South African Military History 


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 141

June/Junie 2016

The May meeting took place in Grahamstown on Saturday 7th. In the morning 30 members and their guests, led by Pat and Anne Irwin, visited the Clay Pits, a significant Frontier Wars site some 40km east of Grahamstown. The Clay Pits were important to the isiXhosa-speaking clans on both sides of the Fish River as a source of red, yellow and white clay for cosmetic, decorative and ritual uses. It was also the most eastern location of the 1820 Settlers' placements, being only some 15km from the Fish River border established between the colony and the isiXhosa-speaking clans after the 1811-1812 (Fifth) Frontier War. Barter and trade inevitably developed and was relatively harmonious until a number of political and military blunders on the part of the colonial authorities.

The result was that the place increasingly became a focus of conflict with cattle theft, smuggling, attacks on, and murders of, individuals, and the consequent reprisals becoming the order of the day. A military post, including a fortification and permanent troops, was established at the site in 1821 but was short-lived. An attempt was made to resuscitate it in the early 1830s, but this came to little with the outbreak of the Sixth Frontier War in 1834 and the destruction and the temporary abandonment of most of the Settler farms in the area. Subsequent to that war, cattle raiding from both sides continued and it was only after the 1846-47 (Seventh) Frontier War that the conflict diminished and agricultural practices could take place in relative peace.

In addition to the Clay Pits themselves, one wall remains of the original fortification as well as two military target stones, the ruins of some of the early farmhouses, remnants of an early paint factory established on the site in the 1890s and an 1899 Methodist Church, which is still in use. SAMHSEC places on record its gratitude to the current owners of Clay Pits farm, Glyn and Sue Dixon for their generous hosting of our visit.

Lt.-Col Dudley Fletcher who was scheduled to deliver the curtain raiser was unable to do so due to an accident in the preceding week and the slot was filled at short notice by Barry Irwin. His topic was Cyber disruptions to the Ukrainian Power Grid.

From the start of the conflict related to the split in Ukraine, a series of power outages have occurred in various regions and have escalated as outages as the conflict has warmed up. During the period of early December 2013-January 2014, while protests were taking place in the streets of Kiev, massive distributed Denial of Service attacks were observed against a variety of targets within the country. Notably the DirtJumper and BlackEnergy (both linked to underground groups in Russia) malware was used in these campaigns against Media, Government, and opposition groups. With the Russian occupation of the Crimea in March 2014, these digital attacks escalated substantially into physical attacks on power distribution infrastructure (with some evidence of involvement from both sides in the conflict).

In contrast to previous years, where the 'digital front' had been quiet over the Christmas period, attacks were ramped up in December 2015. The apogee of these was a massive and widespread power outage in Ukraine on 23rd December 2015. The eastern parts of the country were particularly badly affected, with much of the damage in this area centred on the Ivano-Frankivsk region. The outage was prolonged due to significant problems in restarting the grid, and in particular the automated systems used to manage it.

This incident was regarded as a true cyber-attack, and was reported as such by much of the Western media. Subsequent analysis of the damaged systems showed the presence of the BlackEnergy malware, with a previously unseen payload designed to erase system hard drives. No evidence was found of any SCADA functionality, as had been seen previously in Stuxnet. This indicated that the attackers had likely used the malware to gain access to the systems, but that the attack itself was not automated or autonomous.

Network addresses used in the BlackEnergy distribution were linked to previous attempts earlier in 2015. However, as in the case of the Georgian and Estonian cyber incidents a few years earlier, no hard links to the Russian State were proved. This is despite significant evidence that the attack was carried out by the so-called SandWorm APT Malware group based in Russia. This reinforces the experience that attribution of cyber activity to nation states is very hard to prove decisively. This in turn has an impact on cyber defence activities, in particular retaliatory strikes in either the cyber- or the physical world.

The main lecture, titled The unfortified military villages of Sir Harry Smith 1848-1850, was delivered by Margaret Snodgrass of the Lower Albany Historical Society.

The idea of placing military or private individuals on the Eastern Cape Frontier was first mooted as a means of solving the difficulties of defending the frontier in the 1820s. At that time the intention was to establish garrison towns in order to form a shield against incursions by the amaXhosa clans. The first attempt was carried out by the acting Governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, when he established the quasi-military village of Fredericksburg in 1821 - so named in honour of the Duke of York and Albany on the right bank of the Bira River, a few kilometres south-east of Peddie. It was to be occupied by the Royal African Corps. This in itself was problematic as the unit, a penal regiment, was widely distrusted and so, compounded by the tardiness of colonial officialdom in establishing and administering the village, Fredericksburg was a failure. It was followed by suggestions from individuals as diverse as Thomas Pringle and Andries Stockenström in the late 1820s. Both were of the view that Khoi militiamen were best suited to the defence of the frontier. This led to the establishment of the Kat River Settlement.

The problem of defending the border continued. In June 1847, shortly before the Seventh Frontier War (War of the Axe 1846-47), the Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, and senior officers of the Royal Engineers advocated a system of military villages, an idea enthusiastically supported by Sir Harry Smith who succeeded Maitland as Governor and High Commissioner for the territories of southern Africa. Smith also imposed a new and unwelcome system of colonial administration upon the chiefs of the amaXhosa clans and required them to take an oath which they would not be able to keep without breaking down their tribal system of governance. He also declared himself to be their paramount chief.

In the event, two Khoi military villages were established in the 'neutral' (formerly the 'ceded') territory between the Fish and the Kieskamma Rivers viz. Kempt near Alice and Hardinge near Peddie. Unlike the four military villages set up for pensioned or discharged soldiers of the British army, these two villages have seldom been mentioned in popular histories: Smith himself did not mention them in any of his despatches to the Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey. By August 1850 circumstances, including poor conduct of the superintendents, drunkenness among the soldiers and individuals abandoning the villages, had led to their deterioration and ultimate failure. Former Khoi soldiers were nonetheless allowed to remain in the territory with their families under the supervision and guidance of Moravian missionary institutions. The main station was given the name of Mamre. Families also received a grant and other support. The Eighth Frontier War (the War of Mlanjeni 1850-53) and the Khoi rebellion brought these arrangements to an end.

King William's Town had in the meantime become the military headquarters of the frontier. Several fortifications such as Fort Murray, Fort White and Fort Cox (on the main access point into the Amatholas) were built in the district and East London was beginning to develop as a port. Supply lines along the rudimentary roads were tenuous and subject to ambushes and raiding. Under constant pressure from the British treasury to cut costs, Smith had sent a number of regular army regiments home in 1848. Earl Grey was, however, of the view that expenditure might be further reduced by allowing men to take their discharges in the colony and to settle on grants of land surrounding well-built military villages. Smith, as part of his defensive system for British Kaffraria, accordingly established four so-called military villages on the colonial side of the Tyhume Valley. Applications were invited from anyone who wished to establish himself as a military settler.

According to Colin Coetzee, the tragic end of the four military villages is well recorded, but there is very little information concerning their establishment. Three of them were established in the Tyhume Valley - Woburn, Auckland and Juanasburg. Ely was located near Fort Beaufort. Smith regularly named villages after places or people associated with himself or his life in England. Juanasburg was named after his wife Juana; Ely after the ancient city of the Fens, close to Smith's birthplace, Whittlesea; Woburn was named after Woburn Abbey, the estate of Sir Harry's friend, the Duke of Bedford, and Auckland after a friend, the Earl of Auckland, who had served as Governor-General of India and First Lord of the Admiralty. It lay 9km north of Woburn.

The main idea for the villages was that the military experience of the ex- soldiers would be available in the event of any crisis developing in the valley. These villages were not fortified however so, if attacked, the inhabitants had no means of protecting themselves. The inhabitants had by 1850 also neglected to fortify the settlements in any way. On Christmas Day 1850, they paid the full price for this negligence. Each discharged soldier was to be given twelve acres of valley land which would become freehold after seven years of occupation. In addition, each man was given arms and ammunition, rations for himself and his family, a plough, a harrow, seeds to plant, tools with which to build a house and a tent to live in while it was being built.

These villages were far from successful. Most of the men were single and left for the towns. Some are alleged to have provoked the amaNgqika clan by impounding stray cattle and to have desecrated the graves of amaNgqika chiefs who were buried in the valley, near Woburn. The amaNgqika and the occupants of the villages settled into a mutual, vigilant hostility towards one another. For the amaNgqika, once the war cry had sounded, the military villages represented the first point of attack which took place on 25th December 1850. Woburn was the first village to be attacked and all sixteen men still living there were killed. There were no families living in the village. Juanasburg had had more warning and so most of the inhabitants were able to flee to Alice. The largest village was Auckland and here twenty-eight men lost their lives, eleven being married.

The idea of military villages as a system of defence on the eastern frontier on Smith's model, was not recommended again as a form of defence by either military personnel or private individuals. In 1855 Sir George Grey, the then Governor, was adamant that his scheme for the German military settlers, who were to be placed in villages would have no resemblance to Sir Harry Smith's military villages. Sir George Grey assured the Colonial Secretary that his villages would not be situated in dangerous areas.

After the destruction of Woburn, Auckland and Juanasburg, the authorities also had no intention of forming an exclusive military village for the survivors. It was decided that they should be dispersed among three villages yet to be formed, Aberdeen, Blinkwater and Newcastle. By 1853, the survivors of the Tyhume villages had become desperate: the widows and children of some of those who had been killed were in distress and they asked for some relief. A sum of £2 807 5s and 4d was paid to them under the award of a Military Board of Inquiry which sat at Fort Hare on 18th July 1853 to investigate their claims. They were also allowed to apply for grants at the newly established villages of Aberdeen and Calderwood in the district of Fort Beaufort, and at Newcastle, formerly known as Waterloo Bay, just north of the Fish River Mouth and at that time referred to as 'just a village on paper.' These villages, like their predecessors, were not successful. Many took the opportunity to obtain new land, but others refused to select land in 'distant and unknown places' and opted instead for money. By the end of 1855, fourteen settlers were provided with erven at Blinkwater and eight at Newcastle. Sir George Cathcart, who succeeded Sir Harry Smith as Governor, ordered the lands of Auckland and Ely to be settled by Mfengu and those of Woburn, Juanasburg, Kempt and Hardinge to be surveyed and sold as farms to European applicants.

Future meetings and field trips / Toekomstige byeenkoms en uitstappe

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be on Monday 13th June 2016 at 19h30 at the Eastern Cape Veteran Car Club in Conyngham Road, Port Elizabeth. The curtain raiser will be by Caryl Klokow on Her experiences with the UN Mission in Somalia.The main lecture, A Poetic View of the First World War, will be presented by Anne Irwin.

Further correspondence regarding the field trip to the Alexandria district on 23rd and 24th July will be sent to those who intend attending. The following members have indicated interest to date: Bev and Stephen Bowker, Lynn and Andre Crozier, Karen and Peter D-C, Alec Grant, Sue and Mike Heywood, Dennis Hibberd, Anne and Pat Irwin, Michael Newcombe, Brenda and Fred Nel, Pixie and Ian Pringle, Jill and Richard Tomlinson. Please remember that the closing date to join the field trip is 1st June. If you want to attend and aren't on the above list, please contact Malcolm Kinghorn on before 1st June.

Advance notice: At this stage it is envisaged that SAMHSEC's other 2016 field trip will probably be to Noupoort and surroundings in late September or early October.

World War I Centenary Years / Eerste Wêreldoorlog Eeufeesjare

Death of Lord Kitchener

5th June is the 100th anniversary of the drowning of Lord Kitchener at sea when the cruiser on which he was travelling, HMS Hampshire, struck a mine. He was not mourned, and nor will his memory be, by those South Africans who had been on the receiving end of the concentration camps which he oversaw. 27 000 Boer women and children, and an unrecorded number of Black South Africans, died in his camps, making it the first major genocide of the 20thcentury.

The Western Front in June 1916

Apart from the continuing German-French engagement at Verdun, andregular probing attacks on the part of the British along their sector, the Western Front was relatively quiet during June 1916. In order to relieve some of the pressure on the French, the British were preparing for the forthcoming offensive on the Somme.

Major engagements in June 1916

The Battle of Khanaqin took place on 3rd June 1916. Russian forces had been involved in a lengthy campaign west of Tehran since the end of 1915, driving Persian and Arab forces towards the Mesopotamian border. During June, the Russians unsuccessfully attacked the border town of Khanaqin, but were driven back by the Ottoman army. Ottoman losses were around 400. Russian losses were thought to be considerably greater. The British had hoped that a Russian advance would assist in the relief of Kut-al-Amara but this was not to be. This was the sole engagement fought by the Russian Army on the Mesopotamian Front.

The Battle of Lutsk, in today's north-west Ukraine, ran from 4th - 6th June 1916. It heralded the launch of the Russian Brusilov Offensive (see SAMHSEC Newsletter 138) and was a resounding victory for the Russians. Named after the commander, General Alexei Brusilov, it started a run of successes for the Russians on their western front. Lutsk had been heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians in 1915 and they were over-confident about its impregnability, added to which they had an advantage of 200 000 men against the Russians' 150 000. The Russian artillery nonetheless succeeded in smashing through the Austro-Hungarian lines on 4th and 5th June resulting in the Lutsk defenders fleeing in panic on 6th. Because of the extensive barbed wire defences, many were unable to escape and were taken prisoner. The Austro-Hungarians lost 130 000 men in just two days. This initial success of the Brusilov Offensive almost succeeded in knocking Austria-Hungary out of the war and dashed any hopes they had of victory in the east. Austrian attacks in Italy ceased and Romania finally entered the war on the side of the Allies. In the Brusilov campaign as a whole, the Austro-Hungarians lost a staggering 1.5 million men (including 400 000 taken prisoner) and ceded some 25 000 square kilometres of territory.

Battle of Jutland - 31st May to 1st June. The essence of the battle was covered in SAMHSEC Newsletter 140. For a German point of view of the battle see:

A point of interest is that King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth, is the only British Sovereign to have seen action in battle since William IV. At the Battle of Jutland (31st May to 1st June) George, then the Duke of York, served on board HMS Collingwood, a dreadnought which served in the middle of the battle line and became engaged with a battle cruiser, possibly SMS Seydlitz. William IV (1765-1837), known as the 'Sailor King' because of the many years he spent in the Royal Navy, participated in the Battle of Cape St Vincent against the Spanish on 16th January 1780. At the time he was a 15-year old midshipman.

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang

The Punic Wars

Geologist may have found exact route Hannibal used to cross the Alps - by a trail of poop
Anon War History Online 28th April 2016

How the Romans beat the best navy of the time
Andrew Knighton War History Online 8th March 2016


A new perspective on the Castle in Cape Town
Jenna Etheridge News24 19th April 2016

The Castle of Good Hope during World War
J de Vries Weekly Digest 19th April 2016

World War I

List of World War I Central Powers aircraft
Wikipedia [Treat with caution]

World War II

Fascinating images of the US Navy capture of U-505 in June 1944
Anon The Vintage News 16th April 2016

Poland removing WWII Soviet Victory Monuments
Anon War History Online 1st May 2016[War+History+Online]+Your+Daily+Dose

How Associated Press co-operated with the Nazis
Philip Oltermann Constantine Report on the Far Right 30th March 2016

Nazi propaganda newsreel: Battle for Normandy and Warsaw Uprising
Anon War History Online 30th April 2016[War+History+Online]+Your+Daily+Dose

The Cold War

4th April was Nato's 67th birthday - The following two websites provide interesting insight into the development and relevance of the organisation s7aUm8wCFQbgGwodPDUN1A

Historic aircraft

Better than the Mustang? These Soviet Yak 3 fighters owned the sky
Anon War History Online 3rd May 2016[War+History+Online]+Your+Daily+Dose

The brightly painted heavy bombers Of WWII
Anon War History Online 10th May 2016[War+History+Online]+Your+Daily+Dose

Historic Ships and Boats

Spearhead of the Falklands Fleet, the aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes to become a luxury hotel in the Bay of Bengal
Andy Gardner and Abul Taher The Mail on Sunday 28th February 2016

Three U-Boats missing until 1985 when found in a U-boat bunker in Hamburg
Anon The Vintage News 27th April 2016

A montage of short submarine videos

Resource materials of military historical interest/
Bronmaterieel van krygsgeskiedkundigebelang


Forces War Records Magazine is an excellent online resource covering many aspects of military history. The May 2016 issue for example has extensive coverage of the Battle of Jutland, the April 2016 issue, the Spitfire and the October 2015 issue, the George Cross. See:


Richard Stewart of Stewart Enterprises has updated his DVD on the battle at Rorke's Drift which took place on 22nd and 23rd January 1879. Now titled The Battle of Rorke's Drift: The story of history's most famous rear-guard action, the DVD includes period images and photographs, computer graphics and comments by one of the world's leading authorities on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Ian Knight. The DVD is 55 minutes in length. The price is R99.00 plus VAT and postage, totalling R149.00. Richard Stewart is contactable at 011 435 8823 or 084 504 8367 or by e-mail at:


* Surviving the Ride by Steve Camp and Helmoed-RömerHeitman. Published by 30° South.This is the story of South African mine-protected vehicles and in particular, one called 35 Charlie in Angola in 1988. For a review of the book see:
Priced at R495, it is available at most leading book retailers as well as online at either

* Wynand du Toit has recently published his book Judas Goat. He was captured during a reconnaissance operation in Cabinda, Angola in May 1985 and placed in solitary confinement in an Angolan gaol for over two years. He was released in September 1987 as part of a large prisoner exchange agreement.

* Kathleen Satchwell, whose military historical expertise is widely recognised, has recently published two booklets which will be of particular interest to military historians as well as many others in the Eastern Cape as they deal with soldiers and their families from this province.

Your Loving Son, Yum - The letters of Grahame Alexander Munro to his family 1915-1916

For the Glory of South Africa and Empire: Remembering Five Eastern Cape Soldiers lost in World War I

These books have had very good reviews and are available at Fogarty's Bookstore in Walmer. The prices are approximately R90.00 and R60.00 respectively.

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 Fred Nel, Richard Tomlinson, Malcolm Kinghorn, Barry Irwin, Michael Irwin, Peter Duffel-Canham and Peter Gouws.

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


South African Military History Society /