South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0676 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


Please note the April meeting - the AGM - will be on 2nd to avoid the Easter long weekend!

Report on Johannesburg's February lecture meeting:

The curtain raiser was presented by Karen Horn was entitled "Francis and Betty go to War". Karen Horn dealt with the First World War nursing careers of Frances Schreiner and Betty Freund. They served as Volunteer Aid Detachment nurses known at the time as VADs. Karen Horn indicated how few women from South Africa went to war. This was an indication of the nature of society and the legacy of the South African War (1899-1902). Karen Horn lamented on lack of source material on the activities of South African Women in the First World War (1914-1918).

Fortunately Frances left a published account and this was supplemented by material from family sources. Frances's aunt was the formidable Olive Schreiner and her father was South African High Commissioner in London. Betty's letter have fortunately been published. We have met Betty before. She was mentioned in Judge Kathy Satchwell's July 2015 lecture "The South African Ambulance in Cannes 1914-1918".

Karen Horn then took us through Frances' and Betty's experiences and their reaction to the sheer horror of the First World War. Interestingly they saw grown men as children. Frances survived the war while Betty died of breast cancer which was certainly in her case hereditary.

In closing Karen appealed for material on South African women in both World Wars. She is looking for letters, diaries, photographs and can be contacted at

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The main lecture was presented by Judge John Myburgh. His subject was the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Judge Myburgh used the parallel lives approach.

He first dealt with Hitler's family background and school education. He had an autocratic father and a gentle mother. He resisted pressure to become a civil servant and had delusions of becoming an artist. He was a high school dropout and went to Vienna to try to get into the Academy of Arts. He failed twice to gain entry. At times he lived on the streets. He used the library in the men's home he sometimes lived in. He then drifted to Munich where he was at the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918).

By contrast Roosevelt had a distant father and a very formidable mother. Initially he was home schooled and then he attended Groton, one of America's top preparatory schools. (In America a preparatory school prepared you for university). A glittering career at Harvard followed where he studied law. He then went to Columbia University where he studied further in law and was admitted to the New York Bar.

The First World War was the making of Adolf Hitler: at the end he was a gefreiter with the Iron Cross First Class. The German Army then sent him on courses to prepare him to counter Communist agents. Here is skill as an orator were revealed. He was then sent to infiltrate the German Workers Party. He became its leader and changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party. His speeches exploited the pre-war anti-Semitism aggravated by German defeat and economic crises. The crisis caused by the Great Depression gave the party its chance for power and 30 January 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg.

By contrast Roosevelt was elected to the New York Senate in 1910 and then became Assistant Secretary of the Navy in Woodrow Wilson's Cabinet from 1913 until 1920. He was then stricken by polio. Until he was considered as a presidential candidate he was kept in the public eye by his wife Eleanor. He founded the polio treatment centre at Warm Springs, Georgia. He successfully returned to political life when he was elected Governor of New York in 1928. During his term as governor he instituted programmes to deal with effects of the Great Depression. As a result he was nominated by Democratic Party as their presidential candidate in 1932 and was elected. He assumed office on 4 March 1933.

Judge Myburgh lastly compared Hitler's lack of experience with Roosevelt's considerable experience in government.

Hamish Paterson

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According to the Society's constitution, formal notice of the AGM has to appear in the newsletter at least once before the meeting:


This serves as notice that the 54th AGM of the Society will take place in the J.C. Lemmer Auditorium at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History at 20h00 on Thursday 2nd April 2019.

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Mystery Payments received for 2020

Thank you to all members who have already renewed for 2020. The account statement shows that on 9 Jan somebody paid for a family membership without giving a name - so this payment cannot be credited. The line reads: 9 Jan Subs OB Pmnt 2018. Please check if this could be yours?

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Committee members needed - if there are enough of us it becomes fun!

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CR = curtain raiser ML = main lecture
DDH = Darrell Dickon Hall Memorial lecture MS = member's slot


Lectures are held in the JC Lemmer Auditorium of the Ditsong Museum of Military History, next to the Zoo starting at 8pm.
Parking is secure. Tea/Coffee & biscuits are served afterwards at R10/member. Visitors fee R30.00 per person.

Thursday 12th March

Thursday 2nd April

KZN in Durban:

Thursday 12th March


Thursday 12th March 2020

SAMHSEC in Port Elizabeth:

Monday 9th March 2020
at 19h30 at the EP Veteran Car Club Cunningham Road

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Branch contact details

For Cape Town details contact Carl Burger 082 333 2706
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469
For Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676
For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Roy Bowman 031 564 4669

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