South African Military History Society


Our Chairlady, Lyn Miller, opened the meeting by expressing the Society's regret at the death of Ms Virginia Taylor who had passed away on 2 October at the age of 90. She was our society's oldest member and a member of the Durban branch. After announcing details of the forthcoming Dundee Festival and an upcoming KwaZulu tour, Lyn introduced Ms Margaret Rush who asked for volunteers to assist with the sale of poppies on Poppy Day, Saturday 12 November.

Lyn then introduced our curtain raiser speaker for the evening, Mrs Marjorie Dean, a national committee member well known to all our Johannesburg members. Before commencing her talk Marjorie spoke briefly on the needs of the new Museum library, in essence presenting a "wish list" of items which members might wish to donate to make the library more user friendly.

Her talk for the evening was in line with the Society's wish to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and was entitled "Nelson - The Making Of A Hero". Avoiding the trap of delivering yet another version of Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar, Marjorie gave a superbly illustrated and well delivered picture of a little known and usually avoided side of Nelson i.e. Nelson the self promoting publicity seeker. It is a simple fact that all the great men in military history have also been superb at promoting their own interest and image, as witness Napoleon and MacArthur. Nelson was no exception. Although he was undoubtedly a great naval tactician and commander, he was not averse to pulling strings for promotion or advertising his own capabilities. Nelson made up his mind early in life that he was going to be a hero and, having the capability to do so, assiduously worked towards this goal.

He was assisted by the Nelson family's connection, through his mother, to the important Walpole family and by an uncle named Maurice Suckling, who wielded great influence in the Royal Navy and ensured that young Horace Nelson (he had not yet become Horatio) was fast tracked in that service. He attained his first command at the age of 21 and by 1792 had married and also been given command of the 64 gun ship of the line HMS AGAMEMNON, serving in the fleet commanded by Admiral Jervis. He became a commodore as Jervis' prot‚g‚ and took part in the Battle of St. Vincent, acting well and decisively. After the battle he published his own account of the action and let it be known that he felt that he deserved the Order of the Bath for the part that he had played! He lost the use of right arm in an abortive landing on Tenerife and was invalided home to find that he was now a popular hero. His reputation was enhanced by the great naval victory at Camperdown in which he actually played but a very small part.

Eventually he got his own chance at attaining his very own victory with a brilliant display of tactics at the Battle of the Nile, where he won a spectacular victory over a French fleet and gained great popularity amongst the British populace as "a peoples admiral". His affair with Emma Hamilton, whom he had met at Naples, added to his own romantic image, as did his determined aggression against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen. Eventually he met and overcame a combined French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar where he was killed by a sniper's bullet. Nelson had always admired General Wolfe, particularly the manner of Wolfe's death at Quebec, and had let it be known that he intended dying in a similarly heroic fashion and wanted his death similarly recorded. This was done and several paintings of Nelson's death appeared shortly after the battle, all more or less in the same theme as the Wolfe painting. Nelson's victory and his death in battle at the time of winning it ensured him a place in British history as a great romantic military hero, to be commemorated by Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column in the heart of the then British Empire.

* * * * * * *

The main lecture of the evening was delivered by Mr Terry Willson, a committee member of "The Friends of the Museum" and was entitled "The Orderbook Of Major Tottenham, 12th Lancers". This was a sequel to the curtain raiser given by Mr Willson to our Society in 1998 in which he had covered the possible origins of a pattern 1851 12th Lancer carbine found in Lesotho.

While researching the background of this carbine, he acquired a 35mm slide copy of the regimental orderbook covering the two campaigns in which the 12th Lancers were involved during 1852. These were the 8th Border War and the march against Moshesh, which culminated in the Battle of Berea on the 20th December of that year. This battle resulted in what has generally been considered as being a reverse for the British, in which the 12th Lancers and the Cape Mounted Rifles suffered serious losses and the capture of the orderbook in question. This was subsequently recaptured by the British and returned to England during the Boer War.

The 170 pages of the orderbook cover a wide selection of regimental activities, which range from the day-to-day routine of a cavalry regiment on active service 153 years ago to preparations for the final battle in which it was captured. In short, it is a unique window into the life of the Victorian soldier of the mid-19th Century.

Terry commenced his presentation with a brief summary of the regimental history of the 12th Lancers and comments on the function of the orderbook itself in the strict military hierarchy of the day. He continued by plotting the progress of the regiment in its march from Fort Hare, where the invasion force was mustered under General Sir George Cathcart, to its final encampment on the Caledon River. Here the last entry in the orderbook was made by Captain Faunce, who was clubbed to death the following day.

During the journey itself entries covering certain individual soldiers were highlighted, such as Sergeant Nichols and Corporal Philips who also died in the battle. Cornet Bond, a hero of the Birkenhead, also made his appearance as an orderly officer.

Interesting incidents and arrangements were also covered, such as precautions to prevent desertion, drinking regulations and the address read at the head of every regiment in the British army upon the death of the Duke of Wellington, who had once been a junior officer in the 12th Lancers almost 60 years before.

The presentation continued by covering Cathcart's plan of attack which, based upon faulty intelligence and overconfidence, was doomed to miscarry and soon resulted in the deaths of about 40 soldiers including 5 Cape Mounted Riflemen and 27 12th Lancers under the command of Major Tottenham himself. The poignant words of the French missionary, M. Matin, covered the slaughter of his men at the hands of the Basuto warriors lead by Malope, Moshesh's second son.

In conclusion, Terry outlined the political outcome of the battle, his theories on how the orderbook actually came into the hands of the Basuto and, finally, how it was returned to England.

The presentation itself was supported by a selection of slides of orderbook pages in the original Victorian copperplate script and examples of contemporary British and Basuto arms.

After the usual question time, Terry was thanked by Mr John Parkinson, himself a Society speaker of note, for his excellent presentation.

* * * * * * *

After the meeting closed the Chairlady reminded all present that Ms Margaret Rush would be selling second hand books which were excess to the Museum Library's needs at very reasonable prices in the tea room. This would be a regular institution from now on in order to raise funds for the museum.

* * * * * * *



10th November
CR Martin Ayres - Admiral Nagumo and his Fateful Decisions: Pearl Harbour to Midway
The Japanese view of some of WWII's Pacific actions
ML Gerald Zwirn - The last days of Mussolini
Mr Zwirn lectured earlier in the year on memorable sound tracks from historical figures.
8th December
CR Felicia Fourie - The Peace Negotiations - Anglo-Boer War
Mrs Fourie was our guide on the Tour of Pretoria undertaken earlier in the year. She is an expert on Melrose House amongst other places of interest in the City.
ML Colin Dean - Flying Bombs
Another of Colin's treats in which he renders technical subjects more listener-friendly!
* * * * * * *


11th November - Friday - 10.30 am
Paul Kilmartin - Armistice Day - Warriors Gate
13th November
DDH Prof. Mike Laing - 60th Anniversary of the Death of Gen. G. Patton: Dec 1945
Another in the ongoing saga of Patton!
MAIN Prof. Brian Kearney - Aspects of Durban in the Anglo-Boer War
8th December
Bill Brady - Organiser - Annual Dinner
* * * * * * *

Cape Town

10th November
Major Tony Gordon - THE BATTLE OF BLAUUWBERG, 18th January 1806
A detailed, illustrated talk. This battle, although insignificant as far as Napoleonic wars were concerned, must be considered a watershed in the occupation of the Cape when it changed from Batavian to British rule. The long-term results were enormous.
Tony will conduct a Tour of the area on the following Saturday, 12th November, at 10 a.m. which starts at the BCA base office at EERSTESTEEN. Members will then drive 4 km to Melkbosstrand and afterwards to the top of Blaauwberg Hill for a wonderful view and a BYO picnic lunch. Tony's telephone number is 021 671 4502.
In recess
An illustrated talk with medal displays
* * * * * * *

SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape - Port Elizabeth:

10th November
PO Des Kopke - The battle of Amalinde
MAIN Jan Sieben - Video on the "Swordfish" aircraft of WW2
10th December 2005 - Saturday
SAMHSEC will have a day trip to Grahamstown in lieu of the Thursday evening lecture meeting.
* * * * * * *

For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ingrid Machin (031) 201-3983
For Cape Town details contact John Mahncke (021) 797-5167
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn (041) 373-4469

* * * * * * *

Ivor Little (Scribe) (012) 651-3647

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /