South African Military History 


Newsletter No 67/Nuusbrief Nr 67 April 2010

Richard Tomlinson completed his series on British fortifications of the Anglo-Boer War with a slide talk on the corrugated iron and timber blockhouses. These were considerably in the majority, with 7447 manufactured and erected compared with 441 mortared masonry blockhouses, according to the Royal Engineers summary. The first design, built in the Transvaal lowveld in January 1901, was expensive in timber and labour. Barberton has the sole surviving example. Major S.R. Rice, I/C RE Depot at Middelburg (Tvl), soon produced an octagonal pattern using a wood frame sandwiched between 2 skins of sheeting. Soon after this, he invented the circular 'Rice-pattern', which reduced the amount of timber used by substituting wood blocks to separate the sheeting skins. A number of square and rectangular blockhouses were also produced at Middelburg for special locations. In all patterns, the space between the sheeting skins was filled with shingle to stop bullets, the loopholes and entrance were pre-formed and a gabled roof was provided, with the option of an umbrella roof in corrugated sheeting or canvas for the octagonal and circular designs. The advantage of the circular ones over the rectangular was that the sheeting did not bulge at the bottom due to the weight of the shingle. Many blockhouses were revetted in masonry externally up to the loopholes. Corrugated blockhouses were made in kit form with all the components supplied together with a water tank and a small model to assist in the construction. They were railed to the nearest station and carried by wagon to the erection site. Each was surrounded by a sentry trench and barbed wire entanglement and manned by 6 or 7 men. They were used mainly along the railways and in cross-country lines.

Scribe's Note: SAMHSEC was indeed privileged to share Richard's knowledge on British fortifications of the Anglo-Boer War. Thanks, Richard: Bravo Zulu! Richard's series is to be followed by a series by Mike Duncan on Medals Awarded to Port Elizabeth Men.

SAMHSEC's AGM was held in lieue of a curtain raiser. The Chairman's Report, Income and Expenditure Account for the Year Ended 31 December 2009 and 2010 Committee follow below.

The main lecture by Jock Harris was a sequel to his 7 September 2009 SAMHSEC presentation on Operation Modular (4 August to 26 November 1987; see SAMHSEC Newsletter No 61 October 2009) and covered subsequent SADF operations in Angola. These operations were conducted against the background of international negotiations in London, Egypt and New York, which led to the Geneva Protocol and the Tri-Lateral Agreement signed in New York on 22 December 1988, which paved the way for UN Resolution 435 and the cessation of hostilities.

The aim of Operation Hooper from 13 December 1987 to 29 February 1988 was to neutralise Angolan forces east of the Cuito River. This was achieved by the disruption of Angolan logistics both east and west of Cuito Carnavale. The result was that there was no Angolan offensive in South East Angola in 1988, which placed UNITA in a favourable negotiating position.

As part of the negotiation process, increased pressure was placed on the Angolan forces east of the Cuito River in Operation Packer from 1 to 23 March 1988. As it was realised that hostilities were likely to terminate in the near future, this operation included the deployment of SADF Citizen Force elements in order to give them operational experience. This pressure was countered by the deployment of additional Cuban forces in South Western Angola, close to the Angola/South West Africa border. The threat posed by these forces was neutralised by the deployment of 911 Infantry Battalion of the South West African Territorial Force, the Anti-tank Squadron of 32 Battalion, a G5 Artillery Battery and 24 Field Squadron of the SA Engineers to the area in Operation Displace from mid-March to mid-July 1988.

Features of these operations were their incremental nature and the close involvement of very senior military personnel and politicians. Lessons learnt included that there is no replacement for good training, that it is possible to succesfully deploy mechanised forces in unfavourable terrain, that passive air defence measures can neutralise a lack of air superiority and the flexibility afforded by long range artillery. Ongoing study of these operations is to be welcomed to expose the propaganda myth of Cuito Carnavale having been a disastrous South African defeat.

Further correspondence on SAMHSEC's tour to Hofmeyer, Norval's Pont and Colesberg from 28 to 30 May 2010 will be directed to the 24 members and guests have indicated their interest in attending. Late starters who wish to join the tour are welcome and should contact the Scribe.

Letitia & Stiaan Jacobs are welcomed as SAMHEC members.

This newsletter will be the last received by members who have not renewed membership. SAMHSEC is sorry to lose you and hopes you will re-join in future!

SAMHSEC's next meeting will be at 1930 on Monday 12 April 2010 at the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. After the first in Mike Duncan's series on medals awarded to Port Elizabeth men, the curtain raiser will be by John Stevens on Brown Bess. The main lecture will be by McGill Alexander on The Birth of Vertical Envelopment as a form of Manoeuvre - Scandinavia, April 1940.

Malcolm Kinghorn SAMHSEC SCRIBE 082 331 6223


1. SAMHSEC membership during 2009 was 56, compared to 53 & 54 in the previous 2 years respectively. The contribution of members living in Grahamstown is again recognised with appreciation. The Calling of SAMHSEC Members Doug Boyder and Lionel Wulfsohn to Higher Service during the year is recorded with regret.

2. Speakers: Presentations to meetings were as follows:

SerDateCurtain raiserMain Lecture
19 MarAGMSubject: Ambush at Kalkheuwel Pass, June 3, 1900
Speaker: Ian Copley
213 AprSubject: The Jersey War Tunnels
Speaker: Mike Duncan
Subject: The naming of ships
Speaker: Barry de Klerk
311 MaySubject: Food with military connections
Speaker: Anne Irwin
Subject: The WW2 Eastern Front
Speaker: Rick van Heerden
413 Jun
Subject: Book review - One fourteenth of an Elephant
Speaker: Yolande Irwin
Subject: Bishops' 20th Century War Records
Speaker: Alan Bamford
513 JulSubject: 25 pdr gun howitzer
Speaker: Pat Irwin
Subject: 9th Scottish Division
Speaker: John Stevens
610 AugSubject: Mfengu Auxilliaries
Speaker: John Perrot
Subject: The Modern Day French Foreign Legion
Speaker: Brian Klopper
77 SepSubject: Citizen Force service in the Cape Town Highlanders
Speaker: Peter Duffel-Canham
Subject: Ops Modular
Speaker: Jock Harris
812 OctSubject: Parachute descent over Alamein
Speaker: Stephen Bowker
Subject: The Xhosa Cattle Killing
Speaker: Peter Gordon
99 NovSubject: The Dedication of the Grey War Memorial
Speaker: Ian Pringle
Subject: The Queen's Scarves
Speaker: Malcolm Kinghorn
1014 DecSubject: The military service of Robert Hart 1795 to 1830
Speaker: Ken Stewart
Subject: Tour to Egypt & Libya
Speaker: Fred Nel
Subject: Thaba Bosiu
Speaker: Pat Irwin
1111 JanSubject: The UNITA contribution to the results of the RSA operations Modular, Hooper and Packer.
Speaker: Fred Oelschig
128 FebSubject: The third brother at war
Speaker: Peter Duffel-Canham
Subject: Medicine and surgery during the First Crusade
Speaker: Ian Copley

3. Meetings included additional presentations on British ABW2 Fortifications by Richard Tomlinson. SAMHSEC's appreciation to Richard is recorded.

4. Attendance: The average attendance at meetings was 24, up on the 21 in the previous 2 years.

5. Venues: Meetings in Port Elizabeth were at the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club. The June meeting was held in the Education Department of Rhodes University in Grahamstown. SAMHSEC's appreciation for the use of the venues is recorded.

6. Meetings of the Grahamstown Military History Interest Group are noted with appreciation.

7. Committee: SAMHSEC's strategy remains to minimise its administrative burden. The Chairman's appreciation to the members of the 2009 Committee is recorded. Portfolios held were:

1Malcolm KinghornChairman, Speaker Coordinator & Scribe
2Stephen BowkerSecretary
3Ian PringleSocial & Tours
4Dennis HibberdTreasurer
5John StevensCoordinator of members not resident in Port Elizabeth

7. Tours: 20 members and guests attended the Albany Tour from 15 to 17 May 2009. The 13 June meeting in Grahamstown was preceded by a morning visit to Sidbury Park, Assegaai Bush and Highlands. The proposed August tour was cancelled due to other commitments of committee members.

8. SAMHS support: The excellent support afforded SAMHSEC by SAMHS Treasurer Mrs Joan Marsh is again recognised with appreciation.

(Malcolm Kinghorn)
March 2010



Surplus Income and Exp Account as at 31st December 2008: R6059-14

Surplus Albany Tour............. R 35-00
Transfer SAMHS.................. 1855-00
Interest received................... 331-73 2221-73

R 8280-87.

Rental EPVCC.....................R1200-00
Snacks and Drinks - meetings.. 1110-00
Accommodation SAMHS 300-00
committee member speaker
Grahamstown Meeting Expenses 255-00 R2865-00

Surplus Carried Forward........................ R5310-87
Cash on Hand.................................... 105-00

Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn
Secretary: Stephen Bowker
Social: Ian Pringle
Treasurer: Dennis Hibberd
Coordinator of members not resident in Port Elizabeth: John Stevens
Scribe: vacant (to be done by Malcolm)
Tours Coordinator: vacant (to be rotated per tour)
Speaker Coordinator: vacant (to be done by Malcolm)

Note: Volunteers to fill the vacancies on the Committee are requested.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /