South African Military History Society


We had a good turnout at our 27th Annual General Meeting in April, hopefully a portent for the future, since your Committee strives hard to put together a professional as well as entertaining lecture programme. The Hon.Treasurer, Bob Buser, reported that our finances are in a sound state enabling the Committee to keep subscriptions at the present level for this year. Our Hon.Auditor, Geoffrey Mangin, was once again confirmed in his position, as were all Committee Members.

Chairman: Derek O'Riley
ViceChairman/Scribe: John Mahncke
Hon.Treasurer: Bob Buser
Members: Major Tony Gordon, Johan van den Berg, Commander Mac Bissett

Our Branch has 100 full and associate Members.
Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of the audited 2002 Balance Sheet is asked to phone Bob Buser at 0216891639 (18.30-19.00 weekdays)

It was a memorable evening, in that our speaker, Captain Robert Taylor RD RNR Rtd not only reminisced about his own WW II experiences on the oceans, but also relived the dangerous glory-months and years of the Royal Navy. And if he overran his allotted time, nobody minded, since his humerous presentation had us spellbound. His narration began with 1939 when his ship arrived at Gibraltar, was painted an unbecoming grey from top to bottom, and was sent to Liverpool. From there, he sailed in many ships across almost all oceans, at a time when the Bntish Navy had to protect convoys of merchantmen up to 100 strong, with its own numbers stretched to breaking point. Quite often there were only six escorts to guard their flock, and it is no wonder that German U-Boats made the most of such opportunities. Our speaker touched on the famous story of the bullion room in a certain ship being loaded with all British gold which landed in Canada and which was received by Canadian Mounties in full red uniforms. At that time the Royal Navy was forced to use ageing and old warships against the German Navy, namely U-Boats and destroyers, while Hitler and his Admirals hesitated to deploy their fleet of modern and powerful battleships. Instead, the ships ventured out only when odds were overwhelmingly in their favour, or waited at anchor, to become convenient targets for British commando operations later in the war. Hitler was a land- oriented strategist, and it has been said that the sight of endless oceans made him uneasy, and kept his visits to naval bases brief. Robert also served in escorts to the far north, with its dangers of ice and fog, with U-Boats posing the greatest danger, forcing convoys to sail further and further north. He was also trained on submarines to become familiar with their advantages and limitations. He joined the destroyer Hesperus, visited famous Rockall Island, and spoke graphically about U-Boat attacks.

The second part of Roberts lecture was reserved for a detailed retelling of the German raider Atlantis', (No.6 - Rogge), achievements. It roamed the Atlantic, laid mines around South Africa, entered the Indian Ocean and wreaked havoc among allied shipping. With the help of a detailed, home-made map we were shown the extended voyages of the modern, well armed raider with its quick firing guns, excellent crew and 10,000 mile range. With the Atlantis' capabilities to change appearances quickly to fool enemy ships, they were a great danger, until their luck ran out when they met a British cruiser. Captain Rogge was revered by his crew for his fatherly concern, respected by his enemies for fair treatment of their crews, and he went out of his way to make prisoners' life on board as comfortable as possible. After the war he joined the German Bundes marine rising to the rank of Admiral, and the best tribute to this outstanding sailor and officer is the remark made by one of his former crew members who said: "If Rogge calls, I follow him anywhere."

After a short Q&A session, our veteran speaker could at last relax with a cup of tea and accept the compliments of us who had enjoyed his talk..


8 May 2003
Operations in the Mediterranean in 1941, Greece and Crete (62nd Anniversary of the Battle)
Illustrated Lecture by Johan van den Berg

PLEASE NOTE Society's e-mail and web addresses: Email: military.history@

Subscriptions: Members who have not yet paid their subs are asked to kindly forward their cheques.

Drive for New Members: The number of members is, sadly, always on the decrease due to old age, illness and relocation. Members are therefore asked to try and attract new members, especially from among the young people.

Correction: The Scribe apologizes to Colonel Lionel Crook for the incorrect naming of the Cape Field Artillery in the previous Newsletter. The correct name was "Prince Alfred's Own", of course..

NOTE: New Street Address of Rosedale Complex is GUILDFORD ROAD. Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of every month, at 20.00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Guildford Road, Rosebank, (formerly Lower Nursery Road), (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line.

All visitors are welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /