South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter No. 425
July 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 fellow member Charles Whiteing on "Letters from the Front." Charles detailed the events and circumstances experienced by his father, Herbert Frank Grey Whiteing (a.k.a. Jim or Jimmy) to his parents Frank & Alice Whiteing at their home "Ruym" in Newlands, Cape Town. They span a period from 1940 to 1942 and include his service in Somaliland, Abyssinia, North Africa & his Officers Course at Roberts Heights in Pretoria. They give an insight to his experiences, camaraderie, romances, prevailing humour and hardships. All letters written to him from his parents were posted care of the Army Post Office Durban, & then forwarded to him wherever he was stationed.

29 December 1940. Thanks his folks for the General Smuts Christmas card. Being the Company Quartermaster, he was responsible in distributing parcels and mail from home 'just like Father Christmas.' Every man received a packet of nuts & raisins, 1/2 pound sweets, an extra 50 cigarettes and a souvenir "Jannie Smuts" tin containing 1/2 slab chocolate. There were tins of Christmas pudding, sheep tongue and Eskort Ham which he handed to the kitchen for slicing up. He invited a couple of the English speaking NCO`s to his shack "The Outpost Hotel" for Christmas lunch, suitably supported by beer and whisky. After lunch, the Union Jack was unfurled and the King was toasted with their home made brew. Love to all, and ends his letter; " the Epistle according to St James.

8 Jan 1941:He describes the woods surrounding their camp. One night an officer heard a crashing in the undergrowth only to find a Rhino illuminated by his torch. It had trampled around their tents & drank the water from their canvas wash basin outside. Mentions he now has a little dog as a mascot called 'Dixie.' Although still a puppy, nips everyone & everything in a playful way.

28 Jan 1941: Replies to letter from his Mum, who wrote that their garden in Newlands is yielding an abundant supply of vegetables. He suggests they look at a copy of the Rand Daily Mail dated 3 Jan 1941 which carries an article 'Our troops went out on Patrol.' This would give some idea where he was stationed, as with his two brothers, Cyril & Tib where all the forces gather, before heading off to their respective front lines.

3 Feb 1941:Writing from "a good few miles' into Abyssinia." The armoured cars advancing through the undergrowth with Vickers machine guns and mortars 'spitting death.' He was walking along the road with Capt. Cronje, the 2nd in command when a sniper fired on them. He requested to join the rest on the company in the advance, as Coy. Quartermasters don't normally go to the front lines. The force closed on the enemy post which eventually raised a white flag with the entire attack lasting just over twenty minutes. He said, "It's a queer sensation to have bullets whistling about you and wondering whether your name is written on one or not. If one had, then it had the wrong ruddy address! I have heard the rumour that there is recruiting in the Union for active service overseas - the Blue Tabs. Please let me know if that is the case & whether it's possible for the fellows up here to participate in the undertaking. I have never mentioned in any of my letters exactly what things are like in our crowd for obvious reasons (censored mail), but certain pointers indicate we are Britishers - English speaking fellows & are quite unwanted. For sure this unit wishes to be 100% Afrikaans speaking - men of the veld etc. Therefore with the feelings as they are, I feel my presence and duties would be suited elsewhere. Certain other members of my Company have also been curbing their tongues lest 'John Bull gets a-going.' Last evening I happened to overhear certain parties` conversation which compels me to write as I have done. The comment passed as our crowd left Ladysmith (their staging area) was; 'thank goodness the hobo's have gone.' Then in Pietermaritzburg we were dubbed the 'South African Australians.' You can imagine my feelings after being in a Regiment - a British Dominion Regiment as the Cape Town Highlanders for about four years. Fortunately my rank takes me out of the motley crowd but the feelings exist throughout. Please don't upset Mom with the details of this letter as she might begin to worry. Dad, I know you will understand the position as any one else. I only wish I could get a transfer to Cyril or Tib`s ack ack crowd. But of course this is the price one pays after losing a job, and joining a Unit of which one knows nothing. One thing I will and must say, this crowd are a damn good fighting crowd - go through anything and have plenty of guts. But that is not all when the 'esprit de corps' is nonexistent on all sides. Anyway Dad, if I can get overseas, I know you will let me go, provided the military authorities can be squared. So hears [sic] hoping I've not bored you with excessive grumbling or grousing." Until next time. Your son, Jim.

4 Feb 1941: Took up position after a day's traveling in convoy. Set up camp, and shell trenches dug. After a light supper of Coffee, Porridge, Biscuits and Jam, we settled down for the night. This was interrupted by an enemy convoy traveling up the same road. The time was 03h34 and the moon was settling down. All hell let loose with intensive gunfire from both sides. Seven Italians tanks then joined the battle supported by light artillery. However as dawn broke the enemy turned tail from the direction they came from. Captured Italian officers revealed they had been sent to reinforce the garrison of the local town. Within a day the Battalion attacked & captured the town located about three miles up the road. It comprised a 'Beau Geste' type fort with a chapel & swimming pool. We commenced our advance to find the Italians had already vacated the next town. He writes, 'I expect we'll be home very soon now as our job in Abyssinia is just about done - I think.'

The Main Talk was presented by Maj. Gen. Chris Le Roux on "The role of Cecil John Rhodes in South African Military History."

Cecil John Rhodes was born on 5 July 1853 and died on 26 March 1902. He was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world's rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%. An ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, he was the founder of the state of Rhodesia which was named after him. After independence, Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe. He set up the provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate. A sickly, asthmatic, adolescent, Cecil Rhodes was taken out of grammar school and sent to Natal, South Africa because his family thought the hot climate would improve his health. They expected he would help his older brother Herbert who operated a cotton farm. On 1 September 1870 he first set foot on African soil, a tall, lanky, anaemic, fair-haired boy, shy and reserved in bearing. He remained in Natal until October 1871, when he moved to the diamond fields, just opening up. Over the next 17 years Rhodes succeeded in buying up all the smaller diamond mining operations in the Kimberley area. His monopoly of the world's diamond supply was sealed in 1889 through a strategic partnership with the London-based Diamond Syndicate. In 1892, Rhodes financed The Pioneer Fruit Growing Company. The successful operation soon expanded into Rhodes Fruit Farms and formed a cornerstone of the modern-day Cape fruit industry. In 1874 and 1875, the diamond fields were in the grip of depression, but Rhodes and his financier Rudd were among those who stayed to consolidate their interests. During this time, the technical problem of clearing out the water that was flooding the mines became serious. Rhodes and Rudd obtained the contract for pumping water out of the three main mines. On 12 March 1880, Rhodes and Rudd launched the De Beers Mining Company.

In 1880, Rhodes prepared to enter public life at the Cape. In 1890, Rhodes became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and implemented laws that would benefit mine and industry owners. He introduced the Glen Grey Act to push black people from their lands and make way for industrial development. He also introduced educational reform to the area. Rhodes' policies were instrumental in the development of British imperial policies in South Africa. He did not, however, have direct political power over the Boer Republics and often disagreed with the Transvaal government's policies. He believed he could use his money and his power to overthrow the Boer government and install a British colonial government supporting mine-owners' interests in its place. In 1895, Rhodes supported an attack on the Transvaal, the infamous Jameson Raid, which proceeded with the tacit approval of Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain. The raid was a catastrophic failure. It forced Cecil Rhodes to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, sent his oldest brother Col. Frank Rhodes to jail in Transvaal convicted of high treason, and led to the outbreak of the Second Boer War. Rhodes promoted his business interests as in the strategic interest of Britain: preventing the Portuguese, Germans and Boers from moving in to south-central Africa.

One of Rhodes' dreams was for a "red line" on the map from the Cape to Cairo. Rhodes had been instrumental in securing southern African states for the Empire. He and others felt the best way to "unify the possessions, facilitate governance, enable the military to move quickly to hot spots or conduct war, help settlement, and foster trade" would be to build the "Cape to Cairo Railway." Rhodes wanted to expand the British Empire because he believed that the Anglo Saxon race was destined to greatness. In his last will and testament, Rhodes said of the British, "I contend that we are the first race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race." He wanted to make the British Empire a superpower in which all of the British-dominated countries in the empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Cape Colony.

Rhodes was more tolerant of the Dutch-speaking whites in the Cape Colony than were the other English-speaking whites in the Cape Colony. While Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, he helped to remove most of the legal disabilities that English-speaking whites had imposed on Dutch-speaking whites and was supported by the Afrikaner Bond. Rhodes was a man of the boldest vision, close friends spoke of the "sheer natural power of his mind", his magnetic powers and his love of nature and art. There was a dark side, captured by the jibe that he was a man with a first rate mind and second rate principles. He was phenomenal in shaping the History of Southern Africa.

After a lively question and answer session the vote of thanks was presented by Don Porter who thanked both speakers for their excellent and well prepared presentations.

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Thursday 14th July 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 Mrs Marjory Dean (a National Committee Member from Johannesburg) on "Military Miscellany."
The Main Talk will be presented by Peter Williams on "Afghanistan - Axis of Terror."

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: August - October 2011.

11th August
DDH - "The Thukela; Spionkop Revisited." By Mikhael Peppas
Main Talk - "The Raid on Surprise Hill by the 2nd Bn The Rifle Brigade" by Robin Smith.

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 Disputed Territory as a cause of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879." by Anthony Coleman

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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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This will take place over the weekend of the 13th and 14th August 2011. An evaluation of the change of tactics by both Boer and British commanders will be the focus of the tour, with presentations by Prof Philip Everitt, Dr Graeme Fuller, Roy Bowman, Bill Brady and Ken Gillings. The Royal Hotel in Ladysmith has offered members a special rate of R495 single, DBB and R765 sharing DBB for the night of Saturday 13th August 2011. Bookings must be made directly with the hotel on telephone 036 637 2176, fax 036 637 2176 or e-mail . Please refer to the bulk booking made with Ms Ellouise Jansen van Vuuren.

An attendance register will be circulated at the next two meetings, but to assist with logistics and planning, please advise Ken Gillings. Note that a light lunch will be organised with the Colenso Club and members are requested to support them.


The cost of the tour (excluding the light lunch and accommodation) will be R30 per person. Rendezvous at the N3 Ultra City west bound (Estcourt) for a 09h00 SHARP departure.

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South African Military History Society /