South African Military History Society


The evening started with the 38th AGM, which was fairly well attended. The Chairman, Colin Dean, reported that 2003 had been a good year for the Society, albeit a sad one with the loss of several members, including founders Neville Gomm and Dr Felix Machanik in early 2003 and more recently of Brig Kapur MC who had been a valued member whilst a visitor to these shores. In thanking the committee members for their support he highlighted the contribution of the three ladies: Lyn Miller as Lecture Co-Ordinator, Marjorie Dean for her efforts in organising the Air War 100 Exhibition and Joan Marsh for keeping the minutes and holding the purse strings tightly.

The Secretary/Treasurer reported that the Society had made a small profit of R1835 during 2003 and that total membership was 520 of whom 27 lived overseas, 145 belonged to the KZN branch and 53 to Cape Town.

George Barrell announced that his prize for the best curtain raiser had been increased to R100 in value and was awarded to John Bleloch for his lecture on the Heliograph. The Machanik Memorial Prize, renamed and now worth R200, was awarded to Paul Kilmartin for his lecture "The Mystery of the Flight of Rudolph Hess".

Bob Smith had recently organised an outing to the SAAF Museum, the enjoyment of which had been undiminished by truly atrocious weather. The planned lucky draw, for which Bob had donated prizes, had had to be postponed and was held during the AGM. Reprints of antique maps were won by Peter Rush and Tony Wilson, while 6 year old Connor Mercer's name was drawn for the DVD on the Battle of Britain.

Lyn Miller was elected the Chairman of the Society. The rest of the committee was re-elected and Capt Ivor Little was added to their number. The committee is thus: George Barrell, Colin Dean, Marjorie Dean, Flip Hoorweg, Ivor Little, Joan Marsh, John Murray, Bob Smith and Hamish Paterson.

The evening's talk was given by visiting lecturer Marius Whittle. Its title was "Basil the Prudent and the Intellectual Tramp -- J F C Fuller and B H Liddell Hart", and it dealt with the impact these two vastly different personalities have had on modern warfare. Fuller, a career soldier, served with the Tank Corps in the First World War and was responsible for much of the tank's early doctrine and deployment. Liddell Hart entered the army through the University OTC during his first year at Cambridge. Both were self-taught intellectuals whose prolific writings were to earn them considerable influence in European military circles. Fuller was the older by some 17 years and was the more original thinker. It was he who converted Liddell Hart shortly after the Great War to the advocacy of armour in warfare. Liddell Hart, initially deferential to Fuller, was eventually to attain the status of an equal. Both had large egos.

Fuller remained a professional soldier until he was put on the retired list in 1933 as a Major General, after which he made his living as a journalist and author on military matters. Politically he was a conservative, eventually becoming a member of Oswald Moseley's British Union of Fascists (BU). He also showed signs of anti-Semitism. His membership of the BU was to effectively destroy any possibility of wartime employment.

By contrast, Liddell Hart was liberal in his approach and attitudes. His great talent lay in his ability to synthesise the ideas of others into a cogent, accessible whole. If it was Fuller who provided the original intellectual impetus for his thoughts on armour, he was soon to develop a style and philosophy all of his own. Liddell Hart is best known for his theory of the 'Indirect Approach'. Other theories were the 'Man in the Dark' and the 'Expanding Torrent'.

An intriguing quirk in the character of Liddell Hart was his interest in costume and fashion. Always immaculately dressed, he became a respected commentator on the dress of others. After the Second World War he even briefly flirted with the idea of abandoning the battlefield for the catwalk.

Fuller's reputation presents less controversy. Older than Liddell Hart, he was better able to withstand the ridicule and the brutal inter-service and political infighting that his ideas provoked. He was a supremely competent and confident individual. Intellectually sure of himself, he had no desire to influence his legacy. His major contributions to military theory were the development of the role of the tank in the Great War, 'Plan 1919': a conceptual document illustrating the role of mechanisation in a combined-arms formation and 'FSR III', a document representing his mature thoughts on mechanisation. He was, in his own words, an 'intellectual tramp'. Less concerned than Liddell Hart about his reputation, he was astute enough to know that eventually history would judge him fairly.



13 May
CR Deon Fourie - Smuts the Soldier
ML SAAACA - British Smallarms in the 20th Century
10 June
CR Terry Leaver - D-Day
ML Col CJ Jacobs - Guerilla Phase of the Anglo-Boer War in the NE Transvaal


15 April
DDH Dr Deena Padayachee - Indian Military in World War 2
ML Lt. Col. Rupert Robson - A Personal View of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Conflict, 1992 - 1999

Cape Town

13 May
Colonel "Tom" Seccombe CBE Royal Marines (retd) - The Falklands War 1982

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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