 2002 and 2005 and three submarines between 2005 and 2007, they have diligently trained, educated and honed their sailors of all ranks and races to be ready for the day of the hand-over ceremonies Our speaker did not tell us much about the submarines, except that they will have a top speed of 20 knots under water and 12 knots surfaced, and that they will be used, among other things, for the protection of our fishing waters, which are being pilfered at an alarming rate by pirate vessels.

The frigates are built by German construction companies, have a length of 120 m, a 100 men crew and 3 800 tons weight. They are bristling with weapons and rockets, and are designed to be very stable in heavy weather. They have almost no radar reflection by virtue of their indented hull design which deflects radar signals either up into the air or down onto the water surface. Powered by twin diesel engines and a gas turbine, all specially screened against heat-seeking missiles, the warships have a top speed of 27 knots, and also have facilities to repair their own guns and house 2 helicopters on board.

After a lively question and answer session, the evening came to a close. Constraints of space and circumspect reporting unfortunately preclude the writer to repeat the many excellent and telling anecdotes and vignettes, as well as the illuminating and sarcastic comments made by the speaker.

Fellow member Tony Gordon thanked him for another job very well done and expressed the hope that we would see him again next year same time for the presentation of another, and perhaps more positive, update.


9 November 2000

Sq Ldr Patrick Wells DSO will continue his talks about his personal experiences in WW 2

December 2000

In recess

18 January 2001

Please note that the first Society Evening will be on the THIRD THURSDAY OF JANUARY.
Talk by Cdr Les Sin RN (British Naval & Air Attache)
8 February 2001
Talk by Rodney Constantine
6 March 2001
THE LONGEST RETREAT: The retreat from Burma, January to May 1942
Illustrated Talk by Lt Col "Dickie" Bullen MC (Middlesex Yeomanry), Member of the Burma Star Association

It is with deep regret that we announce the death in Johannesburg of Bernard Kemsley Couldridge, a long-serving committee member of the society and a former chairman. He died on 3 September 2000 aged 57. Our condolences go to his wife Sharon and his family.

A collection of old and new military books is for sale at the Rondebosch Library. If you are interested please contact Mike Webb for further details and to view. Tel.: 689 5689 H

Any member willing to speak, or anyone who knows of a good speaker on a military topic of interest, or who would like to have a specific subject presented at our evenings, is asked to contact our Chairman: Derek O'Riley at 689 2309.

Chairman and Committee Members wish every member of our Branch a Very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous and Healthy New Year.

Meetings 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 /