South African Military History Society

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As normal, our Chairman, Jan-Willem Hoorweg opened the meeting with the notices.

Kedar Country Lodge will be offering a program about the South African (Anglo Boer) war over the weekend of 2 - 4 December 2016. Experts will be giving overviews of the battles that took place in the greater Magaliesberg area. The Lodge itself is situated on what was Paul Kruger's farm and boasts a large collection of Boer War paintings, art and memorabilia. Prices, packages and bookings can be viewed on their website

A tour of the Light Horse Regiment HQ guided by Col Janzen will be held on Saturday 19 November starting at 11h00 and lasting 2 hours. A lunch will be laid on afterwards at a cost of R80 pp. Booking and further details available from the Secretary of MHS at the letterhead address.

The Majestic will be showing the film Joyeux Noel on 27 November in the auditorium at 2.30pm - cost R100 pp including delicious tea afterwards. The film concerns the famous Christmas Truce in WWI.

Allan Sinclair gave the curtain-raiser lecture on The 7th South African Infantry Regiment in East Africa - 1916 to 1918. He has been with the Museum for 29 years and is superbly qualified.

The 7th SA Infantry Regiment was an imperial service battalion recruited mainly from the Transvaal province and formed for service in East Africa for the duration of the war as part of the 2nd SA Infantry Brigade. The Officer Commanding was Lt Col J C Freeth. "A" Company contained a large representation from the Rand Light Infantry and a smaller representation from the Transvaal Scottish. "B" Company was the popular 'Sportsman's Company'. "C" Company was made up largely of members of the Witwatersrand Rifles, while "D" Company, known as the 'ANZAC Company' was formed by a large number of Australian and New Zealanders who were resident in the Transvaal at the time. The Regiment received little training prior to its deployment in East Africa. The entire period between the recruitment in November 1915 and its first action at Salaita in February 1916 was only a matter of three months.

At Salaita Hill 7th SAI was forced to withdraw to Serengeti. Of the total South African casualties, 138, the 7th SAI lost five officers and six other ranks killed, 42 other ranks wounded and one officer and 29 other ranks missing. The reverse was a blessing in disguise for it taught the South Africans not to underestimate the fighting qualities of well-led Askaris.

When Gen Smuts took command of the forces in East Africa on 23 February 1916 they advanced towards the Moshi terminus of the Tanga railway. By the afternoon of 10 March, the enemy had strongly occupied the Latema-Reata hills. To gain possession of the hills, Smuts on 11 March ordered an attack which, after nearly five hours, failed. It was then that the 5th and 7th SA Infantry Regiments were ordered to dislodge the enemy. In consequence of the flanking movement, the enemy had retired and that fact being realised, the 8th SAI were immediately ordered to reoccupy the hills, where the 7thSAI were found in possession. This situation made it possible for the advance to be resumed.

In the advance to the Ruwu River, the 7th SAI was in support of the 6th and 8th SAI as they attempted to move forward between the main road to Kahe and the Defu stream. Subsequently, the 7th SAI was detached from the 2nd SA Infantry Brigade and, leaving Kumbulun on 12 May and marching via Ufiome, reached Kondoa-Irangi in time for the defensive actions of 7 & 8 June.

After reaching the Central Railway late in August, the next important move of the 7th SAI, was to Iringa where it arrived on 23 October. Two days later, with the enemy being withdrawn, the 7th SAI proceeded to Alt Iringa on 4 November.

Eventually, the unit returned to the Union early in 1917 and, after reorganisation under Lt Col W J Thompson DSO, returned to East Africa in June 1917.

Our main speaker was Jos Scharrer on Unsung Heroes: Stories of the Dutch Resistance. She had lived in Holland for 4 years and is now writing a book about her late father-in-law's experiences in the Dutch Resistance in WWII, which is totally non-fiction. It is aimed at anyone interested in WWII, the resistance movements in occupied Europe and the fight for freedom everywhere. The lecture was illustrated with personal photos and original extracts from letters and documents.

The talk centred on her late father-in-law, Henry Scharrer, the Allied pilots and others he saved and the people in the resistance who helped him. Some of the characters include Bram van der Stok, the leading Dutch aviator, who actually was one of three men who successfully made the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III. Also the Engelandvaarders, Rudy Zeeman (who is still alive and has assisted her with the chapter about him in this book) and the brave Jack Bottenheim. It also dealt with the traitors and Nazis who betrayed them. These included the notorious double agent Christian Lindemans, (who betrayed the Allied plans to drop paratroopers at Arnhem) and the Weteringschans SD officer responsible for Henry's interrogation, Herbert Oelschägel, who was later assassinated. The escapes were hair-raising, with freezing treks up the snow-covered Pyrenees and risky voyages in overcrowded boats with U-boats below and Luftwaffe above. Many spent months hiding in the attics of safe houses along the route from Amsterdam to Belgium, Paris, and Toulouse before finally reaching Spain. A few actually went on those risky crossings with the Man with the Boats - Anton Shrader, who survived the war and was highly decorated.

Henry Scharrer was caught and executed by firing squad at Vught Camp on the 6th September 1944 together with over 300 resistance fighters, including young Fritz Conijn, who had tried to save Henry, and who was later awarded the Resistance Cross for his deeds.

While initially Jos wanted to write this story for family and friends, it is now her aim to get this story out there to a broader market, as it is not only inspirational, but demonstrates how only a generation ago men and women risked and laid down their lives voluntarily, in the fight against tyranny and for the sake of freedom. It reminds us that if freedom is to prevail in this world, we have to be always on our guard against those who plan to take away these hard-won freedoms and to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Unlike other books on this subject which appear to concentrate on only certain aspects of the Third Reich, Hitler, Nazis, resistance groups, escape routes, the Gestapo, and the spies, this book brings it all together, and tells a totally integrated story around one man.

Pat Henning

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Society's 50th Anniversary Lunch

Forty seven members and their guests attended the function which was held in the Marri&egarave;res Wood Room at the Ditsong Museum on Sunday 16th October. These included Charles Cohen - who wrote the first constitution of the Society and was chairman in 1973-1975 and Ian Uys, auditor several times and chairman 1986-1988, who with his wife Barbara had travelled from Knysna. Chairman of our Cape Town branch, Johan van den Berg and his wife Emsie also graced us with their presence.

Chairman Jan-Willem Hoorweg welcomed all present, mentioning that his late father, Flip, had been chairman when the fortieth anniversary had been celebrated ten years earlier. He introduced Prof Deon Fourie who in proposing a toast contrasted the many material war memorials with what he considered to be the living memorial which is the Society.

Musing over the initially stated principle focus of the Society - the academic goal of "the promotion of scientific study, research and appreciation of the history of armed forces and military history and the publication of literature on these subjects ... " he pointed out how well the lectures and especially the Journal had fulfilled this goal. But he warned the Society not to rest on our laurels, commenting that general ignorance about SA's participation in matters military was pervasive and that every member could and should counteract this problem.

Following the toast, Jan-Willem used this prestigious occasion to bestow honorary life membership on four members whose contributions to the Society over many years were thus honored. He presented certificates to:

A convivial atmosphere and delicious food were enjoyed by the gathering, one of whom was overheard saying he wanted to book already for the sixtieth anniversary function ...

A report including photographs will appear in the next Military History Journal.

Joan Marsh

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KZN in Durban:

Cape Town:


CR= curtain raiser; ML= main lecture; DDH = Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture

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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 Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676
For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ken Gillings 031-702-4828

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