South African Military History Society

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Despite the last cold snap of the winter, the August meeting kicked off well with an almost full house attendance. Chairman Ivor Little opened the meeting with the usual notices, which included a short reminder by Bob Smith about the upcoming tour to the SAAF Museum at Swartkops, Pretoria. This will take place on 11 September, meeting at the Museum at 10h00. Admission is free but a donation to the Museum is expected. For further details contact Bob Smith at 082-858-6616.

These formalities completed, Ivor then delivered the curtain-raiser. This was entitled "The Chilean Navy in Antarctica" and covered his experiences as an exchange officer with the Chilean Navy in 1978/79. Serving as Assistant Navigator in the attack transport Aquiles, Ivor sailed south from Valparaiso, via Talcahuana, Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams to the Antarctic continent.

Using a Power Point presentation, Ivor described life in the Chilean Navy and the voyage via the fjords and "inside" passage down to the Straits of Magellan, through the Beagle Channel, around Cape Horn and on to the South Shetland Islands. A short spell in these islands, and a few visits to the Chilean bases in the vicinity, was followed by calls on the Antarctic coast itself and then Deception Island.

Describing various incidents along the way, some amusing and some tragic, Ivor then brought the audience back to Punta Arenas and back home to South Africa.

Ivor then introduced the main speaker for the evening. This was Judge Kathleen Satchwell of the Johannesburg High Court.

Kathie's heart lies in the Eastern Cape, where she was born, and her talk was a sequel to her prizewinning talk last year on the young lads of the Eastern Cape who went off to fight in France in World War I and didn't return. Titled "Lost Boys", this talk centred on three more young lads from the Eastern Cape whom Kathie had spent some time researching in Flanders. These were Hubert Openshaw, Clive Halse and Eric Dold, whose names appear on the Bathurst District War Memorial.

Hubert Openshaw was born and raised in Bathurst where he attended the local school, at which he was an average scholar. His high school education took place at Port Alfred Public School, where he obtained his Junior Certificate (Grade 10), an acceptable qualification for leaving school in those days. He obtained a post as an attendant at the Port Alfred Mental Asylum and played for the Asylum Cricket Club, although not very well.

With the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted as a gunner with the machine gun section of the 1st Eastern Rifles. He was 22 years old, six feet tall, fair complexioned, with blue eyes and dark hair. After service in the German South West African campaign, on 10 September 1915 he re-enlisted in Potchefstroom and was posted to the Machine Gun Corps. He served briefly in North Africa with the Corps and was with the Corps as part of the 2nd SA Infantry when it moved to France. There the unit was based near Armentieres before being shifted, via Amiens, to the Somme area.

The battle of the Somme lasted from July to November 1916 and on the first day of the battle the South Africans were at Bray. On 10 July, they moved up to Maricourt and at Montauban into trenches captured from the Germans. The role of the South African Infantry (SAI) was to take the forests on the right of the British line, before proceeding through a valley up to the high ground, where the village of Longueval and Delville Wood dominate the landscape.

Despite the fact that the Germans still held various strong points along the route, the SAI accomplished this mission and entered Delville Wood on 15 July. In the carnage of that battle Hubert Openshaw was listed as killed in action in Delville Wood on 16 July 1916. This was reported in both the casualty list and in the local newspapers, after Mrs Openshaw had been advised accordingly. However, this was not correct. Kathie's research into Hubert's life revealed that he had in fact died of wounds on 14 July. More careful research revealed that Hubert Openshaw had been a casualty of a direct hit on his gun by a shell outside Bernafay Wood while waiting to go up to the front. He was formally buried in a simple grave in the vicinity. His mother was never told of this discrepancy and it can be assumed that rather than go through all the administrative detail for one soldier, the South African authorities simply included him with the other 2 536 casualties incurred at Delville Wood a day or two later.

The area where Hubert was buried was the scene of subsequent heavy shelling and the grave was obliterated. However, it is possible that in the subsequent cleaning up operations after the war that Hubert's body was recovered and interred at either Quarry or Caterpillar Cemetery as an unknown soldier. However, his name appears on the Thiepval Memorial and in St John's Church, Bathurst, where he is listed as "fell at Delville Wood" and on the Bathurst District Memorial.

Kathie's second young soldier was Clive Halse. This young lad came from a completely different background from Openshaw. His family had substantial assets and he was educated in Vryburg in the Northern Cape, Kingswood and Selborne College, where, although he was an excellent sportsman, he was a very poor scholar, failing matric at the age of 19. He then found employment on one of the family farms in the Northern Cape where he also engaged in part-time journalism for the "Northern News".

On 2 November 1914 he enlisted and served as a trooper with Cullinan's Horse in the South West African campaign. On 14 April 1915, he obtained his discharge and proceeded to England to join the "British Flying Corps". He was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps on 19 July 1915 as a second air mechanic for basic training at Birmingham and then on an advanced flying course at Netheravon. While at this base he had an argument with an aircraft propeller which resulted in a double fracture of his right arm. He made a satisfactory recovery and, when not using his family's influence in an effort to get accelerated promotion, occupied himself by writing a series of articles entitled "On the Wing" for the "Northern News".

Having learned to fly on a Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter, Clive was granted a temporary commission as 2nd Lt (on probation) and finally posted to the Royal Flying Corps. In late March or early April 1917, he was with the 70th Squadron at Fienvillers, near Amiens, and on the morning of 24 April 1917 took off in his Strutter on a reconnaissance mission. His 'plane was shot down in a fight with German Albatros D.IIIs. Hit in the engine, Clive went into a glide but was then attacked by Fritz Otto Bernet and plunged in flames into the ground near the Abbaye de Vancelles. He was posted missing and his family was informed accordingly. His father, Walter, then pulled every string among his influential contacts to try and ascertain whether or not his son had been killed, including a personal visit to the UK. All this was to no avail until finally, in October 1917, one of his squadron fellow pilots confirmed that he had seen Clive Halse's plane crash in flames well behind the German lines. Matters rested there until 1920 when Adelaide Lord headed a War Office mission to search for those missing in action in Flanders. She found Clive Halse's grave in the German area of the Communal Cemetery of Bantouzelle, near Arras, behind a local cross known as The Calvary. There were about 250 German graves, four UK soldiers and Clive. The latter five were later moved to Honnechy Military Cemetery by the French and his gravestone can still be seen. His name also appears on the Selborne College and Kingswood memorial plaques at those schools.

After the war, his father bought a farm in Stellenbosch which he named "Bantouzelle" after the village where Clive had been buried first.

Kathie's final Eastern Cape "boy" was Eric Dold, son of a farmer and connected by birth to most of the important families in the Eastern Cape. He lived most of his life in Martindale, between Grahamstown and Port Alfred, and attended Clumber School in Clumber before moving on to Kingswood.

He was an outstanding scholar and athlete, taking part in cricket, rugby, the Literary and Debating Societies and contributing to the school magazine. He became a prefect, played for both the 1st Eleven and 1st Fifteen, achieved his school colours and several prizes. He was also a 2nd Lt in his school cadet corps.

In 1917 he enlisted and was sent to Borden Camp in England for basic training. There, too, he did well, especially in Brigade sporting activities and on 6 December 1917 was posted to the 2nd SAI at Rouen in France, joining them on 29 December 1917.

The SAI was in and out of the front line and subjected to heavy shelling and filthy weather until March 1918, when they found themselves at Gauche Wood. They were not in trenches but were thinly spread in a series of key positions. Early in the morning of 23 March 1918, and in thick mist, the British line was encircled by German forces and so withdrew to make a stand at Marrieres Wood. At sometime during this withdrawal and stand Eric was wounded and captured, most likely in Gauche Wood. He died of his wounds while in captivity and his family was notified according by the Germans, through the Red Cross. He was buried at Le Cateau and his name appears on a plaque in the Memorial Hall at Kingswood and in the Kingwood Chael. There is also an ornate plaque in Clumber Church.

His name also appears on the Bathurst District War Memorial.

At the close of Kathleen's talk there was a brief question period, after which Ivor called upon committee member Colin Dean to thank both speakers. This was done and the meeting adjourned for tea.

Ivor Little,

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