South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter no. 416
October 2010

The Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture (DDH) was presented by former chairman Ken Gillings entitled "The Art of War: Lt. Col. JN Crealock's water-colours - then and now."

In 1964, what was then the University of Natal Press published a collection of water-colours painted by Lt Col John North Crealock, described as Gen Lord Chelmsford's "...talented but unscrupulous Military Secretary". This collection was entitled "The Road to Ulundi" and was described as one of the most valuable items of Africana produced by them.

Crealock was the younger brother of Maj Gen Henry Hope Crealock. He served with Chelmsford at Aldershot, was a veteran of the Indian Mutiny and was given what was described as a 'plum staff appointment' at the Horse Guards. He became Chelmsford's military secretary in the Anglo-Zulu War and it was alleged that all Chelmsford's 'disagreeable' orders supposedly emanated from Crealock. He was described by Sir Garnet Wolseley as 'That arch-snob' and 'evil genius', was accused of 'governing Chelmsford and keeping him in ignorance of all going on about him'. Like most Victorian officers, Crealock was a skilled painter in watercolours. He was slightly wounded at Battle of Gingindlovu on the 2nd April 1879. During the Victorian era, it was to an officer's advantage to be good at sketching. It was not only on the syllabus at Sandhurst but at the Army Staff College Camberley until at least the Anglo-Boer War and possibly later. The reason: the British Army seldom had properly surveyed maps of wherever it was fighting, and an important part of the duties of a junior officer, and of a trained staff officer in particular, was to be able to produce a good sketch map and sketch panorama for his Commanding Officer or General. According to the UK military historian, Dr Stephen Badsey, one officer who attended the Staff College had one of his sketches returned to him by its assessor on the Directing Staff with a poor grade and the solemn annotation "You must practice drawing gravel pits"! (Note - the officer subsequently was awarded a VC).

Crealock's paintings were undertaken in several parts of Zululand during the first and second invasion and while there is a certain degree of 'Artistic Licence', his images are remarkably accurate. Ken took us to the vast majority of the sites and scenes depicted by Crealock and by using modern images, he was able to compare them nowadays. Several of the paintings were done 'off the beaten track', which provided the speaker with some challenges, but he has managed to find most of them. One of these was the painting of the site of the death of the Prince Imperial of France; the conventional route to the site is, of course, from Barklieside and the painting didn't resemble anything like it. Ken realised that Crealock would have drawn it from the route of advance of the 2nd Division during the second invasion of Zululand, so after a great deal of walking through the veld, came across the precise locality.

Another example was the site of the British camp at Zungeni, en route from Koppie Alleen to Mthonjaneni. Crealock's sketch showed some rocks in the foreground, so Ken walked or drove around the veld until he found some and it fitted into place perfectly. Crealock's painting of the spurs of the Nhlazatshe Mountain is incredibly accurate as was indicated in a close-up photograph. In several instances, Ken was able to place the image of the painting alongside the photograph to illustrate the artist's accuracy. Four images have proved to be particularly challenging to locate. These are the hills between Nyoni and Gingindlovu along the North Coast, the site of the drift across the Mhlatuze River below St Paul's, a series of hills between Babanango and the upper reaches of the Mhlatuze River and the site of the kwaMagwaza mission, which is now so heavily planted with wattle and eucalyptus trees that a helicopter will be necessary to photograph it. Watch this space...

The main talk was presented by Ganes Pillay and entitled "The role of Indian troops during the Anglo-Boer War."
Although the role of Indian troops in the Anglo Boer War Boer is viewed as important, it was that of a non combatant. Many were Uitlander refugees from Johannesburg, who had failed to find places in any of the various irregular corps, but still wished to do their bit. About eight hundred were members of Natal's community led by a twenty eight year old barrister, whose name would one day be known to more men than either Kruger's or Chamberlains. His name was Mohandas Gandhi - later the Mahatma. Gandhi had announced in Durban that the Indian community wished to give their active expression of loyalty to the Empire. Unable to fight, they would serve as stretcher-bearers. Years later one might wonder why Mohandas Gandhi, the anti-imperialist and the arch pacifist had served as a non combatant in an imperial war. At the time, it seemed natural enough to the British, here was one of the "subject peoples" showing the solidarity of the coloured races in the "white man's war."

The Secretary for War Lord Lansdowne did at one stage ask the Indian authorities if they could provide the bulk of reinforcements for Natal. Seasoned British regiments, such as the Kings Royal Rifles, the Gloucesters, the Devonshires and so on were dispatched from Bombay and Calcutta. All were seasoned white troops, rich in stores and ammunition, with eighteen field guns, three field hospitals, and over a thousand Indian bearers. Wolseley managed to scrape together further men from Alexandria, Malta and Crete. The new reinforcements for Natal totalled just ten thousand. It was the best the Empire could do under the circumstances. The Amir of Afghanistan was in poor health, and so India's north-west frontier was in danger.

Bitterly though the war was fought, it was essentially a white man's war. Neither side had the slightest intention of doing anything to weaken white control. This reflects the establishment philosophy of "white supremacy of the British and the Boers". They were careful not to stir indignation or arouse passionate resentment against whites by inviting non-Europeans into their quarrel. Contrary to popular opinion, however, there are a few isolated reports that this was not always adhered to, such as during the Battle of Vaalkrans as well as the raising of the Driefontein Scouts at Ladysmith.

The Indian auxiliaries shared the fate of other "Non-Whites" who were drawn into the conflict. About 11 000 Black and Coloured servants accompanied the Boer commandos, playing a role similar to that of the Indian auxiliaries, carrying out such tasks as looking after horses, cooking and guarding ammunition. It is only in more recent years that the role has been brought to light of these so-called Agterryers (mounted grooms or attendants) and other black participants who served on both the Boer and British sides.

Our speaker then proceeded to describe the monument at Observatory, Johannesburg. This Indian Monument overlooks the valley where Indians served at a remount depot during the War. Erected soon after the end of hostilities, the Indian War Memorial was launched in the first flush of peace amidst a wave of enthusiasm and fanfare. Public interest and understanding of the monument then dissipated over much of the Twentieth Century.

Commemorations to mark the centenary of the Anglo-Boer War, held in 1999 - 2002, brought a flurry of publications and public events in which the experiences of black people in the War, having long been ignored and suppressed, were highlighted as never before. Yet this failed to raise the public profile of the Indian Monument, or to recover its meaning and significance. These Indian men, although fully-fledged troops of the Indian Army, were ordered to act in an ostensibly non-combatant role during the Anglo-Boer War, serving as "auxiliaries" or "followers". The Johannesburg memorial raised in their honour has been noted as the only monument to non-combatants under military service who fell on foreign soil. To the north, the monument overlooks the valley where Indians set up camp during the war, and where a group of their comrades were buried in the aftermath of the conflict.

Elsewhere however, in the standard works and official histories issued after the war, the enormous contribution of men of the Indian Army - men drawn from indigenous peoples of India - to the British war effort in South Africa is largely ignored. More recent histories have continued to tread these well-worn paths. The traditional view is, that "a few Indian officers of the Indian Army accompanied the British Army as observers but did not serve as combatants".

In the absence of any comprehensive records or statistics of casualties suffered by Indian troops, one has to rely on scattered reports of actions in which "Native" followers were involved. Here and there an Indian is reported as having been killed or wounded in action, or more commonly of having died of disease, such as pneumonia or enteric fever, directly traceable to active service. In the case of the Indian Ordinance Field Park there were no deaths and only one lascar was wounded. The overall picture of Indian casualties remains hazy and incomplete and the true number of deaths may never be known.

Professor Phillip Everitt presented a vote of thanks to both our speakers for their excellent research and presentations.

Thursday 14th October 2010 - 19h00 for 19h30. Venue: Murray Theatre, Dept of Civil Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College Campus, Durban.

The Darrell Hall (DDH) Memorial Lecture will be presented by Chairman Bill Brady on "Lt. Col. Paddy Mayne - An SAS legend".
The Main Talk will be presented by fellow member Steve Watt who will talk on "The U-Boat War in WW2 - sinking statistics".

Annual Lunch
The annual lunch will be held at Westville CC on 28 November. The cost is R55,00 per person, to be paid at the October meeting.

FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: November 2010 - January 2011.

11th November - Armistice Day
DDH - "The Conquest of the Incas", by Dr. John Cooke.
Main Talk - "The salvaging of the German High Seas Fleet", by Ian Sutherland.

9th December
DDH - "USS Cassin Young DD793, a Fletcher Class Destroyer", by Roy Bowman.
Annual cocktail party in lieu of a main talk.

20th Jan. (NB: Third Thurs.)
DDH - "My Father in North Africa" by Charles Whiteing.
Main Talk - "The Spy who disappeared", by Capt. Brian Hoffmann

Anniversaries - at this time in history.
1714 - Death of the Sun King Louis X1V of France.
1783 - Britain recognises independence of USA.
1795 - British occupy the Cape after Battle of Muizenberg
1899 - The Anglo-Boer War begins
1914 - The Battle of the Marne.
1935 - Hitler enacts the Nuremburg Laws to deprive Jews of rights.
1940 - The Blitz begins on British cities and Churchill makes his speech commemorating the few.
1944 - Battle of Arnhem.
1945 - Ho Chi Minh declares the Republic of Vietnam.
1969 - Death of Ho Chi Minh
1974 - President Ford issues pardon on Richard Nixon.
1987 - A German teenager flies an aircraft through Soviet defence system and lands in Red Square.
1991 - Dissolution of the USSR.

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South African Military History Society /