South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926



THURSDAY, 8 AUGUST 2019: - The 1796 Expedition of Admiral Lucas to take the Cape – Ian van Oordt

Having lost the Cape to British arms in 1795, the Batavians attempt to retake the Cape the next year. Today looking at the reasons, some 220 years later, why the Batavians decided to undertake this mission, which is still surrounded by a lot of controversy. The talk will examine the details of the expedition, the British response to it as well as the fear and alarm created by it. Finally, a brief look at the second Battle of Saldanha.

Fellow member Ian van Oordt has presented a number of talks to the Society over the last few years on his favourite period in history, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The talk is based on his research into actual archival documents of the period. Ian will reveal a few little-known facts of the expedition.

THURSDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2019: -‘Mad Mike’ Hoare: The Legend – Chris Hoare

Mike Hoare became famous for leading 300 'Wild Geese' across the Congo to confront Ché Guevara and crush a communist rebellion in 1964, and infamous for his failed coup in the Seychelles in 1981, a hijacking and jail. Less known is his unusual childhood, his time in the British Army during WW2, his chance meeting with a CIA agent and that he is a qualified chartered accountant. He espoused the philosophy that you get more out of life by living dangerously. He was an adventurer who loved Shakespeare, and an officer and a gentleman who had a bit of pirate thrown in.

Chris Hoare was born in London to Irish/British parents after World War 2 and grew up in Westville near Durban. Educated at Michaelhouse, and has a bachelor degree from the University of Natal. His ‘gap year’ lasted ten years, as he spent his 20s living and travelling widely in England and Europe and further afield, enjoying life and picking up a few languages.

He always worked in the communication field, including teaching, journalism, public relations and desktop publishing. At certain times he was an avid snow skier, and later a keen oarsman. Throughout his life he has been a keen camper, mountain hiker and road tripper, especially to remote places. He is married and has two 20-something year olds. About 14 years ago he started researching and writing a biography on his famous and infamous father, Mike Hoare. It became his passion.

THURSDAY, 10 OCTOBER 2019: - Loss of the SS Mendi – John Gribble

The military steamship, the SS Mendi, carrying members of the 5th battalion of the South African Native Labour Contingent en route to France to support the war effort, on 21 February 1917, sank in the English Channel after she was struck by a much larger cargo ship, the SS Daro. The Mendi disaster was one of South Africa's worst tragedies of the First World War, second perhaps only to the Battle of Delville Wood - where a few more South African troops died and where many more were wounded or injured. But surely no South African disaster of the war could claim to have killed quite so many men so suddenly or so senselessly than could the sinking of the Mendi. Fear must have gripped many hearts aboard her, but, despite this and the fact that many of the men had not even seen the sea before boarding the vessel, it is believed that most did not panic and acted in a most disciplined manner after the collision.

After completing his studies at UCT (Master’s degree in Archaeology) John Gribble joined the National Monuments Council (now the South African Heritage Resources Agency) in 1994, becoming maritime archaeologist there in 1996. In 2005 he was offered a job in the UK and it was while at Wessex Archaeology (an archaeological consultancy) that he initiated a project funded by what is now Historic English to investigate the wreck of the Mendi, which lies off the Isle of Wight, very close to where he was then living and working. John returned to South Africa in mid-2014 and joined SAHRA again to manage its Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit. He left SAHRA late last year for the private sector and consulting again, joining ACO Associate. Since the initial work on the Mendi in 2007 John has maintained an ongoing interest in the story of the ship and the SA Native Labour Corps, which culminated in co-authoring a book on the subject published by Historic England in 2017, titled We Die Like Brothers. His particular interest in the Mendi has been in the archaeology of the wreck site itself and how this can add to the written and oral histories - something that has until recently not featured in the various Mendi narratives.


Carl Burger (Chairman)
082 333 2706

South African Military History Society /