South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0676 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


The chairman, Ivor Little, welcomed all present to the last meeting of 2010 and, after giving out the monthly notices, thanked Colin and Marjorie Dean for representing the Society at the Cenotaph parade in Johannesburg on Armistice Day. He also announced that the sale of poppies in the foyer last month had brought in the sum of R405 for ex-servicemen's charities.

Our tour organiser, Bob Smith, then came forward and advised members of the March tour of "The Miners Strike". This will be a coach tour of the sites of the various actions which took place during the 1922 miners' strike in Johannesburg. The tour will last four hours and will cost R130 per head. For further details contact Bob Smith on 082-858-6616.

The "business" of the evening being finished, Ivor introduced the first speaker who was to give the "curtain raiser" talk. This was Lt Colonel Peter Mincher whose subject was "The Funeral of Marshall Tito". Peter was born in the Transvaal, attended school in Cape Town and served in the Rhodesian Army until 1980, before taking up a career in business and financial planning. He is still involved in the latter.

Dispensing with any sort of training aid, Peter gave the audience a darkly humorous tale of being Robert Mugabe's aide de camp for an official visit to Belgrade for Marshall Tito's funeral in 1980.

Although light in touch, there was no doubting that Peter's account of President Mugabe's actions and contacts encountered during this junket provided a chilling preview of what was to come for Zimbabwe.

Mugabe had been in power for six months and was the darling of the revolutionary world. Peter told us of Mugabe's meetings with Yassah Arafat; King Carl Gustav of Sweden; Margaret Thatcher and the President of North Korea, among others. Mugabe made it quite plain to his young white ADC that he was not welcome in the group and the behaviour of the rest of the delegation was such that Lt Col Mincher felt both disgusted and apprehensive, and promptly resigned his commission on his return from Yugoslavia to Zimbabwe.

After a question period, Ivor introduced the main speaker for the evening, our well-known attendance officer and committee member, John Parkinson.

John is a popular and respected lecturer in nautical subjects, both in South Africa and overseas, and has spoken to us on numerous occasions. The subject of his lecture was "Early European Exploration in Australian Waters and Captain James Cook, RN - Visits to Botany and Lealakekua Bays".

Using a PowerPoint presentation of old and new maps and his own photographs, John told the full story of the white man's stumbling upon this vast continent and how the known bits and pieces were finally joined into the map we know today. Starting with the Portuguese in 1509 and their first arrival in the East Indies, John showed how by 1516 they had reached Timor, just north of Australia, and by 1606 had discovered and named the Torres Strait and the New Hebrides. The Dutch were not slow to follow and established the Dutch East India Company in Bantam. From here they sent out expeditions of exploration and, in 1605, Willem Janszoon in the "Duyfken" found the west coast of the York Peninsular in North Queensland, while exploring waters south of New Guinea. Here he landed at Weipa, becoming the first European to set foot on the Australian mainland. He followed a short stretch of the coastline south and then returned to Batavia (present day Djakarta).

The Dutch had also found that, while making the passage from Holland to the Far East, one could make a faster passage by dropping south to the "Roaring Forties", after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, and then running their easting down in the high winds of those latitudes, until they were south west of the Indies, when they would turn up (north east) for their destination. This route was pioneered by Hendrik Brouwer and became known as the Brouwer Route and was far faster and preferable to following the east coast of Africa.

As finding one's longitude in the days before chronometers was a chancy business, many Dutch ships "missed the turn-off" and came up against the west coast of Australia, luckily with very few accidents. This contact, naturally, led to deliberate stop-overs and exploratory voyages by the Dutch, notably while Antonio van Diemen was Governor General of Batavia. He sent out Abel Tasman, who undertook two voyages down to Australia, where he found Tasmania and New Zealand. His voyages were very cursory as he was not by nature an explorer and he missed many important landmarks and geographical sites. The upshot was that the Dutch decided that there was nothing to be gained commercially by opening up either Australia or New Zealand. Thus it was left to the British, with Captain James Cook in the forefront, to "join the dots" and discover the fertile east coast of Australia and fully explore New Zealand.

John then took us through Cook's three voyages of discovery, which established much of the coastlines of these two countries, and ended with a detailed account of Cook's death in Hawaii.

After the usual question period, Ivor called upon Hamish Paterson to thank the speakers. He then wished all present a happy and blessed festive season and reminded them that, as is the usual custom, the January meeting will be on the third Thursday of the month - 20 January 2011.

The meeting then adjourned for refreshments.

Ivor Little
Chairman and Scribe.

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20th January 2011 - NB THIRD THURSDAY!
CR The enigmatic Codebreaker - Alan Turing Nick Cowley
ML The Battle of Teutoburg Forest 9 AD John Molloy

10th February 2011
CR Otto Kretschmer & The Golden Horseshoe (U Boat Captain in WWII) Jan Willem Hoorweg
ML The second phase of the Anglo Boer War John Bleloch

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KZN in Durban:

20th January (Third Thurs.)
DDH Steve versus the Kudu
Steve Bekker
Main Talk The Spy who disappeared Capt. Brian Hoffman

10th February 2011
DDH Aerial Bombing of Civilian Targets
Brian Davies
Main Talk Operation Torch 1942 Bill Brady

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Cape Town:

South African Air Defence Artillery, Yesterday and Today
, by Brig Gen John Del Monte and Maj Vidius Archer. Our speakers, fellow-member Gen Del Monte, and Maj Vidius Archer, CO of the Cape Garrison Artillery, will give us an overview of the role and history of SA's air defence artillery in the 20th century to the present. Gen Del Monte will focus his talk on the history of the unit and Maj Archer on the current situation.

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SAMHSEC in Port Elizabeth:

at 1930 on MONDAY 10 January 2011 at the EP Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. Stephen Bowker will speak on his ancestor, Holden Bowker, who played a prominent role in the Frontier Wars and Tiaan Jacobs, whose special interest is the Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst, on J.A. Grobbelaar, DTD. The first of the World at War series will be screened from 1830.

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For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ken Gillings 031-702-4828
For Cape Town details contact Ray Hattingh 021-592-1279(am)
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469
For Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010 237 0676

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