South African Military History Society


Newsletter/Nuusbrief 201

June / Junie 2021


The Border Historical Society has issued the first of two volumes of The Coelacanth related to the Bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers. It includes the following articles:

  1. The East London connection to The Chronicle of Jeremiah Goldswain: Martin Goldswain,
  2. The tragic life and times of John Bailie 1820 Settler. 1788 -1852: Dr Patrick Hutchison,
  3. The Stone of Memory, East London: William Martinson,
  4. William Cock: hero or villain?: Jacklyn Cock.

A pdf version (5 mbs) is available on request from your Scribe at

SAMHSEC has a new member!

We welcome Gavin George from Plettenberg Bay as a SAMHSEC member. We trust that you will enjoy your membership and look forward to your company, Gavin.

Presentations to our RPC meeting on 26 April 2021

McGill Alexander’s talk about “South Africa's first operational parachute jump” is in the SAMHS Zoom library.

Peter Duffel-Canham’s review of the book “The Battle of Bangui” by Warren Thompson, Stephan Hofstatter and James Oatway is as follows:
“Thanks must go to Surita Joubert of the publishers Penguin Random House for donating the book to SAMHSEC that I was fortunate to win in a lucky draw at our AGM.

The authors describe the colonial era expansion of France up the Congo and Ubangi Rivers to counter further territorial gains of King Leopold of the Belgians. At first it was a small outpost of Ubangi Shar, but the discovery of diamonds in the 1920s changed everything.

The authors describe the succession of presidents of the post-colonial Central African Republic (CAR), which was supported by France. This changed with President Sarkozy of France taking a harder line and President Mbeki of South Africa seeking to be an African superpower.

President Bozizé of CAR sought closer ties with South Africa in the fields of mining and defence. There was discontent in the region with the leadership of Chad resented by President Bozizé and others and unhappiness of CAR small diamond miners who had lost their concessions.

A group of rebels attacked the town of Damara in December 2012, placing an SANDF training team in danger. A Rapid Intervention Force consisting of troops from 5 Reconnaissance Regiment and Parachute Battalion was deployed. The size of the rebel force was underestimated and only 200 SANDF troops faced at least 6 000 rebels converging on a road junction just outside the capital.

The vivid description of the battle shows acts of bravery, heroism, and leadership of this small force, which managed a fighting withdrawal to their base in an indefensible Police College. A ceasefire was negotiated and the South African troops were taken to the airport under French protection.

Sticking to the maxim of "Leave no man behind", a search was conducted for the missing, dead and wounded. There is the amazing story of Corporal Tats who evaded capture and was rescued by the French after he managed to get a cell phone message through to Bloemfontein that was relayed back to Bangui.

The authors also looked at the human aspect of the story with chaplains’ visits to the newly widowed and orphaned and survivors with the scars of battle.

A fitting tribute by the authors at the beginning of the book is heartfelt,
"To the fallen and those they left behind."

This is a worthwhile book on many levels and well worth reading.”

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10 May 2021 presentation “Commemorating Private Reice Campbell who died in Italy in 1944” by Alan Mantle

The recording of Alan’s talk is in the SAMHS Zoom library.

Anne Kable, née Campbell, Reice Campbell’s niece, said the following in the discussion which followed Alan’s talk:
“On behalf of the Campbell family and Reice’s descendants, thank you so much to everybody for what they have done and for welcoming us to this presentation tonight. Thank you to the Society, to Alan, to Anne Copley for the part that she played, to Lorenzo and Raoul Pacceroni and to Michael Chester for his interest in ancestry, for without that I don’t think you would have found us. There is such a profound theme here that goes through from the time that my father and Reice were in Italy; my Dad on the run in Italy; Reice living in that cave for I don’t know how long; of the help they received from the Italian people; the kindness of strangers and the power of the human spirit which has been sustained over 70 years by the people who spent so much time tracking us down and writing up Reice’s story. So, our profound thanks, that’s all I can say. Thank you, Alan.”

Anne’s niece, Jacqui Aires, expressed her appreciation as follows in the Zoom chat function:
“Good evening Alan, Thank you for this extraordinary gift of our family history. Thank you also, Anne. I am moved beyond words.”

The discussion after Alan’s talk included mention by Anne Copley of the Monte San Martino Trust. The Trust, which was founded in 1989, provides study bursaries in England for young Italians in grateful recognition of their countrymen’s bravery and generosity in aiding escaped Allied prisoners during the Second World War, see Anne is a Trustee and has kindly accepted our invitation to address a future meeting about the Trust.

SAMHSEC RPC 31 May 2021

SAMHSEC Requests the Pleasure of your Company to a talk about military history on 31 May 2021 at 1930 South African time.

In the general military history session, Franco Cilliers will talk about military history podcasts.

In the military history book session, Patrick Irwin will be reviewing three or four books about the various roles women have played in war.

SAMHSEC Meeting 14 June 2021

Our next monthly meeting is on Monday 14 June 2021: Stefan Szewczuk’s talk will be on the “Polish-Soviet War of 1919/20”

SAMHSEC RPC 28 June 2021

SAMHSEC Requests the Pleasure of your Company to a talk about military history on 28 June 2021: Anne Copley is to discuss the Monte San Martino Trust in both sessions (to be confirmed).

This is the Captain speaking

We are pleased that the Kwazulu-Natal Branch has a meeting planned for May. We look forward to again sharing military history with our fellow members from somewhere East of Eden.


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South African Military History Society /