South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0676 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


The Chairman, Malcolm King, opened the October meeting with notices and reminders:

# The Prisoner-of-War Exhibition (Frontier Wars to WWII) at Brenthurst Library from August 2014 to July 2015: 8.30 to 4.30 Mon - Fri- by appointment only - call 011 544 5400

# Film shows "Joyeux Noel" on 23 November in Museum Auditorium. Entrance R100 includes afternoon tea. Booking essential - Hennie 011 486 3648. Movie deals with Christmas Truce of 1914.
22 February 2015 "My Boy Jack" about Rudyard Kipling's son. 24 May 2015 'Gallipoli", the award-winning movie by Peter Weir.

#Malcolm thanked David Scholtz for organizing and sponsoring the very successful outing to Val.

This was followed by the popular "This Week in History".

Malcolm then introduced Terry Willson presenting the curtain-raiser for the evening "Africa: The Rifles of British Imperialism". This dealt with motives for this imperialism and the rifles which were used in its implementation. He commenced by defining imperialism in its various forms and outlining why one country would wish to dominate others. This was generally economic and, despite some high-minded rationalizations, greatly to the advantage of the imperialistic power. In the case of Britain, its interventions at both ends of Africa were primarily to protect highly profitable eastern markets. Where colonists were involved, they perpetuated and expanded imperialistic gains.

Terry outlined the history and usage of the four main weapons used. These were the India pattern musket, the Martini Henry with the Lee Metford and Lee Enfield Rifles. He also outlined the background of the Dum Dum and hollowed-nosed bullets. The use of the weapons covered the period from the Battle of Blaauberg to the awarding of the mandated German territories after WWI. They achieved Britain's imperialistic ambition of influence from Cape to Cairo.

Next he covered British experience in the Boer War which led to the designing of the highly effective Short Magazine Lee Enfield which had huge impact on the survival of the British Expeditionary Force at the beginning of WWI. Terry's talk was beautifully illustrated and he brought along examples of the weapons for us to examine afterwards.

The main 'talk' was by Nick Cowley on "Songs of WWI". Word sheets of the songs were distributed and these can shortly be found on our website under 'Lectures'. Nick was accompanied by two vocalists, a violinist and a guitarist. He pointed out that the songs were a way of keeping up spirits in the appalling conditions and that most had originated in the music halls. "Tipperary", sung by the Connaught Rangers as they embarked in 1914, was an example. The attitude that was prevalent was that the higher your rank the better war you would have - except for one-pip lieutenants who had the highest mortality rate. Then we heard the truth behind "Mademoiselle from ArmentiŠres"! This was followed by "Goodbye-ee" full of the slang of the cocktail-party set of the time. "Oh! How I Hate to Get up in the Morning" mirrored the dislike of army routine and the bugler in particular.

"The Old Barbed Wire" sang again of the benefits of rank plus the bitterness of the lot of the ordinary soldier - the army tried unsuccessfully to stop this song. "Pack up Your Troubles" showed us the inseparable companion - the kit-bag. Whilst "Rolling Home" offered the whisky alternative to dealing with your troubles. How the soldiers kept thinking of home was the theme of 'Long, Long Trail", "Keep the Home Fires Burning" and "She Wears a Yellow Ribbon". Then Nick moved on to songs on the theme of the end of the war with "When At Last This War Is Over", "Bless 'Em All" and "Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty". He concluded with South African versions of songs plus "Sarie Marais" which the South African troops would have sung at Delville Wood. Everyone sang along with gusto with some giggling over the bawdier versions of the songs.

The Chairman then closed the evening.

Pat Henning

* * * * * * *

Poppies for SA Legion

As was done last year there will be a collection for the SA Legion at the November meeting in Johannesburg. Poppies are traditionally not "sold" but given in exchange for donations.

* * * * * * *


The committee is generally reluctant to publicise books in this newsletter, however, the shortness of the above report, combined with several offerings from members and with the festive season looming large, lead to listing (not endorsements) of the following:

World War I in Africa by Dr Anne Samson

Overseas-based Society member Anne will be visiting SA at the end of the year and is scheduled to speak at the Johannesburg lecture meeting in January. She has offered to bring copies out to members who prepay - saving considerably on postage even IF the postal strike is over. Publisher cost is GBP62 excl postage; her price is GBP45 or R800 if paid into an SA account by 22 December when she is due to leave. Banking details from her at

The Machine Guns of Mushroom Valley by Nigel Fox

Another member, Nigel Fox is due to speak on the same topic next week and will bring along a few copies of his book to the meeting.

* * * * * * *


* * * * * * *


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

* * * * * * *

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /