South African Military History 
Society

P.O. BOX 12926
MOWBRAY
7705

CAPE TOWN BRANCH
NEWSLETTER NO. 328 - JANUARY 2006

Like the other lectures of 2005 which we were privileged to listen to, the October and November talks were of the same high standard due to the personal involvement of the speakers.

Colonel A.W. "Ivan" Bester traced the origin and history of the Regiment Westelike Provincie as the only conventional part time unit from the Western Province country districts. Its predecessors included the many "Volunteer Rifle" country units prior to 1900's, the "Western Rifles" that took part in World War I and the "Mounted Rifle" volunteer country units after World War I. Due to lack of funds these units were dissolved in 1929.
With the reorganization of the Active Citizen Force (ACF) the regiment came into being on April 1st 1934. (The unit badge represents the orange cone surrounded by the silver leaves of the silver leaf tree). The Regiments name was changed to Regiment Onze Jan in 1951, to Regiment Boland in 1960, to First Battalion Regiment Boland in 1970 and in 1974 to its original name Regiment Westelike Provincie. The Regiment then officially regained its formal status as a traditional Regiment wearing the original traditional uniform.

The Regiment received official Colours at various occasions. First as Regiment Westelike Provincie from King George the VI in 1947, then due to the change of name to Regiment Boland in 1966 and again in 1987 after the name reverted back to regiment Westelike Provincie in 1974. National Colours were awarded to the Regiment in 1990. The Regiment also holds a unique and distinct honour in that Field Marshall J.C. Smuts was appointed in 1948 as its Colonel-in-Chief, making it the only Regiment to ever have had a South African as C-in-C.

During the 1970's and 1980's the Regiment received the freedom of four towns and the freedom of the City of Cape Town.

In World War II the Regiment was mobilized on 1st September 1940 and, together with Regiment Suid-Westelike Distrikte, became 5th Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment (V). They trained at Premier Mine and were then sent to Egypt in 1941, only to be disbanded and its personnel used to reinforce armored car regiments already operating in the Western Desert with whom they took part in many of the well known battles. Early in 1943 the former RWP personnel were absorbed into the Royal Natal Carbineers and the Imperial Light Horse, adapted themselves to tank warfare, and served with distinction in Italy as part of 6th Armored Division. After WW II the Regiment was reorganised and with the HQ at Worcester started with normal annual training camps. In 1951 it became an armour Regiment and was trained at Oudtshoorn by SSB/SAIC staff who took part in WW II. In 1960 the Regiment became a motorised infantry battalion and in the eighties it reverted to a mechanised (Ratel) infantry battalion which remains its mustering to the present day.

During the 1950's and 1960's the Regiment was part of the part-time component of Western Province Command but since 1975 it became part of the conventional force structures under the command of 71 Motorised Infantry Brigade. These structures were dissolved in the late nineties and presently form part of the SANDF Infantry Formation. The Regiment took part in annual training camps since 1948, was part of the National mobilisation in 1960 and since the late seventies did training at the Army Battle School as part of 71 Mot Bde, 9 Division and 75 Bde.

During the early eighties the Regiment reached an era of excellent performance and through consistent hard work and dedication by its members earned many accolades and distinctions including the best unit in 71 Brigade and 7 Infantry Division.

During the period January to March 1976 the Regiment served in Angola (Operation Savannah) and a year later was called up for the first of various three month Border stints. On its way to the Operational area in March 1977 the Regiment was involved in a devastating train accident at Keetmanshoop where 5 of its members died instantly, including the Western Province cricket player Gary Bricknel. A further 71 seriously injured members were evacuated by air to 2 Military Hospital in Cape Town. The rest of RWP proceeded to complete its Border duty at Eenhana base in the Operational area.

Regiment Westelike Provincie, with HQ at Wingfield, also demonstrated its versatility to adapt with a positive attitude to the transformation of the SANDF and to retain its place as a promi-nent and efficient unit in the present Part-time forces of the country.

The story of RWP is a classic account of how a Regimental "Family" can change its name, role and location but still go on with its pride, loyalty and efficiency. The unit motto says it all: Non sibi sed patriae - "Not for yourself but for the Fatherland."

**********

Then there was Anthony Gordon's presentation on the Battle of Blaauwberg in January 1806, exactly 200 years ago, which rates high on the agenda of confrontations conducted in the early military/political period of the Cape. Many learned articles have been written about it, but Tony delved into the background and motivations of the commanders involved and brought it to life. The British, unlike the First Occupation in 1795, made certain of overwhelming force with 63 ships including 9 warships and about 6000 men. Tony used maps and drawings to effect, described the plans and actions of the British naval commander, Commodore Popham, and the Army, commanded by Major General Sir David Baird. There was the unfortunate drowning of a boat load of 35 of the 93rd Highlanders during landing on 6th January at Melkbosstrand. The remainder landed on the 7th, and deployment of British troops on land began early on the 8th. The British had no horses or transport and the 8 guns were pulled by 500 sailors from warships. Water shortage, the heat and thick bush and the unfit soldiers, having suffered from a 4 months sea voyage, did not help the attackers. On the opposite side, General Janssens, the Batavian Governor and Commander led a local force, composed of Batavian troops, burgher militia, some French soldiers and an artillery contingent made up of Javanese and Malays and The Hottentot Light Infantry. This was not exactly a cohesive force to fight a trained and well led enemy. The British artillery opened fire after Sir David had brought his forces of an English Brigade and (the first ever) Highland Brigade over the hill and formed up to the north of the Batavians just to the east of Blaauwberg hill. Some shots fell among the Waldekers who later broke the line. Janssens did all he could to prevent the break but the attackers were a larger force, and he eventually withdrew to Rietvlei and Meerlust farms before moving over the Hottentots Holland mountains to the area of Grabouw. From there he was able to negotiate better terms. It was not a bloodless battle though. The British had 15 killed, but a further 17 died of their wounds, with many others wounded. The British marched to Cape Town on the 9th and Colonel Von Prophalow surrendered shortly afterwards, at the "Treaty tree" in Woodstock. Many of the Batavian forces fought very well, especially the local Burgers, artillery and Hottentot battalion and French sailors. Janssens was a very clever commander who achieved the best terms possible so that all the Europeans were returned to Europe, not as prisoners, and transport paid by the British. Individual and religious rights, introduced in 1803 by the Batavians, were retained. The battle of Blaauwberg changed the course of South African History and the Union flag flew here for over a century. Thanks must be given to Tony who involves himself in promoting the historical aspects of this battle and the Anniversary Celebrations in Cape Town and also conducts tours to the battlefield.

The audio-tapes of both talks are available from the scribe. Anyone interested in Tony's subject may obtain more articles from the internet and/or http//battle.blauuwberg.net AUDIO TAPES of the past 25 talks are available on loan from the Scribe. The Cape Odyssey January/February issue also features the battle.

**********

SUBSCRIPTIONS:
Members will find 2006 Subscription Forms enclosed. Your Committee has decided to increase annual Subs slightly to cover higher operating costs. Full members are asked to pay R200,00, (this includes the monthly Newsletters and twice-yearly Journal from Johannesburg). Associate Members are asked to pay R60,00 to attend our Lectures and receive the monthly Newsletter from our Branch. Members who receive our Newsletters by e-mail will have the subscription forms as attachment.
Associate Members who have not yet paid 2005 Subs (please look at the reminder at top of page) are asked to include the amount of R55,00 from last year with their payment for 2006.
Members who wish to pay their subscriptions by direct deposit into the Society's bank account may do so. The Banking details are: Nedbank Foreshore Branch, a/c No. 1083 332058. Please insert your name into the reference column on the deposit slip.

**********

SOUTHERN AFRICA MILITARIA COLLECTORS'ASSOCIATION:
Militaria collectors/enthusiasts are invited to join this association which will meet on a regular basis from 2006. For further information please e-mail: felsnest@global.co.za (Andy Shoredits) or warbooks@mweb.co.za (Johan van den Berg), or contact Jochen Mahncke.

**********

WOODY NEL:
Your Committee received the following note from Mrs. Mercia Nel:
"Would you kindly convey to the members of the Military History Society Woody's thanks for the birthday card (for his 80th birthday) and good wishes."
We are glad to report that Woody is making excellent progress after his life-saving operation and he says he is looking forward to attend our meetings this year.

**********

Future Lectures:

19th January THIRD THURSDAY OF THE MONTH
SOUTH AFRICAN AND BRITISH CAMPAIGN MEDALS FROM WW I AND WW II.
An illustrated talk with colour slides.
Speaker: Commander W.A. Mac Bisset

9th March
MY YEARS AS NAVAL CHAPLAIN IN SIMON'S TOWN AND MY SERVICE TO THE ARMY NATIONAL SERVICEMEN AT YOUNGSFIELD.
Speaker: Bishop Reginald Cawcutt MMM:

13th April
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING - PLEASE ATTEND
RAF BOMBERS OVER GERMANY IN WW II
A study of military Operations in order to give the big picture of the night bombing raids of the RAF over Germany during WW II
An illustrated Talk by Brigadier-General R.S. "Dick" Lord

11th May
TRAGEDY AT KUFRA
Illustrated Talk by Francois de Wet
One of the most harrowing tragedies in the history of the SAAF during WW II occurred in May 1942 deep in the Libyan desert, 800 km south of Tobruk, near the remote Oasis of Kufra. Three BLENHEIMS detached from 15 Squadron, with a crew of 12 in total and filled with the confidence of inexperience, took off from the oasis at 5.45 a.m. on May 4 for a long sweep to get acquainted with the desolate area. They were due back within two hours but failed to return. What followed was a human tragedy, because all but one of the airmen perished.
Francois travelled to Libya in 2001 to visit the places where these events took place, found the remains of the one Blenheim and the graves in the desert.

8th June
THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME IN WW II.
In the footsteps of the South African Brigade 90 years on.
Illustrated Talk by Johan van den Berg

14th Sept
AN UPDATE ON THE MILITARY/POLITICAL SITUATION ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
Speaker: Major Helmoed Heitman
Over the years we have been very fortunate to listen to Helmoed Heitman's most informative talks about our continent, and this one as well will shed light on subjects which are not generally covered by the daily or weekly press. In particular, his predictions on the future of South Africa are always well worth remembering.

February, July and August Lectures to be advised.

**********

Meetings are held on the 2nd Thursday of each month, except December, at 20h00 in the Recreation Room of the SA LEGIONíS ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road (off Lisbeek Parkway/Alma Road - Traffic Light), opposite Rosebank Railway Station. Secure parking inside the premises. All visitors welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

**********

Jochen (John) O.E.O. Mahncke, Vice-Chairman/Scribe,
Tel.: 021-797-5167
e-mail: koenigsberg@mweb.co.za


South African Military History Society / scribe@samilitaryhistory.org