South African Military History Society


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 175

April 2019

The March 2019 meeting took place in Port Elizabeth on Monday 11th at the usual venue.

The Member’s Slot

This five minute time is allocated to a member who may have a worthwhile contribution to make, be it a visit to a battle site, a lonely grave and/ or any subject relevant to our purpose. On this evening Malcolm Kinghorn touched on the subject of the Liverpool ferry called “Snowdrop”. Its camouflage appearance was designed by Sir Peter Blake and was termed dazzle camouflage. During WW 1 this was used most effectively to disguise the shape of the ship, its speed and its course from enemy submarines. In viewing the picture of “Snowdrop” it can be well imagined that the ferry would have confused a U-Boat captain as it had been so cleverly done.

The Annual General Meeting.

Our AGM was held on the evening and the usual suspects volunteered once again take the helm in steering the branch on its steady course. The Committee will be Malcolm Kinghorn (Chairman), Donna Cilliers (Social), Ian Pringle (Field Trips), Dennis Hibberd (Treasurer) John Stevens (Representative of members living outside PE), Andre Crozier (Speaker Coordinator), Ian Pringle (Scribe) and Franco Cilliers (Secretary).

Dennis Hibberd who has served as a long time Treasurer presented his report. We are thankful that we have his services as a one-time Bank Manager! Chairman Malcolm was thanked from the floor for once again being a tower of strength and knowledge.

We welcomed to our branch a new member in Peter Gray of Oudtshoorn. We have in the past undertaken a field trip to Uniondale and De Rust so we may yet meet Peter whom we warmly welcome. We have had a good year and our membership remains steady.

Matters of General interest

The 120th Commemoration of the Anglo Boer War will be hosted by the War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein from 9-11th October 2019.It will take the form of a conference. The submission of abstracts is invited and which should reach Conference Programme Co-ordinator Vicky Heunis by 30th April.

This commemoration is to be of sure interest and Bloemfontein is only a six hour drive from Port Elizabeth. Accommodation rates offered by Air B+B are very affordable and our Free State brethren are most hospitable. It is a possibility worth considering.

Main Lecture – By Jaco Pretorius on 1 SA Marine Brigade who discussed his subject which he termed as “Sentries or Vikings?”

Jaco delivered his subject on this little known unit and in which he completed his national service. The question that he posed may well be answered in the conclusion of his presentation where he stated.

One must note that 1 Marine Brigade came into being as a protection force and at the end of the Bush War reverted to being sentries. The interim years are however important in that the Marines within a limited budget of the Navy managed to create a professional multi-dimensional force with a high esprit de corps

Although history and past events conspired against the Marines to obtain battle colours in the true sense of the word they were trained and ready to be called upon. If not therefore true Vikings then Vikings in the making and whose motto of “All the Way” was apt!

The role of this unit covered a number of areas. It was to afford protection to National Key Points and Commercial harbours against insurgent attack, to protect SA Navy installations, to support the SA Army in the then South West Africa and to provide a means of support in times of civil unrest. Their time of service was from 1979 until 1990 when it was disbanded. In considering the above mentioned duties allocated to the Marines it is noted that RSA has an extremely long coastline and sea lanes are important especially in terms of oil which was and still is of strategic importance requiring that these routes be protected.

During the Bush War and with the Cubans advancing through Angola it was planned that their advance could be ground to a halt had their supply of provisions be cut and /or destroyed. This logistical back up was being brought through the Angolan port of Nambe and an amphibious attack was planned on this port by the Marines. Much planning was undertaken but the attack never took place as peace negotiations had begun and the attack was aborted.

The Marines were not only trained to take part in maritime operations but their training included 9 months of infantry training in Oudtshoorn followed by three months deployment in South West Africa. Their acquired skills were thus fully compatible with the SA Army. An element of the Marines even captured a SWAPO platoon commander at a road block, became involved with further clashes against the insurgents and did recovery operations in Angola. They were a force that was equally at home on land or on water.

Jaco’s presentation covered much detail and is a full read by itself. All that we have attempted to do is to throw light on a unit that played a significant role in its time.

Speakers Roster - Our next meeting will be held at 19:30 hrs at our usual venue on Monday 8th April where we will have as
Curtain Raiser

“My father’s service in the Royal Navy and the sinking of the Ark Royal- by Dave Pledger

Main Lecture
RLI Fireforce – by Major Don Price

New whatsapp group for our branch 

The society has decided to start a whatsapp group to be able to share Military History related information. If you would like to become a member of the group please send your cell phone number to

Please keep mind the following guidelines for posting to the whatsapp group.

  1. No jokes, cartoons or videos.
  2. The purpose of the group is to promote communication regarding military history.
  3. Politics, religion and the ladies are not to be discussed on the group.
  4. Messages on the group should be relevant to at least 3 members.

You would have previously received this communication from our Secretary and the message is quite clear. In using this innovative way of communication it simply cuts out the clutter!

Members are invited to send in to the scribe, 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.

Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn
Secretary: Franco Cilliers
Scribes:Ian Pringle.

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South African Military History Society /