South African Military History Society

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The Chairman, Malcolm King, opened the November meeting and mentioned that attendance had been 79 in October. This was followed by This week in History

. Everyone was reminded not to miss the Guided Tour of the War Museum exhibits on WWI.

Malcolm drew our attention to a petition against the closure of the library at the Imperial War Museum in London. Details of this are available from him.

A small increase in subscriptions was announced for 2015, from R215 to R225 for single and from R230 to R240 for family membership. Invoices will be sent out in the new year.

The next Movie in the WWI series to be shown at the Ditsong Museum will be My Boy Jack in January 2015.

It was also announced that Ann Samson had her new book available on WWI in East Africa.

Malcolm then introduced our first speaker, Nigel Fox, who spoke on The Machine Guns of Mushroom Valley. This battle in the 1914 Afrikaner Rebellion took place in a valley close to a lake near Winburg in the OFS. The rebel leader, Christiaan de Wet, had halted his troops there because of the space and number of possible escape routes. The government force was led by Prime Minister Louis Botha.

The British had wanted the SA Army to go into German SWA to silence the radio equipment there but Beyers, Kemp and de la Rey took the opportunity to try to recruit the force training for this in Potchefstroom to their cause. The rebels had been offered weapons and other support by the Germans. [De la Rey of course never reached Potchefstroom, having been killed in Langlaagte by a ricochet from a police bullet fired at a road block trying to trap the Foster Gang.]

New technology played a major role in the result of the battle. Botha was alerted by telephone of de Wet's presence at Mushroom Valley [the soldiers with de Wet having failed to cut the two thin wires from a nearby farmhouse]. Seventy vehicles had been specially fitted for troop transport thanks to Saker and other vehicle suppliers. Two machine gun cars had been made for Botha so de Wet's men retreated from the battle as a result of the carnage caused by these. This was one of the first battlefield actions involving motorised machine guns. Had the battle gone differently, it could have changed the course of WWI.

The next speaker was Gerhard Buchner on General Ignatius Stephanus Ferreira - My Father. This was based on a biography of the general by his daughter, Minnie, later the grandmother of Gerhard's wife.

The family lived in the OFS near to Clocolan. Naas Ferreira was a conscientious and hardworking farmer who also commanded the Ladybrand Commando and was a member of the Free Sate Parliament. Both he and his wife had received a good education and were fluent in English. On the eve of the battle of Magersfontein, Ferreira was appointed Combat General in place of Prinsloo who had been accused of cowardice at Modder River. Ferreira led his men with great personal courage and this resulted in his being elected C-in-C of all the OFS forces and thus in command at the siege of Kimberley. At Magersfontein the Boers used camouflage and barbed wire entanglements in front of their trenches. These trenches were deployed in an offensive defensive pattern for nearly 20kms which made attacks from the flanks and from behind well-nigh impossible and forced the enemy to make a frontal attack. The inspiration for this came from the Modder River trenches which had followed the natural course of the river running through the plain.

When the Boers withdrew from Kimberley and Cronje was cornered at Paardeberg, Ferreira was one of the group who tried to persuade him to ditch his wagons train and escape with his burghers. After the first day of this battle Ferreira went to check on the sentries, one of them was asleep and when suddenly woken, accidentally shot the general. Ferreira died 15 minutes later. The family has never revealed the name of the burgher concerned.

After the war Ferreira was reburied on his farm Destadesfontein. The rest of the talk concerned the vicissitudes of the family both during and after the war. Ferreira's sons were in POW camps and the daughters in Concentration camps while Mrs Ferreira was left in her town house.

Pat Henning

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Season's Greetings

The Committee wish all members and their families and loved ones a Merry Christmas, safe travelling, happy holidays and a prosperous 2015.

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For Cape Town details contact Johan van den Berg 021-939-7923
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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