South African Military History Society


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 165

June/Junie 2018

The May meeting took place on 14th at the usual venue.

AGM Follow-up

The following committee was elected for 2018/2019:
Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn
Secretary: Franco Cilliers
Treasurer and venue co-ordinator: Dennis Hibberd
Speaker co-ordinator: Andre Crozier
Field trips co-ordinators: Ian Pringle
Social co-ordinator: Donna Cilliers
Co-ordinator for country members: John Stevens
Scribes:Anne and Pat Irwin

The members’ slot was used by Malcolm Kinghorn who spoke about the tame lion, Teddy, which lived among the troops in the Caprivi, during the Border War.

The curtain raiser was by Andre Crozier on The Last Stand at Marriéres Wood, which had been postponed from the March meeting. A summary of what took place at Marriéres Wood is contained in the April Newsletter, No 163.

The main lecture, titled The Great Hunt, was delivered by Michael Mills. Starting with an informative comparative history of the Royal Navy and the German Navy, Mike moved to a description of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, aimed at preventing a naval arms race, and its implementation. The development of pocket battleships was discussed within the context of the build-up to the Second World War. The outbreak of the War, the Sitzkrieg, the Norwegian Campaign, and the U-boat Campaign in the Atlantic were analysed. This was followed by a brief mention of the German capital ships, Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and a close examination of Operation Rheinübung, the sortie into the Atlantic by the new battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen during May 1941.

The lecture then moved to its main focus, the run of the Bismarck. The role of Admiral Lütjens, the sequence of events, the chase and the role of radar were discussed, and tactical mistakes on both sides were analysed. The talk concluded an account of the sinking of the Bismarck and the suggestion that it had little impact, other than psychological, on the war in the Atlantic.

Future meetings and field trips/ Toekomstige byeenkoms en uitstappe

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be in Port Alfred at 14h00 on Saturday 23rd June at the Don Powys Hall at Settlers Park Retirement Home in Port Alfred. There will be no curtain raiser. The Speaker will be fellow member Dermot Moore, whose topic will be Korea: The forgotten war in perspective. The acclaimed role of 2 Squadron of the South African Air Force will be highlighted. Dermot did his doctorate on the The role of the South African Air Force in the Korean War, 1950 – 1953, and is the author, together with Peter Bagshawe, of South Africa’s Flying Cheetahs in Korea.

During the course of the morning there will be visits to sites of military history interest in Port Alfred. Members, friends and guests should meet at 10h00 at the Rosehill Mall car park about 3km outside of Port Alfred on the road to Alexandria (the R72). Rosehill Mall is a large visible complex: coming from Alexandria, it is on the left-hand side of the road. Coming fromPort Alfred, cross over the arched bridge, through the robot 500m further on and straight along the R72 for about 3km. The complex is on the right side of the road. Be aware that the sharp turn to the right into the complex comes with little warning. There are a range of shops, including Spar, and clean toilet facilities in the complex. If anyone gets lost, phone Pat Irwin at 082 445 0973.

The provisional programme for the morning is as follows.
* From the Rosehill Complex, we will proceed to Richmond House with its private museum including interesting cannon. Our hosts, Sue and Neville Gordon will provide us with tea and a guided tour of their exhibits.
* From there we will proceed to Richmond Station to see what remains of the former redoubt protecting the town.
* Thence to the site of the ‘Undesirables’ camp, where forced refugees of the Anglo-Boer War were accommodated in tents.
* Thereafter we will proceed to the Kowie History Museum where Curator Yvonne Surtees with guide us through the exhibits and give us a short talk on the history of 43 Air School, located outside the town.

All going well, we should finish about 12h30 and proceed to lunch. There are several places to eat in central Port Alfred. Alternatively, as has been the practice in the past, bring a picnic lunch.

We will re-convene at the at the Don Powys Hall at Settlers Park Retirement Home at 13h45 to start the meeting at 14h00 sharp.

August Field Trip

The planned August three-day field trip across the Fish River to the Amatholas and Kieskamma areas has been changed due to unrest and civic disruptions in the area. The Field Trip will still take place from 3rdto 5th August, but to Cradock, Tarkastad, Modderfontein and the Stormberg area, which we last visited in 2007. This is an area well worth visiting. The draft Warning Order is attached.

Matters of general interest / Sake van algemene belang

New member / Nuwe lid

Ons verwelkom ons nuutste lid, Jaco Pretorious, en hoop dat hy die byeenkomste van die Vereeniging sal geniet. As iemand vir Jaco wil kontak, sy e-posadres is:

Individual members’ activities / Individuelelede se aktiwiteite

Forts excursion to Somerset East and Richmond, Northern Cape – 23rd to 25th April 2018

Richard Tomlinson, Paul Wepener and Alwyn du Preez recently undertook a short tour to investigate reports of a number of fortifications dating from the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Richard reports as follows:

Firstly we called on Bill and Alison Brown, who own Glen Avon Farm at Somerset East, as Bill had told Richard that he had found what he believed was a fort on Pearston Kopje to the west of the town. After most welcome refreshments at the farm, Bill led us onto the Kopje and we explored the top. The workings that Bill showed us turned out to be what we believe were opencast diggings for gravel for road repairs, probably in the 19th century, and not a fort.

Our next port of call was to be Bruintjiesdhoogte on the R63 a few kilometres to the west; as by now we were running late, we decided not to stop and explore but headed via Graaff-Reinet for Richmond on the N1. A spot of car trouble coming into the town delayed us the next morning as it needed urgent repair. This done, we walked the town and visited the excellent Horse Society Museum which displayed, amongst other most interesting exhibits, a nicely crafted wooden arm (with a hook!) and a separate articulated hand made for a local man who lost his originals when shot in 1901. We also climbed Vegkop to inspect ‘Flagpole Fort’, one of the six forts built by the Town Guard around the town during the War.

As Richard had recorded ‘Flagpole’ and two small forts on the ridge north of the town in 2000, we decided to concentrate on the south east Fort (Bodorp) and the north west Fort (Westpoint) first; after much legwork up koppies, we found the stone foundations of the first much closer to town than expected (size about 8.5m x 5.5m), but no sign of the last. The six forts surrounding the town were listed by the Shearings in their last volume of the ‘Cape Commando Series’, Malan Attacks Richmond, with a map, the original of which we saw in the Museum. The sixth fort was on the parapet of the stone jail south of the town centre, which has long gone.

Returning home on the 25th, we stopped for coffee with Alwyn’s sister and brother-in-law in Graaff-Reinet, and once more in Jansenville to check out the large Town Guard fort on the north side, which has suffered two wall collapses inside.

Anglo-Boer War Tour

The following notice appeared in Rose's Round-up of the Karoo, No 294, June 2018. Members may be interested in the event.

Calling Anglo-Boer War enthusiasts  

The Friends of the War Museum in Bloemfontein is organizing a tour to the Western Free State from September 20 to 24. It kicks off at 18:00 on September 20 with a meal at the museum followed by a talk on General C C  Badenhorst’s  role in the war.  Next morning the tour departs to visit interesting sites as Doornhoek, Dealsville, and Tweefontein, Boshof, as well as the site where George Henri Anne-Marie Victor Count de Villebois-Mareuil (known as George) was killed on April 5, 1900. They will also visit the cemetery, church, monument and hospital in Boshof as well as Kotie Steenkamp’s grave at Leeufontein. The group will overnight at Makulu Lodge near Boshof where a talk will be given on the life of De Villebois-Mareuil, a French infantry colonel who fought on the side of the Boers and who was the first of only two foreign volunteers to be given the rank of Major-General in the armed forces of the Boer Republics. (The other was his second in command Evgeni Maximov). Next day group will visit the graves of Commandants Jacobs and Erasmus at Rietfontein; then go to Slypkliphalt and Magersfontein, and, on Sunday, to Hartbeesfontein, Du Plessis Dam and Leeuwplaat in Hertzogville, and to Hoopstad to see the graves of some “joiners”. They will overnight at Clearwater.  Finally there are visits to Bultfontein, Hartenbosch and Hammersfontein. Costs are R3 600 per person. A deposit of R2 500 is payable by June 15. More from
Tel: 082 490 3112

Military history books

Bill Wright, of Walmer, has a number of Books on military history for sale. Anyone interested to see his list can contact him at or 082 705 9974

World War I Centenary Years / Eerste Wêreldoorlog Eeufeesjare

The Noon-Day gun in Cape Town

The 14th May 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Two Minutes of Silence and the firing of the Noon Day Gun, to remember those who died in the First World War.

Former Cape Town Mayor Harry Hands, whose son Reginald, was killed on 20th April 1918, introduced this poignant tradition,and his gesture was remembered with the firing of a volley of shots from Lion Battery. Reginald left South Africa to fight in France after participating in the German South-West Africa Campaign. He died as a result of poison gas and was among 112 Bishops old boys who died in the Great War. A Bishops trumpeter played the last post in 1918 and on 14th May this year, the honour again appropriately fell to a Bishops boy.

The firing of the Noon Gun D36 at Lion Battery, Cape Town.
Photo: Pat Irwin

One minute was to honour those who returned alive, and the other to remember those who had died. This gesture captured the heart of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, who had also lost his son, Nugent, in France. Fitzpatrick wrote a letter to King George V suggesting that this practice be more widely introduced. It is now observed as part of Remembrance Day on 11th November each year in many parts of the world.

Major engagements in June 1918

By mid-1918, it was slowly becoming clear that short of a knockout blow the Central Powers could not win the war. It was a situation exacerbated by growing social unrest within Germany itself.

On the Western Front the German Spring Offensive was beginning to run out of steam: along much of the front it had been brought to a halt and at some points was under counter-attack. Apart from the internal difficulties faced by the German forces (see Newsletter 164), Allied resistance stiffened further and the American presence, both in men and equipment, began to make itself felt.

The Battle of Chateau-Thierry from 3rd – 4th June, followed by the Battle of Belleau Wood from 6th to 26th saw the US 2nd Division Marine Corps recapture this key position – the tip of the German advance towards Paris. Stoutly defended by the Germans, the wood changed hand six times before they were expelled, although at a very high cost to the Americans – nearly 10 000 casualties. German casualties are unknown.

This effectively brought an end to the German Spring Offensive. After it there was a steady retreat until the November Armistice.

On the Austro-Italian Front the Battle of the River Piave between the 15th and 22nd June, was the last major Austro-Hungarian attack of the War. It was intended as a sequel to the successful Battle of Caporetto (see Newsletter 157). In this case however, the Austro-Hungarian Army was ill equipped as well as demoralised in comparison to the Italians. Crossing the Piave proved problematic: by the time they had crossed the river, they had suffered 150 000 casualties.This, together with strong counter- attacks supported by British and French troops, led to the disintegration of the Austro- Hungarian Army and a victory for the Italians, which was consolidated at the Battle of Vittoria Veneta in October-November 1918.

Naval engagements

By the middle of 1918 the tonnage of Allied shipping being sunk by U-boats was decreasing sharply while the number of U-boats being lost was on the increase. By June, U-boat losses had reached unacceptable levels and the morale of their crews had deteriorated.

A minor naval engagement took place near Bermuda on 18th June. Known as the Action of 18th June, it involved the U-151 torpedoing a British steamer, the SS Dwinsk. The U-boat is then said to have waited near to the survivors in the lifeboats in order to ambush any rescue vessels which might appear. In due course, the troop transport USS Von Streuben, (the former passenger liner Kronprinz Wilhelm which had also served as a German Navy commerce raider during the first eight months of the First World War), appeared. She was however able to avoid the torpedoes fired at her and then proceeded to attack U-151 with gunfire and depth charges. German records show that the attack shook the U-Boat severely and forced her to flee. Fearing further torpedo attacks the USS Von Streuben did not stop to pick up any of the British survivors, but these were later rescued by two other US Navy ships.

Websites of interest/Webwerwe van belang

Ancient and mediaeval history

Another battle at Thermopylae: Goths vs. Greeks
Owen Jarus Live Science 18th March 2016

A submarine has discovered the 310-year-old 'holy grail' of shipwrecks, and it may carry R211 billion in treasure
Jeremy Berke Business Insider (US) 24th May 2018

The most pointless battle in history
Mindy Weisberger Live Science (History) 14th March 2018


Viking fort reveals secrets of Danish king's elaborate military network
Tom Metcalfe Live Science 29th September 2017

World War II

When her husband was killed by the Nazis, she bought a tank and went on a rampage on the Eastern Front
Nikola Budanovic The Vintage News 20th April 2018

Teen unearths milk cans holding WWII heirlooms from aristocratic Prussian family
Laura Geggel Live Science 11th May 2018

Huge World War II shipwreck raised from the depths in massive salvage operation in Sri Lanka
James Rogers 3rd April 2018

Cold War and post-Cold war Project Azorian: Howard Hughes’ secret mission, which involved the CIA and a missing Soviet submarine off the coast of Hawaii
Nikola Budanovic The Vintage News 25th April 2018

The holiday village run by spies
Raffi Berg BBC News Tel Aviv 19th April 2018

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, Alec Grant,Malcolm Kinghorn, Barry Irwin, Michael Irwin, Ian Pringle and Peter Duffel-Canham.
Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn:
Secretary: Franco Cilliers:
Scribes (Newsletter): Anne and Pat Irwin:
Society’s Website:


Possibly South Africa’s first Armoured Personnel Carrier.

This photograph was found in The Police Gazette 1 (17) 19 (26th September 2010): Un-official Newsletter for South African Police Veterans. It is slightly out of focus, but nevertheless sufficiently clear to be of interest. Despite a wide search, no better photograph could be found, nor could the editors or copyright holders of the publication be traced. Any information on these details would be appreciated. The photograph is titled: "His Majesty’s Land Ship Nemesis – the first armour clad vehicle in service of the old South African Police during the 1922 ‘Red Revolt’ on the Rand. The photograph was taken at Alberton."

The US Navy Destroyer that sank a Japanese submarine – with the aid of potatoes. For more on this, see:

South African Military History Society /