South African Military History 


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 144

September 2016

The August meeting took place on the 8th at the usual venue in Port Elizabeth. A video on the Thiepval Memorial was shown prior to the meeting.

Andre Crozier used the Members’ slot to show photographs of the recent SAMHSEC field trip to the Alexandria area (see below). It is hoped that presentations of this nature could become a regular feature of our meetings.

The curtain raiser, presented by Brian Klopper, was about the South African Legion. A full report will be included when it is received.

The main lecture, titled Lt. Col. Jack Sherwood-Kelly VC,CMG and DSO was given by Stephen Bowker. This was the second in a series of talks by Stephen on Old Andreans who served in the First World War. In October 2015, Stephen spoke about Nugent Fitzpatrick, son of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.

Jack and his twin brother, Hubert, were born in Lady Frere, South Africa, on 13th January 1880. Both Jack’s father and grandfather had seen active military service. James, his paternal grandfather, served with the British Army in the Crimea taking part in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. His father, James, served with the Cape Mounted Riflemen and the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police as a sergeant. On 6th December 1864, he saw the Italian ship Nova Bella floundering on the rocks off the Transkei coast. He tied a rope around his waist and swam out to the ship, rescuing all 25 souls aboard and was awarded the Bronze Medal for Gallantry for this act of bravery.

One of ten children, Jack grew up in Lady Frere. His childhood was marred by two tragedies which had a strong psychological impact upon him and contributed towards his anger as a young man and his constant need to challenge authority. When he was 12 his mother, Emily, died when the horse-drawn cart that she was riding in, overturned and crushed her. A year later his twin brother died as a result of falling from a horse. Jack attended a variety of schools,including Dale College and St. Andrew’s College. He did not excel academically, but was an excellent sportsman, particularly in horse riding and boxing. He was expelled from both these schools for insubordination.

Upon leaving St. Andrew’s College in 1896 at the age of sixteen, Jack enlisted in the British South Africa Police and participated in the ‘Matabele Rebellion’. In 1899 he was part of the escort for Sir Alfred Milner’s visit to Transkei. With the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War he joined the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers as a trooper and was present with Plumer’s Column at the relief of Mafeking. In 1901 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Imperial Light Horse and later in Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts. He was twice mentioned in Despatches. After the Anglo-Boer War, having resigned his commission, he volunteered for service in the Somaliland Burgher Corps to fight against the ‘Mad Mullah’. He later returned to South Africa where he worked as a trader and also saw action in the Bambatha Uprising.

In 1913, Jack went to Ireland to join the Ulster Defence Force. With the outbreak of the First World War he joined 2nd Bn. King Edward’s Horse and was quickly promoted, becoming the acting Lt-Col of the Norfolk Regiment and Commanding Officer of the 1st Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was awarded the DSO for his conduct at Gallipoli in February 1916 and on 20th November 1917 was awarded the VC at the Battle of Cambrai for, among other feats of courage, leading a charge in which he captured five machine guns and 46 prisoners. He was wounded and gassed several times while serving on the Western Front.

In April 1919, after the effective termination of the First World War, Jack volunteered for the British Expeditionary Force to contain the Bolsheviks in post-revolutionary Russia. After realising that the volunteers had been recruited under false pretences, he became highly critical not only of the offensive nature of the campaign but the conduct of British General William Ironside, with whom he clashed regularly. In August Jack was relieved of his command for insubordination. Upon returning to Britain, he took up the issue in a series of letters to the press, for which he was subsequently court-martialled. He was severely reprimanded and chose to relinquish his commission and leave the army, although he was permitted to retain the rank of lieutenant colonel.

After this he engaged in a number of business ventures, including in Bolivia where he contracted malaria, from the consequences of which he died in 1931. He was given a full military funeral and is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery, England.

The July Field Trip

SAMHSEC’s field trip on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th July was to the Alexandria district of the Eastern Cape. The first stop was at Carnarvon Dale farm on the west bank of the Bushman’s River. There the owner, Roger Hart,discussed the nearby village of Sidbury’s role in the Frontier Wars and the establishment of the 1820 Settlers in the area. This was followed by a stop at the monument to the Voortrekkers who trekked from the Alexandria district under the leadership of Karel Landman in 1837. Here the participants were briefed by Amédée Büchner, chairman of the committee which manages the monument on behalf of the Heritage Foundation. Landman was a veteran of Frontier Wars before leaving the Eastern Cape. In Natal he participated in military actions between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus in 1838, and was second in command at the Battle of Blood River.

The afternoon walking tour of Alexandria opened with a visit, guided by Elaine Luyt, to the Anglican Christ Church which dates from 1860. In the church are memorial plaques to the members of the parish killed during the two World Wars. Marie Greyvenstein, author of the book Alexandria, Dorp van Herinneringe, then led a visit to the NG Church and explained the role of that church in the establishment of the town. She then took the group to the only remaining wall of the original church building and the adjacent Mariasaal. Both were places of refuge for farmers during the Sixth Frontier War, during which most of the village and many farms in the district were destroyed. During a Xhosa attack, the church was burnt down, but the thatched roof of the Mariasaal did not ignite in spite of attempts to get it to burn. The walking tour concluded with a visit to the old Residency, with the town gaol in the cellar below the magistrate’s home.

On Sunday morning the field trip stopped at Marant’s Drift where local legend has it that a French, or English, Lieutenant Marant, in command of a party of ‘Hottentot’ levies, was ambushed and massacred in a small forest patch above the drift. They were buried in a single grave marked by a flat platform of stones. No historical record has been found and the date is unknown.

On nearby Glenshaw farm the owner, Stephen Fick, guided the field trip to Nongqause’s grave. She was prominent in the events leading to the Xhosa Cattle Killing episode of 1856/7 after she had told of visions of ancestors in a pool on the Gxara River. Her grave is marked by a small quartzite monolith with a bronze plaque.

Charlie Deacon (in shorts)and Tom Bowker affixing the plaque at Nongquasre's grave, 1963.
Photograph: Unknown

Stephen Bowker and his daughters, Alison (l) and Lindsay (r) at the same site, 2016
Photograph: Pat Irwin

At the grave, Stephen Bowker gave a talk on the roles of his grandfather, Tom Bowker, Charlie Deacon, and Ivan Mitford-Barberton in the marking the grave and other historically significant sites in Albany. Tom Bowker was also instrumental in having the site declared a national monument in 1963. All three men played leading roles in the political, military and cultural life of South Africa. Between them they were also responsible for marking a number of other historical sites in the Eastern Cape, such as Salem and the Highlands Nek route.

The group then moved to the two cannon recovered from rocks on the beach at Cannon Rocks. Pat Irwin explained that these cannon, like all known muzzle-loaders, are registered with the Cannon Association of South Africa. This register includes features of identification and, where possible, notes on origins and history. These two cannon are however too badly corroded to be identified with any certainty, nor can their provenance be determined. The last stop of the field trip was at Boknes beach, where Andre Crozier gave a briefing on the finding in 1938 by Eric Axelson, of the remains of the cross planted by Bartholomew Dias in 1488 on the Kwaaihoek false islet. Some members then walked to the replica cross on the site, after which the trip was concluded.

Future meetings and field trips/ Toekomstige byeenkoms en uitstappe

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be on Monday 12th September 2016 at 19h30 at the Eastern Cape Veteran Car Club in Conyngham Road, Port Elizabeth. The curtain raiser will be by Franco Cilliers on the topic Bullet proof vests, are they really? The main lecture Experiences flying Mirage Jets for the SAAF during the Border War will be given by Wayne Westoby.

The Field Trip planned to the Noupoort-Middelburg area has now been finalised for the weekend of 23rd -25th September. Malcolm Kinghorn has already sent the First Warning Order.

Matters of general interest / Sake van algemene belang

Individual members’ activities / Individuelelede se aktiwiteite

Barry and Yoland Irwin have recently spent time in the United Kingdom where they had the opportunity to visit a number of sites of military historical interest. These included the Tank Museum at Bovington (arguably the best of its kind in the world), Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, the Wallace Memorial, Stirling Castle, Dunnottar Castle, the Museums of the Black watch and the Gordon Highlanders, and the Memorials to Col. David Stirling, Maj. Gen. Hector MacDonald, one of Scotland’s most distinguished soldiers, and the Commandos of the Second World War.

The David Stirling Memorial, sometimes also called the SAS Memorial,near Doune on Perthshire.
Col Sir David Stirling was a British mountaineer, World War II British Army Officer,
and the founder of the Special Air Services (SAS).
Photograph: Barry Irwin

SAS Plinth finds final resting place

The Plinth of C Squadron, 22 (Rhodesian) SAS has found its final resting place at Credenhill Cemetery, Herefordshire, home of the British SAS.

Plinth of C Squadron, 22 (Rhodesian) SAS
Photograph: Unknown

Originally located at Kabrit Barracks in Salisbury, Rhodesia, it was in 1980 moved to Flame Lily Park in Durban where it rested for 36 years until transfer to the UK in January 2016.

World War I Centenary Years / Eerste Wêreldoorlog Eeufeesjare

Major engagements in September 2016

On the Western Front, two subsidiary battles of the Somme took place in September 1916. During this period there were also numerous smaller attacks and counter attacks, neither side gaining or losing much ground – often only a matter of yards/metres such as at Fabeck Graben – and often with considerable loss of life.

The Battle of Guillemont was launched by the British on 3rd and continued until 6th in the hope of relieving some of the German pressure on the Romanians (see Newsletter 143). Earlier attempts on this strongly fortified German position had failed, but this one was successful as were concurrent French attacks on the villages of Clery and Omiecourt.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the biggest Allied push since the start of the Somme Offensive, commencing on 15th across a 12km front was notable for the introduction of tanks. This was a controversial decision. All 49 tanks possessed by the British were intended for use,but in the event they proved unreliable; 17 were unable to make it to the front line, a further seven failed there and only 15 were able to take part in the actual attack. These were furthermore found to be vulnerable to artillery fire and they experienced difficulties in communication. Despite these problems however, they were reported to have had a negative effect on German morale – at least initially – and several villages fell to the British, New Zealand and Canadian troops. Although some gains were made, they were of relatively minor significance. The attack was called off on 22nd September after heavy casualties had been suffered. The tank had made its mark, however, and was to be used in much greater numbers and to greater effect in the future.

South-east of Flers-Courcelette, the Battles of Morval and Thiepval (where today’s Memorial to the missing of the Somme stands) ran from 25th to 30th September. Both were minor Allied victories, but were inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things.

On the Austro-Italian Front, the Seventh Battle of Isonzo took place between 14th and 17th September as the Italians attempted to extend their hold on the recently won Gorizia bridgehead (see Newsletter 143). After heavy casualties, the attack was called off after three days, but did contribute to wearing down the morale and materiél base of the Austro-Hungarians.

On the Eastern Front,the Russian Brusilov Offensive terminated on 20th September. Although it did not achieve the goal of draining large numbers of German troops from the West, and from Verdun in particular, it was arguably the most successful of the Russian campaigns during the war, inflicting a number of significant defeats on the Austro-Hungarians. The campaign in Carpathia in particular came close to knocking Austria-Hungary out of the war.

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang

World War I

Olympians in the First World War: As the 2016 Olympics play out in Rio, tribute is to be paid to men and women who won medals in the games held before the First World War.

Royal Engineer’s hidden photos reveal another side of World War I
War History Online 14th July 2016

World War II

A rumble in the jungle: the secret story of Force 136
Catherine Clement War History Online 14th July 2016

Former Nazi officersof Hitler’s Waffen-SS living in Britain deny they took part in any crimes
Jake Ryan The Sun 31st July 2016

In silence, Pope Francis makes historic visit to Auschwitz
War History Online 11th August 2016

The Assassination of ReinhardHeydrich ‘The Butcher’
War History Online 11th August 2016

Cold War and post-Cold war

Northern Ireland man restores Cold War nuclear fallout bunker
War History Online 11th August 2016

Echoes of the Rhodesian Bush War

Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Reid-Daly, founder and commander of the elite Selous Scouts Regiment in the Rhodesian War died in Cape Town on 9th August 2010. As a soldier he had an extraordinarily interesting career. See obituary in The Telegraph:

Historic aircraft
The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft used by the South African Air Force.

Famous Last Stands

The Legendary Story of 62 French Legionnaires who fought against 3,000 Mexican troops.
War History Online 8th August 2016

Resource materials of military historical interest/
Bronmaterieel van krygsgeskiedkundigebelang


The Elite: the story of the Rhodesian Special Air Service [SAS] by Barbara Cole is now available online. See: Some related sites of interest:


A fascinating blog called The Trench can be found at: See for example, the article on ‘the Titanic boy’

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 and Michael Irwin.

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


A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons,
four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons, and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016.
The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana,
as part of NATO exercise BALTOPS 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Babis)
Source: The Daily Signal 20th June 2016

South African Military History Society /