South African Military History Society


Newsletter No 97 /Nuusbrief Nr 97 October 2012

The open house series was presented by Anne Irwin on Ernest Howard Shepard (1879 – 1976), best known as an English artist and illustrator of children’s books such as Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Shepard volunteered for the army in 1915, being commissioned in the Royal Artillery, in which he served for the remainder of the First World War. He was posted to France, Belgium and Italy and saw his first action on 10th June 1916 in Mont St Eloi, France. Also in 1916 he began working for the Intelligence section sketching the combat area within the view of his battery position. He achieved the rank of major, and was awarded the Military Cross at Ypres in 1917. Shepard continued to draw sketches and illustrations of life at the front throughout the war and sent work back to Britain for various publications. After he was demobilised in 1918 he returned to cartooning, later working as a political cartoonist for Punch. During the Second World War, he was a platoon commander, running the local Home Guard in Guilford. On Shepard's ninetieth birthday in 1969, he received a Greetings Telegram from Britain’s Master Gunner, General Sir Roderick McLeod, for whom he had worked in the War Office in London between 1953 and 1956. He said of this “That's the proudest thing I could possibly have received, that I should be remembered by the Gunners that I served in the First World War”.

The curtain raiser was presented by Alec Grant. Inspired by his visit to the Burgersdorp museum and cemetery during SAMHSEC’s August 2011 field trip and by his and his wife’s collection of Belleek porcelain, one of the graves which had caught Alec’s attention was that of Lieutenant Walter Moore from the town Cliff Belleek in Ireland. Alec described how he subsequently contacted the Belleek factory to see whether there was any possible connection. He received the following response:

I am intrigued by your email. Cliff is a district between Belleek and Ballyshannon but the name specifically refers to a large house belonging originally to the Conolly family who at one time owned an estate which encompassed most of the area around the town of Ballyshannon in Co Donegal. Cliff House built on the edge of the Cliff waterfall was demolished in the early 1950s to make way for the building of a Hydro-Electric Dam. The house prior to its demolition belonged to a Major Moore who in the late 1940s would I think have been an elderly gentleman who perhaps may have seen service during the Boer War.

Turning to Lieutenant Moore himself, Alec was able to piece together that, as the third son of Robert Lyon Moore JP DL of Molenan, Co. Londonderry, Walter Moore was educated at Winchester and went on to serve in the Duke of Cambridge’s Own Imperial Yeomanry during the Anglo-Boer War. He was with Colonel Basil Spragge’s force captured by Gen. de Wet and Cmdt. Martinus Prinsloo at Lindley on 29th – 31st May 1900. After their release, Moore was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1901 joined Lt. Col. G F Gorringe’s Flying Column which had been raised in Graaff Reinet on 5th January 1901 (and which became known for the rapidity of its movements, not only against Boer commandos operating in the Cape, but also against the so-called ‘Cape Rebels’). Less than a year after joining this unit, Moore died of pneumonia in Burgersdorp, where he was buried on 6th November 1901 aged 30 years.

The museum at Burgersdorp also provided the following information: Of the 40 British soldiers buried in the Municipal Cemetery in Burgersdorp only two died in battle. The others all died of disease or in accidents. At least ten soldiers died in railway accidents, the worst one being the collision between two armoured trains on Stormberg junction.

The following extract of correspondence from Walter Moore’s great nephew, Robert Moore completes the story: I am most interested in the content of your mail - you are quite correct that Lieutenant Walter Moore was a great uncle of mine. I am aware of his history and the fact that he died in South Africa and have some correspondence relating to that and a large framed photograph of his gravestone. He was one of five children - three boys and two girls. His brother Leo, who also served during the Boer War, survived and lived to an old age. My grandfather was the one who stayed at home and managed the family estates – one of which was Cliff and the other Molenan, where we live now.

The main lecture, titled Major J P Pretorius: A man of his time was presented by Colin Urquhart. Phillip Jacobus ‘Jan’ Pretorius was born in the Waterberg on 18th February 1877. He was the son of Gerhardus Petrus Pretorius and Gertbreggie Adriana (née van der Walt). At age 13, his father, a commandant in both the Anglo-Transvaal War (1880-1881) and the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902) and a relation of Andries Pretorius after whom Pretoria was named, took the boy on a trip to Khama’s country which left an indelible impression on him and led to his lifelong wanderlust. In 1893 he acted as a transport rider for Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, the start of his long association with central and east Africa. Aged 18, he took part in the crushing of the 1895 Matabele Uprising, after which he went mining in order to save enough to equip himself as a hunter. In 1899 he moved into what was then Nyasaland, Tanganyika (then ‘German East Africa’) and northern Mozambique, contracting malaria, which was to affect him for the rest of his life, along the way. Here he hunted extensively for three years, claiming that he only heard of the Anglo-Boer War after it was over.

During this period and later, Pretorius met a wide range of people including Arab slavers, Hutus, Tutsis and Pygmies. He had a penchant for learning the local languages, a skill which was to serve him in good stead in the years to come, including the First World War. He reported having had many adventures and numerous narrow escapes from both wild animals and hostile tribesmen. At one point he was arrested by the Germans, having been accused of murdering 46 people and spent two years in gaol in Dar-es-Salaam. The circumstances surrounding this event are obscure, but it did leave him with a lasting hatred for the Germans. It was towards the end of this period (1902 – 1913) that he claimed to have shot over 560 elephants and to have bought a farm in the Rufiji area from the proceeds of the ivory sales. Also during this period, Pretorius visited Europe and Jerusalem, where he met his first wife and took her back to the Rifiji River, where she soon succumbed to fever. He again found himself in conflict with the German authorities, this time over the ownership of his farm. He states that in early 1914 he was captured by them, but managed to escape with the help of friendly locals and some missionaries, eventually finding his way back to Pretoria. With the outbreak of World War I, Pretorius volunteered to act as a scout for the Union Defence Force. Suspected of being a spy, he was initially not accepted, but was later recruited with the rank of sergeant. Summoned to Cape Town, he joined the RNVR and, under the direct orders of Admiral HG King-Hall, tasked with locating the German Imperial Navy’s light cruiser SMS Königsberg under Fregattenkapitan Max Looff. The Königsberg, after a period of commerce raiding and the sinking of HMS Pegasus in Zanzibar harbour, had taken refuge in the Rufiji Delta while her boilers were being repaired in Dar-es-Salaam.

Together with six handpicked askaris, Pretorius was put ashore on Koma Island near the mouth of the Rufiji Delta. They canoed over to the mainland one night, and with information obtained from two captured local inhabitants, managed to locate the Königsberg. Several months of careful reconnaissance and mapping, including by South African aircraft, ultimately led to the destruction of the German cruiser on 11th July 1915. [See SAMHSEC Newsletter No 89, February 2012 for an account of the career of the Königsberg – Scribes].

Pretorius, now with the rank of Lieutenant, then joined General Smuts in the land-based East African campaign. Promoted to the rank of Major on 1st October 1915, he spent several months doing valuable reconnaissance work in the Talaita and Pangani areas on the movement of troops under the command of Lt. Gen. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and Major Theodor Tafel. Speaking the local languages, he also engineered a minor uprising against the Germans and was involved in the surrender of Major Tafel and 3 500 men in November 1917, after the latter had run out of supplies. In early 1918 Pretorius was taken ill and sent back to South Africa. He returned to East Africa in May and continued to scout until December when he was again sent back to South Africa, finally declared unfit for duty. For his services, Pretorius was awarded the CMG, DSO and bar.

Pretorius settled on his farm in Nylstroom and married for a second time – a union which produced six daughters and two sons. Much of his time was spent hunting, including the commissioned slaughter of the Addo elephants. On 12th October 1939, aged 62, and with the rank of Major, Pretorius joined the Active Citizen Force and took part in the South African campaign in Abyssinia. He retired from active service on 8th July 1942 and again went farming until his death in Pretoria on 24th November 1945, aged 68. He will largely be remembered for his part in the destruction of the Königsberg and for his shooting of the Addo elephants. Details of his exploits are recounted in his autobiography Jungle Man published in 1948 and reprinted in 2001.

Future meetings and field trips

SAMHSEC’s next meeting will be on 8th October at the EP Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. Yoland Irwin will give the curtain raiser on her recent trip to Gallipoli. The main lecture titled ‘The Decision’: The story of a military decision rated by modern historians as the most important ever made in the history of the United States will be by John Stevens. The screening of the ‘World at War’ series will be Pincers (August 1944 – March 1945).

The November meeting is on Saturday 10th November. The provisional programme is as follows: A morning visit to SAAF Museum followed by a ‘bring and braai’ at the museum. There is also a possibility of visiting the two VC graves, the Fordyce Memorial, and ABW sites. These are still to be confirmed. After lunch, Fred Oelschig will present a lecture on Winning the war in Eastern Caprivi. There will be no curtain raiser, but the lecture will be preceded by a brief synopsis of SAMHSEC’s first 100 meetings by Pat Irwin. Details of time and directions are to follow.

The December meeting will be on 10th at the usual venue and, as has become custom, a film will be shown in lieu of lectures. This will be Oh! What a Lovely War, a satirical comment on World War I, using popular songs of the time, and allegorical settings to portray historical events.

Matters of general interest

Individual members’ activities

Mac Alexander recently visited New Zealand where he was able to get a good look at some of the historic coastal artillery. Malcolm Kinghorn and Pat Irwin both visited Fort Wynyard in Cape Town. This historical site, the home of the Cape Garrison Artillery, has been refurbished in recent years with promise for the development of a museum. In addition to the fortification itself, there is a good collection of coastal artillery pieces and some anti-aircraft guns including one of the original two ‘Skinny Liz’ AA guns, the other being at the Anti-Aircraft School in Kimberley. The site is well worth a visit. From Beach Road in Greenpoint, turn into Granger road where you will find the fort entrance on the right hand side. Announce yourself at the Garrison orderly room, where you will get a warm welcome.

Pat Irwin also visited the Anglo-Boer War Postage Exhibition in the Castle. This private collection of envelopes, stamps and related interpretive material, compiled over 30 years and now valued at R15 million, is absolutely superb and unique. Do not miss any opportunity to view it and allow two to three hours to absorb the details.

Opknapping van Anglo-Boereoorlog grafte

Kennis is van die Erfenisstigting ontvang dat die die volgende begraafplase reeds opgeknap is en word nou sover moontlik gereeld  skoon gehou:
Springfontein (met dank aan Charles Ross van die Statebond se Oorlogsgraftekommissie); Heidelberg (twee begraafplase); Mondeor/Turffontein; Vereeniging; Krugersdorp; Klerksdorp; Winburg – hofsaak ophande; Middelburg (twee begraafplase); Berg-en-dal/ Dalmanutha; Van der Hoffweg, Pretoria-Noord; Kerkstraat, Pretoria (Helde-akker en ander); Volksrust; O’Niel se kothuis en begraafplaas; Nylstroom; Heilbron; Beyersrus/ Makwassie; Belfast (in proses).

Abbottabad Anglo-Boereoorlog grafte

Tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog (1899-1902) is meer as 31 000 Boere krygsgevange geneem. Op 2 April 1901 het die eerste groep van 512 krygsgevangenes na Ahmednagar in Indië vertrek. Van die 9 551 krygsgevangenes wat in Indië aangehou is, het 139 gesterf. Hulle is by Kakul, naby die plek waar Osama bin Ladin gedood is, begrawe. Die krygsgevangenes is in ‘n ommuurde begraafplaas begrawe, waar die Raad vir Nasionale Gedenkwaardighede in die 1950s ‘n marmerpaneel laat aanbring het met die name van die oorledenes. Die muur bestaan bykans nie meer nie en die begraafplaas is in ‘n toestand van verwaarlosing.

Eeufees Vrouemonument 2013: opknapping [van die] monument

Prof Piet Strauss, Voorsitter van die Vrouemonumentkommissie het ons laat weet dat die bekende Nasionale Vrouemonument in Bloemfontein op 16 Desember 2013 ‘n eeu oud sal wees. Omdat die monument van sandsteen gebou is, het dit gereeld versorging en opknapping nodig. Sandsteen is nie goed bestand teen water- en winderosie nie. Bydraes tot die opknapping sal erken word. Vir verdere besonderhede kontak of sel 082 557 3414.

Some notable anniversaries in October

Websites of interest

Disputes of old
France's ancient Alesia dispute rumbles on
BBC News Paris 27 August 2012 Hugh Schofield

American Civil War
Antietam: Re-enacting a bloody 1862 US Civil War battle
BBC News Magazine, Maryland 27 September 2012 Daniel Nasaw

Post Anglo-Boer War: Captain Oates
Antarctic mission: Who was Captain Lawrence Oates?
BBC News 10 March 2012 Dhruti Shah

World War I
Photos of Manchester's WWI 'unsung hero' tunnellers found
BBC News, Manchester 17 September 2012 Anon
The three leads at the end of the article are of particular interest.

World War II
WWII bomb scare at Schiphol
Airport News 24 2012-08-30

US 'hushed up' Soviet guilt over Katyn
BBC News Europe 11 September 2012

Vietnam War
Viewpoint: Counter-insurgency lessons from Vietnam

BBC News Magazine 19 September 2012

Fellow member, Peter Duffel-Canham has drawn our attention to two interesting articles on the
Middle East: Gauging the Threat from Islamist Elements in the Mideast and
Don’t Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis. They can be viewed at

Books and CDs of military interest

As WWII recedes further into history, there is a greater interest, and a sense of daring, in looking at the war from the perspective of the suffering of the Germans. German culture itself has started to become engaged in a re-evaluation of the trauma brought about during the 1933 -1945 period. This shift in focus from primarily a responsibility for the Holocaust to more widespread suffering under the Nazi yoke has attracted a good deal of critical attention, and concomitantly, in recent years a number of books have appeared in this genre. Two recent publications which fall broadly within this sphere are:

Schmitz Helmut & Seidel-Arpachi Annette (Eds) 2011 Narratives of trauma: Discourses of German wartime suffering in national and international perspective. Amsterdam Rodopi B.V.

This volume, authored by a multi-national team, examines the discourses of wartime suffering in post-war Germany, looking at both the historical roots and the continuing existence in public memory and culture. It covers a wide range of issues from bombing to post-war German expellees from eastern Europe, to monuments. It sets out a re-articulation of this suffering in an international context with respect to its reception and reflection in both eastern and western Europe and Israel.

Nordbruch Claus 2012 Bleeding Germany dry: The Aftermath of World War II from the German Perspective Pretoria Contact Publishers

  Written from a distinctively right-wing point of view, this book is nevertheless in one sense challengingly iconoclastic and refreshingly questions political correctness. It covers a wide range of issues, real and imagined, from cataloguing death, material losses and suffering to the claimed need for reparations and compensation for the German people. It is argued that the former Allies continue to wage war against Germany, ‘albeit a war no longer waged with bombs and machine guns’, but rather ‘an intellectual corrosive subversion’. It also raises the issues of the torture and murder of millions of German civilians and prisoners of war in both eastern and western Europe and the abuse of Germans as forced labourers. Nordbruch is a strong critic of the German Federal Republic’s standard response that ‘the injustices perpetrated on the German people by foreign powers are rooted in injustices committed by the National Socialist regime’. The book needs to be read with a strongly critical eye with regards to many of the claims it makes, including those purportedly based on ‘facts’ as well as the sometimes blatantly nonsensical arguments it puts forward.

Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn: -
Scribes: Anne and Pat Irwin
Correspondence to:
Society’s Web address: 

South African Military History Society /