South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter No. 426
August 2011

Contact: Ken Gillings 031 702 4828
Bill Brady 031 561 5542
Society's web site address:

The Darrell Hall Memorial talk was presented by guest speaker Mrs. Marjorie Dean on "Military miscellany! A collection of trivia from here and there."

While Military History is a serious study, it also has its lighter moments, and sometimes in the course of researching something, one comes up with interesting and even humorous sidelights. Serving on a U-boat was a very nasty experience indeed. By the end of WW2, newer designs, such as that of the U-boat in our tale, U1206, launched at the end of December 1943. One problem that was never really solved was the questions of what to do with sewage. The back room boys eventually came up with the "deep water high pressure submarine toilet.". A fiendishly complicated device that directed sewage through a series of chambers into the sea. On 14 April 1945, U1206 was cruising 16 km off the Scottish coast at about 200 feet.

Her captain, Karl Adolph Schlitt, decided that he had to answer a call of nature. What happened next is a little unclear.According to Schlitt, the equipment malfunctioned. He decided to operate it himself. And he got it wrong! The captain was then drenched in a high pressure mixture of sewage and seawater, and the toilet compartment flooded with the revolting mess. By the time the specially trained technician had sorted things out the sea water etc. had drained down into the battery room, and chlorine gas was starting to escape. Captain Schlitt had to vent the submarine immediately by taking it up to the surface, where it was bombed. Schlitt burned his orders, and scuttled U1206. Four submariners died and the rest of the crew was rescued. U1206 thus became the only submarine to be sunk by its own plumbing system.

Colditz is a castle in eastern Germany selected by Hitler to hold officers who kept trying to escape. Situated on a high cliff overlooking a river, it became Oflag IVC, and soon held a bunch of remarkable characters. Originally designed to hold 200 prisoners, that number was soon hugely exceeded. They were top class officer material. During their entire confinement they would put their considerable talents into escaping. Captains Pat Reid and Rupert Barry realised that for any escape to succeed, they would need help from Britain. Barry's wife, Dodo, was a very smart young woman, who could solve the Times crossword puzzle over coffee. So Barry and Reid worked out a simple code, wrote a letter, and posted it off. In London, Dodo Barry was astonished to get a letter that made no sense to her at all. So she tackled the letter like a crossword puzzle, and worked out the real message, "Go to the War Office, ask them to send forged diplomatic papers for Reid, Howe, Allan, Lockwood, Elliott, Wardle, Milne and self".

She rushed round to the War Office, asking to see "Someone in Military Intelligence". An officer appeared, and gave Dodo instructions to write back to her husband, in plain language, that Rupert's elderly Aunt had been very upset to learn that her nephew was now a POW, and would be writing to him. Two weeks later Captain Barry received a letter from "Aunt Christine". The message was decoded, "The War Office considered the use of Swedish diplomatic papers to be too dangerous". Barry fired back another coded letter to his wife, and she took it back to the Military Intelligence contact. "We will consider the danger and not the War Office", Barry had written "Would you please expedite." The chain of contact had now been established. Over 5 years, some 130 prisoners escaped from Colditz, but only 32 "made home runs", and managed to get home. Among those who did, thanks to Dodo Barry's efforts, was Captain Pat Reid.

Marjorie continued to tell stories of Noel Coward and his contribution to the war effort as a secret agent.
Next was the story of how "An Army marches on its stomach." This focused mainly on the American Civil War.
Finally we were told how "Nelson's eye fell foul of naval administration, that contained a great deal of humour.

The main talk was presented by guest speaker Mr. Peter Williams entitled "Afghanistan, Axis of Terror."

Peter outlined some of his experiences whilst engaged in security in Afghanistan.
The invasion of Afghanistan is seen to have been the first action of this war, and initially involved forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Afghan Northern Alliance. Since the initial invasion period, these forces were augmented by troops and aircraft from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway amongst others. In 2006, there were about 33,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today the Americans number 175,000. On September 12, 2001, less than 24 hours after the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC, NATO, invoked Article 5 and declared the attacks to be an attack against all 19 NATO member countries. Australian Prime Minister John Howard also declared that Australia would invoke the ANZUS Treaty along similar lines.

In the following months, NATO took a wide range of measures to respond to the threat of terrorism. On November 22, 2002, the member states decided on a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism which explicitly states that they are committed to the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as the rule of law, in combating terrorism. NATO started naval operations in the designed to prevent the movement of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction as well as to enhance the security of shipping in general called Operation Active Endeavour. Support for the United States cooled when America made clear its determination to invade Iraq in late 2002. Even so, many of the "coalition of the willing" countries that unconditionally supported the US-led military action have sent troops to Afghanistan, particular neighboring Pakistan, which has disowned its earlier support for the Taliban and contributed tens of thousands of soldiers to the conflict. Supported by US intelligence, Pakistan was attempting to remove the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda element from the northern tribal areas to assist the Afghan Transitional Administration and the first post-Taliban elected government.

The British Royal Marines formed the core of the force in southern Afghanistan, along with troops and helicopters from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial force consisted of roughly 3,300 British, 2,000 Canadian, 1,400 from the Netherlands and 240 from Australia, along with Special Forces from Denmark and small contingents from other nations. The monthly supply of cargo containers through Pakistani route to Afghanistan is over 4,000 costing around 12 billion in Pakistani Rupees. The way Washington sees it, 2011 is the make-or-break year in Afghanistan, during which NATO must somehow turn the quickening tide of insurgency and allow for the United States to begin withdrawing its troops a decade after the invasion. Over the course of this pivotal year, policy makers need to look at Afghanistan not through a soldier's gun sight, but in the same manner in which Afghans farmers, merchants, smugglers and refugees see it: through the glassless windows of a mud huts. From the back of a pack animal trudging on unpaved desert tracks, from the flatbed of a truck wobbling across mountain passes that tick with mines and bristle with ambushes. In the deeply rural north, where Taliban influence is rapidly spreading, at the role of women in the culture that has not changed since the10th century. At the heavy opium addiction that permeates Afghanistan's most remote villages, where children are introduced to the drug by their mothers, and at the prospect of the emotional healing of a deeply fissured nation that has endured invasions and fratricides for millennia.

Our speaker stated that the real problem in Afghanistan was to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population and due to the diversity of cultures this was proving most difficult. It was observed that the British troops were proving more successful than the U.S. troops.

The talk was concluded by showing remarkable power point slides of the conditions in Afghanistan.

Fellow member Charles Whiteing presented a most comprehensive vote of thanks to both speakers for delivering two splendid renditions.

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The KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Society will be focusing on the two battles that were fought in the Colenso area during the Anglo-Boer War and the manner in which the commanders on both sides adapted new tactics. The significant changes between the Battle of Colenso (15th December 1899) and the Battle of the Thukela / Tugela Heights (12th to 28th February 1900) will be dealt with by our panel of speakers. Professor Philip Everitt will deal with the British Infantry and its commanders, Roy Bowman will handle the artillery and the Boer commanders and the medical aspect will be dealt with by Lt Col Dr Graeme Fuller. Ken Gillings will be the facilitator and 'filler in'. The cost per person is R30, which will go directly and entirely into Branch funds.

Rendezvous on Saturday 13th August 2011 for those travelling from Durban / Pmb will be Ultra City north while those who are joining the party from the north will rendezvous at Clouston Koppie of Remembrance, just south of Colenso.

VERY NB 1: We will depart from Ultra City at 09h00 SHARP!! Work on a 2 hour drive from Durban.
VERY NB 2: As usual, participants are requested to make their own accommodation arrangements. A special rate of R495 per room DBB single and R756 per room sharing DBB. NOTE: AS AT 14H30 ON THE 29TH JULY 2011, THERE ARE ONLY 5 ROOMS LEFT!! Telephone: 036 637 2176 and ask for the SAMHS special rate.
VERY NB 3: The Colenso Club has agreed to provide a light lunch on Saturday 13th August 2011. There are very few opportunities for comfort breaks in this part of KZN and the Club will be an ideal 'oasis'. Please support them by placing an order for a light lunch when we RV at Ultra City. Sandwiches will be available at R120 per platter of 12. We'll place a bulk order shortly prior to departure.
In order to give us an idea of numbers attending the tour, please add your name to the list that will be circulated at the meeting on the 11th August 2011.

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Thursday 11th August 2011 - 19h00 for 19h30.

Venue: Murray Theatre, Dept of Civil Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.
The Darrell Hall (DDH) Memorial Lecture will be presented by Mikhael Peppas on "The Thukela; Spionkop Revisited."
Main Talk by Robin Smith "The Raid on Surprise Hill by the 2nd Bn The Rifle Brigade"

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: September - November.

8th September
DDH - "Mediterranean Naval Strategy, 1940-1943" by Bill Brady
Main Talk - "The Suez Crisis." by Alan Mantle

13th October
DDH - "My Family in the Military 1799-1995" by Brian Thomas.
Main Talk - "The Cause of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 ." by Anthony Coleman

10th November 2011.
DDH - Delville Wood 2011 and the 3rd Battle of the Aisne 1918 by Lt Col Graeme Fuller
Main Talk - The Attack on Pearl Harbour (NB- 70th anniversary) by Capt (SAN) Brian Hoffman

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Membership Fee

Please note that many members remain unpaid. Kindly check your records regarding payment, otherwise the newsletter and journal will be discontinued.

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Name Tags

Please advise the chairman of your name and a name tag will be produced at the society's expense.

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South African Military History Society /