South African Military History Society


Founded 1965
P.O. Box 59227
2100 South Africa
Tel (+27)(11) 648-2087
Fax (+27)(11)648-2085

The 35th Annual General Meeting of the Society took place on Thursday 19th April. The Chairman reported satisfaction with the affairs of the Society, all three branches having increased their membership although the total was still just shy of 500.

The loss of such significant contributors as Maurice Gough-Palmer, George Chadwick and Kemsley Couldridge was brought to mind by the sudden passing of Tony Spier, for whom a minute's silence was observed at the AGM.

The Website was spreading the Society's name ever further afield. Readership "hits" had totalled 235 759 from April 2000 to March 2001, the January totals having more than doubled to 29 000. Through the site many articles from 30 years of Military History Journals - many now out-of-print - are reaching researchers and enthusiasts world-wide.

The 1999 Military History Journal had finally made its belated appearance but paying for it as well as the two Journals for 2000 had directly resulted in a deficit of R7 504 for the 2000 book year.

Meetings at all three venues had been well-attended due to the variety and standard of the lectures presented, with several visitors applying for Society membership.

Mr Hamish Paterson was again elected as Chairman and the other Committee members are: Mr George Barrell, Mr Colin Dean, Ms Marjorie Dean, Mr Heinrich Janzen, Dr Felix Machanik, Mrs Joan Marsh, Mrs Lynn Miller and Mr John Murray.

The subject of the evening's lecture was the Bayeux Tapestry. The speaker, Neil Lee, explained that the tapestry, which is really an embroidery on bleached linen with the figures stitched in woollen thread, depicts a series of events of tremendous historical significance, culminating in the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. This was arguably the most important battle ever fought on English soil, because it changed the whole course of British history.

It is generally accepted that this dramatic account of the Norman Conquest was commissioned by Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and half brother of William the Conquerer, Duke of Normandy. Who did the work is not accurately known, although it was once believed it was William's queen, Mathilda, and her court ladies. That is why it was originally known as La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde. But 19th century researchers decided that a work containing so much lewdness could not be attributed to women of such rank. So it became known as the Bayeux Tapestry because Mathilda presented it to the cathedral at Bayeux, where it has been ever since.

The tapestry is 70m long by 50cm wide. It is made up of eight sections joined as a single strip. Tapestries are normally designed to cover large areas of wall, but the Bayeux Tapestry is more like a frieze. It includes 75 different scenes, in what today we would call a "comic cartoon". The action is set in the years 1064 to 1066, and records the most important political question of the day - who was to succeed the childless king of England, Edward the Confessor.

There were three contenders for the throne. One was Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, whose claim was based on the fact that three of his kinsmen had ruled England from 1016 to 1042. The second was Harold Godwinson, son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, the most powerful magnate in England at the time. Harold's main claim was based on the fact that his sister Edith was Edward's queen. The third claimant was the formidable William of Normandy, whose claim was based on a promise made to him by Edward during the 25 years when the latter was a refugee at William's court.

The action begins when Harold is send by Edward to William to confirm his nomination as Edward's successor. It proceeds with Harold's adventures at William's court and the solemn oath he is obliged to make to William on holy relics. On Edward's death Harold ascends the throne claiming that his oath to William was made under duress. Before William can invade, Harald Hardrada lands in north-east England and is joined by Harold's rebellious brother Tosdig. Harold marches north and wins the subsequent Battle of Stamford Bridge. Both Harald and Tosdig are killed. On learning that William has landed, Harold hurries south with his mounted housecarls - his knight retainers - leaving his foot soldiers, including his archers, to catch up. William's army includes both archers and cavalry, and when the two armies meet at Hastings, in present-day Sussex, Harold, reinforced only by local conscripts, is forced to take a defensive position on a nearby hill.

William is victorious in the battle that followed. The tapestry ends with Harold receiving an arrow in his eye, but immediately afterwards being cut down by a mounted Norman.

Brigadier Malcolm Kinghorn gave the vote of thanks.



10 May
CR Colin Dean - Early Submarines
ML Hamish Paterson - Wars of the Roses part 11
* Above late change due to unavoidable absence of Rod Hooper-Box *
14 June
CR Geoff Hardy - General George H Thomas
ML George Barrell - The Battle of Britain


10 May
DDH Pat Budd - The Last Flight of the Junkers 88 - 9K + GN
ML Paul Kilmartin - Gas: The 2nd Battle of Ypres

Cape Town

10 May
Wing Commander E S A Nash - The Sinking of UIT - 22: South of Cape Town in March 1944 by 262 Squadron RAF

George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581

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