South African Military History Society


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 184

January/Januarie 2020

Matters of General interest.

In the absence of Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn the meeting was ably called to order by Andre Crozier and we ended off the year on a good note. Our attendance was smaller than usual but with the Season on us a number of members had departed to enjoy the festivities with family and friends.

Members’ attention is drawn to the Main Lecture of our January meeting which will be presented by Malcolm Kinghorn. He served as our Military Attaché in Ottawa and with the assassination of a prominent Iranian military general and the attitude adopted by US President Donald Trump his talk will most certainly touch on the aspects of this incident. Let us all make it a good start to the New Year and have a bumper attendance at our first meeting of the year

Member’s slot – Ian Pringle on Veldt Kornet Andries Botha of the Kat River Settlement.

Ian covered briefly the career of this respected leader of this once historic settlement. He first came into prominence when together with his detachment arrived in time at Burns Hill near Keiskamma Hoek to prevent the entire looting and plunder of the wagon train by local tribesmen and was hailed as a hero.

Thereafter through the blunders of inept governors and the confrontational attitude adopted by the authorities towards his own people he eventually faced charges of treason which were based on very flimsy evidence. It is a sad story of the only “Coloured” of the day who attained the rank of Veldt Kornet and which is associated with the eventual demise of what promised to be a prosperous agricultural settlement.

The Curtain Raiser – by Pat Irwin - The Versailles Treaty.

The original basis for the Versailles Treaty following the 1918 Armistice, were American President Wilson’s Fourteen Points outlined in January 1918. These were intended as a framework for discussion to bring the Great War to an end. Its general points were: that diplomacy should not proceed in secret but in public view; there should be absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas; an equality of trade conditions should be established; and that there should be an open minded adjustment of all colonial claims. Britain and France objected to all of these and the French additionally objected to the notion that national armaments would be reduced. The Central Powers broadly accepted these principles as a starting point for discussions. The other nine principles revolved around withdrawal of troops from all occupied territory and the potential creation of new countries based on ethnic determination and nationality. All parties to a greater or lesser degree accepted this as a basis for negotiation, but due largely to Franco- British objections, the Fourteen Points never got off the ground.

Given that an armistice is by most definitions no more than a formal agreement between warring parties to stop fighting, while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace and not necessarily the end of a war, when the Germany asked for an Armistice in November 1918 they expected (in retrospect somewhat naively) that the terms would be based on the Fourteen Points. The terms demanded by the Allies were however, in the opinion of many commentators, extraordinarily harsh, uncompromising and, designed to be humiliating – more like an instrument of outright surrender.

In summary the conditions demanded and not open to any negotiation were:

The Germans being, for a range of international and domestic reasons, unable to continue the war with any hope of success had no real option but to accept the terms. These conditions and attitudes were reflected in the subsequent ‘peace’ talks held at Versailles from 18th January 1819 to 16th January 1920.

The dominant figures (the ‘Big Three’) at Versailles were French Prime Minister Clemenceau who demanded revenge and punishment for Germany, going back to 1871; America’s President Wilson whose approach was more conciliatory –he wanted to avoid another war; Britain’s Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who was personally conciliatory but was under pressure by the public and press (‘make Germany pay’) to take a hard line. Italy, a major ally during the war was marginalised as was Japan, another ally which had become a major power in the Pacific. This action was in part because of American fear of Japanese competition. Altogether there were 27 ‘negotiating delegations’ many of whom (such as Siam) took no part whatsoever in the war while others (such as San Marino) could only be described as minor patches of real estate. What they had in common was that they made up a pseudo-legitimacy of numbers and could be dominated by the ‘Big Three’. Most significantly neither Germany nor any of the other Central Powers were permitted to attend until all details had been settled.

The aims of the conference were to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers in three broad areas viz. military, economic and territorial. It was deliberately planned to be a humiliating experience for them and to rub it in, the conference was held in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, a deliberate choice as the German Second Reich had been proclaimed in the same venue in 1871, the year of the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War. The main results of the conference were:

The main terms of the treaty were:

The Versailles Treaty was presented to Germany as a fait accompli upon the conclusion of the deliberations. No debate or objection from Germany was permitted. The document was signed with reservation and reluctance. International reactions to the treaty were widely considered as unfair. Quoting the Boer experience after the 1902 Treaty of Vereeniging Smuts in particular warned of the potential long term consequences of the Treaty. The United States refused to ratify it and retreated into isolationism. In France, some elements in society and in the army felt it was too lenient. In Germany itself it was considered deeply unfair.

In summary, the treaty was short-sighted, vindictive and vengeful. Apart from the hardship and resentment it caused, the German economy and national pride were deeply wounded. It contributed to conditions for the rise to power of the Nazis and hence was also a contributory factor leading tithe Second World War only nineteen years later.


Main Lecture – Ian Copley - Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc 1407 – ‘1431’)

The title is somewhat of a misnomer as such a name was never recorded in her ‘short’ life-time. It was used 25 years after her ‘death ‘in 1456 on her rehabilitation from heresy by the Catholic Church and is the name of the saint, canonised in 1920.

The story takes place during the 100 years’ War due to the English claim to the French royal throne. Jeanne’s life story became legendary, but most events are well documented by people who knew her and the trial records. The battle of Agincourt was in 1415 when Jeanne would have been 7 years old. Her father, Jacques d’Arc was Lord of the Manor of Domrémy. His sister-in-law was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother who in 1407 gave birth to twins. They were both baptised but the son died.

It is odd that soon after, Jeanne was baptised [again] at Domrémy; there were 4 godmothers and 5 godfathers – a royal custom. This would have made her a step-sister to the Dauphin whose own mother said that he was a bastard.

Although described as an ordinary farm girl and illiterate [she could only sign her name] and was uneducated except in religion instructed by her devout mother and priests of the local church, it is at odds with her excellence in weaponry and horsemanship. She could speak best French as well as the local patois. Said to have had short black hair, brown eyes and a short, stocky build; she was not particularly good looking. There are no living portraits. She had a soft voice, inspired affection and respect; she had a lot of common sense, was inclined to be bossy especially when applied to messages from God.

The ‘dreams’ via St Michael and St Catherine started when she was 13; at 16 they were telling her of her mission to see the Dauphin crowned at Rheims and to get rid of the English; other prophesies had said that this would be done by a Maid. The talk described her acquisition of a horse, weapons and male clothing with two royal stable equerries to cross 560km of enemy Burgundy terrain in the middle of winter over two weeks in order to meet the Dauphin at Chinon in March, 1429. The Dauphin granted her an audience at court; the ‘miracle’ was that she could recognise him amongst the courtiers although they had actually met the day before.

First he sent her to his queen at Poitiers to be examined for a virgin. She was examined many times to check that she was still a virgin – a virgin could not be the Devil. She became known as Jeanne la Pucelle [virgin]. She persuaded the Dauphin, after long delays to send her, with the army in charge of the Bastard of Orleans, to the relief of Orleans.

The English were very lax and demotivated so that Jeanne rode into the city on a white horse unopposed and to great acclaim. ‘Orleans’ was added to her title, the ‘Maid of Orleans’. She refused to wear female attire. In the following days the English were turned out of the surrounding forts. The Dauphin, short of money, was eventually persuaded to set off for Rheims; the towns in the Loire valley on the way were liberated in exchange for food for the army. On the 2nd June she was given a coat of arms containing 2 fleur-de-lys, a royal emblem, under the name Jeanne Pucelle.They arrived at Rheims on 16 July, the coronation was next day.

On this occasion Jeanne stood next to the King in armour and fell on her knees weeping when he was crowned; her final achievement. The next task was to take Paris. They arrived in St Denys overlooking the city. A reconnaissance of the walls called for any attack to be abandoned.

She had been wounded on several occasions and always foretold them.

The Maid then followed the court around and took part in various actions. Eventually, in May 1430; she occupied the key town of Compiègne on the northern approaches to Paris. An English force menaced the town; Jeanne went out to defend the upriver bridge crossing with success until English reinforcements arrived. The French started to retire and this time did not respond to her rallying.

Retreating to Compiegne she was in the rear guard when the town gate was closed [deliberately or in panic?], cutting her off. She was pulled off her horse by an English soldier.

The English sold her to the French for 6 000 franks. Although the King had no money, he could have exchanged her for an important prisoner. For the next 7 months she was a guest at a chain of noble houses until reaching Rouen in December 1430.

Her trial began in January, 1431 and lasted for 5 months; she was convicted of heresy [due to wearing male attire] which would have meant a period of imprisonment. However, the female attire provided was taken away by her gaolers and she was condemned to the stake for relapse the same day, May 30, 1431. Over those two years 5 witches had been burnt, none were called Jeanne.

Further evidence indicates the she was spirited away by the Bishop of Beauvais through a secret passage whilst one of the witches was burnt in her place, since the victims were brought out hooded. The English soldiers surrounding her were so keen to light the fire that the executioner did not have time to do the usual throttling first. Her two brothers identified her in 1436, thinking that she had been burnt.

Jeanne was never a military commander; rather she had a psychological inspiring influence, in effect to regenerate the soul of France by her personal example and bravery. She married in 1436 and lived until 1449. It seems her whole life was a royal cover-up.


Our next meeting – Monday 13 January – 19,30hrs – EPVCC – Cunningham Road.
Member’s slot – Malcolm Kinghorn - Old Grey C.H.Gronou’s grave in Luderitz.
Curtain Raiser – Mac Alexander – Bisley Competitive Shooting
Main Lecture – Malcolm Kinghorn- Use of Force and US Constitutional Law


Chairman: Malcolm Kinghorn
Secretary: Franco Cilliers
Scribe (newsletter):Ian Pringle.

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South African Military History Society /