South African Military History Society

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Past ZOOMeetings

With Monday 10th August a public holiday - Women's Day having fallen on the Sunday - Barbara Anne Kinghorn's postponed "Knit your bit - patriotic knitting" - eventually took center stage on Tuesday 11th August.

Fully 30 ZOOMINATI tuned in to hear her talk, including some form overseas. Her interest started from a poster in which the American Red Cross' appealed to people to knit for soldiers on the Western front -especially 'sox' to keep their feet dry and avoid trench foot.

A similar appeal in the UK especially in WWII led to many people taking up what Queen Victoria had elevated to a war contribution - see her scarves presented to 8 'deserving' soldiers! Ordinary citizens gladly took up what could be seen as personal contribution for all who were still at home.

Barbara's Lecture is accessible at ZOOM LIBRARY on the web-site.

Knitting enthusiasts would probably have heard the terms raglan(a sleeve which goes all the way up to the neck and is common in school jerseys) and cardigan (a front-opening jersey). These go back to the Crimean War. Lord Raglan had lost an arm at Waterloo and supposedly wore a jersey with the sloping sleeve. The cardigan was named after the Earl of Cardigan, the unlucky commander of the famous Light Brigade of 1854. His favoured front-buttoning garment might have been sleeveless and could have been sewn rather than knitted.

The other interesting term is Balaclava which turns out to be named after the Turkish for a small fishing village. It was part of the Ottoman Empire in the time of the Crimean war and is now part of Ukraine / Russia depending on where you would draw the border. Originally used by soldiers to ward off the fierce cold, it extended down onto the shoulders while allowing gaps for eyes and mouth - with variations over the years up to the one now banned from banks!

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Literally two days later Martin Plaut graced the Johannesburg-hosted ZOOMeeting from the UK with his talk 'The impact of the 1909/10 Union discussions on South Africa's entry into WW1'.
Martin has degrees from Wits, Cape Town and an MA from the University of Warwick.His career working for the BBC took him to India, Eritrea, the DRC and Ethiopia.He became Africa editor, BBC World Service News in 2003 and retired from the BBC in October 2013
Retired to the UK he is still giving lectures. Apart from about 13 other books, he authored the 'Hamster of Hampstead Heath'!
Turning to South Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century he pointed out the interests of the various role players both in SA and London. The reality of a looming war with Germany was already apparent and when SA's proposals for the Union Constitution retained the status quo the UK did not put up much of an objection. Martin reckons this cost the black men - remember women were NOT recognised in it either - the vote.
Discussion afterwards led to some very interesting exchanges and both the Lecture and the ensuing discussion are accessible from the web-site under ZOOM LIBRARY.

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Johannesburg's next ZOOMeeting
scheduled for Thursday 10th September will be by
Dr Anne Samson, talking from the UK on 'Novels, some SA inspiration, and the formation of MI5 and MI6'.

William Le Queux, the author of various spy novels at the turn of the twentieth century is regarded as the inspiration for the formation of MI5 and MI6. However, Roger Pocock, founder of the Legion of Frontiersmen later commanded by Dan Driscoll of Driscoll's Scouts, also had a part to play. In this talk, I discuss the links between them all.

I suppose I should mention that my interest in this seemingly unrelated topic to my usual research interests derives from my being the Special Advisor on Africa to the Countess of Mountbatten's Own Legion of Frontiersmen. A full version of the talk was given on 19 May 1918 to the Victorian Military History Society and led to my book on Kitchener finding a publisher!

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SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape Branch's next ZOOMeeting
will be held on Monday 14 September from 19h30.

The Main Talk will be presented by Pat Irwin on The Royal African Corps, who served in the Cape in the period 1817 - 1823. A penal regiment which, by all accounts, had their own particular history!
Details of the lectures will be sent to all on the master list as usual.

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Members in Gauteng will already have received an e-mailed invitation to this function THE GENERAL SMUTS FOUNDATION cordially invite you to visit the Smuts House Museum (Jan Smuts Ave, Irene, Centurion) between 09:00 and 17:00 Saturday, 12th September 2020

This special occasion is to: honour the 150th birth year of both Jan Christiaan Smuts and Isie Krige Smuts
Preview new displays and improvements made in the Museum
Commemorate the remarkable union of Jan Smuts and his wife Isie

Interesting talks will be held on: Jan Smuts (11:00 and 14:00)
Isie Smuts (12:00 and 15:00)

Entrance to the House will be free of charge (donations welcome!)

Parking: R10.00 / vehicle at main gate. The Tea Garden will be open.

Your colleagues, friends or family are welcome to attend

A headcount will be necessary in order to comply with the COVID19 protocols RSVP:

We would like as many people as possible to attend on both the Saturday and the Sunday (12th and 13th Sept). Saturday is for groups/members of groups and Sunday is for the General Public (but no talks on the Sunday).

And yes please, we would like them to respond to the contact given. She will ask if they wish to sit in on the talks held on the Saturday - or just visit the house - or both. The numbers will be strictly controlled on visitors' arrival. i.e. Groups of 10 will go through the house with a guide leaving every 10 or 15 minutes throughout the two days.

If your members respond to the contact given, Sharon will ask them their wishes and note accordingly.

The photos/military artifacts/books/etc. have all been re-positioned and new exhibits re-aligned. There is now a strong timeline to the exhibition ... there are now separate rooms for each of the wars: Anglo- Boer / WWI / WWII. So even if people have visited before, it is worthwhile coming again.

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New to Zoom?

Training sessions are not mandatory but are to help those members who are unfamiliar with this new way of accessing the Society's talks while under Covid-19 look-down.
Johannesburg has had four training sessions so far and will hold more sessions as requested. If you would like to attend a training session please e-mail or
In all cases when you attend a Zoom meeting you need an invitation from the host. Every meeting has its own ID and password. If you are already on SAMHSEC or JNB's lists, you will be sent this information. We are creating a master list of members who have expressed interest, to whom notices of all future Zoom lectures will be sent.

To be added to this existing master list, if you have not yet already done so by e-mail, please e-mail or


Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMEETINGS. A nominal 20 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides, but not video, is required.

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All four branches have lost members so far in 2020.
Woody Turner from SAMHSEC on 10 April
Gauteng's David Mitchell, life member, in June
Major A "Tony" Gordon, former chairman of Cape Town branch, on 17 July
KZN's Alex McTavish on 19 July
KZN's Charles Aikenhead, life member, in July

Pat Henning who was Scribe of this newsletter from 2014 to 2017, passed away suddenly on 17 August from diabetes complications. Her cheerful presence at committee meetings will be fondly remembered.

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