South African Military History Society

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The Chairlady, Marjorie Dean, opened the June meeting by calling upon the Secretary, Joan Marsh, to pay tribute to one of the Society's founder members, Nick Kinsey, who passed away recently. In addition to being a founder member, Nick had been a National Chairman and Editor of the Journal. He played a leading role in establishing the Society and Joan emphasized this in an excellent tribute to him, which included slides of him taking part in various Society activities.

Marjorie then gave a number of other notices before introducing the curtain raiser speaker. This was Captain (SAN) Charles Ross, a retired South African naval officer who is now the Secretary of the South African Branch of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Charles, who as Secretary heads up the South African office of the Commission, started his talk on "The Work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission" by giving the historical background of the organisation. It owes its origin to Sir Fabian Ware who, with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, was concerned that the lack of a dedicated task team to record the graves of the fallen would result in their graves being lost forever. He mobilised a number of volunteers and proceeded to France to ensure that all the graves of the fallen were marked and recorded. These volunteers were subsequently incorporated into the British Army in 1915, with the title of Grave Registration Commission. There was a further change of title in 1917 when a royal Charter led to the establishment of the Imperial War Graves Commission. In 1920, the Commission adopted four principles which still stand today, namely:

a) Each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name, either on a headstone on the grave or by an inscription on a memorial;

b) Headstones and memorials should be permanent;

c) Headstones should be uniform;

d) There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed.

This led to the construction of a large number of cemeteries and memorials all over the world, to honour the dead of World War I.

South Africa participated in the work of the Commission and the South African Agency was established on 21 October 1921 as part of the then Department of Public Works. In 1968 the Commission's name was once again altered, this time to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the title it now carries.

Based in Maidenhead, in the United Kingdom, the Commission now has agencies in 153 countries and is responsible for the memory of 1,7 million dead. Since the 1980s the South African Agency has no longer been part of the Department of Public Works but reports directly the Head Office in the UK. It is responsible for 602 burial sites in South Africa, where 8 440 Commonwealth war casualties are commemorated; 32 burial sites in Namibia, where 427 Commonwealth war casualties are commemorated; and a memorial in Lesotho. In addition to this, the Agency is responsible for 265 British Imperial burial sites where more than 24 000 casualties from the Anglo-Boer War are commemorated.

The Agency deals with military cemeteries, military plots in civilian cemeteries; scattered graves in civilian cemeteries and isolated graves (most often found on farms).

Using a system of their own employees and local contractors, the Agency insures that every burial site is inspected on a regular basis and the surroundings maintained to the highest horticultural standards. Charles illustrated this by a series of slides showing various graves and memorials, both in South Africa and overseas. Although vandalism; theft; grave-robbery and graffiti pose continual problems, the Agency has maintained these sites in pristine condition and they form fitting last resting places for the fallen.

Charles closed with a preview of activities the Agency has lined up for future action and improvement.

At the close of this most interesting and enlightening talk there was a short question period before Marjorie introduced the main speaker of the evening. This was Colonel Ken Gillings, a member of the Durban Branch and an internationally renowned tour guide and lecturer on Natal Military History sites.

Ken's talk was entitled "The Art of War - Lieutenant Colonel JN Crealock's Anglo-Zulu War water-colours" and, as could be expected from the title, was beautifully illustrated.

Ken started with the background of the artist himself. John North Crealock was Lord Chelmsford's "...talented but unscrupulous military secretary". A veteran of the Indian Mutiny, he was the younger brother of Maj Gen Henry Hope Crealock who commanded the First Division during Chelmsford's Second Invasion of Zululand in May 1879. He served with Chelmsford at Aldershot and was given a 'plum staff appointment' at the Horse Guards.

During the Anglo-Zulu War he became Chelmsford's military secretary and it was generally agreed that all Chelmsford's 'disagreeable orders' supposedly emanated from Crealock. He was described by Sir Garnet Wolseley as 'that arch-snob' and 'evil genius' and accused of 'governing Chelmsford and keeping him in ignorance of all going on about him'. He was, however a skilled painter in watercolours and was slightly wounded at Battle of Gingindlovu on the 2nd April 1879.

During Victorian times, it was to an officer's advantage to be good at sketching; it was not only on the syllabus at Sandhurst but also at the Army Staff College Camberley until at least the Anglo-Boer War, possibly later. The reason for this was because the British Army seldom had properly surveyed maps of wherever it was fighting, and an important part of the duties of a junior officer, and of a trained staff officer in particular, was to be able to produce a good sketch map and sketch panorama for his Commanding Officer or General. The speaker pointed out that one officer who attended the Staff College had one of his sketches returned to him by its assessor on the Directing Staff with a poor grade and the solemn annotation "You must practice drawing gravel pits"! The officer subsequently was awarded a VC...

Crealock's water-colours from the Frontier Wars were published by the van Riebeeck Society many years ago and in 1964, Mr R A Brown (the Librarian at the University of Natal Press in Pietermaritzburg) edited those related to the Anglo-Zulu War and they were published in a limited edition of a book entitled "The Road to Ulundi", now long out of print.

Ken obtained the permission of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press to match the paintings with photographs. It was clear that Crealock used a degree of artist's licence in some cases - probably due to time constraints - but all except one of the sites was located. The project has taken three years to complete and often necessitated visiting some of the most remote sites in Zululand.

Crealock's paintings portray the route taken by Chelmsford from August 1879 (when he was planning the invasion of Zululand) to after his resignation following his defeat of the Zulu army at Ulundi on the 4th July 1879. Many are remarkably accurate and the speaker was able to include features such as rocks, crevices, old Zulu homesteads and tracks to identify several sites. Crealock also produced several composite paintings which it has been possible to match using a panorama feature on Ken's camera. The similarity is astounding.

Several of the sites were a major challenge to match. One example was the site of the death of the Prince Imperial of France on the 1st June 1879, which is normally accessed from Barklieside in the Nondweni area. After struggling to match the hills in the sketch, Ken realised that Crealock would have ridden in from the north and after a detour from that direction, he was able to match the surrounding countryside perfectly. Crealock's sketch of the Hlobane battlefield was made from the summit of Zunguin Mountain and thankfully a local farmer told him about a track to a repeater mast. After an hour long drive, using low range 4 wheel drive in some cases, the track took them to within a few hundred metres of where the sketch was made.

Ken ended his presentation with a map indicating where the water-colours had been made. The route took Crealock from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, Pietermaritzburg to Kranskop, Kranskop to the Mangeni falls via Helpmekaar, Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana and back to Durban after the Battle of Isandlwana. Crealock then followed the General along the North Coast via Stanger to Fort Pearson, across the Thukela and Amatikulu Rivers to Gingiundlovu and Eshowe, back to Durban and then to present day Vryheid via Mooi River and Utrecht. The route then took them back into Zululand via Koppie Alleen, the Jojosi River (where the Prince Imperial was killed), to the Zungeni Mountain and isiPhezi, past present day Babanango to Fort Evelyn, Ulundi and then to St Paul's between Melmoth and Eshowe, after which they returned to Durban. The route is well in excess of 1000 km!

The photographs have been copied onto a disk and presented to the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press for consideration as a sequel to "The Road to Ulundi".

With the conclusion of this excellent talk, Marjorie allowed a brief question time before asking Hamish Paterson to thank both speakers and present them with the customary gifts. This was most eloquently done, after which Marjorie closed the meeting and invited all present to partake of the refreshment available.

Ivor Little, Scribe FORTHCOMING LECTURES Johannesburg 12th July CR John Bleloch Milner : Hero or Villain ML Ivor Little Snippets from the Life of a Military Attach‚ 9th August CR: Jan Willem Hoogweg Fighter Pilots of WWII ML: John Parkinson HMS Hermes in the Indian Ocean & Persian Gulf in 1941 KZN in Durban: 12th July DDH Jayne Moir The lonely Boer graves of St. Helena Main Colin Dean Nazis on Ice 9th August DDH Robin Smith Arthur Martin-Leak, VC and Bar Main Capt. Brian Hoffmann 1941 - 1945: The Naval War in the Pacific Cape Town: 12th July: Michael Schoeman An outline and concise history of the SAAF's fighter Squadrons in World War Two SAMHSEC: Contact chairman Malcolm Kinghorn (see below) or scribe Pat Irwin - * * * * * * * Contact details For Cape Town details contact Ray Hattingh 021-592-1279(am) For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ken Gillings 031-702-4828 For Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676 * * * * * * * Ivor Little
Chairman and Scribe.

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Members who wish to receive book announcements, please let Joan have an e-mail with the subject "Books" to

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Nick Kinsey

Founding member H.W. "Nick" Kinsey passed away on Sunday 27 May 2012 at age 93.

Nick was part of the "Old Guard" who, together with Maurice Gough-Palmer and later Darrell Hall would go and search for military graves in remote places. He served on the War Graves Board which looked after British war graves (and was funded by the British government) after South Africa left the Commonwealth in 1961.

He seldom pushed himself forward but, if questioned, displayed vast knowledge of most of the battles and skirmishes which were visited by Society members on battlefield tours, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. He was an expert on the Brandwater Basin and Sekhukuniland areas and well-acquainted with the battle sites between Pretoria and the lowveld.

. He was a keen supporter of Bagpipe music and the braais which the Society hosted at the Museum were duly graced by a piper each time.

His entire career saw him at the Chamber of Mines from which he retired as secretary of the Technical Activities committee. Society archives show an elegance of phrase in the letters he wrote to welcome Life Members and to thank speakers - he organised the lecture program in Johannesburg for longer than a decade.

Almost a dozen of Nick's articles appeared in the Journal, of which he was deputy editor from 1978 to 1994. He served as Society Chairman from 1981-1983 and on the occasion of the Society's 40thAnniversary in 2006 was awarded Honorary Life Membership in recognition of his outstanding contribution.

The Society extends deepest sympathy to Meryl, to his daughter Pamela, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Contact details

For Cape Town details contact Ray Hattingh 021-592-1279(am)

For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469

For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ken Gillings 031-702-4828

For Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676

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* * * * * * *

Contact details

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

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