South African Military History Society


The curtain raiser at the Society's 8 July lecture meeting was given by Colonel Allen Young, who substituted at short notice for Stuart Sterzel. The title, The Special Forces League, was unchanged.

The SA Special Forces League is a formal and professional military veterans' organisation that is recognised by the Minister of Defence as well as the governing body for all military veterans in South African, the Advisory Board of Military Veterans Affairs. Colonel Young is the executive director of the League, whose purpose and function is to serve as a reference point for all members of the country's special forces, primarily retired members, in so far as the maintenance of contact and communication between members is concerned.

Virtually every army in the world nowadays has its special forces. These normally consist of relatively small units of carefully selected, highly trained soldiers whose duties range from rescuing prisoners, or hostages held in enemy hands, to cross-border reconnaissance, to dealing with the mounting scourge of terrorist attacks around the world. In the border wars of the 1970/80s South Africa made considerable use of special forces, and a particular bond of comradeship and pride-in-excellence was built up that still exists, and is fostered to this day.

The speaker displayed a video highlighting some of the features of this 'special' existence, one currently used for recruiting purposes. Volunteers for the rigorous, specialised training are selected only from fully trained servicemen, a mere 11 per cent of whom are chosen. An even smaller number of these complete the training and are admitted as members of the elite corp. Selection is not made only according to physical criteria. Extreme mental toughness is also a prime requisite, along with intelligence, and an ability to act individually when the occasion demands it. A member of these special forces must be a mentally and emotionally balanced individual in order to perform, efficiently, the duties he may be allotted. These can range from parachuting out of aircraft; operating in boats and even underwater, living off the country for long period on a diet which might include snakes and lizards, to rescuing hostages holed up in occupied buildings and hijacked aircraft.

It is hardly surprising that this kind of soldiering calls for extra out-of-service support. The SA Special Forces League also acts in a welfare role, seeing to the increasing requirements among former members and their families, be this emotional, medical, financial or otherwise. In the recent past the league has actively participated in the exhibition of photographs at the SA National Museum of Military History to commemorate the participation of its members in the 23rd World Assembly of Military Veterans held at Sandton. It also works to preserve and maintain the history and traditions of the SA Special Forces, including its legacy and reputation. Those wishing to follow this aspect of its work may do so on its website,

In the main lecture of the evening Hamish Paterson, a past chairman of the society, continued his series of lectures on England's 15th century Wars of the Roses with Warwick the Kingmaker. Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, Shakespeare's "plucker down and setter up of kings", had put the Yorkist Edward IV on the English throne despite its already being occupied by the half-insane Lancastrian Henry VI. Far from being gratefully subservient, however, Edward expressed his independence through his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner and widow of a Lancastrian knight. This does not seem to have alienated Warwick. He and his brother, the Archbishop of York, appear simply to have forgotten Edward was king.

Warwick's method of extending his power was to murder his Lancastrian opponents. But this misfired, and Warwick, along with the king's elder brother and rival for the throne, George, Duke of Clarence, fled to exile in France. There, Warwick changed sides and pledged loyalty to Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, who was also in exile.

Warwick planned his return for the following year but was blocked by a joint Anglo-Burgundian blockade. At the time this was smashed by a storm, Edward was suppressing a revolt in the north of England and was unable to march south in time to meet Warwick's invasion. With many of his erstwhile supporter deserting to the Lancastrian cause, Edward was forced to flee the country. In October 1470, however, Henry regained what was left of his sanity, and the returning Edward felt himself only strong enough to reclaim his Duchy of York. But the opposition he had expected from the northern Lancastrians proved weak, and he was soon able to march to London and gather an army. Warwick's army was at St Albans, and battle was joined on April 14 1471 at Barnet. The fog that enveloped the battlefield caused a disastrous mistake of identification among the Lancastrians, and when attempting to flee the rout of his army Warwick was killed by Yorkist men-at-arms. Thus died the Kingmaker.

On the same date as the defeat at Barnet, Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, along with their son, Edward of Lancaster, landed at Weymouth and marched with their supporters toward Gloucester and on to Tewkesbury where they hoped to link up with Jasper Tudor's Welshmen. Edward attacked before this could be done, and in the subsequent battle the Lancastrian army was routed yet again. The death of Prince Edward marked the end of the Lancastrain line.

On Edward IV's triumphant return to London Henry VI was murdered in the Tower.

The recent passing of "SB" Bourquin, founding Chairman of the Society's Kwa-Zulu Natal branch in 1966 will be noted with sadness by all who knew him. Sympathy is extended to his family along with gratitude for his immeasurable contribution to KZN Military History and especially for the many memorable battlefield tours held in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hamba kahle, Makhanda-khanda!

If your receive this newsletter, but not the June Journal, it is because your payment has not reached the Treasurer. Three members have paid by direct deposit but insufficient identifying details are given on the bank statement - so their payments can not be allocated. Please check if one of these might be yours and if one is, please contact Joan Marsh, using the letterhead details:
Northgate, R120, paid 28 January
USM Publishers, R120, paid 21 February
Craighall, R120, paid 30 March

Malcolm Kinghorn is starting a Branch of the Society in Port Elizabeth. Please would all interested parties contact him at (041) 373 4469 or 082 331 6223 or e-mail:

Ken Gillings of our KZN Branch has asked that members' attention be drawn to the following Press Release from Amafa/Heritage KZN:
PEOPLE have begun illegally selling relics dug up from the Khambula Battlefield, near Vryheid, site of a major clash of the Anglo/Zulu War in which more than 1 000 Zulus died.

It is illegal to buy or sell relics from a battlefield and those caught dealing in them are liable to be prosecuted.

The relics in this case are mainly old bottles and bullets.

"We are aware of this illicit trade and are on the look-out for it," Mr Barry Marshall, Director of Amafa/ Heritage KZN said... "Both sides of the deal are illegal but to my mind the buyers are especially culpable because they are exploiting poverty."

Further information: Barry Marshall: 082-820-1771

Any members taking photographs or other evidence of vandalism of battlefields and /or desecration of war graves/ cemeteries within the next 6- 8 weeks are asked to forward copies of these to Joan Marsh at the Society office for collation as part of an appeal to the Minister of Arts and Culture for the better preservation of our military heritage.

Finally, the lucky ticket draw at the Smuts House Museum Tourwas won by George Steyn. He wins a DVD by kind donation of Bob Smith. Thanks for a great afternoon to Bob and Dr Janice Farquharson!



12 August
CR Flip Hoorweg - Nathan Bedford Forrest - Forerunner of Christiaan De Wet?
ML John Parkinson - Vice Admiral Nagumo in the Indian Ocean -- April 1942
9 September
CR Louis Wildenboer - Anzio Annie: The Story of a Gun
ML Paul Kilmartin - The 2nd Battle of Ypres


12 August
Base Visit: 19th Field Regiment HQ

Cape Town

12 August
Rodney Warwick - The Military and Political Leadership During the Border War in Namibia/South West Africa: 1970-89

George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581

For KZN details contact Ingrid Machin (031) 201-3983
For Cape Town details contact John Mahncke (021) 797-5167

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