South African Military History 


Newsletter No 9: June 2005
Nuusbrief Nr 9: June 2005

The meeting held at the Drill Hall was well attended by 27 members and interested guests. Amongst the guests was Graeme Lombard, Officer Commanding the Prince Alfred's Guard. Six apologies were received and Bill Mills of Grahamstown was welcomed as a new member of the Society.

Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn introduced Ken Munro to deliver his pipe opener entitled "Capt. Agnes Martin MBE". Capt. Martin was Ken's aunt and died in 1995. In finalizing her papers there was found at a bottom of a suitcase a medal and a certificate. The medal was a Member of the British Empire medal. The family was nonplussed as very little was known of her wartime record. Ken, as a youngster, knew vaguely that Aunt Agnes was something in the War Office and this started a search to establish her record. Other papers found made reference to the London Police. The South African military records confirmed her service and little else. Ken reverted to the British in London and they had nothing else to add - ask Pretoria was the reply. What had been learnt however was that Capt Martin had with a Capt. Francis Winifred Fuchs of Pretoria been the first of two woman officers to receive the award. The latter's family have not been traced. Ken and Jenny, his wife, by a stroke of luck stayed over in Barrydale. The proprietor of the guest house, in discussing Capt. Martin, related that if one was seconded to the London Police during the last war in effect meant that you had been seconded to Bletchley Park, the then British intelligence and decoding centre situated outside London. It was at that time that a German submarine, U -Boat 101, had been captured intact and raised to the surface by British destroyers. The German codes were salvaged and this incident in that war was described as a turning point in that the British then had the capability to send and communicate with the Germans in their own code. Capt Martin was part of this and like all who worked at Bletchley Park was sworn to life long secrecy. At the end of hostilities it was ordered by Churchill that every scrap of paper at this huge intelligence centre be destroyed. Agnes Martin married after the war and her husband died in 1997, two years after her. In all their married life was no word was ever spoken of Agnes's wartime work. It was absolute secrecy. Ken's story is difficult to write. The warmth and personal anecdote is best heard personally. Pat Irwin made mention of this in thanking Ken for his address.

Malcolm Kinghorn's Main Lecture addressed members on "Operation Savannah: South African participation in the Angolan Civil War 1975 / 76." Who more capable than this veteran of that campaign, Malcolm, aided by a slide presentation, covered the campaign fully from its onset with the withdrawal of the Portuguese from its colony to the eventual decision to withdraw South African forces once the situation had stabilised. He described the situation of Angola with its tribal dominated areas of which each one was backed by its own faction and who to a greater or lesser degree was backed by either a Western or Eastern Block power. In essence there was the MPLA, FNLA, and UNITA which became household words in those times and who were at war with each other in a common land. A decision was taken by Government to ensure that a Communist backed state would not be established in Angola and thus give SWAPO a springboard into the then South West Africa. Intervention was approved in so far that the following would take place:
- UNITA and FNLA would be trained in the South of Angola
- Logistical support would be rendered
- An intelligence network would be established
- Further Russian and Cuban expansion would be resisted
- Re-capture areas conquered by the MPLA in the South.

There were provisos in place to the effect that equipment had to be non-recognisable, casualties had to be avoided and radio traffic had to be in English. A somewhat farcical situation. Three task forces moved in November and December 1975. They captured the West Coast, the Central areas and re-opened the Benguella railroad to advance on Luso which is in the East. The three forces, named Zulu, Orange and X-ray were supported fully by deployments of infantry, armoured cars, field guns, engineers and the relevant maintenance and workshop crews. There were considerable constraints. Distances were vast, roads were in a very poor condition and getting in supplies from whatever source was difficult. There were a number of fiercely contested battles and none more so than what was known as Bridge Fourteen. By the middle of December the objectives had been achieved and a withdrawal had been planned. The World was changing. A new President was in office in the United States and a new international situation was in the making. In retrospect the situation had been salvaged and SWAPO had been held off until the fall of Communism and the eventual new government took office in Namibia. That campaign is fresh in many minds and Malcolm was quizzed on a number of "what if situations" and his sound reasoning to the questions was enlightening. He was thanked by another veteran, Piet Hall, who made mention that there are many who still have their own experiences to relate. To those that were not there, the talk brought us completely up to date on our involvement in a war where we were not found wanting.

Next Meeting.

This will take place at the usual venue on the 9th June, 2005 at 1930. The pipe opener will be delivered by Des Kopke who will talk on the "Stutterheim Concentration Camp" and the main lecture will be covered by Chris McCanlis who will talk on " The Retreat from Kabul. "

Newsletter No: 8 - May - Some clarifications.
Geoff Hamp-Adams who delivered the main lecture at the Ron Belling Gallery has in good faith alerted me to a few issues would need correction and these being,
- The 262 is the last fully equipped night fighter derivative and the Me 262 was the first turbo jet fighter. The aircraft formed part of a collection donated by a grateful Britain to South Africa.
- The aircraft was inspected by Ron Belling. At the time he established that the finish to both topside and underside was authentic together with all numbering
- In regard the early Japanese entry into the war this craft was a small two seater which was followed up by a dedicated floatplane weighing five metric tons which was hoisted up by a collapsible six ton crane onto its launching car.

Battle of Grahamstown Re-Enactment.

On the 22nd April the 186th Anniversary of The Battle of Grahamstown was re-enacted over part of the old battle field. Members of the SANDF Military Base in Grahamstown, local citizens and elements of the Oranje Vrijstaat Artillerie Corps from Bloemfontein all took part to give the large crowd a real feeling what the battle was all about. Xhosa warriors, Redcoats and ancient artillery pieces were brought in for the occasion. There were exploding shells on the battlefield and this all combined to give a very realistic and impressive spectacle. This is the second year that this famous battle has been re-enacted and it is hoped to make it an annual event held over a weekend. In doing so many more people would be able to attend and to witness a very real piece of history. Basil Mills was intimately involved in the preparations and deserves full credit for all his hard work in making the event such a success.

News Items

If you wish to submit an item of interest and or of an event by all means let me have the information. The only requirement would be that the item is in broad keeping with our mutual interest of military history

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

South African Military History Society /