South African Military History Society

Tel (+27)(0)10-237-0675 Fax (+27)(0)86-617-8002


Past ZOOMeeting - Hosted by Johannesburg

Dr Brian Austin, speaking from the UK, told us about "The Bruneval Radar Raid" which took place at the end of February 1942. Just as he was about to start speaking, his wife popped her head round the door to tell him that Queen Elizabeth II had died: it was September 8th.

A skilfully-taken photograph taken from a very low-flying aircraft had revealed what looked like a parabolic reflector dish in the grounds of a chateau, on the top of the coastal ridge near the village of Bruneval, south of Dieppe on the French side of the English channel. British scientist R V Jones proposed a raid to extract part, if not all, of the radar equipment in an effort to compare British and German technologies at the time.

What was approved by Admiral Mountbatten ended up being a combined operation including Royal Navy, RAF and Army (Royal engineers and paratroopers) participation on a large scale and under time pressure. It was called "Operation Biting"and specialists had to learn to parachute while paratroopers used a scale model and similar-looking parts of coast to rehearse their evacuation of all personnel involved to vessels waiting out at sea. What was removed turned out to be a German Würzburg radar.

Originally a radar expert was to have landed but in case he got captured, he stayed on board one of the ships and received - gleefully, one suspects - parts which had been removed. He had trained a flight sergeant as to what should be found and thus taken for further evaluation.

In what was to be the first Allied paratroop battalion operation, a hundred and twenty paratroops were split into four groups. Each group had a specific mission: for example, one had to keep German guards away from the radar dish while it was being pillaged; another had to clear and guard the way down to the beach where they would all be evacuated. These missions were largely achieved, the last largely thanks to French partisans' information which had found the beach not to be mined. Casualties amounted to 2 killed, 8 wounded and 6 taken prisoner.

The question and answer session had not been recorded but is available as a third video recording made by Brian and Mike in the following week.

The recording is on the website as usual as part of the ZOOM library:

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Johannesburg Branch

Thursday 20th October (NB Third Thursday) at 19h30 and then 20h15

Pam McFadden, recently retired head of the Talana Museum in Dundee, KZN, will speak about "History happened here today 123 years ago" - how they have kept the memories and stories of the Battle of Talana alive.

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Eastern Cape Branch (SAMHSEC)

Monday 10th October at 19h30 and then 20h15

Speaker: Campbell Cooke

Subject: SADF Amphibious Boat Squadron
The South African Navy Amphibious Boat Squadron was established in 1984 under command of 1 Marine Brigade. Project Teljoy was registered in 1987 to cross-train paratroopers in an amphibious role. This gave the SADF the capability to disrupt from seaward the logistic support to forces threatening to invade the then South West Africa from Angola.

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Field Trip to Fort Willshire 16 October 2022

SAMHSEC is planning a return same day field trip to Fort Willshire on 16 October 2022. Please contact Malcolm by e-mail to if you are not a SAMHSEC member and are interested in attending. Note that Fort Willshire is not accessible for low ground clearance vehicles.

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The end-of-month RPC Zoominar will take place on Monday 31 October; The session starting at 19h30 will be about the model Me262 in the museum, which lecture had to be postponed due to loadshedding.

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Become a Zoominatus/a and enjoy Military History Society meeting and talks in your own home.

Approximately 200 of our members receive announcements of forthcoming meetings and are invited to join the meetings. We wish to encourage more of those who are missing out to become involved. We hold three ZOOMinars a month.

All you need is a computer, OR A CELLPHONE, and a data connection and you can become part of the meetings. You will need to contact the Society to be added to the invite list and then you are all fitted out. You then click on the link in the invitation just before the meeting starts and it will hook you up to join the meetings.

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Let know in order to be sent an invitation to the next ZOOMinar

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Cape Town Branch

Report after the Special General Meeting Thursday 15th September is that the members have decided to continue as an entity. A Branch committee was elected and plans are afoot to hold at least one meeting before the end of the year.

If you have any questions please contact
Ronnie Glass 083 441 6170 or
Mac Bisset (outgoing Committee Member) Cellphone 071 3590869 Messages (021) 6866309

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KwaZulu-Natal Branch

Meeting at St Cyprians Church Hall in Umbilo, Durban,
second Saturday of month from 14h00 for 14h30

Details from Ulrich Duebi -

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Italian WWII query

Riccardo Fioravanti e-mailed:
I live in Italy, in Burzanella, in the municipality of Camugnano, in the Bologna Apennines, near Castiglione dei Pepoli, Monte Stanco, Grizzana and Monte Sole where your army fought against the Germans during the Second World War.

I am looking for information and old photographs on the presence of South African soldiers in the village of Burzanella, of a field hospital that was on site and of a battle for the conquest of "Ca Torlai" where, among others, during the fight he was mortally wounded, a young 18-year- old South African soldier named Karl Wickee.

Please contact him directly if you can help:

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Dr Vicky Heunis' Book on the Art and Artifacts of the POWs from the Anglo-Boer Warshould now be available from Protea Bookshops and Exclusive books, having taken much longer than expected on the high seas from China.

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Captain Ivor Little

It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Honorary Life Member and former Chairman, Capt Ivor Little, who went to higher service in the small hours of 9 September. He and his wife joined the Society in 1991 and over the next three decades he contributed several lectures to Johannesburg as well as articles to the Military History Journal. He was Chairman from April 2010 to April 2012. They were also frequent tour participants. The Society extends sincere condolences to Anne, their three children and their families.

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December 2022 Military History Journal

Members are reminded that the end-of-year Journal intends to mark a century of the existence of the South African Navy, under various names, from 1922 onwards. Contributions including personal reminiscences are invited; guidelines for authors are available from or the website (bottom of Journal pages). The deadline for submission of articles is the end of October.

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Branch contact details

Eastern Cape details contact    Malcolm Kinghorn    041-373-4469

Gauteng details contact    Joan Marsh     010-237-0676

KwaZulu-Natal details contact    Prof Phil Everitt    084-437-1636

Cape Town details contact    Ronnie Glass    083 441 6170

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