South African Military History 


Newsletter No 11. - August 2005
Nuusbrief Nr 11. - Augustus 2005

Thirty three individuals attended the July meeting which was held at the Prince Alfred's Guards Drill Hall. The number would have indeed been more had three others from Grahamstown been able to find a lift such is the interest from the Settler City! Membership stands at 38 members and apologies were received from G.Hamp-Adams, J.Harris, B.Mills and C.Tregoning. In what has become an interesting aside to the meetings, Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn, compiles and lists events of significant military note that have taken place over the years. In July, for instance, we have Delville Wood and the loss of the "Indianapolis" which sunk with a loss of 1200 US Marines.

The Pipe Opener was delivered by Derek Langman who addressed the Society on the Victoria Cross recipients who are buried and lie within the Metro. The three are Joseph Crowe, James Craig and James Dalton. They are buried respectively at The MOTH Garden of Rememberence in Uitenhage, St.Mary's Cemetery and the Russell Road Cemetery. Craig won his medal at the Siege of Sebastopol in an heroic attempt to save the life of Capt. Buckley of The Scots Guards.It was presented to him by Queen Victoria in November 1857 and the medal is now deposited with the Scots Guards Regimental Museum. Crowe was born in Uitenhage in 1826 and joined the Ensign 28th Highlanders - a regiment he retired from in 1876. The citation to his exploit reads to the fact that he was the first to enter the redoubt at Boorzeke Chowkee, an entrenched village, at the time of the Indian Campaign in August 1857. He died shortly after retirement in 1876, was buried in London but in 1977 his remains were returned to his home town where he was finally laid to rest with due military acknowledgement.

James Dalton was born in London in 1822 and enlisted at an early age of 17 years. He took early discharge in 1871 when had reached the rank of Master Sgt. but re-enlisted in 1877 only to find himself caught up at The Battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879. He was one of the eleven who were awarded this medal from that heroic stand. He planned the defences by using sacks of maize and biscuit tins. Through his courage and organization the Zulu impis were repulsed with the first deadly bout of fire. He suffered wounds but his cool courage stayed and by example he led the defences. In 2004 members of the PAG in Port Elizabeth cleaned his grave in Port Elizabeth and a short grave side service was held in his honour.

Dr. Taffy Shearing who was due to deliver the Main Lecture had to unfortunately excuse herself due to family illness.Her much awaited talk on "The Cape Rebel of The Anglo Boer War" will be delivered at a later date. Chairman Malcolm steeped into the breech and his talk on "The Berlin Airlift" was well received. He spoke from personal experience due that his father-in-law, an SAAF pilot, had been personally involved as a navigator and his personal logbooks formed the basis of the lecture.

Britain, France, The United States and Russia occupied Germany at the end of World War 2 with each country controlling a zone.Trouble occurred in 1947 when the Western Powers decided to create separate West German states in their zones and on the 24th June 1947 Berlin was blockaded. The move was not unexpected and the airlift commenced immediately and was to continue for another 328 days when Russia lifted the embargo. The Allies continued with the operation until 31st October 1949 in order to build a reserve for the City. The main aircraft used was the Dakota and the daily target was 4500 tons of product be it in the main coal, vegetables, meat and dairy products which were brought in dehydrated in order to save on the bulk product. Coal was needed to generate electricity which had been cut off by the Russians. Malcolm's father-in-law was an SAAF pilot but returned as a navigator with the South African contingent which consisted of 31 men. The group attended brief training in the UK before being deployed to fly into the three Berlin airports with their much needed cargo.

The logbooks in question were screened by Malcolm and the entries reflect a meticulous series of entries on the cargo and the number of passengers that were carried. It would appear that the aircraft were serviced to a high standard. One could not afford to have an aircraft on the ground. It was to all intents a relay race with the instruction that only a ten minute delay was allowed on the ground in order that the aircraft to offload and for any boarding to be completed. The Russians were found to harras the cargo aircraft on occasion and these incidents were also noted. By the 4th April 1949 Malcolm's father-in-law had flown in 100 sorties. The Airlift will always be recalled as a great measure of co-operation that had been fostered by not only the occupying powers but more so by the assistance lent by the Australian, New Zealand and the South African Forces.

The last British aircraft flying into Berlin as part of the The Airlift had the biblical reference of Psalm 21, Verse 11 painted on its wings. In King James's version this reads to the effect, "For they intended evil against thee, they imagined a mischievous device which they were not able to perform"

Malcolm's father-in-law was a World War 2 SAAF pilot and had flown Mosquitos in 60 Squadron in Italy. It must have been a humdrum operation over Berlin leading the life of a navigator but they say once in the air its difficult to find a landing spot!

Military History Tour to Mount Misery and The Waterkloof.-19th to 21st August.
There are still a few vacancies for this tour. The cost is R220 which includes two nights accommodation on site in comfortable East Cape Tourism facilities. Included in that price are two big breakfasts and a good potjie for the Saturday night. On the Friday evening a warm braai fire will be provided and one will be able to do your own braai pack. Salads, teas, coffee etc. will be provided as a matter of norm. Transport can be arranged between those attending and as we need to close bookings by the first week in August we would request that anybody interested please reply to the Scribe on 083-636-6623. The tour covers very much virgin territory but which has a wealth of history relating to the Frontier Wars and long forgotten battles. Post Retief, Fort Beaufort, the dense forests of the Waterkloof, Bush Nek, Mundell's Krantz are but some of the names which evoke stirring memories of the Red Coats and the Xhosa tribes of those times. If one cannot make it for two nights then by all means apply to only join the group for the Saturday night and return home on the Sunday. This is great value and your support will be much appreciated.

Next Meeting.
Our next meeting will be held in the PAG Drill Hall on Thursday 11th August at 7,30 pm. John Scott of Prince Alfred's Guard will deliver the Pipe Opener and his subject will be "The North West Frontier Revisited ".
The Main Lecture will be delivered by Jock Harris, a stalwart of the Society, who will cover his life and times in "The SA Defence Force 1964 -2000."

Ian Pringle - Scribe/Secretary - SAMHSEC and or 083-636-6623

South African Military History Society /