South African Military 
History Society


Newsletter No. 509
July 2018

Contact: Charles Whiteing
Telephone: 031 764 7270
Mobile: 082 555 4689

Two talks were delivered to the KZN meeting in July



Buller, Sir Henry Redvers (1839-1908).

Born in Downes, Crediton, County Devon on 7 December 1839. Redvers succeeded to the family manor of Downes on the death of his elder brother James Howard Buller in October 1874.

Buller was educated mainly at Eton. He was fond of outdoor pursuits, [a] bold rider and very observant but did [not] make his mark in games or scholarship. He was commissioned as an ensign in the 60th Rifles in May 1858.

Was made KCMG on 24 November. He was appointed to HQ staff as Assistant-Adjutant-General. In February 1884 he returned to Egypt and was in command of the first infantry brigade and led the unit at El–Teb and Tamai and was in the expedition relieve General Gordon in Khartoum in 1885. Buller was appointed chief of staff. He was sent to Ireland to overhaul the police force. He returned to military duty in 1887 as Quarter-Master-General, and in 1897 he succeeded Lord Wolseley as Adjutant-General.

For the next ten years he spent in charge to improve the lot of the British soldier, and reorganisation of supply and transport. He showed great regard for the public purse.

On 9 October 1898 Buller succeeded in command of the troops at Aldershot but remained there for only one year. In October 1899 he embarked for South Africa to enforce the British demands on the Transvaal Republic at the head of 47 551 men the largest army that Britain had ever sent abroad. The Boers declared war on Britain. When the Free State decided to support the Transvaal, Buller’s plan was to advance on Bloemfontein from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and East London while another for the defence of Natal. War was declared on 11 October 1899 and the Boers invaded Natal and the Cape Colony. The situation was the gravest in Natal and Buller chose to go there himself. When Buller arrived in Cape Town he learnt that Sir George White’s force at Dundee had withdrawn to Ladysmith to be soon followed by a Boer encirclement of the town.

Buller at Colenso

Well, if I can’t win with these [the force of 49 000 men on the eve of his departure for South Africa ] ought to be kicked. Gen Buller October 1899.

The operations for the past three weeks have borne upon me the fact that I had seriously miscalculated the retentive power of the Ladysmith garrison. I now find that the enemy practically neglect that, and in turn their whole force upon me. I am consequently not strong enough to relieve Ladysmith. In my opinion, the fate of Ladysmith is only a question of days, unless I am considerably reinforced. Gen Buller, February 1900

On 15 December 1899 he attacked the Boer positions at Colenso and was repulsed with heavy losses of 207 fatalities and the loss of ten guns while the Boers lost a mere 8 dead. In the battle itself Buller was hit by a piece shrapnel. (His personal doctor Dr Hughes was killed beside him). Three days before, he reported that on this position at Colenso would be too costly and that he meant to turn it by a flank march westward.

News received of the checks with Gatacre at Stormberg (10 December 1899), and Lord Methuen at Magersfontein (11 December 1899) led him to change his mind; he did not like to expose his communications to an enemy elated by success. The three setbacks led to the term “Black Week” a collective for the repulses at Colenso, Stormberg, and Magersfontein.

After Colenso: “Surrender”

Buller’s message to White: As it appears that I cannot relieve Ladysmith for another month, and even then only by means of protracted siege operations... You will burn your ciphers, destroy your guns, fire away your ammunition, and make the best terms possible with the general of the besieging forces, after giving me time to fortify myself on the Tugela.

The British government responded: Her Majesty’s government considers the abandonment and consequent loss of White’s force as a national disaster of the greatest magnitude. We urge you to devise another attempt to relieve it, not necessarily by way of Colenso, making use, if you think well, of additional troops now arriving in South Africa.

The British government decided to send out Lord Roberts as commander-in-chief in South Africa leaving Buller in charge of Natal. He cabled Roberts and advised him that his son, Frederick, died at the battle of Colenso.

iNtabamnyama & Spioenkop

Lord Roberts arrived in Cape Town. Buller, having been joined by a fresh division under Sir Charles Warren [a total of 24 356 troops, 21 machine guns and 58 artillery pieces] had just begun an attempt to reach Ladysmith by a wide sweep westward. The Boers had ample time to shift their ground, and an attempt at iNtabamnyama (20 -23 January 1900) and at Spioenkop (24 January 1900) ended in failure. Warren was in immediate control of the principle forces engaged but Buller, often present, exercised some influence. There was divided responsibility, and Warren’s report was forwarded with Buller’s comments and those of Lord Roberts.

Led to much subsequent recrimination, Buller was requested to write a fresh despatch better suited for publication, but this he flatly refused to do. The papers were published with large omissions, but ultimately in full.

Vaalkrans; Tugela Heights

With another attempt to reach Ladysmith via Vaalkrans having reached stalemate, Buller received Lyttelton (who was commanding the force) who reported ‘Very bad; shot at day and night from nearly all sides” Buller replied ‘Wait a bit’ and disappeared into his tent, appearing with a large bowl of good champagne. Whatever else General Lyttelton thought, he confessed that it was the most refreshing drink that he had ever tasted.

The fourth attempt to break through the Boer defences was at Vaalkrans (5-7 Feb 1900) had no better success. Buller telegraphed the Secretary of State and Lord Roberts:

I found the Boer positions on my right and left so superior to mine , and I was outclassed by their big guns, which I could not silence, that I have decided that it would be useless waste of life to try and force a passage which, when forced, would not lead me a free road to Ladysmith ....I propose to try a by a forced march to get back to east of Colenso.

Later: The operations of the past three weeks have borne upon me the fact that I had seriously miscalculated the retentive power of the Ladysmith garrison. I now find the enemy practically neglect that, and in turn the whole force upon me; I am not consequently not strong enough to relieve Ladysmith.

In the middle of February the British army, having returned to the Colenso area, was the starting point of two weeks’ bitter fighting leading to the breakthrough of the Boer defences and entered Ladysmith on 28 February 1900. The five attempts by the Natal Field Force resulted in losing 950 men killed. Buller’s leadership was severely criticised at the time and afterwards. His care for his men, which was incessant, made him shrink from success. ’The men are splendid’ he reported during the fight at Spioenkop and they remained staunch to him in spite of failures, and regarding disparagement of him as a slur on themselves at the time.

Lord Lansdowne , The Secretary of State for War and Lord Wolseley received copies of these telegrams: [Communication between Buller with White and Lord Roberts on the eve of withdrawal from Vaalkrans]. Wolseley said “I have been thoroughly disappointed in him [Buller] for he has not shown any of the characteristics I had attributed to him; no military genius, no firmness, and not even the obstinacy which I thought he possessed when I discovered he had no firmness. He seems dazed and dumbfounded when he loses men”

Buller: May 1900-Oct 1900

Two months were spent in recuperation and re-equipment. An infantry division was sent to join the army under Lord Roberts leaving three in Natal. In early May 1900 Buller, with a force of 45 715 men , 113 field guns and 4 naval guns, moved on the Biggarsberg, and turned the Boer positions at Helpmekaar and entered Dundee on 15 May. At the end of the month he opened negotiations with Chris Botha at Laing’s Nek but they came to nothing. Instead of a direct attack on the Nek, Buller turned his way via Botha’s Pass, and after a sharp action at Alleman’s Nek on 11 June, reached Volksrust in the Transvaal.

As soon as the railway line was repaired, Buller advanced on Standerton, and by 4 July his men joined hands with Roberts' force near Balfour. A combined movement on Belfast was arranged and on 7 August Buller marched north with 11 000 men. On the 21st he came into collision with the left flank of Louis Botha’s men which was opposing the advance of Roberts eastward. On 27 August the Boers were defeated at the battle of Bergendal which was stormed by Buller’s troops. As Lord Roberts reported on 10 October: ‘The success of this attack was decisive. It was carried in view of the main Boer position, and the effect of it was such that the enemy gave way on all points, flying in confusion to the north and east’. Thus fell to Buller to give the coup de grace to the resistance to the Boer republics in the way of regular warfare. From that time onward their operations were of a guerrilla character.

While part of the army went to Komatipoort, Buller marched north to Lydenburg and made a circuit through that mountainous district, dislodging the Boers from their strong positions and dispersing their bands. On 2 October he was back in Lydenburg and took farewell of his troops, for the Natal Army was to be disbanded. He went to Pretoria on the 10th , and in a special army order, Roberts thanked him for his great services he rendered to his country. He returned to England via Natal.

Buller returns to Britain

He landed in Britain on 9 November and was warmly welcomed and received the freedom of Southampton soon followed by Exeter and Plymouth. He was guest of Queen Victoria at Windsor. For his services he was mentioned in Lord Robert’s despatches of 28 March, 10 July 1900 and 2 April 1901.

In January 1901 he resumed command of the Aldershot Division and was given command of the 1st Army Corps which was criticised in the press. Where only the published record of his failure in the field was known, he was aggrieved that the war office did not defend him or allow him to defend himself. At a public luncheon at the Queen’s Hall Westminster on 10 October he made a speech which his friends admitted to be a grave indiscretion and which the government held to be breech of the King’s Regulations.

LCMS Amery (1873-1955) General editor of The Times History of the War in South Africa, 7 volumes.
Amery; Leopold Charles Maurice Stennet usually known as Leo Amery or L.S. Amery. Writing under the nom-de-plume ‘Reformer’ in The Times and writing innuendos, Buller having been goaded beyond measure, made a speech on 10 October 1901 at a luncheon given by the Queens Westminster Volunteers.

Buller’s address

“They attack me, and they say that I wrote a telegram in which I ordered Sir George White to give up Ladysmith, destroy his books, and so forth. I wrote a good many telegrams and I wrote one telegram that admits partially to that description...I attacked Colenso on December 15th, I was unsuccessful; it was a very trying day; I was thirty-six hours at work; I was fourteen hours in the saddle. It was the hottest day we had whole of the time I was out there... I attacked Colenso and I failed, and having failed I had to consider the people in front of me in Ladysmith. I knew that the garrison would have trouble, with their sick. I did not know what supplies there were. I thought at the time I had officially in writing that the garrison could not be fed beyond the end of the year. I was wrong, but at the time I thought it and believed it. The end of the year was fifteen days off. The message I had to send to Sir George White was that I attacked, that I failed, that I could not possible make another attempt for a month and then I was certain I could not do it except by slow fighting, and not by rushing. That was the message I had to send, and I had to ask him certain questions. I wrote the telegram out, and read it through several times, and I said, ‘It is a mean thing to send a telegram like that to a fellow like that. He will sit still till the end. What about his sick?’. I therefore spatchcocked into the middle of the telegram a sentence in which I suggested that it would be necessary to surrender the garrison, what he should do when he surrendered, and how he should do it. I put it after one question he had to answer, followed it by another question. But I put in the sentence in order that if he was obliged to surrender it would be some sort of cover for him. In fact what I felt at the time was that if surrender came I should be just a responsible for it as he was, and I did not mean to stand up and say it was all his fault”

Buller’s death and funeral

On the 21st he was removed from his command, and was not employed again, though he remained on active list for five years longer.

Thick-set, and possessing great physical strength, Buller grew to be over-weight in his later years, owing to his excessive love for food and drink. His bluntness bordering on rudeness, his arrogance, impatience, obstinacy were not qualities to endear him to his fellow officers, although he was held in high regard throughout, by men in the ranks. His personal courage was never in doubt and he had great qualities of leadership. However, self-doubt, hesitancy made it difficult to reconcile himself to his forces suffering heavy casualties.

Buller’s health remained good after his retirement, in spite of the hard working life he lived. As long as he could, however he still held onto the various duties that he had imposed on himself.

Towards the last day of May 1907, he had to take to his bed. On 2 June 1907 General the Right Honourable Sir Redvers Buller VC, GCB, GCMG died. His last words were: ‘I am dying. I think it is about time to go to bed now’.

A battalion of Devons, and one of his own riflemen formed the last escort. A squadron of Devon Yeomanry were also present. Four kilometres of road that led from Downes to Crediton were lined with people to show their respect. A field battery fired a 17-gun salute

Three days after his death he was buried in the Holy Cross churchyard, Crediton.

Buller equestrian statue in Exeter.

In September 1905, Buller attended of the unveiling of an equestrian statue of himself in Queen Street Exeter.

On the plinth is the inscription:

Redvers Buller VC, GCB, GCMG of Downes.

Erected by his Countrymen at Home and beyond the Seas 1903.

1859-1900 India, China, Canada, Ashanti, Egypt, Soudan, South Africa.

He Saved Natal.

Sir Redvers Buller’s Decorations: Victoria Cross, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee 1897, China 1857-60, Canada General Service, Ashanti (Kumassie), South Africa 1877-79, Egypt 1884-85, Queen’s South Africa 1899-1900, Khedive’s Star, Order of Osman (Egypt)

* * * * * * *



Of the thousands of Allied airmen who served, only 19 were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration. They came from all parts of the Empire including Canada, Australia, Ireland, South African and later America.

One of the South Africans was Andrew Frederick Beauchamp Proctor, VC, DSO, DFC, MC and Bar. He was born in Mossel Bay on 4 September 1894, and with a total of 54 victories was the 6th highest scoring Allied pilot of the war. On 8 October 1918 his frontline service was ended when he was injured by ground fire but he remained in the RAF after the war and was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Another South African, 18 year old George Mc Gubbin was later responsible for shooting down and killing the German ace Immelmann. Mc Gubbin was awarded the DSO and Waller the DCM.

The Canadian William "Billy" Bishop decided that "The only way to fight this war was up there in everlasting sunshine, above the mud and the mist."

Manfred von Richthofen was born in Breslau on May 2, 1892 and following his cavalry service, he transferred to the German Air Service. He was recruited and trained by Oswald Boelke who was later designated a knight of the order Pour le Mérite by Kaiser Wilhelm II for his flying heroism.

Within 4 years, millions of men would be killed in the war, but these airmen were considered as a breed apart. With an average age of 20, they were a young and dashing group and hundreds of these best pilots were knighted by their grateful nations.

Manfred von Richthofen was a precise tactician, holding contempt for aerobatics which he regarded as showing off. His approach would be to fly in close formation, drop high out of the sun and kill his enemy with one straight pass. His brother, Lothar was described as an incurable aerobat, prone to firing at anything in the sky.

To some of the pilots the war was seen as a great lark, with leisure time spent in fast cars, equally fast women, and as much champagne as could be consumed. Others experienced a war that was lonely, and many of them never drank, smoked or partied.

Although in the military individuality is frowned on, this was however overlooked as seen in the artwork applied to the respective aircraft. To this day the most famous pilot and aircraft was Baron von Richthofen`s dynamic red Fokker Triplane, and probably the most celebrated aircraft of the war. A distinctive language developed among this exclusive club of airmen, setting them "apart" from other military arms with anti-aircraft fire referred as "Archie", observation balloons aptly named "sausages", and the single hand operated control lever dubbed the "joystick." The "dogfight", describing the aerial duel between hostile aircraft remained one of the most famous aviation expressions. Cold was a common factor shared by all pilots of that era & in an attempt to stay warm in an open cockpit an assortment of varied distinctive clothing was worn, including an array of goggled leather helmets, wolf hide gloves, shaggy bearskin coats, bearskin boots, parkas, school sweaters and cavalry boots.

In this new arena of war, chivalry still prevailed especially when the death of a pilot, especially if he was an ace, was seen as somewhat of a ritual when fellow pilots of the missing man would leave his chair empty in the mess for a respectful period. Following the death of a renowned flyer, enemy aircraft might even fly over his field to show their respect by dropping flowers and notes of regret. But many of these young flyers never returned with the average life expectancy of a new pilot of between three to six weeks. The aircraft they flew was in itself a challenge with the initial construction of these machines comprising the very basic elements. Most aircraft had no brakes, had an engine for power, wings for lift, a propeller for thrust, a tail to ensure stability, and a fuselage containing the pilot, weapons, and a fuel tank. The main structure consisted of a hardwood frame, a pilot's wicker basket seat placed above the fuel tank with a fuselage made of fabric stretched tight by a coating of dope - a highly inflammable liquid. Other necessary parts included the ailerons and rudder elevators; the basic fundamentals for controlled flight.
However once constructed and painted, they inaccurately projected a sturdy impression, insofar that once flying, they rattled and shook, with a number of them coming apart in the sky. The engine designs were of the water-cooled in-line design type. The lightweight rotary engine was comprised of fixed cylinders that whirled around a stationery shaft spewing out a mist of castor oil lubricant. The Royal Flying Corps pilots had a somewhat cynical view of their aircraft, which was reflected in the last verse of a popular mess song.

Some of the pioneers of this new industry included Robert and Leon Morane who experimented with a synchronising device which allowed a machine gun to fire through the arc of the rotating propeller blades.

The British pilot`s emergency rations included tins of bully beef, water bottles, chocolate bars, and small stoves which made in-flight use questionable. The supplies were delivered to the respective RFC airfields by an array of civilian delivery vans still resplendent in their peacetime corporate colours; including Lazenby`s Worcester sauce, Peek Frean Biscuits, and resplendent red vans advertising Bovril in large black letters. As a result of ground fire or engine malfunction, the German pilot Lieutenant Reinhold Jahnow crashed at Malmedy, and is believed to be the first German airman to die in action. The Frenchman Roland Garros was the first flier to shoot down an aircraft by firing through the propeller arc. The French raised the bar by using pistols, grenades and steel arrows known as "flechettes" which were dropped by hand on enemy ground troops. The German flyers remained under orders to conduct unarmed observation patrols, but one concerned French pilot returned to his base with a hole in his plane, complaining that a German pilot had thrown a brick at him. But the scenario was changing.

On 5 October 1914, a French corporal Louis Quenault was the observer in the front of a Voisin aircraft armed with a Hotchkiss machine gun mounted on the ring of the cockpit, opened fire and shooting down a German two seater Aviatik over Rheims. This is acknowledged as the first aircraft to be shot down by a machine gun in aerial combat. The Albatross D2 was introduced in the spring of 1917 and was the main aircraft of the Germans Air Force. This excellent aircraft became the scourge of many a French and British pilot resulting in the loss of many Allied planes. However in early 1918 Manfred von Richthofen switched from his Albatros to a Fokker Dr 1. It was in this signature red triplane that he scored 21 of his 80 victories. It not only had three wings but a supplementary aerofoil on its undercarriage, but its small Oberusel engine of 110 horse power limited its top speed to 103 mph. In January 1917 after downing his 16th enemy plane, von Richthofen was awarded the Pour le Mérite by the Kaiser. On Sunday 21 April 1917, Manfred von Richthofen, climbed into the cockpit of his trademark Fokker Triplane and took off over the Somme as part of a six plane formation.

On the Allied side, Captain Roy Brown took off as part of a five plane patrol and they encountered a formidable flight of Germans. A red Fokker suddenly swooped on them from the surrounding mist and Brown swung his Sopwith Camel around and fired his twin Vickers machine guns into the side of the attacking German aircraft. The red Fokker continued to fly on for about a mile before crashing next to trenches manned by Australian troops. Later that day, even the Australian troops were laying claim that they had shot down the famous red triplane, which launched a dispute that`s actually never been settled to this day. On later seeing von Richthofen`s body lying on a sheet of corrugated iron; Brown wrote "He looked so small and delicate." As he turned away he said, "I do not feel like a victor." The Allies gave him a funeral with honours befitting his rank and status. Hermann Goering took over command of the Flying Circus and proved a competent leader. In 1935 he became leader of the resurgent German Luftwaffe.

On April 1st 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service combined to form the Royal Air Force with Major Gen. Hugh Trenchard as its first Chief of Staff.

Far away from the mainstream conflicts in Europe, there were campaigns conducted in the Near East and German East Africa. The Near East air campaign against the Turks was fought by the RFC flying SE 5A and Bristol F2B aircraft. The German East African campaign was mainly a guerrilla war with aircraft playing a minimal role. The German forces were commanded by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, a colonial officer with considerable experience in guerrilla warfare. The campaign was mainly a land and naval affair with the German cruiser Konigsberg sinking HMS Pegasus in Zanzibar harbour. In Durban, the Royal Navy bought a 90 HP flying boat from a Mr Cutler who received a temporary commission as a lieutenant and flew reconnaissance flights to locate the Konigsberg. My grandfather Frank Whiteing was a telegraphist attached to the 26th (SA) Squadron South African Unit of the RFC in the German East African campaign. On April 1st 1965, the Cape Argus reported on a dinner that was held at the Newlands Hotel to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

Present was Maj.Gen. Kenneth v.d. Spuy, the Chairman of the East African Campaign Association, and the Guest of Honour was General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. Place of honour taken at the roll call during the dinner went to a Mr Frank Whiteing aged 86, but there were some other "youngsters" present, aged about 60. During the proceedings, a "court martial" was held with Capt. RF Casparen found guilty of logging 54000 flying hours which totalled about six years in the air. He was fined R1 for neglecting his wife, and other fines collected during the evening were donated to an air force charity.

In conclusion, the First World War was the catalyst in the development of the aviation industry as far as aircraft, pilots, aerial armament, bombing, supply, and ground strafing. A quarter of a century later, another war would see the aforementioned developments accelerated to new heights including rocket propulsion and cruise missiles as developed by the Germans.

* * * * * * *

The South Wales Daily Post, Feb.19 1896 - THE JAMESON RAID from Australia?

The South Wales Daily Post, Wednesday 19 February 1896



We have received for publication the following diary of events as recorded by a gentleman who was resident in Johannesburg throughout the exciting days of the events of last year, and the commencement of the present one. Although the name of the writer is not given, we can so far indicate his identity as to state that he is well-known in Swansea, and was arrested, as will be seen by his narrative, for being suspected of having sympathies with, and also being a member of, the Johannesburg Reform Committee. The narrative will be found of absorbing interest to our readers who have followed the course of matters in connection with "Dr Jim's" now famous raid.

Johannesburg, 21 January 1896

The events of the past month have been so numerous and have followed so rapidly one after the other that I am rather in a maze, and find it difficult to give you a consecutive account of them. Up to the time of my arrest you will have heard something from me and more from newspaper reports, telegrams, &c., as to what has happened. At the present time we are much in the dark as to the causes of many things that have happened, and we must await the passage of time to make many things clear which are now inexplicable. The most important of all questions is what made Jameson start. Had it not been for that, I believe everything would have been pacifically settled. I prefer not to enter into any discussion at present as to politics, for I am a prisoner out on bail, and you will understand my reasons. You will be interested, however, to hear something of my captivity, and I will proceed to give you a history of it as far as I can.

On Thursday, January 9, I did my day's work as usual, and in the evening, as F. was away in Cape Town, I thought I would dine at the club, a thing very unusual for me. We had a very comfortable dinner, and on going into the hall on our way to the smoking-room, found it full of men and among them Lieutenant Tessill, the chief detective, making arrests of the members of the Reform Committee. While standing looking on with considerable interest Tessill said, "You had better put on your hat, doctor, as I want you." I replied, "Certainly," and shortly after was driven down in a cab to the charge office with two comrades - St. John Carr and Niven - and a policeman. Arrived there we found that we were at the wrong place, and were then driven down to the old gaol, which is now a charge office also. We found this full of armed men - policemen, volunteers &c. - and two or three other friends in distress who had arrived before us. After standing about for half an hour, during which time we were joined by many others, till the air of the tiny room was thick enough to be cut with a knife, we were taken to a room about 12 by 12, and there waited, our number gradually increasing till it reached 22. We were provided with whisky and soda and cigars, and settled ourselves as comfortably as the smallness of the space, the thickness of the atmosphere, and the other discomforts would allow. I had sent word up to R. to send me down some clothing, and a Gladstone bag and Kaross shortly afterwards arrived. I may here say that we had been arrested on a charge of sedition and high treason - rather a large order. Well, at 3 a.m. we were paraded outside the gaol, and marched off under an escort armed to the teeth to the railway station, when we found a special waiting to take us to Pretoria. Three were put into each compartment in charge of two armed men, and about 6 a.m. we arrived at Pretoria after a particularly uncomfortable and tiring journey. We found awaiting us a number of armed Boers on horseback, who regarded us as if they were not at all well-disposed towards us. We were marched down to the gaol with an escort of an ever-increasing crowd of interested spectators, and as we passed through the grim portals howls and jeers of derision followed us. When through the gates, we found ourselves in a large quadrangle about 50 yards across surrounded by rows of low cells. On our right were a row of ten and a cottage, and in front of them a number of men were lolling about, some taking exercise, others their morning wash, and all in a state of dishabille. These were evidently Jameson's men and we were much struck by their well-set-up and bronze appearance. They regarded us with a good deal of inquisitiveness, and seemed to treat the matter more or less as a joke. On our left were a row of cells destined for ourselves. These were decidedly forbidding in appearance, and consisted of two rooms 11ft. 6in by 11ft. 6in with a small cell between, about 8ft. by 4ft. Next to these was a guardroom about 11ft. 6in by 11ft. also. The plan of the room was something like the adjoining sketch:

The two cells are lighted and ventilated by an iron grating, fortunately open to the outside air, but you may imagine our horror when we found that 22 men were to be packed into these two rooms. I think we all though of the Black Hole of Calcutta and its results. On the ground of these cells were some so-called mattresses, consisting of sacking filled with straw and pillows to match. We were told we should be allowed ordinary prison fare - bread, coffee and porridge - but we could buy what we liked bar liquor. It was now 6.30, so we sent out and ordered breakfast, which arrived about 8.30. It consisted of hard-boiled eggs, chops, prison bread, tea and butter, and we fell in like wolves, for we had had no sleep, and the excitement had made us hungry. After breakfast we had a wash and brush up, and a general look round, but we were not allowed to move from the front of our cells. On the south side of the square (we being on the east and Jameson's men on the west) was a dead wall with a few doorways in it, behind which were other cells more or less secluded.

I will now transcribe from my diary what few notes I took of events as they occurred.

12 noon, Jameson's men were removed to other quarters outside; Jameson and his officers left behind. He kept to his room and was very retired, and during the whole time he was there with us we seldom caught more than a glimpse of him. The men looked like boys going on a holiday in anticipation of their little change from the monotony of their present quarters.

2 p.m. - Lunch not yet arrived, very hungry; so started on cold meat and bread left from breakfast, with some fruit to follow sent by some kind friends outside. When we had finished a sumptuous lunch arrived, consisting of soup, mutton stew, &c which we again proceeded and as we had no knives and forks we had to use our fingers and pocket-knives. I forgot to say that on our arrival at the gaol our bags were examined and our persons, to see if we had any firearms or any other articles of a contraband nature. Our razors were also taken away from us for fear we might cut our throats. Later in the day on making representations that we should disgrace the gaol by our unshorn appearance, they were given back to us with the remark that "the d-d rogues could cut their throats if they liked and be d-d to them." We hope to get another room tonight. Prospect awful with only about 140 cubic feet of space and frightfully hot weather. With much (piece missing) and persuasion of a gilt-edged nature, the gaoler got us two more cells about the same size as the present ones. We managed to get some mattresses during the day, and these, with our rugs on the floor made up our beds. We were locked up at seven p.m. and were allowed a candle for about an hour. I was one of four moved into the new cells, my companions being Sir Drummond Dunbar, Mr J.A. Rogers and Colonel Rhodes.

January 11 - At five a.m. the doors were opened and we were allowed out into the courtyard in front of these cells, and there found Dr Brodie and Messrs Becher, J.W Leonard and E.P. Solomon, who had come in during the night. The yard was about 24 ft. square and surrounded by cells and high walls. After much persuasion our gaoler allowed us to join our comrades of the previous night, and we did not go back to those cells again. After a bath in a bucket and a shave, all of which had to be done in the open air, we got some breakfast about seven. This was the first we had had to eat since three yesterday, but his was our own fault (sic) as we had left it too late to get any food before being locked up the previous night. Soon after breakfast we were called up and marched down to the Landdrost (magistrate) where, after waiting half an hour, we were taken into court for our preliminary examination, and eventually remanded for further evidence. We got a certain amount of hope that we should be allowed out on bail, but, as you will see later, were doomed to disappointment. We marched back to the gaol in fairly good spirits to await further developments. I may say, with the exception of one or two of us, we were all in excellent spirits, and I, personally, was never able to get up much worry or anxiety. My only trouble has been the anxiety which I know poor F. must suffer. Were it not for this, I should be as happy as the circumstances would permit. After our return I was appointed by our party commissariat officer in function with C. and A. and we were given orders to commandeer any assistance we might require. It was rather amusing that C. and I should have been chosen to work together, as he was my old opponent on the Hospital Board. However we sunk our differences for the time, and worked harmoniously together. Later we heard that C. had been superseded from the chairmanship of the hospital, and in his place Van L. (my old friend, and now my enemy) appointed in his place - tempora mutantur. We at once proceeded to put our larder into order, and took possession of the condemned cell marked C for this purpose. I may say that A, B, and C are all cells used for the incarceration of criminals condemned to death! We, you will please note, were political prisoners untried. This afternoon our spirits were much damped by the removal of Rhodes and Hammond, who were removed and put with Lionel Phillips and Farrar by themselves into the cell I had occupied last night. The two last had come in during the day with a further batch of 35, whom took the cells vacated by Jameson's men. This now makes 57 in gaol, and these were increased later in the day by the arrival of six more. Tea was much enjoyed, and consisted of sardines, mutton chops, etc. The arrival of new prisoners further complicated the sleeping arrangements, and more persuasion was required to get another room. Eventually we were given the cell marked D, and I with Dunbar, Mosenthal, J.A. Rogers and Sauer took possession. From now on our days passed somewhat as follows:- Up at five, bathing in a furrow passing through the yard, containing water none too clean, exercise, breakfast at eight. Until lunch, after clearing out our cells, putting mattresses to air and so on, reading and general lolling. Lunch at one. More reading, sleeping, seeing visitors, if any were allowed, tea at six, and afterwards, in the cool of the evening, exercises, consisting of walking, running, leap-frog, jumping, marbles and so on. Our costumes were of the most varied nature - flannels, pyjamas, with or without socks, slippers or boots, sleeves turned up, angora coats, and I think we must have looked a most motley crew. The sanitary arrangements were of the most beastly description, and I dare say nothing now about them more than that they were unfit for Kaffirs.

January 12 - Up at five. Bathed, dressed, cleaned out rooms, put mattresses and clothing out to air, washed some handkerchiefs and socks. Eight a.m. breakfast served with despatch. Great care had to be taken to keep some for the carvers. Reading. Dr Messum, gaol medical officer, came round. Had short conversation, and pointed out the necessity of improved sanitary arrangements and an awning to keep off the sun, which is terribly hot. Lunch. The heat this afternoon has been too terrible and one has not dared to go outside the cells. These, with the sun beating down upon them, with little ventilation, and being crowded with men, were frightfully oppressive. In my cell the temperature was 97 degrees (36°C), and in my case produced headache, faintness, and vomiting, and I began to think I was in for sunstroke, of which, no doubt, I had a slight attack. I was soon better when the sun went down. Seven p.m. locked up. It was now beginning to be pleasant, and it was a great punishment to have to go back to our hot room. However, about nine o'clock we were allowed outside for about an hour, and we enjoyed the delightful coolness of the evening to the full.

January 13 - Up early as usual. Bathed, I still had headache. Felt better after breakfast. Promises to be very hot again today. Our friends on the opposite side were taken down to the charge office and remanded, as we have been. We have all signed a paper asking to be allowed bail and to see our solicitors. Very hot again in the afternoon, but we were allowed out late and enjoyed the cool night air. I received my first telegram from F. saying she would arrive tomorrow.

January 14 - An awning was put up in front of the cells today, and now we can remain outside all the morning at any rate, and the greater part of the afternoon, and it is a great comfort.

January 16 - G visited me this morning and brought an order from the State Attorney for me to go out and visit a servant of his. Driven through the streets with him and a "man in blue" in charge. Saw the patient and enjoyed the drive. On arriving at the gaol an amusing occurrence happened. I knocked at the wicket, which was opened, and I was going in when the warder stopped me and said I could not go in without an order! However, I told him I had come home, and that I was going in whether he liked it or not, and just then one of the others came along and recognised me, amid much laughter they were graciously pleased to admit me. In the afternoon F. turned up looking charming, and we had a long talk as there were several matters of business which had to be settled. She brought some fruit, fans, and books. Some other ladies came with her who were all my patients, and there was much good-natured chaff at our position.

January 17 - Went out again with G. Drove out to Mrs M, some distance in the country. Saw her child. Had a lovely breakfast, with all the clean luxuries of a civilized breakfast table, but had some difficulty preventing myself squatting on my hams on the floor and eating with my fingers! On leaving Mrs M went to operate on G's servant. Back to gaol. Melton Prior called at the gaol in the afternoon. Went through all the cells and made some sketches, which no doubt you will see in the illustrated papers at home.

January 18 and 19 - Uneventful, and passed in the usual way. Solicitors come every day and tell us we may expect to be out on bail now at any time.

January 20 - Received news this morning that we shall be out today. In the afternoon we were taken down to the State Attorney's office, and there signed our bail bonds for £2,000 each. The doctors are allowed to return to Johannesburg, but the others are not allowed out of Pretoria. When the business was complete I drove back to the gaol, packed up, and said good-bye to those who were left behind. Went to the club and left by six train for Johannesburg. The other men have been bailed in batches since, and now the only ones in gaol are Lionel Phillips, George Farrar, Colonel Rhodes, Hammond and Fitzpatrick, who they will not let out at all. We expect some time next week to go back to Pretoria for our preliminary examination at which we shall either be discharged or committed for trial, which will not come off before April or May. I shall keep you informed how things go on from week to week.

There is no doubt that our disaster had arisen through the mad folly of Jameson in crossing the border. We have been called cowards for not going out to assist him, and we shall have to bear this bitter burden until his coming is explained in the future. Why he came none of us know, but this much is certain, that if men had gone out to meet him from Johannesburg, not only would they have had no possible chance of relieving him, but the town would have been left defenceless with its women and children, and would have run great risks of being sacked. Moreover, according to the proclamation sent up by the High Commissioner, we should have been held rebels by the Imperial Government and should have been outside the pale of help from anyone. I can assure you that our inability to (?) was the bitterest thing we have had to suffer, and there was vastly more courage shown in stopping where we were than in going out to help Jameson and be shot. I, personally (and I am only one among many), would far sooner be shot than go through the bitter misery of that day again. The Boer feeling all over the country sympathized with us in our claims for redress of grievances, and it was Jameson's act which turned that feeling into one of hatred for all of us.

We must now await with what patience we can the outcome. The Government, I believe, is inclined to treat us fairly, but the Boers are so infuriated that it is impossible to say whether the Government will be able to do what it likes.

Believe me, I have been very grieved about you all, for I know how miserable you will have been about this business. Your cable was some comfort, for it was couched in such terms that I hoped it meant you were not so anxious as I feared.

You must all keep up your pluck and be as happy as you can. If you can do anything for us, do it. I must stop now, as I have other letters to write, so with much love to you all.

* * * * * * *


A booking has been made at the BLUE ZOO RESTUARANT, MITCHELL PARK for a luncheon on 29th September 2018, to celebrate this Branch's 50th Anniversary. More details to follow as they become available.

The date for the KEN GILLINGS MEMORIAL TRIP will be held over the week-end of Saturday 18th August and Sunday 19th August 2018 and is a trip to the SPIOENKOP BATTLEFIELD with a stop at CHIEVELEY MILITARY CEMETERY and a stop at THE CHURCHILL CAPTURE SITE to go over the circumstances of this part of the Anglo Boer War on Sunday morning. The programme has been circulated to those who have signed up. If you would like to join the tour please let me know ASAP so that we can get the logistics sorted out.

Our next meeting will be held at The Murray Theatre, Civil Engineering Building, Howard College Campus of UKZN on 9th August 2018.

There is a fantastic web-site to the New Zealand Military History Society at

* * * * * * *


A Short Vietnam War Story: USN KA-3B vs. Russian Trawler AGI

The Russian "Trawlers" (NATO designation: AGI for Auxiliary General Intelligence) with what looked like one thousand "fishing" antennas plied the Gulf of Tonkin on a daily basis...needless to say, it was a cat-and-mouse game to see what havoc they could expend towards our two carriers operating there 24 hours a day.

Since the U.S. government had proclaimed the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin three miles off the coast of North Vietnam and Hinan Island, People's Republic of China, to be international waters, American ships in the Gulf were bound to obey the international rules of the road for ocean navigation.

This meant that if the Russian ship maneuvered herself into the path of an aircraft carrier where she had the right of way, the carrier had to give way even if she was engaged in launching or recovering aircraft.

The navigation officer was constantly trying to maneuver the ship so that the trawler wouldn't be able to get in position to abuse the rules of the road and gain the right of way.

Sometimes he was successful in sucking the trawler out of position, but the room available for the ship to maneuver was limited by our on-station requirements, and sometimes the trawler was successful interrupting our flight operations.

The pilots of the air wing were strictly forbidden to take any action against the Russian ship, but one day CDR John Wunche, the commanding officer of the heavy tanker KA-3B detachment, had finally had enough of the Russians' antics.

John Wunche was a big man with bright red hair and a flaming red handlebar mustache. He was a frustrated fighter pilot whom fate and the Bureau of Naval Personnel had put into the cockpit of a former heavy bomber now employed as a carrier-based tanker.

CDR Wunche flew the tanker like a fighter and frequently delighted the tactical pilots by rolling the "Whale," as we all called the KA-3B tanker, on completion of a tanker mission. Consequently, John's nickname was "the Red Baron."

On 21 July 1967 he proved just how appropriate that name was.

The "Bonnie Dick" had nearly completed a recovery. The Russian trawler had been steaming at full speed to try to cut across our bow, and the bridge watch had been keeping a wary eye on the intruder. For a while it looked as if the Russian would be too late and we would finish the recovery before having to give way to the trawler. But a couple of untimely bolters extended the recovery and the Bon Homme Richard had to back down and change course to comply with the rules.

The LSO hit the wave-off lights when the "Whale" was just a few yards from the ramp.

John crammed on full power and sucked up the speed brakes for the go-around. The "Bonnie Dick" began a sharp right turn to pass behind the Russian, causing the ship to list steeply, and there, dead ahead of John, was the Russian trawler.

He couldn't resist. He leveled the "Whale" about a hundred feet off the water and roared across the mast of the Trawler with all fuel dumps open like a crop duster spraying a field of boll weevils.

The Russian disappeared in a heavy white cloud of jet fuel spray, then reemerged with JP-4 jet fuel glistening from her superstructure and running lip-full in the scuppers. The Russian trawler immediately lost power as the ship's crew frantically tried to shut down anything that might generate a spark and ignite the fuel.

She was rolling dead in the water in the Bon Homme Richard's wake-- her crew breaking out fire hoses to wash down the fuel--as the Bon Homme Richard steamed out of sight completing the recovery of the Whale.

The Red Baron was an instant hero to the entire ship's company

* * * * * * *

South African Military History Society /