South African Military History 


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 121
October/Oktober 2014

The 8th September meeting of SAMHSEC took place at the Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. Open House: The sixth presentation in Malcolm Kinghorn's Battle Handling series focused on directand indirect fire. Direct fire is the launching of a projectile directly at atarget within the line of sight of the firer, in other words, when you can see the target. The firing weapon must have a sighting device and an unobstructed view to the target. A weapon engaged in direct fire exposes itself to return fire from the target, in other words, if you can see the target, the target can see you! Indirect fire is launching a projectile on a ballistic trajectory towards a target you cannot see. Indirect fire weapons can shoot over obstacles or friendly units and can be concealed from counter-fire. Indirect fire needs an observer who can see the target, a fire control centre which turns observations received into a fire control order passed to the weapon indicating the bearing in relation to an aiming post, range in terms of the required barrel elevation and the amount of propellant to be used. Communication between the observer, the fire control centre and the weapon is essential. The absence of communication requires fire to be predicted, that is moved according to a pre-arranged pattern. In the First World War, reliable battlefield communication did not exist, with the result that infantry attacks synchronised with artillery support were rarely achieved.

The curtain raiser and main lecture were combined for a presentation by John Stevens titled Oh! What a Lovely War - An Analysis. John submitted the following summary: The film of this name was the original brainchild of talented BBC Radio producer Charlie Chilton in the creation of the BBC programme The Long, Long Trail in 1961, which was a stylised tribute to his father who was killed at Arras in March 1918, and whom he had never met. While on holiday in France in 1958 he was encouraged by his grandmother to seek out his father's grave. Charlie was appalled to discover that no grave existed, and that only a reference to his father's name on the walls of the Arras Memorial to the Missing could be found. He was even more disturbed to discover that approximately 35000 other servicemen had suffered a similar fate in the relatively small Arras theatre of operations during the First World War. This prompted him to find out more and led to the chance discovery of a book called Tommy Tunes written by a Royal Flying Corps pilot, outlining many of the songs the soldiers sang on the Western Front.

Charlie saw the connection between the words of the songs and the emotions of the common soldier on the Front and realized their significance in creating animage of what was going on in the minds of the soldiers at the time. With the aid of his family he researched every song he could find and put together a musical documentary programme, stitching some 40 of the most appropriate songs together with a compelling narrative describing the War. This was broadcast in 1961 at an interesting time. The consciousness of the First World War had faded over the years into a hazy memory amongst the remaining survivors. Also, the spectre of both the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear holocaust was having an impact on the population of Britain in the 1960s and they were ready for a revival of the consciousness which had never really happened due to the outbreak of the Second World War. The first broadcast of the program unlocked a huge wave of nostalgia amongst old soldiers and the general public. This has been described as the most influential broadcast ever by the BBC.

Charlie brilliantly achieved his goal of paying tribute to his father and the men who had sacrificed so much on the Western Front, and brought this to the attention of the public in a unique way. He is regarded to this day as the master of the 'Musical Documentary' style of radio broadcast and went on to produce other similar documentaries.

Gerry Raffles of the Theatre Workshop Company heard the broadcast and realized the potential of the programme as a stage production and sold the idea to his consort and partner Joan Littlewood. Joan, a radical conscientious objector during the Second World War and a 'suspected' Communist, spotted the opportunity to create a political anti-war statement through the use of the of the stage media, and brilliantly twisted the Chilton production to this end (Charlie Chilton was brought in to assist with the script).

She inspired the cast to do their own research into the characters they played. Armed with the newly released book The Donkeys by Alan Clark, a Conservative MP and self-styled military historian, they incorporated much of his theory about the incompetence of leadership in the British Army at the time. Joan refused to allow uniforms and dressed the cast in Perrot Clown costumes to emphasise the supposed naivety of the British soldier. She also went to great lengths to ridicule the officer class, whom she despised at all levels.

Joan came up with novel ideas to build on the satire, allegory and parody already displayed in the soldiers' songs. She disliked the songs, but saw the potential in the words and central theme they played to the message she was trying to convey. She built the concept of using a 'fun fair' stage set to build a 'war is a ridiculous game' theme and cleverly used flickering original movie scenes of the Western Front as a back drop. She also introduced a ticker tape display to represent the horrific casualty rates of the battles as the play progressed. She abhorred violence and banned any attempts at portraying the horror and violence of the war in anything but a strictly allegorical and metaphorical way. The stage production opened in 1963 at the Theatre Royal in the then less prosperous Stratford district of the East End of London. Joan was a huge patron of providing theatre to the underprivileged, seeing them as being her principle target audience. Interestingly, the show was staged at the same venue in February 2014 as part of a series of start-up events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War in the United Kingdom.

Her show was a huge success, again unlocking a lot of nostalgia via the catchy musical themes and songs and Joan's brilliant manipulation of every anti-war sentiment she could muster as the Director. While starting in humble beginnings in Stratford the show moved to the upmarket West End where it was even more popularand eventually to Broadway in the United States. The stage production would become very popular with Amateur Theatrical Societies worldwide. Joan triumphed in creating ground breaking concepts in British Theatre, and by sowing the seeds of awareness of the First World War which are still in evidence in Britain and around the world, at a time which was greatly influenced by the Cold War and a sweeping sense of increasing anti-war sentiment.

Richard Attenborough then took the theme further in directing and producing the film version. He enlisted the advice of both Charlie Chilton and Joan Littlewood and gathered a cast of possibly the greatest assembly of the cream of British acting at the time. The cast become a veritable guessing game of the who's who in the acting profession, with a sizable proportion of the famous Redgrave family, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, John Mills, Dirk Bogarde, Kenneth Moore, Jack Hawkins and a very young Maggie Smith amongst many others.

He took the concepts established by Chilton and Littlewood and broadened them via the use of the far more realistic and flexible media of motion pictures. The only major departure he made from the Littlewood theme was to introduce proper military uniform and procedure, and reduced the ridicule of the officer class, limiting this only to the generals and senior officers - his take on this being that officers were sacrificed in proportionally greater numbers than ordinary soldiers and deserved to be recognised for this. He built on Littlewood's score board idea by introducing these as stylised cricket scoreboards.

The film was released in 1969 to become a blockbuster success in the United Kingdom and worldwide. This entrenched the Joan Littlewood mythology among an even wider audience and is still regarded as a great influence in terms of the First World War sentiment in the United Kingdom.

The talk then moved into a deeper analysis of the film by introducing a toolbox for use in understanding how the subtle innuendo, allegory, satire and parody for which the film is famous, can create confusion in the minds of the unsuspecting modern viewer, as the film tends to move from fantasy to reality and back quite broadly. The concept is of the war being a stylised game played out in an amusement park (the Brighton West Pier was used as the main location for filming) as the interface between the unsuspecting public and the soldiers. The use of this as a staging post for, and entry to, the Western Front as well as Sir Douglas Haig's Headquarters and a general operations theatre was highlighted by examining clips of the film. A look was taken at the typical structure of a parodied hymn as modified by the soldiers - a common method of song creation to popular hymns at the time.

Various selected video clips were looked at and highlighted in terms of the relevance of the scene portrayed and the words of the song. A small analysis of the words and their emotional context was incorporated to try and bring out the feelings of the British and Allied soldiers on the Western Front in terms of what they were actually trying to say in a much camouflaged but typically British way. It was pointed out that none of the songs sung displayed animosity towards the enemy and in general used humour and a tendency to laugh at adversity as a way of dealing with the horror of life on the Front.

Some of the sad, wistful songs which typified some of the darker moments of the war were also looked at. Reference was made to some of the clever techniques used to illustrate the darkening mood of the war by starting with sunny bright scenes early into the film to represent the buoyant and optimistic mood of both the soldiers and public early in the war, which changes to a grey overcast scene setting as the mood changes during the darker moments of the war and the associated mood swing of now disillusioned soldiers, and the use of the poppy as a symbol of death in different clever guises throughout the film. The final and most provoking scene was shown with some minor explanation that allowed the audience to ponder on this.

To conclude, the objective of the presentation was to clarify the importance of what may be perceived to be an irrelevant topic as a 100th Anniversary commemoration. It is a 1960s film that is now considered to be an icon of modern understanding of the British involvement in the First World War. It is also considered as an icon of public emotion and sentiment of British people in the Cold War era of the sixties and seventies. Oh! What a Lovely War is also considered in some circles to be the best study of the British social environment from 1910 to 1920. To sum up, the words of the songs sung by the British soldiers on the Western Front are in themselves a living history that remain of interest to this day.

Future meetings and field trips/ Toekomstigebyeenkomsenuitstappe

The next meeting will be at 19h30 on 13thOctober at the EP Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. The 'open house' will be the next in the Battle Handling series presented by Malcolm Kinghorn. The curtain raiser will be by Andre Crozier on his and Lynn's tour of Normandy earlier this year. The main lecture will be by Mac Alexander titled Airborne Raids in Africa's 30 Year War: Chimoio/Tembue 1977 and Cassinga 1978

. Advance notice on the November meeting

This is planned to take place on Saturday 8thNovember and will include an outing as well as the normal monthly lectures. The draft programme is as follows:

Matters of general interest / Sake van algemenebelang

New members /Nuwelede

We welcome Gordon Campbell and Keven Wade as members of the South African Military History Society. We hope you will enjoy a happy association with the East Cape Branch and look forward to having you join us at meetings and outings.

Individual members' activities / Individuelelede se aktiwiteite

September 2014 Field Trip

Thirteen members of SAMHSEC (Richard Tomlinson, Fred and Brenda Nel, Newton and Louise Cruickshank, Dennis and Gwen Hibberd , Sue and Mike Heywood, John and Gwen Martin, and Peter and Karen Duffell-Canham) together with George Shaw of the Johannesburg Branch of the SAMHS and seven members of the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles (formerly the Kaffrarian Rifles) attended the centenary commemoration of the 1914 Hex River Pass Train disaster in which ten members of the Kaffrarian Rifles were killed and over 100 injured.

Peter Duffell-Canham provided the following report on the field trip:
On the initiative of Richard Tomlinson, SAMHSEC's September field trip was combined with the Kaffrarian Rifles Association centenary commemoration of a dark day in their regiment's history. The train carrying the Regiment crashed in the Hex River Pass on the 10th September 1914, en route to Cape Town and ultimately German South West Africa.

SAMHSEC members made their way independently to De Doorns, stopping at the Laingsburg flood museum, Matjiesfontein and the cemetery and memorial where Major-General Andrew Wauchope, killed at Magersfontein, is buried. The party from the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles led by Lt.Col. M H Cock, rendezvoused with us on Wednesday at the 'Veldskoen farm stall', from where we were bussed to the small Hexpas station and boarded the Hexpas express. This consisted of two small open wagons pulled by a vintage tractor adapted for rail travel. We were under the guidance of Louise Brodie from the local tourism association. The pace was sedentary, providing great photo opportunities of the majestic scenery.

Arriving at the memorial in such beautiful surroundings, it is difficult to imagine the chaos of that fateful day with equipment and kit scattered in the veld along with the dead and injured. George Shaw provided a poignant moment as he read his father's account of the crash from his original wire-bound note book. This was a special moment for him in particular.

At the crash site we were given a terrain briefing by Major Tony Step, the BVR historian. Chaplain Nomtoto, formerly of the regiment, led a short prayer and service, followed by an address by Lt. Col. Cock, former OC of the Regiment. After the sounding of the last post and reveille, and a two minute silence, Staff Sergeant Flanagan read the names of the deceased. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the regiment, the regimental association and SAMHSEC. The national anthem was sung and we were all invited to place the poppies that had been handed out to us on the memorial. Photographs were taken with the Kaffrarian Rifle Association representatives including Dennis Hibberd and Newton Cruickshank.

The train was backed up along the line so we could see the path that the train took preceding the crash. We then passed the lonely monument with freshly-laid wreaths and poppies. All too soon it was time to bid farewell to our friends from the regiment with whom it was a privilege to share this solemn and special occasion.

Malcolm Kinghorn was the Guest of Honour at the Battle of Square Hill Remembrance Parade of the South African Legion which took placeon Sunday, 21stSeptember 2014, at the Aloe White Ensign Shellhole Garden of Remembrance, Port Elizabeth, where he delivered a short address.A brief account of the Battle of Square Hill will be carried in the November Newsletter No 122.

Tony Lombard, Brenda and Fred Nel, and Pat Irwin, together with members of the Southern African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association and the Port Elizabeth Black Powder Club, visited the private Anglo-Boer War Museum and militaria collection of Lucas van der Merwe at Mount Ingwe in the Elands River Valley area, during September. Brenda has expressed interest in organising a 2015 weekend field trip to the area.

Barry Irwin has published a chapter on cyber defence in an American book on the topic. It may be of interest to some of our members, particularly as it relates to individuals. See 'Resource materials' below.

Members' forum/Lede se forum

Nothing has been received for this month.


In the book review in Newsletter 120, reference was made to Peter Duffell-Canham's uncle having authored Seaman Gunner do not weep. It was in fact Peter's father. Our apologies for the error, Peter.

SAMHSEC's 10th birthday

September 2014 marked SAMHSEC's 10th birthday. To date there have been 121 meetings with 234 lectures covering a wide range of topics, 18 field trips and 11 day outings. Average attendance at meetings over the period has been 26.5. The branch currently has 70 members across the province.

World War I Centenary Year / EersteWêreldoorlogEeufeesjaar

The death of Kitchener and conspiracy theory

When Lord Kitchener, of South African notoriety, was lost at sea on 5th June 1916, the majority of the British population went into collective national mourning. Shops closed, all officers were required to wear black armbands for a week and coroners reported men taking their lives. The view was even expressed by many that as a result of his death, Britain would lose the war. Kitchener was missing presumed drowned when the cruiser HMS Hampshire on which he was travelling to Russia, struck a mine while leaving Scapa Flow. The rescue operation has been described as 'a scandalous example of red tape and lack of initiative' and Kitchener's body was never recovered. This and his almost religious celebrity status led to widespread belief that, in the words of popular historian Jeremy Paxman, "he could not have succumbed to anything as banal as a mine floating in the sea".

The circumstances of his death also led to a wide range of conspiracy theories, some of which are: 'Kitchener had been murdered by a time bomb planted by his enemies in British intelligence'; 'a German spy posing as a Russian duke had signaled to a waiting U-boat to fire a torpedo'; 'there was a bomb hidden on board by Irish republicans and that survivors had been shot as they staggered up the beaches'; that 'Kitchener had survived and been shot as he clung to a rock'; another was that 'he had not been drowned at all but that he had committed suicide after a senior officer had presented him with a revolver and asked him to do the decent thing'. The fact that his sister had failed to contact him through a spirit medium was proof to many that he was still alive; others asserted that he was secretly commanding the Tsar's army or that he was actually a prisoner of the Germans, or on a secret mission to win the war. Many claimed to have spotted him in London or seen him hiding in a cave from where he waved to them. Like King Arthur, he would rise again to lead the nation in their just cause.

As Paxman so aptly remarks: "There is no appropriate modern comparison (who can even name a single serving general today?). With all its public displays of grief and crackpot conspiracy theories, the reaction to Kitchener's disappearance had about it some of the characteristics of the death of Princess Diana".

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Paxman 2013 Great Britain's Great War London Viking. This is an easy to read popular, but critical history of the First World War as the British experienced it.

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang


Major Stewart 'Bomb' Finney, WW II Desert Fighter Pilot
A tribute by Tinus le Roux

World War I

World War One submarine 'found' by Australian navy
The Telegraph Jonathan Pearlman 10th September 2014

French recognise role of British forces in WWI's Miracle of the Marne
The Telegraph 5th September 2014

World War II

Museum reunion for Colossus computer veterans Mark Ward BBC News Technology 22nd September 2014

Hitler's last surviving female food taster tells all in new documentary 22ndSeptember 2014

Former Nazi, 93, faces 300,000 Auschwitz murder charges 17th September 2014

The Cold war

How the [1960] U-2 Spy Plane Incident Intensified the Cold War
Learnist Pin it Mike Schultz Undated

Photo by Eric Schulzingerhttps ://
These suits were necessary because of the altitude at which the SR-71, 'Blackbird' Mach 3+ super spy-plane flew. See also:

Armed Forces

Rise of America's Secret Military
Learnist Pin it Jacob Wheeler Undated

Forensic Science

King Richard III Suffered Nine Blows to the skull
IFL Science Janet Fang 18thSeptember 2014

Resource materials of military historical interest/
Bronmateriële van krygsgeskiedkundigebelang

Irwin Barry 2014 'Standing Your Ground: Current and Future Challenges in Cyber Defense' in Information Security in Diverse Computing Environments 2014 by Anne Kayem and Christoph Meinel (Eds) Published in the United States of America by Information Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global)

This article explores the challenges facing those involved in cyber defence at a national, organizational, and individual level. As the global economy grows more dependent on the Internet and connected infrastructure, the risk and impact of attack grows. A long-standing response to attacks of various kinds conducted on the Internet has been to filter traffic but not to respond. In some cases, reactive action is taken, but even where attribution is possible, prosecution is rare. In recent months, several countries have stated their policy of military response where they feel that their national infrastructure is threatened. The risk to organizations, civilian populations, and individuals is discussed in the case of such militantresponse or retaliation. The chapter further considers aspects such as reputation, neutrality, and the concept of Internet 'kill switches'.

Those interested in reading the article, can contact Barry at:

For a list of cyber campaigns in recent years, see also:

Die volgendeboeke is aan ons kennis gestel:
Roelf 2014 Weermagstories: Dienspligtigesverbreek die stilte
Kaapstad NB Uitgewers
Sien beskrywing en besonderhede by:

Du Toit Renier & Claasen Ronnie (Red) 2014 Rooiplaas! 1 Valskermbataljon Kaapstad Naledi Uitgewers
Sien beskrywing en besonderhede by

A distortion of South African History: Website on Shaka

This item is noted both because of how bad it is, and to highlight how careful one has to be with material placed on the Internet, particularly when fiction masquerades as 'history'. During August 2014 a website appeared apparently posted by one Julia Austin, whoever she may be. It is a model of misinformation, distortion and wishful thinking about Shaka, kaSenzangakona, inkosi of the amaZulu from about 1816 to 1828 when he was assassinated by his half-brother uDingane. Titled 16 Things That Made Shaka Zulu A Military Genius, it goes on to make the preposterous claim that he was perhaps one of the greatest military leaders in all of history. To call such a claim poppycock is a kindness: it is more a like gross ignorance run amuck. Much ofthe content is plain nonsense while nearly all the associated pictures are either inappropriate or from an entirely different context. It is in large measure sycophantic drooling over what the author would perhaps like to have happened. It may be viewed at:

Members are invited to send in to the scribes, short reviews of, or comments on, books, DVDs or any other interesting resources they have come across, as well as news on individual member's activities. In this Newsletter, there have been contributions by Richard Tomlinson, Malcolm Kinghorn, Barry Irwin, Michael Irwin, Jonathan Ossher and Peter Duffel-Canham.

Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn:
Secretary: Richard Keyter:
Scribes (Newsletter): Anne and Pat Irwin:
Society's Web address:


In January 1795, the French Revolutionary Army was advancing into the United Provinces (now the Netherlands) when the cold weather led to one of the strangest battles of the era. Johan Willem de Winter was sent with a group of French Hussars to capture the strongpoint of denHelder and to keep any Dutch ships from escaping to friendly Britain. When the general arrived, he found that a Dutch fleet, which had been anchored at denHelder, had become stuck in thick ice. Silently approaching the fleet by marching onto the ice, the Hussars were able to surround the ships and force the Dutch sailors to surrender. This is the only time in recorded history that a fleet has been captured by a cavalry charge.Source:

South African Military History Society /