South African Military History 


Newsletter No 86 November/Nuusbrief Nr 86 November 2011

The family member's military service presentation was by Andre Crozier on his father, Robert Dupre Crozier. At the start of the war his father was teaching at Healdtown, near Fort Beaufort. He joined up in August 1942 at the age of 38 and trained in Coastal Artillery on Robben Island. After the fall of Tobruk in June 1942, there was a recruiting drive for men to fill the 6 Armoured Division. He relinquished his rank in the Coastal Artillery and was posted to the Pretoria Regiment as a trooper. Andre read out extracts from his father's letters dealing with the training and the departure from Durban. In Egypt he had the hardships of the desert to deal with. A highlight was being personally greeted whilst on parade by the 6 Div Commander, General Evered Poole, whom he knew from school days. Being a teacher, he was nominated for the Army Education Service course. He was flown back to Pretoria, where he passed the course and was commissioned as an Information Officer. To his disappointment, he was not sent back to 6 Div, but was assigned to the Coastal Artillery in East London. By 1944 there was little chance of naval attack on East London. He was discharged on medical grounds in May 1944 and returned to teaching at Healdtown. Andre concluded that his father was not a war hero, but like many other men and women, he answered the call and gave of his best.

Stephen Bowker's curtain raiser was on HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1758 the British Admiralty placed an order for a First Rate Ship of 100 guns. Victory was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, an English Naval Architect. Her keel was laid down at Chatham dockyard. Seven years later, she was launched on 7 May 1765. 2 500 Oak trees were used in her construction. This long time gave the oak plenty of time to cure which contributed to her preservation. Her armament was lower deck 30 x 32 pounders, middle deck 28 x 24 pounders, upper deck 30 x 12 pounders, quarterdeck 12 x 12 pounders, forecastle 2 x 68 pounder carronades. The Victory was manned by 850 officers and men. After the Battle of Trafalgar, the battered Victory was towed to Portsmouth where she remained for many years before being restored to her current condition. HMS Victory is still in commission in the Royal Navy as the Flagship of the Commander in Chief, Naval Home Command.

The main lecture was by Ian Copley on Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Apart from his career in the navy, one is faced with an unusual person who overcame physical adversity. He may have had a 'small man' complex, ever striving for excellence. Born in 1758, he was the sixth of 12 children, whose mother died when he was 9. Early childhood stories mention his bravery, individuality, sense of duty and leadership with which he compensated for his puny, sickly person. His father was rector of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk, a low lying area where malaria was endemic. At the age of 12 he entered the navy through his maternal uncle, Captain Suckling, who thought the boy would be carried away by the first cannon ball! His father took him to London and put him on the coach for Chatham where he wandered around until a naval officer found and fed him, delivering him to the ship next day. He was on the Raisonable unrecognised for two days as his uncle was ashore. He passed his exams and had promotion and command well ahead of his age, spending some time in the West Indies where he married widow Nesbitt. Her son, Joshua, became one of Nelson's midshipmen; his first aid saved Nelson before his arm had to be amputated. Carrying dispatches to Naples in 1793 he first met Emma, Lady Hamilton, who, after the Battle of the Nile in 1798, nursed him back to health. She was horrified by his appearance. Later she had a child, Horatia, surnamed 'Thomson'. In spite of Nelson's wish, she was ignored and received neither help nor recognition after his death, when she went to pieces, was imprisoned for debt, became an alcoholic and died in penury in France. Prior to Trafalgar, Nelson had lost his right eye [Corsica] and right arm [Tenerife] and suffered head [Nile] and abdominal wounds [Cape St Vincent]. By 1805 he had angina, gout, chronic malaria and possible chronic typhoid.

He had discussed his plans for the battle off Cape Trafalgar in advance, intending to cut off the van of the enemy and in two columns pass between their bows and sterns for the first broad side, coming along their lee unexpectedly. He knew the advantages and disadvantages, but had supreme confidence. His officers pleaded with him to cover his decorations or transfer to a ship less engaged, but, as ever, he wished to do his duty and to be seen doing it, leading from the front. The battle started at noon. At 1325 he was shot from the rigging of Redoutable through the left shoulder, probably damaging the brachial plexus as he could not support himself on that side. He said that his back is shot through and he had no feeling below the breast and felt something rising in his breast - indicating internal bleeding [from a pulmonary vessel] as well as a transection of the spinal cord. He asked not to be buried at sea as were the other dead. His body was preserved in spirits until his state funeral at St Paul's Cathedral a few months later.

SAMHSEC congratulates fellow member Brian Klopper on his appointment as the Port Elizabeth Branch Chairman of the South African Legion of Military Veterans.

Poppies can be obtained at the SA Legion HQ in the Aloe White Ensign MOTH Shellhole on the corner of Church Road & 8th Avenue, Walmer. The Shellhole is open on Fridays from 1700. Prospective donors/poppy buyers are welcome to drop in, have a drink and make a donation to the Annual Poppy Day appeal if thus inclined. Poppies are also available from St Paul's Anglican Church, Tucker St, Parsons Hill after Sunday services.

Stephen Bowker will be doing regular business trips to the Cradock, Graaf Reinet and Somerset East areas. He has offered his services to recce anything in these areas. His e-mail adress is

Members might be interested in visiting what was Piet Retief's farm Mooimeisiesfontein in Riebeeck East. It is now a National Monument and open to the public. Mr and Mrs Lemmer live in the house, so it is best to make an appointment on 072 010 9414 to make sure they are available. Cary Clark owns the Mooi Meisies Guest House in town and would be happy to assist; her number is 074 618 8747.

SAMHSEC's next meeting will be at 1400 on 12 November 2011 at the EP Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. There will be neither a curtain raiser nor a World at War episode. The family member's military service series presentation will be by Pat Irwin. The main lecture will be by Fred Oelschig on Jonas Savimbi: the man, his brand Unita and the SADF connection. The meeting will be preceded by a morning field trip to some of PE harbour's WW2 defences and SAMHSEC's end of year lunch-time braai, details available from the scribe.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /