South African Military History 


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 143

August/Augustus 2016

The meeting of 11th July was held in Port Elizabeth at the usual venue and was preceded by a video on the First World War.

In the members' slot, Ian Pringle spoke about The Memorial to Major-General Andrew Wauchope at Matjiesfontein. He gave the background to this well-known British officer, who was killed at Magersfontein, and of how he came to be exhumed from his burial spot near Kimberly and reinterred in the Matjiesfontein cemetery with due pomp and ceremony. The so-called 'Laird of Matjiesfontein', James Logan, played a major role in the reburial of Wauchope and erected, above the small cemetery, on a closely situated hillside, a towering memorial in memory of this fallen officer. Ian took us through some slides and recalled interesting observations made from the book Empire, War and Cricket about this episode which impacted on the history of this small village and that of Logan's standing within the then British Empire.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, John Stevens was unable to give his scheduled talk on the The first day on the Somme and Malcolm Kinghorn stepped into the breech for both the curtain raiser and the main lecture. John will deliver his presentation at a future stage.

The curtain raiser was on The South African War Graves in Swakopmund and Lüderitz. The graves in both cemeteries were well maintained when visited in August 2014 and April 2015 respectively. The Swakopmund Cemetery has a Memorial Wall with four panels listing 38 South African soldiers buried there. The panels include two Rhodesia Regiment soldiers killed on 7th February 1915 and one sailor from the British Mercantile Marine. There are German casualties from the actions at Trekkoppies and Pforte buried immediately behind the Memorial Wall.

There is no similar memorial in the Lüderitz Cemetery. The graves of 27 South African soldiers and one sailor from the British Mercantile Marine are arranged in two rows, with one South African soldier buried in the Jewish Section of the cemetery some 10 metres from the others. The South Africans include two Winslow brothers both killed on 25th September 1914 while serving in the 5th Mounted Rifles (Imperial Light Horse). They attended Queen's College and are commemorated in a stained glass window in the school hall. Private C.H. Gronau, who also served in the 5th Mounted Rifles and was killed on 20th September 1914, is commemorated on the Grey High School War Memorial.

The main lecture was on Drone Strikes. International terrorist groups continue to promote attacks on the United States. The US strategy to ensure that it is never again attacked by international terrorists includes targeted killings. This is the use of lethal force to eliminate individuals who are outside their custody and perceived as threats. The term is not clearly defined in international law. Drone strikes, special operations, covert intelligence operations and cruise missiles are means available for this purpose.

The populist term 'drone' is misleading. The correct term is Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) as the pilot in control is not in the aircraft. In strike mode, they are typically fitted with Hellfire missiles to engage ground targets. Their primary function is to 'find, fix and finish targets'. Drone strikes were used against Al-Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan from 2008. Use escalated after 2009, but tapered off after 2011 due to shortage of targets, doubts about their efficacy and international concern about civilian casualties. Civilian casualty statistics differ considerably. Official US figures released on 1st July 2016 are that up to 2 881 combatants and up to 116 civilians were killed in 473 air strikes between 2009 and 2015.

The legal framework for drone strikes is that, in terms US domestic law, the US is at war with Al-Qaeda, for which the US claims the right to self-defence in Article 51 of the UN Charter as justification under international law. The Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF) approved by the US Congress authorises the President "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed or aided the 11th September 2001 (9/11) attacks or harboured such organisations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the US." The US position includes unilateral pursuit of targets without prior consent in states unwilling or unable to deal effectively with such threats. By 2016, persons involved with 9/11 are either dead or in custody and governments supporting the perpetrators are no longer in power. The organisations remain.

The US approach is that drone strikes may be used against Al-Qaeda and associated forces, for example Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. Guidelines are that drone strikes may be used when intelligence shows that the target is Al-Qaeda or associated forces, arrest or capture is not possible without unacceptable risk to US personnel, domestic law enforcement is ineffectual and there is near certainty of no civilian casualties. Due process is that the highest officials in the US intelligence community must have reviewed the factual basis for the targeting decision, that the US government has determined that capture is unfeasible, and continues to monitor the situation to determine if circumstances have changed. Additional review procedures are followed if the target is a US citizen. Whether drone strikes may be used against US citizens is controversial as US citizens have constitutional rights. If one accepts that the US is at war with Al-Qaeda, drone strikes may be used, provided that the target is identified as a combatant. Even without the war paradigm, a US citizen's constitutional rights may be curtailed by immediacy of threat to other US citizens.

In terms of international law, because the US is at war with Al-Qaeda and because Al-Qaeda is not a nation, conflict between the US and Al-Qaeda may take place everywhere Al-Qaeda is present. Sovereignty is an issue because local government acquiescence is required. The US assumes acquiescence in states unwilling or unable to control Al-Qaeda, for example in Somalia or Yemen. A counter argument that drone strikes are illegal as a war paradigm is only valid in war between nation states. Only combatants may be targeted and Al-Qaeda operatives are civilians unless participating in hostilities. This approach ignores the dilemma of the farmer by day and bomb-planter by night.

Arguments for drone strikes include that they are accurate, preferable to ground invasion and conventional air attack, the only feasible option in remote, ungoverned areas and entail no risk to own forces. Arguments against drone strikes include that there is no due process, decision making is not transparent, civilian casualties have occurred, hovering drones traumatise populations and there is potential for irresponsible use. Whether drone strikes are effective is controversial. Those in favour of them refer to the negative effect on terrorist organisations of eliminating leaders, that drone strikes neutralise dangerous people, cause mutual suspicion in terrorist ranks which could lead to schisms and generally degrade terrorist capability. Those against, argue that drone strikes heighten anti-US sentiment, create resentment that the US operates at will, promote radicalisation and the perception that US is at war with Islam, and that they set a precedent for use by other countries.

Unable at present to insert photographs

As the US reduces its external military footprint, drone strikes are likely to continue. An ongoing challenge for the US administration is to balance opposing imperatives, namely assertion of broad war powers while assuring critics that they are limited, and justifying actions that remain covert and promoting transparency while protecting sensitive intelligence programmes.

Future meetings and field trips/ Toekomstigebyeenkomsenuitstappe

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be on Monday 8th August 2016 at 19h30 at the Eastern Cape Veteran Car Club in Conyngham Road, Port Elizabeth. The curtain raiser will be by Brian Klopper on the SA Legion and the main lecture by Stephen Bowker on Sherwood Kelly. Members are reminded too of the Field Trip planned to the Noupoort area in late September or early October.

Matters of general interest / Sake van algemenebelang


Fellow member Ian Uys has pointed out a typographic error in Newsletter 142 page 6,relating to Delville Wood. There were 2182 casualties, not deaths as stated. There were approximately 766 deaths in the wood and those who died shortly afterwards. Thanks Ian.

Individual members' activities / Individuelelede se aktiwiteite

Makana Tourism has published a brochure on Historic Fortifications and Signal Towers in Grahamstown & Environs compiled by Pat Irwin. It is available from Makana Tourism at 63 High Street, Grahamstown. Tel: 046 622 3241. E-mail:

Living Art Memorial of the first day of the Battle of the Somme

To commemorate the first day of the Battle of the Somme, hundreds of volunteers across the United Kingdom dressed up as 'ghost soldiers' wearing uniforms of the various regiments that took part in the battle. They appeared in silent groups in town centres, railway stations, public parks and streets to honour the nearly 20 000 British soldiers killed. They silently handed out cards stating who they were representing and how old they were when they were killed. This living art memorial provided a poignant reminder of the scale of human suffering. For more information see:

Die EBO Trust vorder met Blenheim Projek in Kenia

Daar word verwittig dat daar reeds heelwat vordering gemaak is m.b.t. die projek in Kenia om die oorskot van vier oud-lede van die SA Lugmag op te grawe en in 'n plaaslike militêre begraafplaas te herbegrawe. Die projek word op versoek van die naasbestaande van een van die vier oorledenes deur die Ebo Trust hanteer.
Geen ander naasbestaandes van enige van die ander gestorwenes kon opgespoor word nie. Die vier oorledenes was tweedeluitenante C.H. Allen (vlieënier) en H.J.P Lemmer (waarnemer) en sersante S. Eliastamen L. Murphy (die twee radiobedieners/kanonniers). Hulle was die bemanning van 'n Blenheim bomwerper wat tydens 'n navigasie-oefening in Kenia op 23 Julie 1942 a.g.v. swak weer en lae wolke teen Berg Kenia vasgevlieg het.
Alhoewel daar destyds verskeie soektogte na die vliegtuig was, kon dit nooit opgespoor word nie, totdat die vliegtuig wrak in 2002 deur 'n wildstroper op die hoogte van ongeveer 11 000 voet, ontdek is. Lede van 'n nabygeleë Britse opleidingsbasis het in 2003 'n ekspedisie na die ongelukstoneel van stapel gestuur. Hulle het die vierlede se oorskot nog in die vliegtuig gevind en was gereed om dit saam met hulle van die berg af te bring, maar is beveel om dit eers daar te laat tot dat die naasbestaandes opgespoor kon word, ten einde hulle wense te kon bepaal. Die menslike oorskot is gevolglik in swart plastieksakke geplaas en tydelik onder die vlerk van die vliegtuig begrawe. In drie van die gevalle was daar geen meer oorlewende naasbestaandes nie. Slegs een naasbestaande van wyle Bokkie Lemmer kon sedertdien opgespoor word.
Die Ebo Trust is gedurende 2015 versoekom 'n projekteloods om die vier se oorskot op te grawe en na Suid-Afrika te repatrieer. Dit sal ongelukkig nie moontlik wees nie, aangesien daar 'n internasionale konvensie bestaan wat bepaal dat geen slagoffers van WO1 en 2 na hulle land van herkoms teruggeneem mag word nie, maar in 'n plaaslike militêrebegraafplaas begrawe moet word. Die Oorlogsgraftekommissie het reeds aangedui dat hulle grafte vir díe doel beskikbaar sal stel.

Die voorafskakeling i.v.m. die projek het nou só ver gevorderdat die Voorsitter van die Ebo Trust, genl-maj (aft) Gert Opperman, van 19 - 23 Junie na Kenia gereis het om plaaslik samesprekings te gaan voer. Afsprake is reeds bevestig met die SA Hoë Kommissaris in Nairobi en die Britse militêre attaché, asook die Britse offisier wat in 2003 die ekspedisie na die ongelukstoneel gelei het en die plaaslike hoof van die Statebonds-oorlogs-graftekommissie. Voorts sal gesprek gevoer word met 'n plaaslike begrafnis ondernemer en, indien dit betyds bevestig kan word, ook met verskeie Keniaanse amptenare. Opperman sal bygestaan word deur amptenare van die Suid-Afrikaanse Missie in Nairobi. Indien die res van die reëlings betyds afgehandel en voldoende fondse vir die projek deur die Ebo Trust ingesamel kan word, gaan gepoog word om die opgrawing en herbegrafnis gedurende die laaste gedeelte van Januarie 2017 te laat plaasvind.

Attempt to steal historic Uitenhage cannon

Press reports recently covered the attempt to steal the old muzzle-loading gun on Cannon Hill in Uitenhage. Some of 'facts' presented about the gun were not however entirely correct. The gun, pictured here, is No 642 on the National Register: it is a 6-pdr Gunade dating to about 1820 and was manufactured by Fawcett & Co. in Britain. It has the markings 'F SOLID' on it. For the record, the base ring is 275mm and the length 1 099mm. It weighs around 200lbs (approximately 90kg)- not 2 000kg, and is thus not all that difficult for two or three strong men to load onto a cart. The provenance suggested in the accompanying article i.e. that it came from the Dutch ship Amsterdam is speculative, even though gunades (a cross between regular, larger cannons, and carronades) were generally used on ships. If this gun was used on a ship, it would have been on an entirely different carriage. It is however quite conceivable that it was taken off a ship and the present carriage constructed to make it usable as a field piece on the eastern frontier. See a copy of the Herald article at:

World War I Centenary Years / Eerste Wêreldoorlog Eeufeesjare

Major engagements in August 2016

On the Western Front, the battles of Verdun (begun with the German attack on the city on 21st February 1916) and the Somme (which began with a mainly British Attack on 1st July) continued.

On the Italian-Austrian Front, the Italians, on 6th August, launched the Sixth Battle of Isonzo, also known as the Battle of Gorizia, in which they finally succeeded in establishing a bridgehead across the Isonzo River and capturing the town of Gorizia (For 1st-5th Battles of Isonso, see earlier Newsletters). On 28th August, Italy declared war on Germany.

On the Balkan Front, on 27th August, Romania entered the war on the Allied side but by December had been overrun by German and Austro-Hungarian forces, despite support from the Russians.

On the Eastern Front, the Russian Brusilov Offensive which had begun on 4th June, largely in response to a plea from the French to take pressure off Verdun, continued through August, the Russians inflicting a number of defeats on the Austro-Hungarians.

In the Caucasus the Russians also severely defeated Turkish forces under Enver Pasha, the latter losing over 80% of his army.

On the African Front the Battle of Romani was a second attempt by the Turks to seize control of the Suez Canal (See Newsletter 126). While Turkish forces had in the interim been largely committed to the Gallipoli Campaign, the British had taken the opportunity to strengthen their forces east of Suez. When the Turks attacked them at the town of Romani on 3rd and 4th August, making some initial gains, the British counter-attacks led to a Turkish retreat to El Arish 100km away removing any further threat to the canal. It also placed the British in a strong offensive position which led to the clearing of the whole Sinai Peninsula of Ottoman forces by the end of 1916.

On matters naval, on 2nd August 1916, the Italian dreadnought Leonardo da Vinci exploded at Taranto, killing 249 of its crew. The event was widely reported in the Italian press, which immediately blamed Austrian or German saboteurs. The cause of the explosion was thought by others as having been unstable lignite, but the Italian counter-intelligence later claimed to have discovered an Austrian saboteur network, based in Zurich, which was responsible for the sinking of the battleship. See also:

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang

World War I

Relaxing before the carnage: Heart breaking photos of our troops on the eve of the Somme 100 years ago
Nigel Blundell MailOnline 29th June 2016 ago.html

A letter home from the Western front
Letters of Note Archive

World War II

The Fighter pilot from Victoria West: Petrus Hendrik HugoDSO, DFC&Two Bars
(There are several websites on 'Dutch' Hugo as he was known.)

The Significance of a 71-Year-Old Mistake: Raising of the flag on Iwo Jima
Freshly Pressed 5th July 2016

Post-Cold War

Sieges of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) in 1991/92 and 1814

Sukhoi 30 fighter jet dancing like a dolphin.
Editors' note: Assuming this is not faked, it is remarkable.

Historic Aircraft

The B-24 Liberator - flown by many South Africans such as in the Warsaw airlift
About military Undated

Ten of the best fighters of WW II
Anon War History Online Undated

Resource materials of military historical interest/ Bronmaterieel van krygsgeskiedkundigebelang


What went wrong on the Somme?This is a 44 minute video analysing the problems relating to this terrible battle and what could have been improved or done differently.

Letters of Note. Some 900 letters home from the Western Front can be found on this site. An example is given above under the 'websites' heading.

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, British Pathé have compiled a collection of 58 films created from their comprehensive war archives. These represent a distinctively British viewpoint. These can be accessed at:

Your Scribes are looking for similar material to give the German and Austro-Hungarian viewpoint.

For those interested in buffing up on the bigger picture of the First World War, the following websites may be of interest.

Resources on the War:
A time-line:
An overview:
Women in the war:
Key Personalities:

A useful glossary of terms can be found at:

A fascinating summary of Second World War military and civilian casualties and trends in war casualties since then can be found at: This can be viewed either as a narrative video of 18 minutes or interactively.


Pre-publication notices

Notice is given of the imminent publication of Mobility Conquers: The Story of 61 Mechanised Battalion Group 1978-2005. It is co-authored by two well-known South African military historians, Willem Steenkamp and Helmoed-Römer Heitman 1152 pages with 61 maps, 400+ photographs and two pages of badges and insignia in colour. Price R1095.00 The launch will take place at the South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold on 19th August.
For further details contact:Bush War Publications (Pty) / +27 71 3898 777 /

Wynand du Toit is launching his new book, Josefskleet on the 26th to the 28th August. It is a follow up on the book Judasbok that he launched at Prince Alfred's Guard a few months ago with great success. Those who may be interested in attending the event which will be in Mossel Bay, can contact Brian James at 082 217 1007or

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, Peter Duffel-Canham, Hagen Rode, Peter Gouws, and Gert Opperman of the Ebo Trust.

Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn:
Secretary: Franco Cilliers:
Scribes (Newsletter): Anne and Pat Irwin:
Society's Website:


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South African Military History Society /