SAMHSEC’s first meeting on 9 September 2004 was attended by 30 people, four of whom are still members. Eighteen years later, we have 66 members and average meeting attendance of 38 over the past year. Thank you to all past and present members for making SAMHSEC what it is. Flourishing on the Frontier is what the Eastern Cape has been doing for 200 years, so we know how to do it by now!
SAMHSEC 8 August 2022 meeting
Martin and Jean Urry told us about the SAAF Heavy Bombers in Italy and the tragic events of the night of 12/13 October 1944 when 6 SAAF Liberator bombers with 48 airmen were lost during a mission in Northern Italy to drop supplies to partisans behind enemy lines. This remains the largest loss of aircraft and men for a single SAAF mission to date.
The recording of Martin and Jean’s talk is in the SAMHS Zoom library
SAMHSEC RPC 29 August 2022
SAMHSEC Requested the Pleasure of military historians’ Company to talk about military history on 29 August 2022.
In session 1, Anne Samson told us about the WW 1 military service of Vic Clapham, who was the founder of the Comrades Marathon.
"Vic was born on 16 November 1886 in Westham, Essex, UK and moved to South Africa in 1899 at the start of the Boer War. Aged 13, he joined the Cradock Town Guard as an ambulance man, and at some stage, also served with the Cape Peninsula Rifles.
He moved to Pietermaritzburg, 15 Oxford Street and became a Driver for the South African Railways and Harbours, Division 6 between 16 September and 15 October 1914.1 He did not serve in the Rebellion or GSWA campaign.
On 26 November 1915 Vic enlisted as Private 487 at Potchefstroom for service in East Africa with 8 South African Infantry. 8 SAI was mainly SAR&H employees from the Transvaal and was led by Lieutenant Colonel AJ Taylor. Their flash was crimson with gold diagonals. Unfortunately, none of the SANDF documents on Vic Clapham specify a company, making it impossible to confirm his involvement in certain actions.
The unit underwent approximately 7 weeks training at Potchefstroom between November 1915 and January 1916, initially being given rifles and bandoliers. 8 SAI, alongside 5, 6 and 7 SAI, was to form part of the 2nd Brigade under General Beves. They were commanded by AJ Taylor with Frederick HP Creswell, Labour Party, as second in command and Captain EHM Hardiman, adjutant.2 On 31 December 1915,3 the Brigade was inspected by the Governor General and on Wednesday 5 January 1916 by the Minister of Defence, Major-General Jan Smuts.
They left Potchefstroom on 15 January 1916 and sailed from Durban on SS Gaika on 17 January 1916, arriving at Kilindini on 24 January and moved to the Tsavo area, but did not arrive in time to participate in the battle for Salaita Hill on 12 February 1916, although they were in the area. They were part of the force which eventually congregated at Kondoa Irangi and then moved to Iringa.
They left Iringa on 21 December, marching to Boma Himbu, supported by porters and donkeys. They reached their destination at 0500 on Christmas Day, returning to Iringa on 5 January 1917 and then on to Dodoma, where they arrived on 14 January. During this journey, Vic fell out, his new boots having damaged his feet. He re-joined the force on its return to Dodoma and then to Dar-es-Salaam by rail. On 16 February 1917 Vic embarked on Kinfaus Castle, arriving at Durban on 22 February. On 25 February a medical board at Congella recommended Vic be given one month recuperative leave. The report noted he had contracted malaria in March 1916 whilst at Himo River. In Kondoa Irangi he spent 10 days in 2 SAFA hospital from 24 May 1916 with his third bout of malaria followed by another stay of 6 days. At Saranda Hospital he spent 14 days. His last attack was in November 1916. Although feeling fine, he was unable to do much physical work.
The Regiment re-mobilised on 28 March 1917 for the second phase and, although Vic was taken back on strength on 28 March 1917, he was not to return to East Africa. He was discharged on 3 July 1917.
Vic never ran the Comrades, but was involved in its organising until 1938. He was also responsible for starting 15 MOTH Shell Holes and served as a sergeant in World War 2. He died on 5 October 1962, aged 76.
And with that, it is therefore only fitting that 101 years after the first run was made and 95 runs later (no runs between 1941 and 1945), we remember the man who started it and the reason he did – to remember fallen comrades."
The recording of Anne’s talk is in the SAMHS Zoom library.
Note: the discussion following Anne’s talk revealed that SAMHSEC has a number of Comrades medalists in its ranks, including a green number and a double green number.
In session 2, John Moran spoke on his research for a book about a member of prominent Australian family who was involved in an accident in Egypt in 1942 which led to the death of Rifleman Harry Toyk of the Kaffrarian Rifles.
John writes: "Personal and family history is often a gateway to the "big" history. Ordinary people, living ordinary lives get caught in the extraordinary events that make history. Two such people are Hope Urquhart, from Queensland, Australia, and Harry Toyk, from East London, South Africa, who had a fateful encounter in Egypt, at Kassassyn between Cairo and the Suez Canal, on 7/8 April 1942. It was another tragedy within one of the greatest tragedies in history, WWII.
Hope was with the Australian Army’s Postal Unit, Harry was a Kaffrarian 2nd Rifleman, with South Africa’s Infantry Division. Hope was from a prominent Queensland family, his father being the State’s Police Commissioner. Harry was a Litvak Jew from Latvia/Lithuania, whose family, like so many Litvak Jews over the years, migrated to South Africa sometime after Harry’s birth in 1911.
Hope and Harry met at Kantara, on the Suez Canal, on the evening of 7 April 1942, when Hope was delivering and collecting mail for Australian soldiers still in the Middle East and Harry was looking for a lift back to his unit at Helwan, south of Cairo. At about 0100 on the 8th, Hope flipped the truck and Harry was killed. Hope was injured and treated at the 106 South Africa Military Hospital.
A major controversy followed and Hope faced an Australian Court-Martial at Tel-el-Kebir in June, charged with manslaughter and disrupting military discipline. His Australian mates denied he was drink-driving, the South Africans maintained he was drunk. His defence team managed to confuse the symptoms of drunkenness and shock and he was acquitted. Harry Toyk was buried at the nearby Tel-el-Kebir War Cemetery.
It was the latest in a string of controversies involving Hope Urquhart. It was also the second time his actions had caused death. He was one of Queensland’s first pilots and in 1930 negligent, acrobatic joy-flying saw him crash his Tiger Moth into the Brisbane River drowning his friend and passenger. It was the end of his flying career. In Egypt he embarrassed himself again and cost a young South African his life.
I am putting together a book on Hope Urquhart’s topsy-turvy life. It is a story that also provides an opportunity to bring together various historical topics including, from a South African perspective:
If you can think of anything else worth covering or have anything that might be of use in putting this together, feel free to contact me at email@example.com
I would like to thank Malcolm Kinghorn and the South African Military History Society for the assistance and welcome they have accorded me with this project."
The recording of John’s talk is in the SAMHS Zoom library.
Note: John is a writer-researcher in Brisbane, Australia, which is 8 hours ahead of South African time. Thank you, John, we appreciate your talking to us very early in your morning!
SAMHSEC 12 September 2022 meeting
Stephen Bowker is to talk about Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and 2 Bars, DFC.
SAMHSEC RPC 26 September 2022
SAMHSEC Requests the Pleasure of your Company to talk about military history on 26 September 2022.
In session 1, Peter Duffel-Canham will tell us about the model of the ME 262 at the GFI Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth.
Session 2 is available for you to discuss a military history related book. Please contact André at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to use this opportunity.
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 email@example.com if you are not a SAMHSEC member and are interested in attending. Note that Fort Willshire is not accessible for low ground clearance vehicles.
Plan to erect a monument on Monte Salvaro on the 80th anniversary of the battle
Fellow member Paul McNaughton writes:
"The search for the woman who saved the life of a Vickers gun platoon commander from the Imperial Light Horse/Kimberley Regiment (ILH/Kim R) during the 2nd World War during the Italian Campaign, resulted in the publication of a book called "Jack's war."
In the process of writing the book, contact was made with an Italian family and the friendship which developed has inspired a project which in their words will
"worthily remember the sacrifice of the young people who fought for our freedom. The project involves fixing the access roads to Monte Salvaro with the intention of building a monument to those civil and military fallen on the top of Monte Salvaro (objective 826). Everything will have to be ready for October 23, 2024. By that date we would be delighted to have you with us. I will keep you constantly updated on the progress of the work".
The ILH/Kim R Association used to be a very active. My brothers and I attended a ILH/Kim R Reunion in 1971 in Bloemfontein called 'Alavore'. John Perkins drove all the way from St Michael's on Sea to represent the Association at my father's funeral in Graaff Reinet in 1987.
I have undertaken to communicate the developments regarding the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Salvaro to descendants of those who took part. This would include the entire IHL/Kim R who served in Italy.
Anyone who is interested in being informed please contact me.
Paul McNaughton email: firstname.lastname@example.org”