South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926



The 2019 AGM is just around the corner and we invite all members to come forward, to be involved by joining the committee and helping the Society to grow.
Members are reminded that subscriptions for 2019 are due. As mentioned at the last AGM we are not raising membership fees for the year. We urge all members to please pay their subscription fees before the cut-off date of February 2019.
For those wishing to pay subscriptions via EFT:
Nedbank, Foreshore, Branch Code 198 765 Account No 108 333 2058.

The chairman spoke briefly on the Apostle Battery tour which was highly successful. Chris Dooner promised to give further tours, please contact the committee should you be interested.

Members are reminded that the February talk is on the SecondThursday of the month as usual.


January 2019 Talk – The Two Paintings of the Battle of Blaauwberg

Our speaker for the evening was Mr Ian van Oordt whose topic was an analysis of two very similar paintings depicting the Battle of Blaauwberg. Both paintings are unsigned. The Fehr Collection painting belongs to the Castle and is the larger one. It has a watermark but as the painting is framed it was not possible to determine the manufacturer. The second painting is held by the library of Parliament in Cape Town. Both institutions could not confirm the provenance of their painting. Both institutions graciously allowed Mr van Oordt to display the paintings in a PowerPoint presentation.

Both paintings are relatively small for the amount of detail they contain, and are both done in watercolour.

It is Mr van Oordt’s contention that by close examination of the paintings many of the depictions of the battle can only be found in many archival documents. The historical records are spread far and wide thus leading him to conclude that the artist had to be present at the battle.

All the British documents relating to the battle were in England. Some documents were only released to the colony in 1857. It was only after Ian’s Great grand-father complained about the lack of the Dutch documents in 1877 that George McCall Theal was sent by the Colonial Government to Europe to copy all documents between 1886 to 1890. Therefore, it would be impossible for the artist to have the information to paint the scene before this time.

All nations trained their military officers to draw and paint. This was vital in an age where photography had not yet been invented. Having trained officers to paint scenes accurately it was possible for the officer to convey military intelligence of the terrain to others.

By examining works by other known artists such as the Dutch artist J. Jones (Jonas) (1805), W.B.E. Paravicini de Capelli (1803), Frederici (1796), Albrecht Adam (1812), Thomas Bowler (1860) G.H. Gordon (1852) and others,it can be reasonably easy to establish the era and nationality of the artist. The style used in the two paintings indicate that the artist was Dutch and he used a style that fitted into the era between 1800 and 1820.

There are a number of depictions on the painting such as Ricard’s horse, killed at the start of the battle, shown in the correct position, the burgher cavalry on the way to Kleinberg, the two limbers, the Gribeauval1 caisson, hospital wagon and finally Justinus Keer’s farm which is correctly shown as two buildings.

There are four differences between the two paintings:
1) The action on Kleinberg shown on one painting only, in this case the Parliament painting.
2) The firing of the cannon on Kleinberg is also only shown on the Parliament painting.
3) Dragoon uniform.
4) Amount of cloud cover.

Other things shown correctly on the paintings
* The uniforms of all the Dutch regiments.
* The 5th Dragoon are shown with red plumes.
* The 5th Artillery uniform is correctly depicted, blue with red cuff and collar.
* The number and sequence of Batavian regiments is correct.
* The weather conditions on the day of the battle – partly clouded with a light breeze from the south west. This is correctly shown by the gun smoke generated by the cannons.
* The regimental colours for the 22 Dutch regiment shown.
* Uniform of British foot artillery.
* All Scots regiments shown in kilts.
* English regiments in left echelon.
* Scots dead in correct position.

From this analysis it can be stated with a fair degree of certainty that:
* He effectively left a record of the battle, in a painting, worth a thousand words.
* The artist was Dutch, he was well informed on most key aspects of the battle and which he could not possibly have known unless he was an eye-witness to the battle.

There was only one person who could ultimately fit all these criteria.

Our speaker stated that he would reveal the artist in his forthcoming book on the battle.

The chairman thanked Mr van Oordt for the talk and presented him with the customary gift.

NOTES 1 The Gribeauval system was an artillery system introduced by Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval during the 18th century. This system revolutionized French cannons, with a new production system that allowed lighter, more uniform guns without sacrificing range. Gribeauval's reforms encompassed not only the cannons, but also the gun carriages, limbers, ammunition chests, and the accompanying tools.




1922 has been marked as the year of the ‘great disaster’ for the Greeks of Asia Minor.  Greece was in political turmoil; the First World War had just ended and 1922 saw the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  Turkey and the Greeks of Asia Minor also experienced problems, culminating in the ‘Great Death March’ and two little-known genocides. This is a story of one family during that turbulent time.

After matriculation Gabriel Athiros joined the SA Navy and took up a career in Industrial Electronics. He has been a keen mountaineer since 1962, and has led two mountaineering expeditions, in 1978 the South African Aconcagua Expedition and in 1987 the South African Puna de Atacama Expedition. In 1994 he represented SA at the Union of International Alpine Associations conference in Spain.

In 2001 Gabriel started Historical Media cc and took up the challenge of starting The Cape Odyssey newspaper. Historical Media has published more than 30 books on the culture and history of the Cape. In 2005 he was awardedthe Provincial Arts & Culture Award.

In 2005, after a 40-year search, Gabriel reconnected with his family in Greece.



The First Anglo-Boer War was considered to be a small war and, in intent, it was. But its consequences evolved into the follow-on larger Second Anglo-Boer War.

Following the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806 the English decided to establish a permanent base in the Cape while the Dutch settlers increasingly abandoned the Cape and trekked into the largely unexplored interior. This led to the establishment of numerous Boer Republics; most determined to maintain their independence.

After the discovery of diamonds and gold, British interest in the Boer Republics heightened enormously, with Lord Carnarvon, the British Colonial Secretary strongly advocating a Confederation of Southern African States which the Boers rejected with contempt. Steadily the dark clouds of war began to gather menacingly.

Alan Mountain, our Vice Chairman, needs no introduction. Alan over the years has produced many audio-visual presentations and all have been well-presented and researched. In making this presentation Alan toured the Majuba Battle site.

Alan has a keen interest in South African military history which includes the Eastern Frontier Wars but he is particularly keen on the battles of the Boer Wars. Having spent a good part of his life in Kwa-Zulu Natal he has toured most of the battle sites in the area.


Ian van Oordt (Secretary)
021 531 6612 Cell: 076 315 7713

South African Military History Society /