South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926


We are indebted to our new Member, John Del Monte, for his February lecture on the historical context of Reserve Forces in South Africa, its political significance during the period 1989 - 1944, the emergence of the Reserve Force Council, and the future of the Reserve Force in post-1994 RSA.

The Reserve Force is the modern synonym for what was formerly known as the Active Citizen Force. There can be no doubt that historically the Reserve Force has been a significant force in the defence and maintenance of law and order in our country. And it has always been regarded as necessary, its greatest threat to its existence being only budgetary restraints.

The first recorded serious action happened in 1510, when Dom Francisco Almeida, Viceroy of Portugal, lost his life at the mouth of the Salt River with some 70 armed Portuguese soldiers in a skirmish against a Khoi force. Although the Khoi were not part of a Permanent Force in the strict sense of the word, they were a section of a community that felt threatened and used definite tactics by, for instance, using oxen as a kind of "battle cavalry".

From 1685, during the time of the Free Burghers, Stellenbosch was the first town to create its own "home guard", and this was the birth of the Commando system which served South Africa well. With the Great Trek, this system took on a transformation by protecting the treks against mobile enemy forces. And in the Zulu war, Lord Chelmsford was well supported by territorial forces. During the Boer war, both sides made use of volunteers, with the British relying more and more on colonial volunteer units, while the Boers used volunteer Commandos.

1914 saw the beginning of WW I which was heavily supported by the Citizen Force Volunteers. The roll of honour at Delville Wood and Square Hill is absolute proof.

WW II and the "red tab" are synonymous, when P.F. members resigned and volunteered for war service. In North Africa the Citizen Force paid a heavy price as, for instance, did the Transvaal Scottish at Sidi Rezegh.

After the Second World War, the units returned to assist in rebuilding a country stunted by the effects of a wartime economy, but their effectiveness varied often considerably over the following years depending on the politics of the day.

Our speaker went into great detail, since he has served in the SADF and the SANDF since 1968, with chapters reading: Political Significance 1989 to 1994, the Emergence of the Reserve Force Council and the Future of the Reserve Force in post 1994 RSA.

He strongly believes that, in the face of military threats from outside, maintaining a Reserve Force is essential for South Africa, and there is already a noticeable shift in world opinion after the 9/11 incident that points in this direction, for instance in the USA.

Brig. Gen. John Del Monte served in the SANDF until 2001 and still continues to serve as a reserve officer. He is National vice Chairman of the Reserve Force Council of South Africa (RFC), a statutory consultative and advisory body, and has represented the RFC/RSA at the International Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR), a NATO affiliated body, where he has served on their Defence and Security Commission (DEFSEC), on no less than three occasions.

The full talk is available on cassette. The complete lecture paper should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the often untold background of military history in South Africa. Duplicated copies can be obtained from the Scribe.

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Full Members: The December 2004 issue has been unavoidably delayed, firstly by the passing away of George Barrell, the sub-editor, and secondly by the unpleasantness at the Museum which affected Susanne Blendulf, who is the Editor. It will appear and you will receive your copy.

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Oral History of World War 2:

Geoffrey Mangin gave us the following note:

"I know that the main purpose of our Society is to hold monthly meetings, but I am sure it could also help in the recording of military history - especially that of WW II, many veterans of which are now very old. I suggest that it is the duty of all war veterans to see that their activities and stories are made available and accurately recorded for posterity. And perhaps those of friends and non-members too."

Any member who would like to tackle this worthwhile project is invited to contact the Scribe who will act as facilitator.

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Talk by Dr. Dan Sleigh
Speaker: Major Helmoed Roemer-Heitman

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Society Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of every month, at 20:00 in the Recreation Room of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road (off Liesbeek Parkway/Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station. Secure Parking inside premises. All Visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) O.E.O. Mahncke, Vice-Chairman/Scribe, 021-797-5167 or 072-528-0987

South African Military History Society /