South African Military History Society


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 181

October/Oktober 2019

Our Scribe is off the air, so an Acting Scribe has been called up to attend to this newsletter.

SAMHSEC’s annual visit to Grahamstown on 14 September 2019 included a morning field trip to Seven Fountains farm and military cemeteries in Grahamstown and an afternoon meeting on the Rhodes University Campus. Once again, SAMHSEC is grateful for the invaluable contributions its Grahamstown members, this year John Stevens in particular, and Grahamstown historians, Fleur Way-Jones, Doug Bullis and Pat Irwin for their willing contributions to a successful day.

During the morning visit to Seven Fountains farm, Fleur shared her research on the history of the site as follows:

Assegai Bosch – Notes for the talk to Military History Society 14-9-2019

Travelogues have been used to substantiate or refute the claim that the stone house/post/barracks at Assegai Bosch is 300 years old (ca 1717). The claim by the owners concerns the trekboer, Jan Frederick Potgieter. A few military sources have been used, but those have been inadequate, so the search has been for descriptions of places in that area where the words “habitation” or “house” or “fort” were used; terms that would suggest a permanent structure. The area’s name “Assegai Bosch” is used for several areas or farms or houses. Sources include “Assegai Bosch Guest Farm” by Bev Young (ca 1990s); three maps by James Wylde (1851); part of Swellengrebel’s route (Forbes) and the Map of Sidbury area denoting farm boundaries ca 1820 (Rippon).

Part 1: Assegai Bosch

The Wagon and Post cart route:

The route from Algoa Bay travelling northwest to Niewejaarsdrift near Alicedale to the north or north east to Grahamstown or south east to Bathurst and Fish River, passed through Assegai Bosch which could be considered as an outspan and a midpoint of a number of routes. Professor Kirby called it “the Piccadilly Circus of Albany” because of this fork in the road to the North and East (GM 1986).

“The reason why travellers turned south east to Assegai Bush was that immediately south of the junction of the Bushman’s River with the New Year’s [River] there lay a virtually impassable poort, on either side of which were steep tangled hills dissected by deep and densely bushed valleys.” (Forbes 1965: 72).

Graham Dickason, the author of Irish settlers to the Cape, Cornish Settlers and The Dickason Family commented: “There was a later route that took travellers across the Bushman’s [River] more or less where the N2 does today. This route went through Zaaiplaats (later Seven Fountains) and a VOC Postholder was installed there to supervise not only the route but to regularise the use of water from springs (fonteins).

“At that time the route went directly north, not towards Assegai Bush plaque [see below] but directly past the stone building. This route was used as recently as when part of the N2 collapsed a few years back, the route followed the valleys to emerge at the top of New Street where Rhodes University has extended itself upwards [the Bay Road]. This road was marked on all AA maps prior to 1936 when the new main road system got underway. In fact, Seven Fountains had a Pegasus petrol pump for many years.”

Origin of the name “Assegai Bosch”

Name derived from bush forest Asgaaihout tree: Curtesia dentate. Mentioned by Barrow and Lichtenstein.

Assegai River originally Assegai Bosch River rises around Sidbury

Three farming areas

There are three farming areas with the name “Assegai”:

The first two are out of the scope of this talk so the emphasis is on the third: “Assegai Bosch”:


Travellers who mentioned Assegai Bosch:

15 May – 2 June 1752 Ensign August Frederick Beutler passed through Sidbury and by Assegai Bosch; wagons daily travelled 7½ miles; “relied on inaccurate and deliberately misleading guides.” Beutler stated in his journal that the last farm occupied by Europeans was near Mossel Bay.

14-15 December 1775 Anders Spaarman’s party on their journey to the Fish River camped at Assegai Bosch: “In the evening we arrived at Hassagai-Bosch. The other part of the road, together with the adjacent country, was full of steep hills, so that we were frequently obliged to lock the wheels of the waggon [sic], and at the same time to dismount, and lead our horses up and down the steep slopes….. Early the next morning being the 15th day, we quitted Hassagai Bosch which in itself is merely a little insignificant grove and derives its name from a kind of tree to be found here, as well as in many other places.” (Spaarman. VRS II (7):64-5).

9 February 1776: On the way back, Spaarman mentioned Assegai Bosch: “On the 9th we again saw several eland, hartebeests and quaggas, passing by Hassagai-Bosch. We shot a female eland, from whose body we cut out a foetus, which we carried away with us, and the next morning dissected. The viscera we found to resemble those of gazels [gazelles] in general.” (Spaarman. 11(7):230).

5 November 1776 Hendrik Swellengrebel passed through Assegai Bosch. “On 5 November they forded the New Year’s River….In one and a half hours they came to ”een spruitje in een diep gat tusschen twee kloven.” (Hoffman’s Gat on Hoffman’s Kloof) Swellengrebel’s party outspanned for the night.

The rounded hillcrests here formed a natural passage for they were described in the Journal as practically without trees and covered by grass (6 November 1776). By contrast, many of the valleys here are today obstructed by thick bush. Their route must then have changed to WSW (Sidbury–Bushman’s River road) and on the 6th they camped on the west bank of the Bushman’s at Rautenbach’s Drift. Here they met a party of Gonaquas and their chief Ruyter (Umkhola) and they spent the 7th at Ruyter’s kraal. Two days later they set out for the mouth of the Sundays River hoping to find elephants and hippopotami they had been told were there by “een bloemzoeker” (a botanist called JA Auge) whom they met at the kraal. Ruyter complained bitterly to Swellengrebel saying that he had been forced once by Lucas Meyer* to move to make room for his cattle and pressure was now being put on him by Meyer to move again (Forbes 1965:72-3).

*Lucas and Dirk, Piet and Jan Marcus fled from Xhosa in 1779.

1779-80 1st Frontier War: Two farmers' commandos were organised in 1779 and 1780 to follow the amaXhosa into their own territory. Adriaan van Jaarsveld was instructed to implement the establishment of the eastern border of the Colony (Greater Fish and Bushman's Rivers) by enforcing a relocation of all amaXhosa chiefdoms living to the west of the Greater Fish River.

14 January 1783 Survivors of the “Grosvenor” “arrived at Assegaajen Bosch”.

1785 Assegai Bosch: Loan farm (leningsplaas) first granted to Jan Frederick Potgieter on 29 April 1785 (Skead: 1993:13) “ASSGAAY BOS over de Boesjemans Rivier.” (CA RLR 34/25).

1789 Frederici map “Assagaye Bos”: RLR 36.

1789 Ngqika (Gaika) made an unsuccessful bid for the supreme leadership of the amaXhosa, defeated Ndlambe. By the end of the decade, the Ndlambe moved west of the Fish River, back to their ancestral land.

1790-3 2nd Frontier War began as burgher commandos of the Graaff-Reinet area force amaXhosa chiefdoms across the Fish River and pillage their cattle.

1797 August John Barrow, a humble clerk at an iron foundry in Liverpool, became a traveller to Greenland on a whaling ship and then to China. He made three journeys as 2nd Secretary to Governor Macartney: first from July 1797 to January 1798 where he visited Graaff-Reinet, Algoa Bay and the Winterhoek Mountains and conducted talks with the Xhosa chief Gaika (Ngqika). Barrow’s brief was to gauge the political situation and the economic potential of the interior and to collect cartographic information. Macartney left Barrow to pursue “curiosity, science and botanical research.” The other two journeys were in the Western Cape. The first two journeys are described in the first part of his books on South Africa, An account of travels into the interior of Southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798. He stated that there was a “habitation on Hassagai-bosch river”; his map of 1801 called the area “Hassagai” (Skead: 1993: 13).

1799 – 1802 Third Frontier War. Khoi-San join forces with the amaXhosa and rise up in an unsuccessful but protracted rebellion in the eastern districts of the Cape.

18 January 1803 Dr Henry Lichtenstein, a medical doctor travelled along the coast and in his first volume he encounters African people as far east as the Fish River. He wrote “…Orders were given for breaking up the camp and at eight in the morning of the 18th of January the whole caravan crossed the Boesjemans River. Somewhat farther we came to the ruins of a very large farm, where almost at the same instant arrived eight waggons with fresh relays of oxen from Graaff Reinet. On this, four waggons with the teams of oxen which had accompanied us from Algoa bay were sent back.… Further on we came to “Hassagai-Wood” an insignificant thicket, on the declivity of a small hill, scarcely deserving to have been marked on the map, if Mr Barrow had not passed a night there. … We hoped to have found a pretty considerable wood, that have afforded us shade and water, but it failed in both.” (Plumtree. Ed 1928:420-1).

1805 Arrowsmith map shows “Hassagai Bosch”.

1809 Moodie “Assagay Bosch”.

1811-2 4th Frontier War Cradock: “a chain of unconnected, insulated posts” A defensive line of posts was established; the second line ran from Noetoe (Table Farm), Sutherland’s post, Reed River post (west of Kowie), Sandflats, Lombard’s post, Assegai Bosch post, Olyvenfontein and Swartwaterpoort on the upper Bushman’s River (Coetzee, 1993:46).

13 April 1813 Rev John Campbell in his earlier travels wrote of Assegai Bush: “Departed at three P.M. travelling over a level country, without tree or bush until eight in the evening, when we halted at Assagai Bush, near to which stands a fort and a boor’s house. The boor told us they had been hunting two lions the greater part of the day without success, owing to the number of bushes and that they had seen many elephants on the plain; none of us, however, were anxious to see them, being of the same mind with an officer, who said he never wished to see wild beasts, except when he had to pay for the sight, then he believed he was safe. The night was wet and uncomfortable. Thermometer at noon. 65”.

14th Departed at eight A.M. and travelled over an extended plain till two P.M. (p 104).

15 May 1818 cancelled loan farm: Johannes Potgieter, son of Jan: 2551 morgen 525 roods: Rent: 36 rixdollars 3s (£2 14s 6d) QRR 228/181.

22 April 1819 5th Frontier War: Battle of Grahamstown.

1820 Founding of Seven Fountains: The settlers arrived in Port Elizabeth from Saldanha Bay and were moved by ox-wagon up to Zaaiplaats. Acting Governor Sir Rufane Donkin had specifically ordered that each settler party had to have access to water – Butler had access to Nuwejaarsrivier, Scanlan to the Kap River, D.P. Francis to the Komga and Latham to the springs. Zaaiplaats was renamed Seven Fountains as there were seven men in Latham’s Party. Butlers’ party of 27 Irish Settlers which was first sent to Clanwilliam and then moved overland by October 1820 to the farm Yarrow south east of Assegai Bush. (Graham Dickason) Some say there were 7 fountains, but others deny this (Dr Brian Rippon).

1845 March Transfer to Robert Langley.

13 October 1845 Monday: Lt William Jervois makes no mention of Assegai Bosch as a military post, but he does mention that, whilst escorting Colonel Piper, the newly arrived Chief Engineer, from Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) to Grahamstown, the party paused at Assegai Bosch so that Piper could alight from the wagon and make a more dignified arrival at Grahamstown by being on horseback (Conclusion: he must have got his horse from the post).

7 April 1849 advertisement from E Daniell Assegai Bush cautioning trespassers on the farm Assegai Bush belonging to Mr Lunley (sic; should read Langley) (Grahamstown Journal).

28 April 1849 Sale at Sidbury on 23 May 1849 estate of CJ Smith of Assegai Bush 140 lambs, 100 Merino Hamels, 300 Merino Hamels; fine wool sheep may be seen at Mr J Austin Greenvale Farm. (Grahamstown Journal).

23 June 1849 a span of 12 Zuurveld oxen; Warranted good. Terms cash. Apply E Norton Grahamstown or Thomas Norton Assegai Bush. (Grahamstown Journal).

6 March 1851 Map by James Wylde: “Grahamstown and the Outposts”: “Smith” *marked on the map on the Assegai Bosch River. Disputed by William Jervois as the map by Arrowsmith (1851) map shows “Mr Smith” further west at Buffelfontein (Zuurberg).

21 February 1852 Thomas Berrington (an independent Settler in Mahoney’s party) farming at Assegai Bosch.

1901 Thomas Street owned the farm “Assegai Bush” He died 12 September 1901. His obituary stated that he died on 12 September 1901 on his farm. Colleen Rippon remembered that the Street family owning Assegai Bosch.

29 January 1987 Mrs Ethel MacKenzie (nee Rippon) talked of overgrown trenches and finding British “soldiers’ buttons.” The theory of officers’ barracks was mentioned.

1987 Ronald Lewcock, an architect described it as “a reconditioned Boer house” such as Cypherfontein, Burnt Kraal or Table Farm. One of finest building in the district. (GM 20-1-1987 Article by Jill Joubert).

1993 – 1997 Assegai Bush – “a ruin” (Dickason).

2000 – 2014 Savva Kouchis, the owner of the Country Hotel on Bathurst Street, restored the building as a guest house and medieval restaurant called “Assegai Lodge”, but “he simply ran out of money” (Dickason).

2014 – 16 the building was again a ruin with no roof, windows or doors. Di Emslie, a neighbour, wrote, “You won’t believe the state of the place. It's overrun with dassies, monkeys and such like, the roof has gone, the ceilings, windows & doors. It's so disgusting and makes us soo sad to have watched this!! I have called him to ask him to do something or sell it, but he ignores us.”

2016 A Dutch couple restored it, replacing the roof, doors and windows. They opened a restaurant called Seven Fountains Farm and added extra accommodation. The restoration was an amazing feat, but not everyone’s taste.

2019 Dutch Owners: Arnoud van de Klis and Marjanne
Comments: “The stonework is just as remarkable and there is no doubt that it has military significance, if not in the number of engagements, but in its building style.”

“I would conclude that there’s no doubt in my mind that the stone building was a barracks, with certain amenities to house soldiers, perhaps wounded. It was situated far from the Frontier and, as history had already shown, attack this far west was unlikely. But when it was built remains an unanswered question.” (Dickason. Email 26 August 2019).


Features that advocate a possible British military barracks or post: the length of the building and the permanent stone structure; walled perimeter.

Features that suggest a Boer or trekboer house: similarities to a “hartebeest Boer huis”; the positioning of the building, the mud walls, the thatch roof and the oxblood, clay, manure composition flooring rather than stone or board flooring (Lewcock. 1963: 160-1).

However, many of the more recent documents confuse Assegai River Farm, with Assegai Bush Guest Farm. One has to make the distinction.

Question: Do the documents offer enough evidence to support a date or a definitive use for the building? The first owner of the farm was certainly Jan Frederick Potgieter but the origin of the stone building with its buttresses and stone walls remains an intriguing mystery.

Part 2: The Salem and Seven Fountains areas cannot be separated so many of the stories cover both areas.

One man who bridged the Assegai Bush-Salem divide was John Montgomery, the Irish hunter extraordinaire and adventurer.

John ran away from his Irish home and had no schooling. He joined Captain Butler’s party of 32 persons from County Wicklow. Butler was from the Dublin Militia and his Party was located first at Clanwilliam and then the Upper Assegai River. John’s mother, Mary Park, was related to Mrs Butler so he hoped Butler would teach him something. “So I thought I would stop with them. We soon got wagons and started for Assegai Bush and arrived on the spot allotted to him. The houses were burnt down. The burnt stumps of the rafters still remained in the walls in the War of 1819. However, I soon found that the Captain and I could not agree.” (Gifford. 1981:59).

John moved off to join Richard Gush, the Quaker leader at Salem. As Gush was a carpenter, John thought he could learn from him. Gush was keen to employ him. “We must first know each other” said I, “before we can make an agreement; but I will go and fetch my things from Assegai Bush.” (ibid: 61). John was as practical as Gush was not. He got lost, missed his horse and generally work on the premise that the day would provide. John hunted (once a “Badger”) and killed snakes. This did not last long and John moved in November 1821 to join Andrew Geddes Bain’s saddlery in Graaff-Reinet, but Bain did not employ him and he moved to “Colonies Plain” the farm of Andries Pretorius. (Lanham & Willmore: 1959: The 1820 Settlers of Seven Fountains and Salem p 52-4; Gifford. 1981:69 -) John’s further adventures in the Free State are both entertaining and tragic as his family tries to defend themselves against the Basuto, finally, his animals and his wife died. He declared insolvency and wrote a letter in the Friend explaining his loss of fortune and why he threw up “the touw” (ibid: 173)

“I never deceived a friend or a relative yet
Or made the poor or tradesman fret
But when rich I helped the poor
Yes, and fed the orphans within my door.”

John Montgomery died on 19 June 1878 at Brandfort. He and Susanna had 14 children, eight of whom survived into old age.

Incursions in the Seven Fountains area

As these were the most westerly locations for the 1820 Settlers, this area was never formally attacked, but when there were signs of unrest, the Settlers “laagered” around the Seven Fountains Methodist Church and in the Sidbury Church according to Dr Brian Rippon.

During the 6th Frontier War (1846-7) and the 8th Frontier War (1850-3), Rev HH Dugmore in his Albany Settlers Reminiscences described this area as “the rear-guard of the settlement”. The two villages of Salem and Seven Fountains are integrally inked in their history and strategically because of the Bushman’s and Assegai Rivers. Rautenbach’s Drift was a key crossing on the Bushman’s River.

Salem and Seven Fountains celebrated the founding of their village on 23 July 1844 with a sports day which was pronounced a great success. The War of Umlanjeni soon followed. The 8th Frontier War fought largely in the Amatole area, was far removed from this area. But during 1850, there were incidents when farmers were taken by surprise. George Wedderburn a prominent farmer and later a wagon builder in Grahamstown, was fatally wounded on his farm “Lindale”. A party of 9 Salem men on patrol noticed tracks up the Assegai River in the direction of the farm “Shortlands”. They followed the trail and were ambushed by 60-70 Xhosa warriors armed with guns and assegais. The men managed to shoot their way out, but Fred Short was killed shot in the back. George Dennison had his right arm smashed by a pot leg and Berrington’s horse was killed under him. Dennison recovered but not the use of his arm. Dennison married Miss Mary Webber of “Devonshire Farm”, Salem and their son, Charles George was commander of the Dennison’s Scouts in the South African War. Frederick William Short, son of a Settler, married Elizabeth Croft from the family famous for the snake bite remedy known as “Croft’s Tincture of Life”. Their daughter Una married John Wedderburn, who continued the wagon building business in Grahamstown.

Another incident occurred on 3 January 1851 when 4 “spies” were apprehended at the Jakins’ laager at Seven Fountains and were taken to Salem to the Justice of the Peace, WH Matthews, the schoolmaster. However, the “spies”, taking the opportunity while the escort had a smoke, overcame their captors, William Thomas, David Hannay, George Emslie and George Wedderburn. George Wedderburn’s horse bolted and he was severely wounded and was taken to Grahamstown where he died on 1 September 1851. Hannay* was shot three times but recovered and continued farming at “Begelly”. In 1852 amaXhosa attacked and set alight Ignatius Ferreira home at “Vlak Plaats” and drove off his cattle. Only the thatch burnt as the double storeyed house was stone. (Later owned by Noel Mills).


*The Hannays moved to Vryburg after the Warren Expedition. Their son, Angus Hannay served with the Vryburg Volunteers at the Langeberg Campaign and with the Dennison Scouts in the South African War (ABW). (Lanham & Willmore.1959: appendix).

The Albany Rangers

This area is renowned for the volunteer corps of mounted men which became known as the Albany Rangers, formed from the farmers of Salem, Seven Fountains and Sidbury. Captain John Gardner led them in the Gaika- Gcaleka War of 1877-8, and Captain William Attwell in the Basuto War of 1880-2. Two local members of the Albany Rangers died in last Frontier War: William Abercrombie Shaw, Albany Rangers, was fatally wounded in Pirie Bush 16 March 1878 and Robert Michael Bruce, Albany Rangers, died of typhoid King William’s Town hospital 17 March 1878.

The Albany Rangers won the silver cup as the best shots among the volunteer corps. They were shooting with Snider Carbines. This competition was held by the Defence Department of the Cape Colony. Ross Attwell has the trophy at his farm “Avondale.”

The men on the team were:
Robert Attwell, Simon Amm, William Penny, snr, Joseph Jakins, Thomas Jakins, Thomas Wedderburn, Charles Gardner and Benjamin Dell.

Some years after the Basuto War of 1880s, this volunteer corps became defunct. It was revived in the 1890s by Mr Charles Paddock and became known as the Highlands Mounted Infantry and they were issued with Martini Henri rifles. They served in the Langeberg Campaign as “the First City Mounted” under Major George Marshall in “Marshall’s Horse.” PW Emslie of Seven Fountains served in this regiment.


Roll of Honour in the Salem Church:

War of Umlanjeni 1850–2
George Wedderburn fatally wounded 4 January 1851
Frederick William Short 11 January 1851

Gaika-Gcaleka War 1877-8
William Abercrombie Shaw, Albany Rangers, fatally wounded in Perie Bush 16 March 1878
Robert Michael Bruce, Albany Rangers, died of typhoid King William’s Town hospital 17 March 1878

South African War 1899 – 1902
Kenward Gordon Emslie, Cape Mounted Police, died of enteric fever, Kimberley Hospital 21 March 1900
John Dickason, Cape Mounted Police, died of enteric fever, Barkly West, March 1900
John Francis Slater, Gorringe’s Flying Column, KIA Zwavel Krantz, Richmond 23 October 1901

World War I 1914-8
Lieut Samuel Emslie, Native Labour Contingent, lost at sea when the transport Ship “SS Mendi” sank, 21 February 1917
Harold Jakins, KIA Western Front
Arthur Roe, Clarence Impey, Archie Kirby and Jack Kirby: all in 1st SA Brigade; killed at Delville Wood 14-21 July 1916

Fleur Way-Jones


  1. Botha, Colin Graham. 1926. Places Names in South Africa. Juta & Co. Cape Town.
  2. Campbell, Rev John. 1822. Travels in South Africa: undertaken at the request of the London Missionary Society. Francis Westley, London.
  3. Coetzee, Colin. 1995. Fort of the Eastern Cape. Private printing. University of Fort Hare.
  4. Forbes, VS. 1965. Pioneer Travellers in South Africa. AA Balkema. Cape Town.
  5. Forbes, Vernon S. ed 1967. Thompson, George. Travels and Adventures in Southern Africa Part 1. Van Riebeeck Society 1(48). Cape Town.
  6. Forbes, VS. ed. 1977. Anders Spaarman: A Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope towards the Antarctic Polar Circle round the World and
    to the Country of the Hottentots and the Caffres from the Year 1772-1776. Van Riebeeck Society II (7). Cape Town.
  7. Gifford, A. ed. 1981. The Reminiscences of John Montgomery. AA Balkema. Cape Town.
  8. Huigen, S. 2009. Chapter 7 [Barrow] in Knowledge and Colonialism 18th Century Travellers in South Africa. Brill, Leiden.
  9. Lanham & Willmore. 1959. The 1820 Settlers of Salem and Sevenfountains. Grocott & Sherry, Grahamstown
  10. Lewcock, R. 1963. Early 19th Century Architecture in South Africa. AA Balkema, Cape Town
  11. Plumtree, A. ed. 1928. Lichtenstein, Henry. Travels in South Africa in 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806. Van Riebeeck Society 1(10). Cape Town.
  12. Rippon MA. Undated. A Rippon Heritage. Private publication.
  13. Skead, CJ. 1993. Albany Gazetteer. Albany Regional Services. Port Elizabeth.


Cloete, P. 1932. Journal of Pieter Cloete by Molsbergen Dr EC Godee (Swellengrebel)


East London and Frontier Redbook 1924. Standard Printing Co. East London.


The Grahamstown Journal: 1849; Grocott’s Mail: 1987

Conversations: Colleen Rippon, Dr Brian Rippon.

Email: Graham Dickason.

Terminology: RLR Receiver of Land Records (pre 1806); QR Quitrent Record (post 1806)

Settler Monolith on Assegai River Farm:

Bronze plaque on stone monolith marks the spot where wagons dispersed; the inscription reads:
“Assegai Bush the assembly place of 1820 Settlers before being allocated their allotments

Presented by Ivan Mitford Barberton 1961

(Unveiled Settlers Day 4 September 1961 by IM Barberton Grocott’s Mail)

Under the guidance of Pat Irwin, we then visited the Garden of Remembrance in the Grahamstown New Cemetery and military graves in the Grahamstown Botanical Gardens.

The afternoon lecture was on his experiences in and after the Vietnam War by Vietnam War veteran, Doug Bullis.

Doug was born in the USA state of Washington in a small city near the Canadian border in 1943. He was raised on a farm until age 15, enjoying what would today be called an idyllic childhood—two-room schoolhouse with 25 kids, bicycling to the local fishing stream for swims, harvesting lucerne and wheat during the summer with their only neighbours. He went to university in San Francisco reading physics, joined the US Navy in 1966, in part to avoid being drafted into the US Army to fight in the Vietnam war.

Doug intended to become a Navy pilot, but was found to be colour blind, so was assigned to the Hospital Corps. He was assigned to the Navy Hospital in Subic Bay, Philippines in mid-1967, but, after the Tet Offensive in late January 1968, was “temporarily” re-assigned (TAD or TDY) to the Navy Hospital in Da Nang.

After several weeks of training there, he was re-assigned to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) in I Corps where, by March 1968, he was attached to the 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines in the field. In early May he was with I Company in that Battalion when it was ordered to participate in Operation Allen Brook to wrest Qo Noi (also Ko Noi) Island back from the control of the Viet Cong (VC, popularly “Charlie”) and North Vietnam Army (NVA).

On 15 May 1968, his and two other companies made a night march into the western half of Qo Noi. The next day these units participated in the Battle of Phu Dong and, the day after, the Battle of Le Bac.

By midday on the 17th, Company I was ambushed and isolated by an NVA “pincer trap”, suffered 15 Killed in Action (KIA) and 50 Wounded in Action (WIA), in addition to 12 heat casualties, an 80% casualty rate. They were evacuated in the nick of time by a helicopter attack and “dustoff” (medical evacuation) operation at 17:30.

One Marine, PFC Robert Burke staged a courageous, but suicidal, standoff attack with his machine gun while Doug and his fellow Marines ran into open ground to retrieve 3 grievously wounded men and five bodies. Burke was later awarded the Medal of Honor (Posthumous) for this action. Two days later, Doug was back in the field with another unit until he returned to Subic Bay in mid-1968.

He left the Navy in July 1970 and promptly left for Europe, intending never to return. There he learned his career of writing and publishing.

Doug was forced to return to the USA in 1985 when he began to experience intrusive memories and flashbacks of particular scenes of his time in combat. He had no idea what these were or why they happened. He also experienced weeks to months-long bouts of bipolar mania, followed by deep depression.

Already a problem drinker, he drank himself into alcoholism, trying to self- medicate these episodes. He fled back to Asia in 1990 and spent 4 years in Sri Lanka, two in India, three in Malaysia, two in the Philippines, one year in Indonesia and numerous visits to other regional countries. He supported himself by writing books for Singaporean and other publishers. For reasons unknown to him, he spontaneously quit alcohol in September 1994 and has never had a drink since.

In 2000 he learned that the Veterans Administration (VA) in the USA actively sought veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to their service. He was diagnosed with PTSD and spent several years in group therapy with other veterans and counselling with psychiatrists. In 2007 his PTSD was recognised as permanent and he was given a 100% disability rating by the VA.

All through this time, Doug pursued his career in publishing. Today he has 23 published books listed on Amazon and now writes the quarterly astronomy and astrophysics journal “Nightfall” for the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA). He met his future wife, Elysoun Ross, in 2000 and moved to be with her in South Africa permanently in 2011. They married in 2013 and live in Grahamstown.

The operation which caused Doug’s PTSD is described in the link

Insight into Doug’s mustering in the operation can be gained via the link html

SAMHSEC’s next meeting is at 1930 on 14 October 2019 at the EP Veteran Car Club in Conyngham Street. The member’s slot will be by Peter Duffel- Canham on “The sinking of the Titanic Shipyard: Harland and Wolff, Belfast.” The curtain raiser will be on the SAAF Association by Woody Turner. The main lecture will be by Stephen Bowker on Sir Walter Currie. The video in the bar area from 1830 will be “The Stumble to War”, which refers to the of the start of WW2 in September 1939.

SAMHSEC’s annual PE field trip is on 9 November 2019. The draft programme is to meet at 1000 and visit the MOTH Algoa/White Ensign Shell Hole, St John’s Anglican Church, the Walmer Town Hall War Memorial and the Pax Monument on the Walmer Golf Course. We will have a bring your own picnic lunch at the Veteran Car Club before the usual programme from 1400.

Hubcap et in loco scribae: Malcolm Kinghorn
Secretary: Franco Cilliers
Scribe (newsletter):Ian Pringle.

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South African Military History Society /