Our speaker on the evening of 13th July, Simon Norton, had prepared a tribute to Major-General Dan Pienaar by bringing HISTORY ALIVE through sight and sound. He used old newsreels, old marching tunes from wax records and radio sketches to paint a picture of the period, and did this brilliantly and with love to detail, and his immense research showed a high level of commitment. As such his presentation brought an outstanding South African military leader to life.
Simon did not attempt to give us a complete biography of the man, (he promised to do this at a later stage, and we are looking forward to it), but instead started by reading from a series of official government and military documents to sketch the background of the pre second world war and post-war political situation in South Africa, the enmity between various factions and between Afrikaans-and English speaking sections of the community.
General Pienaar lived from 1893 to 1942, and in World War One served in the South African Field Artillery in East Africa, Palestine and Syria. After the war he continued his military career in the Permanent Force, rising to the rank of Colonel before World War Two started. He was a soldier's general, looked after his men, did not incur needless casualties, and was a genius at war. Early in his career a staff report from 1925 mentions that Dan Pienaar "is capable of command, has power to impart knowledge to others, has a good eye for country, is capable in correctly observing fire". A 1932 staff report goes even further and reads: "A very able, conscien-tious and hard working officer who should do well in senior posts. Intolerant of other persons' point of view. He is frequently described as fanatically cranky". Dan Pienaar did not suffer fools and did not suffer poor generals easily, which often led to fall-outs with other senior officers because he spoke his mind, often in drastic or in controversial manner. Simon gave a number of examples, some undoubtedly true, others anecdotal, but they described Pienaar vividly.
Pienaar's fame arose between 1940 to 1942 when he served in East Africa, and then commanded the 1st South African Division in the North African desert. He tragically died in an aircraft crash in December 1942. Had he lived, his career would undoubtedly have taken off, perhaps to the European war theatre.
At the end of the presentation we were able to listen to a recording of the funeral in Pretoria, as well as to Major-General George Brink's sympathetic eulogy, describing Pienaar's career, family life, and his rise from trooper to general, and Simon showed a series of photographs on Pienaar's life and many of the generals and other officers with whom he had worked together.
The audience greatly appreciated Simon's lively presentation of what could be called an evening with a difference.
Members who received an incomplete copy of the June 2006 Journal, please contact the Scribe to receive a replacement.
MUIZENBERG OPEN-AIR MUSEUM:
The Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society invites everyone interested in the Battle of Muizenberg to the official opening of their Open-air Museum at 10 a.m., Sunday 6th August. This will be followed by a series of interesting talks in the afternoon.
For details please phone Chris Taylor at 021 788 1816 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Members may still borrow Cassette Tapes with recordings of previous Lectures from the Scribe.
Will the Member who borrowed the Scribe's MS with the title: "My Fortunate Years" kindly return it to him.
THREAT PERCEPTIONS AND STRATEGIES DURING THE 1960s & THE SADF'S ASSESSMENTS AND RESPONSES
An illustrated talk by Rodney C. Warwick
AN UPDATE ON THE MILITARY/POLITICAL SITUATION ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
Speaker: Major Helmoed-Roemer Heitman
THE FINAL BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN IN OCTOBER 1942
A talk on the South African involvement in this pivotal battle.
Speaker: Colonel Lionel Crook SM JCD
TRAGEDY AT KUFRA
An illustrated Talk by Francois de Wet on the disappearance of 3 SAAF Blenheims in North Africa in 1942 in which his uncle, Major de Wet, was lost.
December: IN RECESS
Society Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of every month, except December, 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. All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.
Jochen (John) Mahncke