South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0676 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


The meeting was opened by the Chairman, Jan-Willem Hoorweg, with the usual notices.

The traditional Boer & Brit fun day will be at Val on Saturday 4 March 2017 the sponsored bus departs 08h00 from the Museum car park. We have arranged for the Dundee Diehards to give us a re-enactment of the "Whisky Train" incident. The "Tommies" will be dressed in khaki uniforms. There will also be about 10 Boers on horseback, so it should be fun. The folk singer, John Edmond, will be at the event and will provide light entertainment over lunch.

On Monday 13 March at 1pm a memorial will be unveiled on the Leeukop hills between Lindley and Reitz. The memorial will honour the men of all nations who fought in a little known encounter on two ridges on 3 July 1900. Call Albert Jordaan - 082 445 4217 for directions and details.

An Anglo-Boer War Weekend will be held at the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein from Friday 07 April 2017 to Sunday 09 April, 2017. A boutique collection of handpicked speakers will lead a series of talks on various aspects of the War. This is a package offer. Bookings: Telephone: 023 561 3011

We were reminded that subscriptions are due and that the voting forms for curtain-raiser and main lecture may be sent in by email or fax to the Secretary. Marjorie Dean gave the curtain-raiser with They Served Underground - the Bevin Boys. Some 48 000 served in the seriously unglamorous , dangerous and lonely work of coal mining bringing up the "black diamonds" that fuelled so much of the war effort. Early in the war, the British government, desperate for military manpower, had encouraged the strong, young, fit men from the mines to volunteer, and later conscripted them into the forces. Most were quite happy to go. By mid-1943, more than 36 000 young miners had gone off to war and had not been replaced. Thousands more had gone to work in munitions factories or shipyards. There were only 700 000 men working in the mines - some 140 000 fewer than before the war. Coal mining was not a career of choice outside mining areas. The miners who were still working underground were older and less fit men, and productivity fell and kept falling. The coal supply, both for the industrial war effort, and to keep the civilian population at home warm during some of the most severe winters of the 20th century, was not enough to keep up with demand. Something had to be done. Coal rationing was instituted in January 1942, and strictly enforced at 50 cwt a year, i.e. about a sack of coal a week per household, about half of what had been the norm in pre-war years, but that was not enough. Germany, Russia and Occupied Europe used POWs, political prisoners and forced labour to mine coal. Not an option the Brits would choose. But they came close.

Enter the Bevin Boys, first brought into being as a panic measure to cover an official blunder. The Government had failed to make mining what was called a Reserved Occupation. Reserved Occupations were usually such jobs as doctors, dentists, nurses, chemists, engineers, railwaymen, electricians and so on, considered strategically important to the war effort. Ernest Bevin, a former trade union official and then British Labour Party politician, was Minister of Labour and National Service in the wartime coalition government and he struggled to rectify the blunder. So, from 1942, all young men called up for military service could opt to go down the mines instead, but only 1100 took up the offer.

On 12 October 1943 it was announced in the House of Commons that some new conscripts would be "directed to the mines". On 2 December Ernest Bevin explained the scheme in more detail. The colloquial name "Bevin Boys" came from this speech. The Government needed 720 000 men to be continuously employed in mining, so every tenth conscript was to be drafted to the mines. Nonetheless, coal continued to be rationed in Britain until 1958 when the war had been over for 13 years. Bevin Boys were the unglamorous misfits of the Second World War, never recognised as servicemen, often stigmatised as conscientious objectors and refused a uniform. However, they had to pay for their own tools and equipment, which led to complaints that the infantry were not expected to supply their own rifles so why were they expected to buy picks and shovels. They got no medals or war pension. They lived and worked in appalling conditions. They received no recognition of their service at all.

They were the British Government's dirty secret. And it was kept for fifty years! On 7 May 2013 a memorial to the Bevin Boys was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire. The memorial was designed by former Bevin Boy Harry Parkes; it is made of four stone plinths carved from grey Kilkenny stone from the Republic of Ireland. The stone should turn black like the coal that the Bevin Boys extracted.

The main lecture of the evening was delivered by John Myburgh - Sailor Malan: Sailor, Pilot, and Torch Bearer [24 March 1910 - 17 September 1963]. "Sailor" [Adolph Gysbert] Malan grew up on Rhodes Fruit Farms in the Wellington district of the Western Cape where his father was a farm manager. He was educated at a farm school until Std IV. He then attended schools in Stellenbosch [Std V] and Wellington [Std VI] before being trained to be a sailor on the SATS General Botha, a training ship moored then outside the harbor in Simons Town. When his training was completed, he spent nine years on nine different ships of the Union Castle line. Hence his nickname - Sailor.

In 1935, the RAF started the rapid expansion of its pilot corps and Malan joined up. When WWII broke out in 1939, Malan was in 74 Squadron the very same that had been led by Sir Pierre van Ryneveldt from 1917 to 1919. Malan was one of the greatest fighter pilots in the RAF; he was never shot down; he was never wounded; he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in June 1940; Squadron Leader in August 1940; Wing Commander in March 1941; Group Captain in 1942. Amongst other honours bestowed on him were the DFC and bar plus the DSO and bar. Malan was an exceptional shot and a very aggressive air fighter. He developed a simple set of rules for fighter pilots to be disseminated throughout Fighter Command and which eventually could be found tacked to a notice board at most airbases . They were

  1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one or two seconds only when your sights are definitely "ON".
  2. 2. While shooting think of nothing else, brace your whole body: have both hands on the stick: concentrate on your ring sight.
  3. 3. Always keep a sharp look-out. "Keep your finger out".
  4. 4. Height gives you initiative.
  5. 5. Always turn and face the attack.
  6. 6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.
  7. 7. Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.
  8. 8. When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as a top guard.
  9. 9. INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE and TEAMWORK are words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.
  10. 10. Go in quickly Punch hard Get out.

In April 1946, Malan resigned his RAF commission and returned to South Africa to work for Harry Oppenheimer at Anglo-American. In 1950 he took up sheep and dairy farming on a farm near Kimberley. In 1951, he was selected as President of the Torch Commando, a protest movement of mainly ex-servicemen which opposed the removal of Cape Coloureds from the Common Voters Roll and other manifestations of creeping fascism. At its height the Torch Commando had 250 000 members and fought its battle for five years.

Malan died in 1963 from Parkinson's disease and a considerable sum of money was raised in his name to fund research into the disease this fund continues today. Whilst a special memorial service was held in Britain for him, his actual funeral in Kimberley was very low-key for a man of his stature.

Pat Henning

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This serves as notice that the 51st AGM of the Society will take place
in the J.C. Lemmer Auditorium at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History
at 20h00 on Thursday 13th April 2017.


1. Minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting;
2. Chairman's Report for 2016;
3. Statement of Accounts for 2016;
4. Matters arising;
5. Approval of such minutes, report and accounts;
6. Presentation of prizes for 2016 lectures;
7. Election of Chairman;
8. Election of Committee members;
9. General.

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Bart Moonen, Secretary: Werkgroep Eerste Boerenoorlog Zuid-Afrika, writes by e-mail:

Myself and several friends from my archeology studies in The Netherlands have developed an interest In the First Boer War of 1880-1881 and have started a small re- enactment group that focuses on this subject. We try to educate people on the subject and portray a small Boer camp at historical events.
We were hoping that your members could lead us to more sources of information about this, we are especially interested in any period photographs that you might have or interesting literature. We are always looking to improve our portrayal and knowledge on the subject. Your web-site has already proven a treasure of information for us.
Please would any member who is able to help, contact them directly?

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KZN in Durban:



CR= curtain raiser; ML= main lecture; DDH = Darrell Hall Memorial Lecture; MS= member's slot

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Branch contact details
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 Roy Bowman 031 564 4669

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