South African Military History Society



MAY 2001

PAST EVENTS: The April meeting was an exceptional and memorable Society event. From the middle of last year, in July 2000, when we first announced that April 2001 was to be an "Isandlwana Evening", there has been high enthusiasm from all members. It was an enthusiasm that was fully justified.
A full house of members and friends arrived early and there was a high level of expectation. That some of the "friends" left as members only proved that the expectation was confirmed by the events of the evening, when for the first time the Society had a meeting when two speakers were to talk on the events of a single battle. Ron Lock, a long-term member of the Society, started proceedings by explaining how he and his friend Peter Quantrill had started their long investigation into the issues surrounding the Battle of Isandlwana. He then explained how their research had led them to the belief that a new and modern video was required and how various people helped them make that video a reality.

The result is a highly professional video called "ISANDLWANA - THE ZULU BATTLEFIELD" and after his introduction Ron Lock played the video on a large screen to a highly appreciative audience. The video lasted 55 minutes and no one wanted it to end. It was produced with a highly integrated interplay between the current scenery of Isandlwana and the surrounding KwaZulu-Natal countryside (all beautifully filmed), the imaginative use of two old films - "Symbol of Sacrifice" and "Voortrekkers" and a dramatic use of modern graphics to depict the battle itself. The way the old black and white footage, some of which dated back to 1916, was integrated with modern computer graphics made a strong visual impact and this was re-emphasised by the use of a mix of traditional military music, the Welsh National Anthem and Zulu music recorded back in 1933. Ron Lock was responsible for the historical aspects of the video, together with the writing of the narrative description, and his co-speaker Peter Quantrill, a retired Ghurkha officer, was responsible for the military accuracy of the contents.

The interval was held at the end of the showing of the video and the auditorium was buzzing as everyone talked about the contents, and the quality of the video we had all just enjoyed. When the interval ended Peter Quantrill was introduced, and he spoke on Lord Chelmsford - The Cover Up. The role of Lord Chelmsford has been debated at length for the last 120 years plus, as colleagues, historians and researchers have argued their extreme views of support or criticism. No one has an impartial view on the role on the role played by Lord Chelmsford throughout the Anglo-Zulu War of 1899 and Peter Quantrill was no exception. He took his position from original sources and set his view on the "cover up" by quoting from a range of personal letters, reports and despatches from those involved and were either very close to the decision making and/or involved in the various battles of the war itself. He also quoted from the documents produced from the official Court of Enquiry that was held at end of the war, and in an interesting way compared those reports with the individual letters already quoted. By doing it this way, our guest speaker was able to highlight the facts, the disagreements and the plain dishonesty of those attempting to put the blame for their own actions on to other colleagues.

Taking these various sources Peter Quantrill, with great skill, pulled them into line to prove his point that there was a planned cover up of the role and actions of Lord Chelmsford. This cover up was not just for The Battle of Isandlwana, but also for his actions throughout the Anglo-Zulu War of 1899. Whether the drive for the cover up came from Lord Chelmsford himself, or from the Government of the day, still remains an open issue. The debate will continue, but the research carried out by both Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill , helped all present to a much greater understanding of those major events of 122 years ago.
There then followed a planned Question and Answer session, which prior to being opened to the full audience, was led by Professor Mike Laing and Ken Gillings. They delved in depth, into a number of specific issues raised during the two presentations, and in so doing, provided a positive endorsement to the conclusions presented by our two speakers.
The evening ended with a warm vote of thanks by Brian Thomas, who thanked our two speakers for providing us with a memorable evening.

o The final version of the video ISANDLWANA - THE ZULU BATTLEFIELD will be available from the end of May 2001 at a price of R 128, and comes highly recommended.
o In addition, our presenters have published THE RED BOOK. This is a collection of every newspaper report from the whole of the Anglo-Boer War, from the Ultimatum to the Peace Treaty, as published in all Natal newspapers of the time. The book, which is a limited edition of 500 copies only (and over half have already been sold), is bound in "look alike" red leather with gold lettering.
o Finally, our presenters will be publishing a definitive account of the Battle of Isandlwana and The Cover Up in a new book to be published by Greenhill Books in the 3rd quarter 2002.
o To purchase the Video and/or the Red Book, or to get more information on the book due for publication next year, please contact Ron Lock on 765-7048, or Peter Quantrill on 764-1948.


Due to the importance of the "Isandlwana Evening", the 2001 AGM was not held as scheduled at our April meeting. All members of your current committee are willing to stand for a further year, but if any current member is willing to stand for election, or knows of other members, who are willing to be proposed and seconded, please contact Dr. Ingrid Machin and give the details to her, before the April[?] meeting.

At the time of finalising this newsletter, we have learned of the death of fellow member Colonel Franz Verfuss. He last spoke to the Society as a main speaker, at our October 2000 meeting when he presented his own personal involvement in "Physiological Warfare in the South West Africa Campaign". Among his many military interests, he was the Chairman of The Gunners Association. We pass the condolences of all members of the Society to his wife Esme and their two daughters.


PLEASE NOTE: Following the clash of dates with Easter, and the decision to move the April meeting to the 3rd Thursday of the month, we are now back to our normal dates of the 2nd Thursday, starting on 10 May 2001.

Our Chairman, PAUL KILMARTIN, will give the main talk for the May meeting. He will be giving us the next in his series of talks on the main battles fought by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during the 1st World War. With his talk on "GAS: THE 2nd BATTLE OF YPRES" he reaches April 1915. This was a year of consolidation for all armies on the Western Front. The activities on the Eastern Front began taking precedence for the German Army and the British made their controversial attempt to open a new front in Turkey, much against the wishes of the GOC of British forces in France and against the vehement opposition of the French government and the senior officers of the French army.
Then on 22 April 1915, the German army used chlorine gas as an offensive weapon for the first time in the war, and the 2nd Battle of Ypres had started. It caused panic in the French forces, who were the first in line to the attack, and the Battle was a close run affair as British and Empire forces fought a series of battles that finally forced the Germans to end their attempt to break through the Allied lines in Flanders. The Germans gained ground and forced a reduction in the ground held by the Allies in the Ypres salient, but the line held with both sides suffering heavy losses.

The evening will start with a pre DDH talk. It will be our pleasure to welcome 17 year old school girl ALLANAH PUGH-JONES, from Crawford College, La Lucia. She will represent the Grade 11 finalists in The Young Historians Competition, held in Durban at the end of last year, and ALLANAH will repeat her 10-minute address on BRITISH EVASION OF RESPONSIBILITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

The DDH talk will be given by PAT BUDD, and his unusual talk will be entitled THE LAST FLIGHT OF JUNKERS 88-9K+GN. Should be fascinating!!


For any members who have not yet paid their subs for 2001, this is a gentle reminder to do so as they are now WELL overdue!!. Rates are R 90.00 single, R 99.00 family.

FUTURE SOCIETY DATES : June to August 2001

14th June
DDH - Louis Renault and His Military Involvement - Maj. John Buchan
MAIN - Sidi Rezegh - The Full Story - Philip Everitt
12th July
Base Visit. Natal Mounted Rifles. A tour of their HQ, their new Museum and a briefing on NMR history

16th August
DDH - The last man to leave Delville Wood - Brian Thomas
MAIN - Sergeant Thomas Lane ("ex" VC) - Fiona Barbour

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

South African Military History Society /