South African Military History Society




PAST EVENTS: The DDH talk for our October meeting saw the final report back by our Vice-Chairman, Bill Brady on his ongoing saga in getting hometown recognition for Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell VC. As you may recall, way back in 1997, Bill Brady presented a short talk entitled "Hometown VC" on how F/O Campbell, who incidentally, happened to come from our speaker's hometown, Saltcoats, won his VC. Briefly, F/O Campbell succeeded in torpedoing the German pocket battleship, "Gneisenau" while it was berthed in the heavily defended, German-occupied French port of Brest in April 1941, thereby effectively putting it out of action for the next nine months. In the long term it was a decisive action in that in all probability it saved Britain at a time when she stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, F/O Campbell's aircraft was shot down shortly after he had launched his torpedo and he was killed in the action.
What was so unique was that his VC was awarded posthumously nearly a year after the event on information supplied by the French Resistance. What was intriguing was that his own hometown, Saltcoats, had never honoured him. It was this anomaly that our speaker set out to rectify.
To cut a long story short, Bill raised a storm and his efforts succeeded in getting the Town Council of Saltcoats to erect a memorial plaque over a public bench near the town's War Memorial. This plaque was finally unveiled at an impressive ceremony in April this year, nearly half a century after F/O Campbell's gallant action had taken place. Our speaker was one of the guests of honour and his report back to our Branch covered all the events that had taken place.
Once again we offer our very sincere congratulations to Bill for his dogged achievement. Not only did he obtain long overdue recognition for a very brave, but almost forgotten man, but he also succeeded in giving our Society international exposure on what we are all about.

Our main talk for the evening was given by Colonel Franz Verfuss and it can only be described as living history. His talk was entitled, "The Psychological War in the Border Conflict" and it took us into the hearts and minds of the indigenous population of what is now known as Namibia.
Quoting from the writings of various Communist leaders, he said that the basic premise was that modern warfare is psychological and that troops are only used to occupy land that has already been won in the minds of its inhabitants. While the West was slow to employ these methods, the Eastern Bloc countries have used them to great effect in most of their revolutionary conflicts since WW2.
The Border War between South Africa and South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) lasted 22 years and only ended in 1988 when both sides called it quits and South-West Africa was given its independence to become Namibia. Our speaker was involved for a period of 12 years from 1976 to 1988, during which time he was concerned with the various aspects of psychological warfare. For convenience he split the conflict into three main phases as follows: -
The first phase was from 1966 to 1974, when it was mainly a police operation. The second phase was for the period 1974 to 1976 when it became obvious that the police were unable to handle the conflict and the third and final phase was from 1976 to 1988 when the SA Defence Force took over both internal and external security duties.
The first phase was a typical Eastern Bloc propaganda campaign with SWAPO taking every opportunity to hammer home the theme of South Africa's illegal occupation of SWA. A typical example of this period was when SWAPO took a geographically illiterate Swedish TV journalist to a village in Angola that had been destroyed by the Portuguese security forces. He was told that the village was in SWA and that the SA Police had committed this atrocity. His subsequent TV report was broadcast internationally and succeeded in turning world opinion against South Africa.


Johan Wassermann will give the main talk for the November meeting, and his subject will be The Battle of Holkrans. This was a short and unexpected uprising by Zulu forces against the Boers and took place on 6 May 1902. It was in response to the Boers taking Zulu cattle and then challenging them to take them back. They did, in which Thomas Packenham describes in his book on the War as "an alarming episode". The Boer losses were greater than in many of the conventional battles of the Anglo-Boer War. It will be fascinating to learn more about this unusual Boer/Zulu battle, fought in the last month of the War.

In what is becoming a regular event in the Society calendar, the November DDH will be given by Professor Mike Laing. His subject, as in recent Novembers, will be a variation on the life of General George Patton. Patton wrote his own poetry and prayers and these will be discussed and then combined with the views and comments of Patton's son, Major-General George Patton (jnr). As always, when Mike Laing is talking to us, we can expect the unusual and the unexpected.

ARMISTICE DAY: Saturday 11 November 2000

Another tradition for the Society is the annual meeting with the MOTHs to pay homage and to remember the end of the 1st World War on 11 November 1918. This year will be the 82nd anniversary of Armistice Day and for the first time since we started these meetings in 1994, it will be held on a Saturday. We meet at The Old Fort Road Shell Hole at 10.30am, when our Chairman Paul Kilmartin will give a talk on an aspect of the history of Armistice Day and will end in time for the 2-minute silence at 11.00am. Drinks will be served after the silence.

THE ANNUAL DINNER: Thursday 14 December 2000

The last gathering of the Society this year will be our Annual Dinner. It is being held at Lord's Ground on the second Thursday in December. It will be a braai, which at R50 per head will reduce the price from our previous gatherings at restaurants and clubs. There will be cash bar - the cheapest in Durban and the world !! - and you can bring your own wine for the payment of a corkage fee of just R10. More details will be provided at the next meeting. Those wishing to attend should make their names known at the next meeting, or contact PAUL KILMARTIN (561 2905 h, 082-449-7227 cell, or 268 7400 w) or BILL BRADY (561-5542) in order to book their places. Again we are hoping for a good turn out of members and friends at what we are sure will be a pleasant and sociable evening to end the year.

Dr Ingrid Machin
Secretary: Durban Branch
4 Hadley,101 Manning Road,Glenwood,Durban,4001
Telephone: (031) 201 3983

South African Military History Society /