NEWSLETTER No 408
The Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture was presented by fellow member Ricky Nortje and entitled 'The South African War Graves Project'.
The idea to photograph and archive the South African and Rhodesian WW1 & WW11 war dead, originated about 7 years ago, when a young Canadian named Ralph McLean, was travelling in France archiving Canadian war graves. On seeing the large scale and contribution of Southern Africans graves, he realised the great need for a Project purely dedicated to the South African sacrifice and cause. He set up a website and began the hard work of networking and broadcasting, in an attempt to find and recruit local South Africans as well as international volunteers. The Project was received with so much interest that the scope of the archive, had to be broadened to accommodate most of Southern Africa's conflicts. These conflicts include: 2nd Anglo-Boer War, Bhambatha Rebellion, WW1, Rand Revolt, WW2, Korea, Freedom Struggle, Angola / Border War, Non World War and the South African Police.
The mission of the S.A.W.G.P is to archive photographs of every single South African & Rhodesian war grave from the conflicts mentioned above. These photos will either be in the format of a picture of a headstone or a name on a memorial. These photos will eventually be made freely available to the family, friends of the deceased serviceperson, school groups, veterans groups, historical society's and MOTH shell-holes through website. Realistically, most of the families and friends of South Africa's (and Rhodesia's) war dead will never get a chance to visit the graves of these fallen service people due to the distances and expenses involved with such a journey. Hopefully by archiving these photos the Project will be able to close a missing chapter in many people's lives by supplying them a photo of the last resting place of a loved one. By archiving these photos, the S.A.W.G.P will have created an online South African national war cemetery. The future generations in turn will hopefully be able to learn from this archive and remember the fallen. It is the plan of the S.A.W.G.P to make this a completed work and then donate it wholly, without cost, to the National Archives of South Africa and / or the South Africa National Defence Force in order to preserve South Africa's human cost for its part during these struggles for freedom. Currently, the website only has project information relating to cemetery locations and to show the unpaid efforts of the project's worldwide volunteers. The South Africa War Graves Project has no database to search from other than the cemetery lists.
The South Africa War Graves Project currently has no official status with the government of South Africa or any of its agencies. It is a non-political project and only acts on behalf of remembrance. The project director, any future board of directors and volunteers are and will remain unpaid. Any monies donated are used towards project equipment and expenses.
The project belongs to no one person but to each and every volunteer that contributes to it. Without these volunteers this project would not exist. To date, there are around 500 volunteers worldwide. The task at hand is to cover the 79 countries that have war graves or names on memorials of South African & Rhodesian service people. There are at least 1686 cemeteries and 79 memorials to photograph worldwide. The total of WW1 & WW11 South African/Rhodesian graves/names that need to be documented is in the region of 29,000. There is a further estimated +30,000 graves/names required for the other conflicts. Terry Cawood is the South African national coordinator and has the task of trying to get the 6763 South African WW1 & WW11 war dead located and photographed within South Africa as well as the thousands of deaths related to all the other conflicts. To date, the Project has recorded around 23,000 graves/names. Currently the Project is finalizing to add around 1,000 black servicemen to the roll of sacrifice. These men died in the service for "Freedom" but, there names were never submitted to the Imperial War Graves Commission after WW1. Furthermore, Cawood and Derek Walker have made huge progress in regards to identifying several S.A.D.F soldiers that were never commemorated. As the Project expands its networks, volunteer number and awareness, it can only succeed in securing forever remembrance of the lives sacrificed in conflict.
The main talk, entitled '1914 - 1918: CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS IN CENTRAL ASIA - THE PLOT TO BRING DOWN THE BRITISH EMPIRE' was presented by fellow member Captain Brian Hoffman.
Little is known about the clandestine operations in Persia & Afghanistan. This was an attempt by Germany to start a Holy War that would unleash the forces of militant Islam to drive the British out of India and the Russians from the Caucasus and Central Asia. From the time Kaiser Wilhelm 2nd of Germany succeeded his father in 1888, he dreamed of making Germany the greatest power on earth, with its armed forces replacing those of Britain as the guardian of the world. He hoped to achieve this through economic superiority and diplomatic penetration supported by military and naval muscle, rather than going to war with Britain. He knew he could not compete with Great Britain in the rush for overseas territories, so he looked eastwards. The availability of large tracks of unoccupied fertile land, unlimited water, untapped raw materials, precious metals & oil, were a far more attractive proposition than competing with Britain for far flung colonies half a world away.
The Kaiser had dreams of populating this vast area extending German influence up to the borders of China, but most importantly ensuring the British were overthrown in India so that he could replace his British cousin as the Raj of India. As an infidel, the Kaiser had no authority to summons Muslims to a Holy War, only the Ottoman Sultan in his capacity as the Caliph of all Islam (religious leader) could do that. So the Kaiser cultivated his relationship with the Ottoman Sultan, who was head of the rapidly crumbling Turkish Ottoman Empire. By the summer of 1914 the Kaiser realized he had gravely miscalculated things and that a bloody showdown with Britain & her allies in Europe was unavoidable, so he vowed to unleash a Holy War which would destroy Britain's power in the East for ever.
The Turks were not particularly ill - disposed towards Britain but feared Russian designs on their country and were suspicious of German territorial ambitions. There was however a strong pro - German faction in the Turkish Cabinet led by Enver Pasha. At the outbreak of war two chance incidents occurred that pushed Turkey towards the German camp:
1. The commandeering of 2 warships built in Britain for Turkey, paid by public subscription.
2. By pure chance 2 German cruisers (Goeben & Breslau), hotly pursued by the Royal Navy sought refuge in the Bosporus. When Britain demanded they return to International waters, the Turkish government announced that the 2 ships had been bought by Turkey to replace the 2 ships commandeered by Britain and renamed Sultan Selim & Midilli. The German crews donned fezzes, hoisted the Turkish ensign & were absorbed into the Turkish Navy.
On 27 Oct 1914 Enver Pasha ordered the Turkish Fleet under the command of a German Admiral, to sail into the Black Sea and bombard the Russian port of Odessa & other targets. Russia immediately declared war on Turkey.
To the Kaiser & Enver Pasha the prospects of turning the full fury of Islam against their common enemy at minimum cost in men & money seemed highly promising, but soon resulted in a series of humiliating defeat for the Turks and the Egyptian Muslims did not rise up against British.
Being aware of Turko - German plans for a Holy War, the Russians & British took actions to safeguard their interests in Persia against possible Turkish intervention: The Russians deployed additional troops into NW Persia on Turkey's eastern border and Britain dispatched a seaborne task force to the head of the Gulf, which Turkey saw as a threat to Baghdad (in Turkish hands).
Although the Germans had failed to bring about a Holy War in Persia & Afghanistan, they nevertheless continued to harass the British in the southern part of Persia & on the Baluchistan border for a further 6 months. But with the arrival of British reinforcements from India, German influence eroded.
Early in 1916 the Emir of Afghanistan replied to the letter from King George V reiterating his intention of remaining loyal to the British crown. There were audible sighs of relief in Delhi & London.
Although the conflict in Persia continued until the end of the war in 1918, the fortunes of both sides fluctuated considerably. By 1917 Turkey had suffered numerous defeats at the hands of the Russians & were on the verge of pulling out of the war but were saved by the Bolshevik Revolution & the withdrawal of Russia from the war.
Despite all this the threat of a Holy War was never again a reality and the British Empire survived to fight another day. Much of the credit for the failure of the Turko - German Mission to persuade Muslims to join the Holy war must go to British Intelligence, their network of informants and support of key individuals in high places at the right moment were master pieces of ingenuity and with the occasional slice of good fortune.
Naval Intelligence, whose orbit included the breaking of enemy ciphers, captured the German wartime diplomatic code - book. This code book enabled cryptographers to get the gist of "The Zimmermann Telegram", which had been encrypted in an upgraded code. The part decryption revealed Germany's plot to embroil Mexico and Japan in its machinations and also disclosed Germany's decision to launch all out attacks on American shipping. The telegram was sent by Zimmermann to the German Ambassador in Washington for onward transmission to the German Ambassador in Mexico.
The rest is history.
Professor Mike Laing delivered the vote of thanks to our speakers for an extra-ordinary evening of such comprehensive accounts.
THE SOCIETY'S NEXT MEETING:
DATE: Thursday 11th February 2010.Thursday 11th February 2010.
TIME: 19h00 for 19h30.
VENUE: Murray Theatre, Dept of Civil Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.
Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture - 'Erik Holm - South Africa's Lord Haw-Haw', by fellow member Donald Davies.
MAIN TALK - 'General Sir Charles Warren', by fellow member Prof. Philip Everitt.
Anniversaries - at this time in history.
1793 - Louis XVI is executed.
1852 - Britain recognizes independence of Transvaal.
1881 - Battle of Majuba
1885 - General Gordon killed at Khartoum.
1900 - Relief of Kimberley and Ladysmith.
1905 - Cullinan diamond discovered in South Africa.
1921 - Death of Soviet leader Lenin.
1941 - British forces capture Tobruk.
1942 - US troops arrive in Northern Ireland.
1944 - General Eisenhower is appointed Supreme Commander.
1963 - De Gaulle says an emphatic NO to Britain joining the EEC.
1965 - Death of Winston Churchill.
1973 - Ceasefire in Vietnam.
1981 - Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as US President.
The chairman and committee wish all members and families a happy and prosperous 2010.
South African Military History Society / email@example.com