South African Military History Society


Newsletter / Nuusbrief 207
December 2021

To be read with SAMHSEC Supplementary Newsletter 002 December 2021 which follows this text.

SAMHSEC meeting on 8 November 2021

Peter Sutcliffe presented “Operation Splinter – Rhodesian Counterinsurgency Operation on Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River”

Field trip to the Nanaga area near Port Elizabeth on 20 November 2021

Topics covered during the field trip included the Potgieter trekboer family, the Newcombe 1820 Settler family, the 4th Frontier War and the plaques in the Nanaga Methodist Church commemorating local men killed in the World Wars.

SAMHSEC RPC meeting 29 November 2021

In session 1, Legionnaire Terry Pattison, MMM, JCD, who is the Chairman of the Port Elizabeth Branch of the South African Legion, spoke about "Remembrance, the whys and the wherefores".

In session 2, R Adm (JG) A E Rudman SA Navy (Ret) reviewed the book “President Mandela’s Admiral” by Vice-Admiral Robert C. Simpson-Anderson, which was published in 2021 by the SA Naval Heritage Trust.

13 December 2021 meeting

In our last meeting for 2021, Anne Samson is to talk on “Christmas experiences in World War 1”.

SAMHSEC Supplementary Newsletter 002 / Aanvullende Nuusbrief 002


With the present rise in Covid cases and the advent of a so called Fourth Wave, it would appear that we are in for the long run in holding zoomeetings. That said, SAMHSEC has thrived in these restrictive times and, in practically all cases, we have doubled our meeting attendances. This is due in no small part to excellent speakers and presentations. At our second meeting of the month, the book reviews have been both novel and interesting. Our thanks are expressed to all who in any way have made a contribution to this success – we are indeed alive and well!

“Operation Splinter – Rhodesian Counterinsurgency Operation on Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River” presented by Peter Sutcliffe at our meeting on 8 November 2021

Operation Splinter Mission: Secure Lake Kariba and engage insurgents crossing the lake from Zambia to Rhodesia.

The Northwest border between Zambia and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) is 485 miles (797 kms) long. It follows the course of the Zambezi River, passes over Victoria Falls and then runs down the middle of the 174-mile-length of Lake Kariba (36% of the border) to Kariba Dam. Thereafter the Zambezi flows on until it passes on into Mozambique. The border became the focus of significant insurgent activity from 1966 to 1980.

After the first insurgent incursion in early 1966 (five months after UDI) Rhodesian Army National Service ‘Sapper’ Engineers and British South African Police (BSAP) Reservists were deployed to patrol the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba with small Army aluminium outboard boats or Police Reservist private fishing boats.

In 1967 and 1968 two additional terrorist groups crossed the Zambezi confirming to the protagonists the strategic value of this 485-mile-wide corridor. All three infiltrations failed due to the robust response from the Rhodesian Army, Air Force and BSAP.

After the insurgents’ third defeat, in 1968 they changed to Maoist tactics and used coercion and collusion to organise forward bases among the rural population of the Tribal Trust Lands.

In late December 1972 the insurgents launched their fourth offensive. Operation Hurricane commenced and a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) was established at Centenary. This was the beginning of the Rhodesian War.

In 1974 the Portuguese Government handed over Portuguese East Africa to Frelimo and the country was renamed Mozambique. The Mozambique/Rhodesia border of 765 miles now provided multiple alternative infiltration routes. Over the next two years, Rhodesia established a further five operation areas across the entire country.

In 1976 the Army Engineers and BSAP increased their patrol capability on Lake Kariba with additional manpower and introduction of high-speed, well-armed interceptor craft.

In 1977 Operation Splinter and its JOC was established at the Army Base at Kariba. This coincided with a further increase of Army interceptor craft and the addition of an Army landing craft/mother ship.

JOC Splinter co-ordinated the Army and BSAP counterinsurgency operations on Lake Kariba using the following tactics:

Internal Operations - Army Boat Squadron and BSAP Marine Reserve

Tactic: Patrol Rhodesian territorial waters day and night.

External Operations - Army Boat Squadron

Tactics: Night patrolling Zambian territorial waters and islands; transporting Special Forces for external operations; denying insurgent use of a Zambian Island at a narrow crossing point; conducting raids on Zambian harbours to destroy or capture boats or equipment to deny the insurgents safe havens.

Examples of the above tactics and operations were provided during the presentation.

Field trip to the Nanaga area near Port Elizabeth on 20 November 2021

Our first day outing since the Covid regulations were relaxed took place on 20 November when 45 members and guests from the Lower Albany Historical Society and the Friends of the Karel Landman Monument assembled at the Nanaga Farm Stall and undertook a tour through the surrounding countryside. The area is typical of the rural Eastern Cape with its rich history and mixture of 1820 British Settlers, Trekboere, black tribes and the original inhabitants such as the Khoisan.

The first port of call was Congo’s Kraal, which was in the Potgieter family for generations. This included a visit to the family cemetery and a talk on older times by a Potgieter descendant. It was in this area that Chungwa, a tribal chief, had his kraal in the early 1800s.

The party then moved to Blenheim Farm near Kinkelbos. It was on a prominent hill on this property, known as Nieuwejaarskop, with a magnificent view of Algoa Bay, where Colonel Graham camped towards the end of December 1811 during the 4th Frontier War. This is an old Newcombe property and Dennis Newcombe gave a short talk on his 1820 Settler ancestor and his successful life.

Mount Roberts, another old Newcombe property near the farm stall, was visited, before the last stop was made at the Nanaga Methodist Church.

4th Frontier War

At the Church, Pat Irwin gave a brief overview of the 4th Frontier War. Pat’s presentation started by noting the numerous superficial and some fictional references to the 4th Frontier War. The most informative and useful reference located is a paper titled ‘Perspective on John Graham and the Fourth Cape Eastern Frontier War’ by Johan de Villiers of the University of Zululand, published in New Contree Journal 68 in December 2013. It is supplemented by works of VC Malherbe and J de Villiers among others, which rely on documentation and primary sources, rather than guesswork and wishful thinking.

The East Cape Frontier Wars in context

The Eastern Cape has been an area of known military conflict from the time that the amaNguni people moved into the area, probably in the 16th and 17th centuries and, possibly, long before that, involving Khoi and Khoisan groups. From the late 18th century, however, things began to change as Dutch-speaking stock farmers, known as Trekboere or itinerant farmers, expanding north- eastwards in search of pasture and grazing, came into contact with the southwesterly movement of the amaNguni pastoralists and, later, refugees from the Mfecane.

Despite trading opportunities, competition for grazing, mutual cattle reiving, a clash of cultures and values and the mutual misunderstanding arising from this between the two polities increasingly led to armed conflict. This resulted in nine wars stretching over a period of 99 years from 1779 to 1878, with periods of ‘relative peace’ in between. Over this period, these wars resulted in substantial damage to property and considerable loss of life. The talk highlighted the 4th Frontier War, which took place from 2 December 1811 to 7 March 1812, between the British and the amaNdlambe clan and some of its minor allies as it partly took place in the area which was being visited.

All wars in the Eastern Cape Colony, including the interwar conflicts, were in essence over livestock, especially cattle, and the land to graze them on. Cattle, as wealth, cultural goods and currency, constituted part of the social fabric of all the amaNguni clans as well as the Trekboere and some of the British Settlers who arrived in 1820. It might be noted too, at this point, that the ‘amaXhosa’, as most of the clans of the time today refer to themselves, were not at that stage a ‘united nation’ but rather a collection of semi-independent isiXhosaspeaking clans who lived and fought as such. They generally owed primary allegiance to their particular clan.

The westward shifting frontier and the wars associated with it, were also a kaleidoscope of constantly changing alliances and allegiances. Far from being a simple ‘black vs white’ confrontation as nationalists of all stripes, including the immediate past and the present regimes, have argued for political reasons, the reality was different. It was rather one of complex social, economic and political relationships exacerbated by broken promises, constantly vacillating British colonial policy, avarice for cattle as the primary sources of wealth and status and hence the land to graze them on, the tradition and thrill of cattle raiding and often rank opportunism. Over the 99-year period, almost every group was in armed conflict with every other group.

The factors leading to the 4th Frontier War

The factors leading to the 4th Frontier War are complex and go back to the 18th century when Governor Joachim van Plettenberg visited the eastern frontier and held a parley with the chiefs and amaXhosa clans to the east of the Fish River. He made a loose arrangement with them that the Great Fish River would be the border between them and the Cape Colony.

Between then and 1811, three small wars took place. In 1806, against a background of the Napoleonic Wars, the British occupied the Cape for the second time – this time permanently. At the Battle of Blaauwberg, which took place on 6 January that year, the victorious British were particularly impressed with the resistance which the Dutch Khoi soldiers, then called Pandoors, offered them in the battle.

It was decided to offer them a place as a regiment in the British Army, to be known as the Cape Regiment. Colonel John Graham, an experienced officer, was appointed to be their Commanding Officer with a clear brief to train them for the general defence of the Cape Colony. In this he faced two particular challenges. The main one was to overcome any assumed prejudices of local citizens against the new regiment. This appears not to have ever been entirely achieved. The second challenge was to adapt them to the norms of the British Army and its regulations. In this Graham displayed remarkable flexibility, to a large extent adapting the traditions of the British Army to their needs and their strengths, which included what was described as their natural flair to ride and their remarkable ability as riflemen and sharpshooters. Sir Harry Smith later described then as “amongst the finest soldiers’ he had seen anywhere in the world. Graham also dropped normal military regulations allowing only six wives to travel with a regiment. The Cape Regiment soldiers were permitted to have their wives, children and all their livestock with them and to travel with them when they were moved. Barracks were built to accommodate them.

By 1808, a large number of the amaNdlambe clan had crossed the Great Fish River to the Zuurveld and beyond and, as a result of clashes over cattle and grazing, it was recommended by the colonial authorities that an ultimatum be given to them to withdraw and return to the east of the river. In 1809 serious concern was expressed that the amaNdlambe were now settled close to the Sundays River. It was ignored and more people moved in. Two companies of the Cape Regiment and local farmers were unable to cope with the extent of cattle reiving. Cuyler, the local Landdrost, was, however, instructed not to take aggressive action.

By June 1810, due to continued depredations, two more companies of the Cape Regiment as well some Dragoons were sent to the Zuurveld. In July 1810 additional Cape Regiment reinforcements were sent. None of these measures proved effective for the restoration of peace. In the first three months of 1811, 120 cattle and horses were stolen and both White and Khoi farmers were killed.

By July 1811, at least 20 000 amaXhosa had crossed the Fish River and there was continued westward movement of as far as Graaff Reinet, the reason always being given that more land was required for grazing. The main protagonists here were Ndlambe and Chungwa (Congo) of the amaGqunukwebe. Many farmers began to leave the area and both White and Khoi farmers appealed to the authorities for protection

The course of the war

Colonel Graham was then instructed by Governor John Cradock, to take steps to remove the amaXhosa and recover the land west of the Fish River. The reasons he was selected were:

Here we need to digress briefly to examine the push factors driving some of the amaXhosa clans, particularly the amaNdlambe and their allies, across the Fish River. Essentially, although not entirely, it was a succession dispute between the supporters of Ngqika, the paramount chief of the Rharhabe (a branch of the greater Xhosa polity) and his uncle, Ndlambe. Ndlambe had for many years acted as regent for Ngqika until he was old enough to assume his rightful position. When Ngqika came of age and demanded the paramountcy, Ndlambe challenged it, not wanting to live under the hegemony of his nephew. The clans were split in their support for this struggle for power and, to add to the mixture, there were also significant personal differences, including jealousies, between Ndlambe and Ngqika. Ndlambe, having moved over the Fish River, understandably did not want to go back to live under Ngqika. Ngqika for his part had agreed, quite possibly, but reluctantly, under pressure from the British to allow Ndlambe to return. Ndlambe accordingly rallied the clans west of the Fish River to resist being moved. He firmly declared that the land he had moved onto two or three years earlier was his ‘by right of conquest’.

After receiving his instructions, Graham moved the entire Cape Regiment together with other British troops to the disputed territory. At this point the Cape Regiment comprised 55% of the total British forces in the Cape. Graham divided his forces into three divisions: North (under Landdrost Stockenström of Graaff Reinet), Central (under Major Fraser of the Cape Regiment) and South (under Landdrost Cuyler of Uitenhage). Graham allowed ample time for harvests to be collected and hoped that most of the amaXhosa would leave peacefully.

On 2 December 1811, the war actively began when warriors attacked a mounted Khoi patrol, killing some of them. Graham then gave an order to shoot to kill all armed males who were confronted. On 26 December 1811, he moved against them in a wide sweep across the area. On 29 December 1811, Graham received news that Landdrost Stockenström had been surrounded and killed, together with eight of his men, while conducting a peace parley in the Zuurberg. Cuyler, too, came close to disaster when attempting to reason with Ndlambe.

On 2 January 1812, after another 200 troops were brought in from Cape Town, Graham’s forces started scouring the thickets, where the amaNdlambe warriors had felt themselves fairly secure and able to continue guerrilla warfare. They also followed a scorched earth policy, destroying gardens and crops and capturing some 600 cattle by tracking them to the places where they were hidden in the thick bush.

By the end of February 1812, Graham reported to Governor Cradock that all amaXhosa had either left of their own volition or had been removed and that ‘hardly a trace’ remained. A minimum of blood had been shed with only about 30 warriors killed in action. Those women who did not leave were taken captive and placed across the border. Despite propaganda to the contrary, there are no records or reliable documentation of any women being killed. The minimal loss of life is, in fact, considered a remarkable aspect of this conflict and, at least some of, this can be attributed to Graham’s humane approach.

This event has come down in history as the Zuurveld Clearances and it is interesting to compare both the methods and the results with the numerous other ‘clearances’ around the world during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The post 4th Frontier War period

After the termination of the war:

The termination of the war did not however lead to lasting peace and stability as Graham had hoped. Those who followed him and Cradock lacked the determination and resources to provide border security and stability.

Finally, a few words on John Graham himself are in order

Apart from his distinguished military career, a fair assessment of Colonel John Graham would see him as an intelligent, capable and fundamentally decent person, renowned for his sense of humanity. As the Commanding Officer of the Cape Regiment, composed almost entirely of Khoi troops, he showed great concern not only for their welfare, but also for their families. He also adapted British military discipline and rules to suit their needs. In return, they gave him their loyalty and respect.

As the officer in charge of the Zuurveld Clearances in 1812, he has in some quarters and, for purely political and ideological reasons, been demonised and vilified for the role he is purported to have played. A fairer view of him within the context of his times, suggests, however, that apart from being a competent military commander and liked by his men, he was a considerate and compassionate man.

Memorial plaques in the Nanaga Methodist Church

Mike Newcombe gave a presentation on the three local men who gave their lives in World Wars and are commemorated by plaques in the Church as follows:

Corporal Leonard Upham Norman Newcombe served in German South-West Africa and German East Africa, where he died on 15 August 1916,

2nd Lieutenant Clark Charles Upham Newcombe was killed near Ypres in Belgium on 17 August 1917 and

Private James Naylor Smith was killed on 24 October 1942 during the Second Battle of El Alamein.

There after it was a time to open picnic baskets, to relax and chat in the shade and to realise that there is more to this part of the country than the famous Nanaga pies and pineapple juice!

SAMHSEC RPC meeting 29 November 2021 when SAMHSEC Requested the Pleasure of the Company of historians to talk about military history:

In session 1, Legionnaire Terry Pattison, MMM, JCD, who is the Chairman of the Port Elizabeth Branch of the South African Legion, spoke about

"Remembrance, the whys and the wherefores".

Terry’s talk included perspective on the scale of the casualties of World War 1, the international commemoration of the sacrifices of the War and the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in English-speaking countries. The commemoration of Poppy Day is a major source of income for the Legion in its charitable work in support of veterans and their dependants in need.

In session 2, R Adm (JG) A E Rudman SA Navy (Ret) reviewed the book

“President Mandela’s Admiral” by Vice-Admiral Robert C. Simpson- Anderson, which was published in 2021 by the SA Naval Heritage Trust.

“This is not an academic review; it is a very personal one, as is the book itself.

The author was our Chief of the Navy from 1992 to 2000; therefore, in terms of knowledge, experience and proficiency, he is uniquely qualified as the author of this book.

His writing style, in the first person, is fluent and very easy to read. He did not set out to write a scholarly book of reference, and I found the book very enjoyable to read. It is a very personal story, written in a manner that entices the reader to continue reading.

The purpose of the book is to tell the South African Navy’s story of the 1990s: challenging politics, radical transformation, ambitious voyages and the quest for new ships and submarines; a story that the author felt had to be told.

I personally am very pleased that he did. I found the book to be stimulating and informative; it answered many questions that I had about why certain decisions were made. The book certainly has fully met its purpose.

This is a first-hand account of the experiences of Vice-Admiral Robert Simpson- Anderson as Chief of the South African Navy from 1992 to 2000, a period of unprecedented political, social and structural changes in South Africa.

In the first two chapters he sets the scene, describing the state of the Navy in 1992 and the challenges facing the Navy in a rapidly changing political scenario. An intriguing story of a covert initiative is revealed.

In chapters 4 and 5 the author succinctly describes the Navy’s long, complex and arduous struggle to have projects and funding for new frigates and submarines approved.

A chapter is devoted to the spectacular celebrations of the SA Navy 75th anniversary, the highlight of which was an International Fleet Review, a sail-past of SA Navy ships and ships from 13 other Navies, where the salute was taken by President Mandela as Commander-in-Chief of the South African Armed Forces.

An amusing chapter is about the choice of the title of the book.

To summarise - a stimulating and well illustrated story of an exciting and action- packed period in the history of the South African Navy.

The author has succeeded in writing his book at an appropriate level for a wide- ranging readership, from academics to the lay person.

If there are any shortcomings, I can only find one: the lack of an index. I do believe that an index would have added more value to the book.

I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in South African affairs, be it naval history, defence or international relations.

To the author: I salute you, President Mandela’s Admiral!

The book is available from the Naval Heritage Trust: at R250, plus R99 for courier delivery.”

Umzintzani Memorial Service 2021

As is custom, on the 145th Anniversary of the Battle of Umzintzani, Prince Alfred`s Guard (Comrades) Association will be holding a Memorial Service for the Regiment’s fallen on Sunday 5 December 2021, 10H00 at the Regimental Memorial, St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Please accept this notice as an invitation to attend.

All attendees are cordially invited to attend “harmony” at the Maritime Club, Central, Port Elizabeth at the conclusion of the Service.

Yours Aye,

Captain Terry Pattison MMM, JCD, PAG (retd)

“Jack’s War” – the experiences of a young soldier from the Karoo during WW2 in Italy – by his sons Andrew and Paul McNaughton

This publication is on the bookshelves. The comments below were received from Paul McNaughton in Stellenbosch and comprise a brief resume on the life of Jack McNaughton. Paul is a member of our Society and, in anticipation of a presentation from him on the subject, here is an early introduction:

“During lock down my brother Andrew and I embarked on the project of telling the story of our father, Jack's, experiences in WW2. Jack was a young sheep farmer from the Karoo, who commanded a Vickers machine gun platoon in the 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy in 1944. The division was in the spearhead of the brutal and protracted Allied campaign up the mountainous spine of Italy, climaxing in the decisive battle of Monte Salvaro. In the aftermath of the battle Jack fell gravely ill and was saved by an Italian woman, who nursed him back to health.

The book starts with some family background, the outbreak of war, the formation of Die Middellandse Regiment and their deployment to North Africa. It tells the story of those who waited for Jack back home: his wife, Elise, who fought to keep the farm going on her own while bringing up three small boys, amid whispers of sabotage by local German sympathisers and of the discovery of a Nazi spy ring in nearby sleepy Graaff-Reinet.

Jack was sent back from North Africa to do an officer's course and so avoided capture at Tobruk. He was subsequently seconded to the ILH/Kimberley Regiment which formed part of the 6th South African Armoured Division commanded by Major General Evered Poole. The books details the Division's advance up Italy, the capture of Florence, the massacre of Italian civilians at Marzabotto, the assault of the Gothic line, the battle of Salvaro, the final push to victory and Jack's homecoming.

76 years later, Jack’s sons set out to find the Italian woman of Salvaro's descendants, discovering that the 6th South African Division is still remembered and celebrated in Italy for the sacrifices it made in the liberation of Italy.”

SAMHS subscriptions for 2022

For information as received from the SAMHS National Office.

“Dear Members,

Printing and postage costs are expected to increase so the subscriptions for 2022 will be as follows:

Single R280 - increase of 5.7% (was R265) Family R300 -increase of 5.3% (was R285)

Kind regards and keep well,

Joan Marsh (Mrs) (Treasurer)”

This is the captain speaking

SAMHSEC is the Eastern Cape Branch of the SAMHS. Membership is per calendar year. We assume that members who have not renewed their membership by 31 March don't intend to renew and we look forward to them re-joining when they are so inclined.

As has always been the case, Joan looks after membership administration so that SAMHSEC can get on with history while she handles the hassle on our behalf (Thank you, Joan!), so please renew your membership subscription via the SAMHS banking details on the website

(FNB current account 50391928346 in the name of SA Military History Society, Eastgate branch code 257705. Please use your name as reference).

SAMHSEC wishes all readers a Blessed Christmas and looks forward to the continued pleasure of your company in 2022.

13 December 2021 meeting

In our last meeting for 2021, Anne Samson is to talk on “Christmas experiences in World War 1”.

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South African Military History Society /