South African Military History Society


NEWSLETTER No 4: January 2005
NUUSBRIEF Nr 4: Januarie 2005

Twenty three persons attended the 9 December meeting. The Branch Convenor welcomed all to the meeting, especially those that had travelled from Grahamstown to attend.

Ian Pringle's curtain raiser covered the incursion by Boer General Pieter Kritzinger and his Commando into the Adelaide and Bedford Districts in December 1900. The meeting was privileged to have in attendance Kritzinger's grandson, also named Pieter, and his sister.

Ian made full use of the personal documentation that he has acquired over a period of years researching the incursion. An incident during the incursion resulting in the deaths of Capt. Rennie and Trooper Ross of the District Mounted Troops (DMT) occurred on a family farm. A later skirmish in the Baviaans River valley resulted in loss of life on both sides. Personal anecdotes from the time, which have been passed down to later generations, raised a fair bit of mirth. There was the issue of a wedding cake eaten by the Commando when they raided the De Beers' farm, the capture and eventual return of the famous stallion, Moscow, which belonged to the King brothers, and personal notes written by Nesbitt's Horse member, R.D.Shone, who rode in pursuit of Kritzinger.

In closing, he added an anecdote of a later time by ex DMT scout, George Cawood of Spring Valley in the Tarkastad District, about when Smuts and his men came through the Tarkastad District in September 1901 en route to the Zuurberg. Cawood wrote that his brother-in-law Arthur Hobson, also a DMT member, was on lookout duty when he spotted Smuts and his Commando. Cawood knew Hobson to be a deadly shot. Hobson lined Smuts up in his sights at relatively short range, but then raised his rifle and fired in the air as he could not bring himself to shoot Smuts in cold blood. Arthur Hobson later became the leading mohair producer in the country with many of his family still to be found in the Jansenville District. Imagine if Smuts had been shot: it would have been a different South Africa!

Andrew Cook, of the Registrar's Office at Rhodes University, was introduced and his main lecture topic was "Great Last Stands". Andrew is a classics scholar and his thoroughly detailed talk covered notable last stands made over the centuries. These were heroic defeats where the defenders, in the face of certain death, were defiant to the end.

He referred extensively to various incidents, including at Thermopylae, the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the defence of the Alamo, where the garrison included such frontier legends as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, the Guides Regiment encounter against the Afghans and the defence of Stalingrad. Attention was drawn to the frequency with which guards designated units are involved in such actions. Not only have guards units fought to the death to protect their principal, there are cases where they have done so to protect his corpse from capture. Also mentioned was the battle in 1863 when 63 members of the French Foreign Legion fixed bayonets and charged 2000 Mexicans. This was probably the Legion's most famous engagement and reference to the battle is still used to rally Legionnaires. The commanding officer of the Legion detachment had a wooden hand which is paraded at Legion ceremonies to this day.

Andrew has collated information on thirty last stands and it is his wish that each be adapted for television. The idea is to present each module in serialized form with suitable voices and simulated scenes of action. We wish him well in his endeavours.


Ian Pringle, Dennis Hibberd and Fred and Brenda Nel are welcomed as members of the Society. Application forms for membership for the year starting January 2005 are available from the Branch Convenor (Malcolm Kinghorn 082 331 6223,


The first AGM of the South African Military History Society Eastern Cape Branch is to be held during the meeting on 10th February 2005. Persons available to serve on the branch committee are invited to contact the Branch Convenor.


The next meeting is to be held at 1930 on 13th January 2005 in the Prince Alfred's Guard Drill Hall, Prospect Hill, Central, Port Elizabeth. The curtain raiser will be by Prof. Pat Irwin on South Africa's Artillery Dinosaurs: the 9,2 inch guns. The main lecture will be given by Col. Piet Hall on The Battle of the Ridge, 29 December 1850. Venue security is to be discussed at the meeting.


This newsletter reaches most parties by e-mail. If you are aware of an interested person who may not have this facility, I would be happy to fax the same to that person. Please let me have the details, but remember that e-mail is the preferred option. Thank you.

Ian Pringle
SAMHSEC Scribe Designate
Tel 041 368 8798, fax 041 368 8798, cell 083 636 6623

Eastern Cape Branch convener: Malcolm Kinghorn 041 373 4469, 082 331 6223,, 15 Conyngham Road, Parsons Hill, Port Elizabeth, 6001.

South African Military History Society /