South African Military History Society

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Past ZOOMeetings

The April 8th ZOOMeeting hosted by Johannesburg saw Dr Anne Samson explain a little-known incident of the First World War in German East Africa in a talk entitled "9 SAI vs General Smuts - The repercussions of a complaint by 9 SAI in 1916."

Colonel Kirkpatrick was shocked by the loss of so many men (973 out of 1135) during and following two 200-mile marches across GEA [German East Africa] from 1 April to 1 May 1916 (from Hiro to Kondoa Irangi) and then from 15 July to 20 August (from Kondoa Irangi to Kilosa). He lodged an official complaint which reached Gen Smuts shortly before the latter left GEA. His replacements ensured it was followed up. Statements of 55 others were included in the material submitted as evidence.

Various official enquiries eventually led to the courts-martial of only a handful of people - including two medical officers for negligence - but the harrowing story, detailing just how awful conditions in GEA were, came to light in her lecture. In the end, transport was blamed for most of the problems - shortages of tents, boots and other kit, mosquito nets and notably rations resulted directly from lack of transport. Where there were roads, they were frequently flooded and impassable.

Animals suffered similarly - 2 255 horses out of 3 894 succumbed at the same time.

She touched on several careers which were adversely affected and indicated that there was much fertile ground still to be researched.

Anne's presentation is accessible from the ZOOM library on the Society's web-site.

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ZOOMeetings and ROOMeetings

The four venues which used to host our monthly lectures - ROOMeetings - are still unable to accommodate the Society due to Covid-19 restrictions. There are currently three ZOOMeetings each month in their place which are OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS of all branches.

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Johannesburg's next ZOOMeeting
will be at 19h30 on 13th May 2021

Speaker: Martin Plaut
Subject: "The historic context of the war in Ethiopia "
The current war in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray has involved states from across the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan.

But how should we understand Ethiopia and its closest neighbour Eritrea? The history of these states can be traced back in written records further than almost any other sub-Saharan African nation, and their soils have been trampled on by every invader from the Egyptians and Romans onwards. This has produced societies that are rich in culture but inherently unstable.

Martin Plaut, a former BBC Africa Editor and currently Senior Research Fellow, Kings' College, London, will consider these questions.

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SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape Branch's next ZOOMeeting
will be at 19h30 on Monday 10th May 2021

Speaker: Alan Mantle
Subject: "Commemorating Private Reice Campbell, who died in Italy in 1944 "

This will be a sequel to his talk on 11 January 2021 on "Italy 1943 to 1945 - War and Civil War"

Footnote: In the last quarter of 2019 a book arrived, unsolicited, at the Society's post box. It turned out to be in Italian and indicated the authors wanted the family of Campbell to have a copy of their publication as a tribute. This story tells what Alan Mantle has achieved in following up their request.

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Just let know in order to be sent an invitation.

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Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMeetings. A nominal 30 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides, but not video, is required.

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Members and other interested readers are invited to submit articles for the 2021 Military History Journals. Deadline for the June issue is the end of May; for the December issue it will be the end of October.

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Dr Anne Samson, who is well known to SAMHS members, writes that she is involved in two projects concerning the First World War.

She would appreciate information about Natal for a project aiming to create a digital tour of Natal during the First World War, an outcome of the "Behind the Wire" exhibition which was held at the Pietermaritzburg Museum in 2019.

Secondly Anne would welcome specific information or references about Pretoria in the 1914-1918 war.

Contact her at

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Branch contact details


Cape Town details contact Carl Burger 082 333 2706

Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469

Gauteng details contact Joan Marsh 010-237-0676

KwaZulu-Natal details contact Roy Bowman 031-564-4669

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