South African Military History Society

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The January meeting was opened by the National Chairlady, who commenced by wishing everybody present a belated "Happy New Year". She then gave out the usual monthly notices. Among them was a request by Graham Addison for any information about any sort of military action in the Vredefort Dome area. If any member can help, please reply through the Secretary. Similarly, someone has a drawing/painting by the wartime artist Ben Burrage for sale. If interested please also contact the Secretary at the letterhead address.

Members are reminded that annual subscriptions are now due. Please ensure that when making payment that the paper work is done correctly. Marjorie gave several examples of careless banking by members, which has resulted in the Treasurer sitting with money paid in but with no idea who made the payment.

Marjorie then wished member Tim Waudby a happy birthday for his 91st birthday and all present - about 80 people - joined in singing "Happy Birthday" to Tim.

Unfortunately there were no Journals available for the meeting but they will be distributed shortly.

The floor was then ready for the "Curtain Raiser" speaker, John Molloy. John has spoken to the Society on previous occasions in his capacity as Chairman of the East Rand Historical Society, and the subject of his talk was "The Iceni Uprising of 61 AD."

The Iceni were a Celtic tribe of mixed origin which had avoided being involved in the Roman invasion of 43 AD when, under the leadership of Antedios, they had remained out of resistance to the invasion. They were helped in this by the location of their tribal territory on the North Sea coast, surrounded by swamps and forests. They accepted Roman authority and some Roman customs, but when the Roman governor, Publius Scapula, ordered that they surrender their weapons, they considered it an insult to their independence and, in AD 47, rebelled. The Romans easily subdued the uprising and replaced Antedios with Prasutagus, a client ruler. He proved a good ruler for both the Iceni and the Romans and the tribe prospered. In AD 49 he married a girl from another tribe named Boudica (or Bo[a]dicea). It was a happy marriage and they were blessed with two daughters.

Prasutagus died in AD 60, after eleven years of marriage. As a "client ruler" he was supposed to leave his estate to the Roman administration but, in an act of defiance, Prasatagus left his estate to his family. This was a slap in the face for the Roman authorities and they decided that the Iceni should be punished. Catus Decianus, the Procurator of the province, advanced into Iceni territory and attacked the tribal headquarters. They ransacked, looted, burned and plundered. Queen Boudica was tied to a tree and flogged and then forced to watch her two young daughters being tortured, humiliated and raped by Roman soldiers. This unforgiveable act stung Boudica into forming an alliance with her neighbouring tribes and, in AD 61, they launched an attack on the Roman capital of Camulodunum (modern day Colchester).

Camulodunum was unfortified and was a soft target with no garrison; the 10th Legion at that stage being on its way to subdue the Druids of Mona's Isle (modern day Anglesey). The legion was commanded by Gaius Suetorius Paulinas and, on receiving news of the uprising, he turned back to engage the rebels. Other Roman troops from Londinium (modern day London) and Lindum (modern day Lincoln) were also hastening to the defence of Camulodunum. They were too late. The rebellion gathered strength and the Iceni and their allies swept through Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium (modern day St. Albans), exacting a bloody revenge by murdering and burning all in their path. Around 100,000 Romans were killed in the most barbaric acts of reprisal on these undefended towns.

Boudica then decided to go after Paulinius' army, which she thought was advancing on Mona's Isle, whereas in actual fact he was advancing towards her. Boudica's army consisted of 200,000 amateur troops and camp followers and with these she was confident of an easy victory. However, Paulinus did not rush into battle but waited for her in a carefully chosen field of his own choosing on Watling Street, south of the Fosse Way Crossroads near Verulamium. The lie of the land meant that Boudica would have to make a frontal attack down a valley between the two hills. Things were exactly as Paulinus had planned. The undisciplined Iceni attacked the regular Roman formation and were repulsed. The Romans then advanced, the Iceni broke and, with a loss of only 400 legionaries, more than 80,000 Iceni were killed. Boudica poisoned her daughters and then committed suicide. Their bodies were never found. The Romans exacted the usual retribution on the Iceni and their allies, destroying everything in their territory and putting the population to the sword.

A statue to Boudica was erected outside the Houses of Parliament in London by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's Consort, as a symbolic tribute (Boudica means "victorious") to his wife and Boudica was also the model for "Britannia" and appeared on the British penny coin for many decades

. This was a most interesting talk and extremely well illustrated by a computer programme, ably managed by Bradley Perreira.

After a short question period, Marjorie introduced the main talk for the evening. This was "Uncle Sam's Songs of Strife: US Music with Martial Links", presented by fellow member Nick Cowley. Nick is a radio news editor at the SABC and has spoken to the Society on previous occasions. In this case he was backed up by a trio of ladies in US Western dress. These were Dot Hodgekiss; Betsy Coville of Chicago and Hilary Lease of Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of whom also provided a guitar accompaniment. All present were provided with song sheets with which to follow the music and, if so inclined, to sing along with the group.

Using a Power Point presentation, Nick started with the War of 1812 when, during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, a young American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was detained overnight aboard a British warship. As darkness fell the last thing he looked at from his cabin was the US flag above Fort McHenry, amid a rocket bombardment from British ships. In the morning it was still there and the sight so moved Key that he wrote the poem that would become the US national anthem - "The Star Spangled Banner". All present then stood as a sign of respect and accompanied the trio in singing this anthem. The evening then became a fun one as Nick went chronologically through American military history, accompanied by the appropriate songs.

First up was "The Battle of New Orleans", a song made famous by Burl Ives, but first sung shortly after that engagement when US troops, under Colonel (later President) Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) routed a British landing force on the Mississippi. Also from the 19th century came "The Marine's Hymn". The opening lines of this rousing march are "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli" and allude to the US Marines' participation in the US-Mexican War of 1846 and early operations against the Barbary pirates of North Africa.

Also from the Mexican War was "Green Grow the Lilacs", a sentimental ditty of the time. Legend has it that the opening lines of "Green Grow the Lilacs" gave rise to the Mexican derogatory terms for Americans of "Gringo".

The Texas War of 1836 gave rise to "The Yellow Rose of Texas" where the Texans were able to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, because the Mexican commander was absent and dallying with a beautiful mulatto woman named Emily West. Emily was subsequently enshrined in history as the Yellow Rose of Texas. The song was resurrected in the US Civil War, but with different words, referring to a very popular Confederate General, Joseph Johnston of Georgia.

The defining song of the US Civil War was "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", written by Julia Ward Howe and still sung regularly in churches throughout the world. Also from the Civil War was "Marching through Georgia", a song written by Henry Clay Work to commemorate Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's capture of Atlanta and advance to Savannah. The song is still a popular one for soldiers of all nations.

A very stirring song from World War I, "Over There", written by George M Cohan, followed. This song was equally popular in World War II, along with "Don't Fence Me In" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas", but Nick chose to represent World War II with "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer", originally sung by the Andrews Sisters, with lyrics about a badly damaged bomber limping home over Europe.

Coming up-to-date, we arrived a the Vietnam War and, skipping "Blowing in the Wind" and "Where have all the Flowers Gone?", Nick and his trio gave us the "Green Berets", a song forever associated with film actor John Wayne.

Nick and his trio brought his presentation to an end by inviting all present to sing along to the tune "Ellie Rhee", known locally as "Sarie Marais", a request which was carried out with gusto.

Marjorie then called upon Colin Dean to thank both speakers and their support teams, before she declared the meeting closed.

Ivor Little


The December 2012 Journals were posted on Monday 21 January. Anybody who has yet to receive their copy by mid-February, please contact the Secretary at the letterhead address.



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