South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter # 420
February 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 Col. Steve Bekker entitled "Steve versus the Kudu." Here is the summary in Colonel Bekker's own words: "The Kudu was built by Atlas Aircraft Corporation and was designated the "Kudu C4M". It looked like a coffin with wings and exhibited similar flying characteristics. It was undoubtedly the world's worst aircraft and I had two catch on fire, two engine failures and I had a parachutist hook on the tail wheel. You could say that the aircraft and I had a personality clash. I called it a converter because it converted fuel into fear. From Swartkop we were tasked to go to Messina on the Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) border where we would get further instructions. The two hour flight to Messina was uneventful and the weather was beautiful and warm. At Messina we were tasked to go to a place by the name of "Chipinda Pools" and tasked us to go to a place by the name of "Buffalo Range" to pick up a gent by the name of "Sergeant Major Piet O'Neill" who was sent home because he had flu. It was this flu that saved his life. It must be remembered that Rhodesia was involved in a very intense civil war and although South Africa was not "officially involved", we had helicopters and light aircraft there, but not Kudus. We refuelled and took off for Messina, flying at 6 500 feet above sea level which was about 3 000 feet above ground. Approximately 200 kilometres from Messina at 16h10 the engine suddenly failed. I was used to this happening and I was not immediately concerned. I pulled back the throttle and waited for the engine to get going again. 30 years later I am still waiting for the engine to restart. Tommy said it was carburettor icing and pulled out the carburettor heat control. I watched as the carburettor temp rose alarmingly and then I pushed the control back. I realised that we were to have to land and asked Tommy to call a "Mayday" and look for a place to land. Tommy suggested we land in the river bed ahead (the Bubye River) because that was all he could see, but I was afraid that we might hit rocks under the sand and flip onto the roof of the aircraft. I saw a little road on my left and opted to land there. Tommy, in the meanwhile, called a "Mayday" giving an extremely accurate grid reference. We prepared for the forced landing and eventually approached with full flap at a speed of 55 knots. This speed was too low academically according to our training, but this low speed might have saved our lives. The road I had chosen was narrower than the wingspan of the aircraft, which made for an interesting approach and landing. At about 50 feet above the ground we hit a tree with the right wing that caused the aircraft to veer violently to the right. Once again we hit a tree with the right wing and this turned the aircraft through some 90 degrees. I now watched us sliding down the road through my side window and noticed that we were a lot lower than normal. This was because the undercarriage had been ripped out and we were sliding along on the belly of the aircraft.

We hit a tree just behind the cockpit, between me and where Piet O'Neill was sitting. The aircraft bent around the tree like a banana. There are few things that can cause you to affect a short landing like hitting a tree. I turned to see if Piet was all right but he was not there anymore. Tommy was outside already and hobbling along, so I switched all the switches off and got out of the aircraft. Despite any criticism I have of the aircraft, the cockpit was incredibly strong and the door opened easily. I found Piet wandering around outside with the seat still strapped to him, but was badly knocked and cut on the head as was ejected backward out of the aircraft through the double doors. Tommy had injured his ankle as he had jumped out of the aircraft in a hurry, and I had bruised my arm from the sudden stop. Now came our next problem; we were never given any intelligence briefing so we did not know what the situation around us was. We were equipped with only a 9mm pistol to protect ourselves. We hid in the bush some was away from the aircraft and every 20 minutes either Tommy or I would speak on the radio. In a short while a "PRAW" (Police Reservist Air Wing) aircraft was above us and we felt a lot safer. I met this PRAW pilot in 2006 at a Boy Scout function, but cannot recall his name. At about 18h00 a Cessna 337 (push pull) aircraft was overhead. This aircraft was armed almost like a fighter aircraft and we felt somewhat better. We were informed that two helicopters had been deployed to comer and fetch us. At 19h00 during last light two Alouettes landed on the road and I recall troops jumping out and immediately melting in the bush and the darkness. I climbed into the chopper and took off. On the way out of the trees we hit a tree with the blade and I recall sitting in the open door of the chopper feeling the warm night and listening to the "tak tak tak" sound of the damaged blade. We refuelled at Rutenga and arrived at Buffalo Range at about 22h00 and eventually returned to South Africa.

The Main Talk was presented by fellow member Captain Brian Hoffman entitled "The Spy Who Disappeared".

On 22 Nov 88 an Obituary appeared in the British Times Newspaper for Ronald Sinclair aged 99 who had died in a Nursing Home in Plymouth. Just 2 weeks earlier he had published his first book about his travels in Persia in 1926. Sinclair was a linguist, had travelled extensively on behalf of British Government in the ME & Asia and worked for the intelligence services. His name wasn't Sinclair it was in fact Reginald Teague-Jones. My talk this evening is about his military & intelligence career & why he changed his name. Born in the county of Lancashire, England in 1889, his father died when he was an infant, and at the age of 13 he was sent to school in St Petersburg Russia where he remained for 4 years, returning to England fluent in Russian, French & German. This was followed by two years of study at Kings College London but he left before completing his degree. In 1910 he joined the Indian Police where he learned to speak Hindustani. Teague-Jones excelled in his job and was soon transferred to the Indian Foreign & Political Department, in which only the very best civil servants were selected to serve. Here he became involved in Intelligence work on the North West Frontier, undertaking missions in disguise and learning to speak Persian. In 1917 he was transferred to military intelligence at GHQ in Delhi and given responsibility for the Persian Gulf. The war in the Middle East was entering a critical phase with the collapse of the Russian forces following the October Revolution and the creation of a power vacuum in the Caucasus, which the Germans and Turkish Allies wanted to take advantage of.

Teague-Jones was dispatched on an intelligence gathering mission to Transcaspia on the staff of General Malleson at Meshed, about 100 miles inside Persia, to find out what resistance could be expected against the Turks. Crossing the Kopet Dag Mountains into Transcaspia he was to spend the next 9 months traveling between Baku (western Caspian Sea), Krasnovodsk (eastern Caspian Sea), Askhabad (appointed British Political Representative) and Meshed (Persia) gathering intelligence & organizing resistance to the Turkish forces in the West and advancing Bolshevik forces in the East. Teague-Jones arrived in Meshed, at the end of May 1918, a journey of 40 days from Simla (India). During the next month he traveled extensively along the border region familiarising himself with the region, collecting intelligence and making a careful study of the situation in Transcaspia. Rumours indicated the Bolsheviks appeared to be throwing their lot in with the Germans and Turks. Accompanied by his batman, they crossed into Transcaspia at the border post near Kaakha where they caught a train to Krasnovodsk and then by boat to Baku arriving on 10th July, which at this point was governed by the Bolsheviks. He held discussions with the anti Bolsheviks who asked him for British troops to help fight the Bolsheviks who were advancing from Tashkent, this was relayed to Meshed and a small force was deployed to the city which was to delay the advance of the Bolsheviks. He then left again for Baku to establish an intelligence organization as part of the defence of the city.

During his trip across the Caspian Sea to Baku he got into conservation with a young lady named Valya Alexeeva who was to feature quite prominently a little later in his life. On his arrival he found the Turkish forces were at the outskirts of the city, while a coup 2 days earlier had replaced the Bolsheviks with Social Revolutionaries who supported the White Russians. Arising from the coup was the arrest of 26 Bolshevik Commissars of the Baku Committee, whose leader was one Stepan Shaumian, a personal friend and close political ally of Lenin, thus a person of immense stature and influence in Baku. He decided to go straight to the front as he wanted to take part. He arrived on 25th Aug but 3 days later was wounded and evacuated to Askhabad. Meanwhile the defenders of Baku held out against a vastly superior Turkish force until 14th September when the city finally fell. As the end approached so defenders deserted their positions until only the British force and a handful of loyal White Russians were left. To his credit the GOC made an orderly withdrawal aboard the ships with his wounded and returned to Enzeli. As the Turks entered the city, Red Army soldiers released the Commissars and hastened them aboard a ship bound for Astrakhan, the only Bolshevik port on the Caspian at that time. Once at sea when the captain of the ship became aware of their presence on board he became concerned about his own future for his part in the coup, so instead he headed for Krasnovodsk (port in White Russian hands) where the Commissars once again found themselves in captivity. Having arrested the Commissars, the Krasnovodsk Committee had no room in their jails & tried to transfer them to Askhabad as quickly as possible, but the jails there were also full. Neither Committee wanted them in their respective towns as their presence might spark Bolshevik unrest. After a long discussion the only solution the Committee could come up with was to shoot them. A Bolshevik Revolutionary by the name of Anastas Mikoyan provided the only first hand account of what happened in Krasnovodsk on the night of 19th Sep. He was also the leader of the Red Army soldiers who released the Commissars from jail in Baku. Mikoyan described how they lay dozing on the floor or benches of the room they were being held. At 02h00 on the morning of 20th they were awakened as the door was unlocked. Armed guards ordered them out and said they were going to the regional prison at Askhabad. They were marched off to the station and herded into wagons where they were locked in with their guards. The train stopped, the wagon doors opened and the prisoners with hands bound jumped out. The guards marched them into the desert. The firing squad raised their rifles. An order was given followed by a fusillade of shots. Most were killed instantly; the bodies were dragged to a hollow in the dunes and covered with sand.

For a long time little more was heard about the episode and it was soon forgotten. However, news of the massacre took several months to reach Moscow but when it did it raised the wrath of Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries reducing relations with Britain to a new low. The Bolsheviks proclaimed they would put to death all those who had taken part in the executions plus one individual for each of the victims. After 25 had been shot, the Bolsheviks earmarked Teague-Jones to be the 26th. All told, some 40 people were shot by the Bolsheviks in retribution. Deciding his life was in danger, Teague-Jones that he should change his identity and vanished from public view.

Lt. Col. Dr. Graeme Fuller delivered a vote of thanks to both speakers for well researched talks and excellent presentations.

Thursday 10th February 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 guest speaker Brian Davies on "Ariel Bombing of Civilian Targets."

The Main Talk will be presented by chairman Bill Brady on "Operation Torch, 1942."


10th MARCH 2011
DDH - My Experience in the Armed Struggle by Sunny Singh.
MAIN TALK - Major General Sir Charles Warren in Northern Natal.

14th APRIL 2011
DDH - "Jasper Maskelyne - War Magician" by Paul Kirk
. MAIN TALK - "The Rhodesian War" by 'Prop' Geldenhuys.

12th MAY.
DDH - "The Tokyo Raid" by Roy Bowman.
MAIN TALK - "My Father - Lord Elworthy" by Anthony Elworthy.

At this stage, the numbers are insufficient to include the Italian leg of the tour. Col Christopher Newbould has produced a 'Plan B' extended tour of the Somme that includes several 'must see' sites. We'll be giving this another couple of weeks, failing which prospective participants will be asked to decide if they are happy to do the French leg of the tour only.
For further details, please contact Ken Gillings on 031 702 4828 / 083 654 5880 or

* * * * * * *

South African Military History Society /