South African Military History 


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 125
February/Februarie 2015

The meeting on 13th January took place at the Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. The Open House series on Battle Handling was continued by Malcolm Kinghorn. As the December 2014 presentation on the difference between strategy and tactics could not be delivered due to the Eskom blackout, both the ninth and tenth talks were covered during the January meeting. Strategy is the allocation of means to achieve an aim. Important German strategic decisions during the First World War included the challenge to British naval dominance, the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan and unrestricted submarine warfare.The latter was an important factor in the decision of the United States to enter the war. Tactics are a commander's use of available force to achieve the mission/aim of strategy decisions.

The January input discussed the phases of war. These are advance, attack, defend and withdraw. Each has variations; for example an advance may be advance to contact, follow up of a deliberate withdrawal or pursuit. Each should be conducted in terms of relevant principles, for example defence should be based on an obstacle (such as a river), in depth, all round,active etc.

The curtain raiser on The ceramic poppies at the Tower of London was presented by Terry Pattison, who explained that the artist, Paul Cummins, took the theme of 'The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread' from a line he read in the Last Will and Testament of a soldier in World War One. Tom Piper, the Special Stage Designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company was responsible for the placing of the 888 264 ceramic poppies representing British war dead and colonial military fatalities. Soldiers from South Africa (9 592), Australia (62 123), Canada (64 997) and New Zealand (18 053) were excluded as these countries were not considered to be colonies. While all the ceramic poppies are in the process of being distributed to those who purchased them, the Tower of London creation will be displayed at the Imperial War Museum after touring the United Kingdom.Both Cummins and Piper were awarded the M.B.E. in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List.

The main lecture, titled A Dependent’s tale Part 2: ’n Soldaat se vrou – the story of 05570098DA , was presented by BarbaraKinghorn. This is the sequel to Part 1 presented by Barbara in March 2013 (SAMHSEC Newsletter 103). She has summarised her talk as follows:

I was a military dependant for nearly 55 years, first as the daughter of a SAAF pilot for two decades after World War II, then as 05570098DA, the wife and first dependant (DA) of a South African Army officer - a soldaat se vrou [a soldier’s wife] - until the turn of the twenty-first century.

My childhood as a military dependant was shaped by my mother having steadfastly refused to ‘improve her husband’s career prospects’, by not getting involved in the social round in the South African Defence Force during the 1950s and 1960s. To this end, my parents chose wherever possible to live in ‘civilian’ neighbourhoods, close to English-medium schools and my dad commuted to work. My mother was a ‘working mother’ and my brother and I were left at home in the care of nannies, who cooked and cleaned as well. Thus, the military had very little direct influence on our way of life.

So, although I was not a typical ‘military brat’ – this oddly affectionate derogatory nick-name refers to the children of American servicemen who grow up immersed in military culture on military bases – in many respects my experience mirrors that of American military dependants, documented in studies I found on the Internet.

For example, American research shows that military brats learn to cope with frequent moves, the absence of the deployed parent and even the threat of the loss of that parent. We become accustomed to free medical care. The militarisation of our families is often reflected in strong patriarchal authority and children can be inculcated into a kind of warrior code of honour and service. As a result, military brats tend to be adaptable and resilient, independent, responsible and often more aware of local and international affairs than their civilian peers. We often choose service-related careers – in the police or the military, as nurses, counsellors or teachers, for example. Or else we reject all this in favour of creative and artistic careers with more independence, and avoid subservience to authority figures – as I did, blending both tendencies, to become an Art Teacher.

Some negative consequences identified in these studies include the fact that many military brats have ‘the itch’ – we want to move every few years. We exhibit perfectionist tendencies, a warped sense of duty and an excessive work ethic – all of which are true of me.And we often feel like outsiders. Military brats tend to think of the rest of the world as ‘civvies’ – civilians – who don’t understand us and the way we live.

So when I became the first dependant of my knight in shining armour, I thought I knew exactly what to expect as a military spouse. But I was ill-prepared for the culture shock that awaited me.

As a new wife, I felt doubly alien by being English-speaking in the overwhelmingly Afrikaans South African Army culture of the time, which regarded wives almost as part of the military who were expected to participate wholeheartedly and unquestioningly in the ‘damesklub’[ladies club] apparently for the good of their husbands’ careers, and to defer to senior officers’ wives. It took me a while, for instance, to get used to not joining my new husband at the braai fire: men’s territory! Ladies were supposed to all sit together and talk about children and servants, neither of which were part of my life yet.

Having free medical care was very useful in the next few years when our children were born. Dependants 05570098DB, 05570098DC and 05570098DD were all born within three years. When our second son arrived, his elder brother was still only two years old (for ten days) and they had a sister in between!

We moved quite often during my husband’s career and had 10 homes in various parts of South Africa and one in Canada. I still have ‘the itch’ and need to change things around, every three years or so, even if we don’t move. Following my parents’ example, we also chose to live in ‘civvie’ neighbourhoods, to avoid the ‘damesklub’ imperative...

... until the ‘Bevelvoerdersvrou’ [Commanding Officer’s wife]of my husband’s new unit happened to be our neighbour. I had no more excuses not to join when she kindly allowed our children to share her babysitter and always gave me a lift to meetings of the newly constituted ladies club. Another culture shock resulted when I discovered that the refurbishing of the ‘damestoilet’ [ladies toilet] at the mess was its urgent and primary goal. The details of which kinds of soap and what kind of extra toilet roll cover, seat cover and curtains, although feminine enough, were thoroughly debated before being executed to everyone’s satisfaction. Thereafter, meetings dealt with general issues, but in reality functioned as a support group for wives whose husbands were often away.

At the behest of the wife of the Chief of the Defence Force at the time, ‘damesklubs’ were also obliged to arrange ‘goodwill teas’ to build bridges of understanding between the military and civilians. One year we were honoured to host such a tea disguised as a birthday party for PW Botha’s wife, Mrs Elize Botha, and I was the bilingual mistress of ceremonies – declared by my peers to be good enough to be on TV. Rare praise indeed, in the 1970s!

All that grudging participation in fact stood me in good stead when I became a virtual member of the military without any say in the matter – and no pay – when my husband became the OC of a new unit, and I was transfigured into a ‘Bevelvoerdersvrou’. Luckily I knew from experience what the new ‘damesklub’s’ first project should be! So having decorated the new mess’s ‘damestoilet’ as necessary, we also hosted goodwill teas, raised funds by making hotdogs for the troops and supported each other when our husbands were deployed.

The highlight of my soldaat se vrou career was the time we spent in Canada when my husband was a military diplomat, representing the new SANDF in the second half of the 1990s. I have to confess it was an unmitigated joy to be privileged by mere association with him and to revel in the richness of opportunities available to us there – with no ‘damesklub’ strings attached!


Future meetings and field trips/ Toekomstigebyeenkomsteenuitstappe

The next meeting will be at 19h30 on 9thFebruary at the EP Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. The ‘open house’ will be the 11th and last in the Battle Handling series presented by Malcolm Kinghorn. The curtain raiser will be by Peter Duffel-Canham on My Grandmother during the First World War. The main lecture will be The Zimmerman Telegram 1917, by Ian Copley.

Matters of general interest / Sake van algemene belang

2015 Membership Subscriptions

Members are reminded that subscriptions for 2015 are now due. These should be paid to S.A. Military History Society, First National Bank, Eastgate, Branch Code 257705. a/c 50391928346. Please REMEMBER to use yourNAME as a reference.

Annual General Meeting 2015

Members are reminded of the forthcoming AGM on 9th March at which the 2015/16 committee will be elected. Members are requested to think of nominations for the following positions: Chairman; Secretary; Treasurer and Venue Co-ordinator; Speaker Co-ordinator; Field trips Co-ordinator; Social Co-ordinator; Country Members’Co-ordinator and Scribe(s). Each nomination should have a proposer and a seconder. These can either be sent to the current chairman, Malcolm Kinghorn (, in advance or made at the AGM itself.

Clarification of Committee members’ duties

The chairman invited members interested in being part of a working group to clarify the committee portfolios to contact Pat Irwin (, who co-ordinated the input. The virtual working group subsequently delineated the portfolios and the functions of each as follows:

To co-ordinate activities within the Branch
To chair meetings
To liaise with other branches
To be the public face of the Branch and the Society

To manage membership in general inter alia:
Follow up potential members and provide them with application forms
Maintain the membership list and keep it up to date
Pass on names of new members, resignations and deaths to the Scribe
Keep the attendance register at meetings
Liaise with the media in collaboration with the Chairman

To compile, edit and distribute the branch Newsletter
To distribute the other branch Newsletters

To arrange occasional social functions in consultation with the Chairman
To make new members and visitors feel welcome at meetings and outings such as introducing them to current members.

To arrange speakers for monthly meetings
To arrange thanking of speakers

To liaise with country members wherever appropriate
To co-ordinate meetings outside Port Elizabeth

To manage the Branch’s finance and maintain the books.
To present the financial statements at the AGM
To organise the venue

To provide co-ordination and continuity in collaboration with individuals running the field trips

Help Sought
Some of our members may remember Mike,who used to attend SAMHSEC meetings during his regular visits to Port Elizabeth from Australia. He has a sword issued by Prince Alfred’s Volunteer Guard and is researching the service record of the officer to whom the sword was issued. He believes that the officer was from Uitenhage. Anyone available to help Mike in his research is requested to contact him directly. His e-mail address

World War I Centenary Year / EersteWêreldoorlogEeufeesjaar

Because of the nature of the war, the overall casualty rate during the Great War was greater than in any other war up to that time. The exact number of casualties is difficult to determine and varies considerably depending upon the source consulted. The following statistics are generally regarded as reasonably accurate. They exclude deaths due to post-war famines, revolutions, genocide, population displacements and the 1918/19 influenza pandemic which probably killed in excess of 50 million people.

Combined Military and Civilian
Deaths: 17 million
Wounded: 21 million
Total WW1 casualties: 38 million
Country with highest total death toll: Russia (3.8 million)
Country with highest percentage of total population killed: Serbia (19% +: one in five!)

Deaths: 9.9 million
Wounded: 21.2 million of whom 7 million were permanently disabled.
Prisoners of War and missing soldiers: 7.7 million
The countries with the most military death were Germany and Russia (each about1.7 million)

Some comparative casualties (killed, wounded, POWs and missing) as a % of forces
Austria-Hungary: 90%
Russia: 76%
France: 73%
Germany: 65%
Italy: 39%
British Empire: 36%
United States: 7%

Deaths as a result of direct military action: 950,000
Deaths caused by disease and famine directly relating to the war: 6 million

Among the British and Dominion armies on the Western Front, the survival rate in the trenches was about 88% and the question arises as to how so many soldiers managed to survive.The website an interesting explanation for this under the following headings:
The myth of trench warfare ...
A typical day on the frontline ...
How often were soldiers in the firing line? ...
How the trenches kept men safe ...
Life behind the lines ... http: //
Wrong place, wrong time ...
Could things have been different? ...
Where next? ...

Major engagements in January 1915

After the German invasion of Luxemburg, Belgium and northern Francein August 1914, as well as actions on the Eastern and Southern Fronts, the African and Pacific theatres and naval engagements in the south Atlantic and Indian oceans,January 1915 was a relatively quiet period with only two major engagements.

* The naval encounter at Dogger Bank in the North Sea between the Royal Navy and The Imperial German Navy. Having successfully shelled three British coastal towns in December 1914, The German Navy resolved to repeat the endeavour on 24th January. The squadron was however intercepted by the British, who had broken the German naval code, midway between Germany and Britain. The battle was inconclusive, each side having suffered some losses before disengaging.

* The Battle of Bolimov, starting on 31st January, between the German 9th Army and the Russian 2nd Army. It was a prelude to the capture of Warsaw and a necessary preliminary to the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes and the German push to the east. It is best remembered for the German Army’s first experimental use of poison gas: the attempt was a failure as the gas not only blew back across the German lines, but failed to vaporise in the freezing temperatures. The battle was inconclusive.

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang


Lowell Steward, decorated WWII Tuskegee Airman, dies at 95
Steve Chawkins Los Angeles Times 19th December 2014

World War I

Adrian Carton de Wiart: The unkillable soldier
Peter Crutchley BBC news Magazine 6th January 2015

How France has forgotten the Christmas truce soldiers
Christian Carion BBC News 25th December 2014

South Africa’s sacrifices in WW1 and WW2
Henri le Riche 24th April 2013

World War II

WW2: Survivors tales of covered up disaster at Slapton Sands, April 1944
Claire Jones BBC News10th January 2015

WW II Bomber shot down 17th December 2013

Nisei veterans set to receive French Légiond'honneur
Gregg K. Kakesako The Honolulu Star-Advertiser12th January 2015

Japanese soldier who hid in Philippine jungle for 30 years after WWII dies at age 91
Ida Torres Japan Daily Press 17th January 2014

Japanese ambassador to Philippines apologizes for WWII atrocities
John Hofilena Japan Daily Press 10thApril 2014

Philippine town dedicates hiking trail to Japanese WWII soldier who hid in jungle for 30 years
Ida Torres Japan Daily Press 14th April 2014

Current Middle East conflicts

US Airstrikes against ISIS Destroy 184 Humvees and 58 Tanks
Richard Sisk Defensetech 7th January 2015

Abandoned Scenes at Bagram Airfield January 2015


The Warthog Lives!
Jonathan Foreman The Weekly Standard 20 (19) 26th January 2015 [This is a sequel to the items under ‘Aircraft’ in Newsletter 122]

New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Fire Its Gun Until 2019
Dave Majumdar The Daily Beast 31st December 2014

Resource materials of military historical interest/
Bronmaterieel van krygsgeskiedkundigebelang

New Second World War Website

Joan Marsh, our national secretary, has brought the following new Second World War website to our attention. It looks very interesting.
The person whom she got it from is Dennis Cove should you wish to contact him.

Book Review

Greasely Horace Do the birds still sing in hell? London John Blake Publishing Ltd 2013
Horace Greasely was already 89 years old when he approached the novelist Ken Scott to write down what had happened to him as a prisoner of war during the Second World War. Although Scott was initially reticent, he was soon entranced by the story Greasely had to tell.

Greasely was captured in France in 1940 and describes their ten-week march across Belgium to Holland and the trip to their prison camp in Poland.This true story of the suffering the prisoners endured as well as the callous, barbaric acts committed by those who guarded them is horrific. It is no ordinary story of an ordinary soldier. It is no ordinary story either of multiple escape attempts – Greasely actually escaped from camp over 200 times.

It was in their second camp, where the men worked at removing large slabs of marble, that Greasely fell in love with the young German interpreter, Rosa, who arrived periodically to relay instructions for the prisoners. He later discovered that she was actually Polish and disliked his captors as much as he did. Their relationship strengthened even after the prisoners were moved to a different camp, Freiwaldau, in the forested area of Polish Silesia.

In between relating the horrors and grim reality that beset the prisoners, Greasely’s narrative is shot through with close bonds that formed among the men, innovation and, above all, is an account of daring, pluck and the power of love and friendship.Greasely regularly escaped from the camp to meet Rosa in the surrounding forests. As his exploits became more widely known, each escape (and undetected return) injected some cheer into the men who knew him. Greasely, with the assistance of Rosa, brought back rabbits and even chickens to add to the thin cabbage gruel that was the daily fare of the prisoners.

As the war was drawing to a close, Greasely brought in the parts (again with Rosa’s assistance) required to build a radio that proved to be a lifeline for the hundreds of men starved of news.He was actually forbidden by a senior officer in the camp to try and find his way back to the Allies – his morale-boosting exploits were considered far more important for the welfare of the men incarcerated with him.

This is a grim, yet heart-warming, account of a man’s daring in the face of adversity. Given who the ghost-writer is, the narration unsurprisingly flows like a novel. Scott makes the point however, “I take no credit for this book; I have merely acted as his fingers.” It is an account well worth reading.

Members are invited to send 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, Yoland Irwin, Jonathan Ossher and Peter Duffel-Canham.

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

Tailpiece - [unable as yet to display photograph]
Bill Lundy, who claimed to be the last Confederate veteran of the US Civil War, poses with a jet fighter in 1955. Claiming to be born in 1848, and having served in the 4th Alabama Infantry, he died in 1957 and is buried in Florida. His claims do not accord with census records – which of course may be wrong or incomplete.

South African Military History Society /