South African Military History Society


Tel (+27)(11) 648-2087 Fax (+27)(11) 648-2085

The Annual General Meeting was opened by the outgoing Chairman, Ms Lyn Miller, who then welcomed Mr John Keene, the Director of the Museum, and Mr Robin Smith from the Durban Branch. Much to everybody's surprise, as it was the evening before the Easter long weekend, there was a quorum for the AGM. Lyn then called on Mr John Keene to say a few words as to how he, as Director, viewed our Society. Mr Keene did this in the form of an informal reminiscence, as he had started his career in the same month that the Society was launched in October 1966. Our Society is now 40 years old and is known worldwide, but may also be faced with the same problem that the Museum faces, namely that of relevance to modern youth. Modern day 20-year olds know little, and few care, about military history and the Museum's relevance is often questioned. For this reason it is opening its doors to ex-servicemen's organisations and offering them a home for their various headquarters. When our Society was started the great majority of its members were ex-servicemen. These have all died off and the veterans of our Border War and Struggle are showing little or no interest. These, plus younger people, must be approached and invited to show interest in military history, both for the future of the Museum and of our Society.

Lyn thanked Mr Keene for this message and commenced the business part of the AGM. Joan Marsh, as Secretary/Treasurer, read the minutes of the last meeting, which were approved and then Lyn delivered the Chairman's Report.

The Society is in good health with membership up from 509 last year to 545 this year. The average monthly attendance at our lecture evenings is about 60, with an increasing number of women attending. Speakers have been confirmed to fill the lecture programme for the next year. She referred to the establishment and phenomenal growth of the Eastern Cape Branch as being one of the Society's highlights of the year. The web-site is going from strength to strength under the able management of Mike Marsh, whose wife Joan accepted a gift of appreciation on his behalf, and a suitable gift was also presented to our honorary auditor Mr Gavin Moore.

Joan Marsh then donned her other hat as Treasurer and gave the financial statement. It is sufficient to state that the Society is in an extremely healthy state financially! Then followed the awarding of prizes for the best lectures over the past year. Interestingly enough they both dealt with Japan. Martin Ayres received the prize for the best curtain raiser - "Admiral Nagumo and his Fateful Decisions" - and Hamish Paterson received the prize for the best main lecture, "Japan's Longest Day".

The new Chairman is Mr "Flip" Hoorweg who was the sole nominee for this post and unanimously elected. He paid tribute to the outgoing Chairman, Lyn Miller, and thanked her for all her good work. The National Committee was re-elected en bloc and the honorary auditor, Gavin Moore, was also re-elected. There was only one subject raised under general and this was by Colin Dean who thanked John Keene for the ever-improving facilities at our disposal in the lecture theatre.

The meeting then reverted to its normal format when Flip gave out notice of the upcoming raffle at the next meeting of a giant DVD (3h38m running time) entitled "Britain At War". Tickets to participate will be sold at the May meeting in Johannesburg at R15 each; the draw will take place that same evening.

Flip then introduced the guest speaker for the evening. This was Mr Carvel Webb who has an impressive CV as a signals and communications engineer. In addition to being a keen radio ham, he is also Chairman of the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association and a leading "technological historian". The title of his talk was "A Brief History Of Radio And Its Transformation Of Modern Warfare" and those who were not there missed an excellent lecture! Carvel had brought along an impressive display of antique radio equipment to illustrate his talk, actually bringing some of them to life for us as "party tricks". This, coupled with an outstanding power point presentation and a great delivery style, made for a most entertaining lecture. Starting in 1873 with Maxwell and Faraday's investigations into electro-magnetic waves, he used simple laymen's language to carry his story across. It came as a revelation to many of us that one of the very first countries to attempt to use radio in warfare was the old Transvaal (ZAR), just prior to the Second Anglo-Boer War. The idea was to connect the forts surrounding Pretoria with the headquarters in the city, but these first primitive Siemens sets were confiscated by the British on their arrival in Cape Town. The development of radio for military use developed significantly during the Second Anglo-Boer War, particularly as far as the Royal Navy was concerned, where various problems concerning distance were overcome. The invention of the Vacuum Tube, later known as the Thermionic Valve, was a giant step forward and this, coupled with the discovery of the Directional Antenna, led directly to the development of the Radio Direction Finder. Carvel showed us a slide of the original "all ships" CQD (modern day SOS) message sent out by the "Titanic" and received by the "Carpathia", and then discussed the major developments brought about by World War I.

1919 saw the discovery of Short Wave broadcasting, followed in the 1920's by commercial broadcasting. The British Army introduced its first portable radio sets in 1933 and Sir Robert Watson Watt invented radar in 1935, which led to the famous Chain Home system. Integrated Air Control followed in World War II and many varieties of portable radios followed, plus the development of smaller radios for armoured vehicles and aircraft. Carvel showed us specimens of this equipment which he had brought along, and then covered the invention of the Magnetron, which made modern millimetric high definition radar possible. Following this up with a diagram of a modern battlefield communications system, he moved on to the invention of the transistor and the development of satellite communication. The lecture ended with the modern hand held VHF radio being explained.

After a further interesting question period, the Chairman, Flip, thanked Mr Webb for his excellent lecture and adjourned the meeting.

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For your diary - fortieth birthday bash - advance warning

Please take note - Sunday 19th November 2006 for a luncheon which is to be held at the Museum in celebration of the Society's fortieth anniversary. Hamish Paterson will be giving us a short guided tour of the new facilities. Would you please advise old friends/ex-members who might be prepared to venture out in the daytime but for whom evening meetings are no longer possible?

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11th May
CR Bob Smith - Bridge on the River Kwai -
"A personal journey of discovery to Hell and back, visiting the Bridge and Hellfire Gorge!"
A discussion on the merits of different weapons.
8th June
CR Colin Dean - WW2 POW Camps in the UK
ML Dick Bullen - Burma - The Longest Retreat
13th July
CR Geoff Hardy - Strategy of the American Civil War:
Anaconda Blockade of the South
ML Martin Ayres - Hundred Years War - Joan of Arc and Henry V
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11th May
DDH Maj. Gen. Chris Le Roux - Political Scandals
MAIN Brian Kennedy - The Battles of Fontenoy (1745) and Culloden (1746)
15th June
DDH Charles Whiteing - Divine Wind: The Kamikaze Pilots of Japan
MAIN Jimmy Alberts/Peter Spiller - Bridge 14
13th July
DDH Captain Brian Hoffman - Naval Traditions
MAIN Ken Gillings - The Anglo-Boer War: The Aftermath
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Cape Town

11th May
Sgt. Richard Dollar, USMC Deputy Detachment Commander, Cape Town - The US Marine Corps
- Organization and history, concentrating on WWII, Vietnam and Iraq.
8th June
Johan van den Berg - The Battle of the Somme - July 1916
- In the footsteps of the South African Brigade 90 years on.
13th July
Simon Norton - The life and career of Maj-Gen Dan Pienaar
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SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape - Port Elizabeth:

11th May
CR Peter Duffel-Canham - Seaman Gunner, do not weep
A sailor on SA minesweepers in the Med in WWII
ML Chris McCanlis, BCR - The Shangani Patrol, 1893
10th June
Note Saturday in Grahamstown
CR Yoland Irwin - The history of medicine in warfare
ML Alan Bamford - Some views on the causes of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War
3rd July
CR Robin Barkes - The mining of a Union Ironclad by Confederate forces
ML Caroline Rodgers - RAF Brothers
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Any members wanting copies of the Chairman's report, the 2005 Financial Statements, the Treasurer's report and/or the AGM minutes please contact Joan Marsh at the Society's address on the letterhead.

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For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Mike Laing (031) 205-1951
For Cape Town details contact John Mahncke (021) 797-5167
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn (041) 373-4469

Ivor Little (Scribe) phone (012)

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