South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926


Collecting Code Names of Military Operations, discovering why or how they were selected and how the operations were carried out, was our Speaker's subject on the Society evening of 13th April. Using a vast collection of excellent slides, Dick Lord showed us the many names of SADF's border operations and almost all friendly and enemy operations planned / carried out before und during WW II. A curious fact was that among the many pre-WW II plans of the USA: war against Japan, Germany, Russia, there was even one directed against Great Britain, their supposed ally. Dick selected one operation, that of RAF Bomber Command against Germany as a vehicle of demonstration. The correct system for planning operations runs as follows: at level one there is the government, they produce a national policy. On the next level down there are the chiefs of staff who produce a military policy. On level three there are the service chiefs who create the strategic policy for their services. Below them is the operational commander on the operative level. At level five there are the sub-commanders, in the case of the example Dick was going to talk about, "Bomber" Harris. This is the level where the actual fighting takes place, also called "the fun level" by the people above. In theory this multi-level structure should work effectively, but this was not always so. As an typical example Dick mentioned Winston Churchill who believed himself to be a great military strategist, meddling where he could. This also happened in South Africa's border war when politicians interfered.

In Great Britain level one consisted of the Prime Minister and his various departmental ministers, with the relevant one the minister of defence who carried their policy directives down to level two, where a number of people formulated the military policy. This policy was then sent forward to the Chief of the Defence Force who, together with his branch chiefs, brought out the strategic policy which eventually arrived at the last level where the real planning began, when "Bomber" Harris and his staff were told to attack "fortress Europe". From 1939 to 1942 Britain was on the defensive in the air war and merely flew against coastal and shipping targets. From then on the tide turned.

One of the more interesting operations was operation "Biting". After a reconnaissance aircraft brought back pictures taken of a 10 ft round dish in a walled gun position on the coast of France, a para-drop was organized to retrieve the dish. It was then discovered that it was a radar dish used not only for AA control but also as a electronic guide for German aircraft attacking the British Isles under the code name "Bedspread".

Under the code name "Millenium" Cologne was the target of the first 1 000 Bomber raid and operation "Point Blanc" in June 1943 the directive to the RAF and the USAF to begin the bombing campaign against Fortress Europe which lasted to the final days of the war, with the USAF bombing by day, the RAF bombing by night.

For Operation "Flashlamp" on 5/6th June 1944, invasion night at the European West Coast, "Bomber" Harris was ordered to assist the invasion forces by bombing the enemy coastal defences. During "Thunderclap" on the 13/14th February 1945, both the RAF and USAF destroyed the city of Dresden.

In war there is always action and reaction with an escalation of retaliatory raids, of attack and defence systems. There was "Window", metal foil strips confusing the German radar, and jamming stations to jam German radio frequencies, and in order to improve bombing accuracy, British scientists invented radio beams along which RAF pilots could fly in all weathers.

It was a talk showing Dick Lord at his best, interspersing it with light jokes and sidelights, keeping us all well entertained. His research into books and manuals must have taken him many months of serious study and we are most grateful for the informative results he was able to offer us.


Gabriel Athiros (Cape Odyssey) plans to focus on South Africa's early female aviators in one of his next editions. If there are members who can supply him with articles, photographs etc., he would be most grateful if they could contact him by e-mail: or telephone 082-410-9711.

Geoffrey Mangin has again approached the Committee asking to be relieved of his duties as "sound system button pusher", a job he has performed so admirably over a long time. We urge anyone willing to take over, perhaps on a shift basis, to contact any Committee Member. The job itself is easy to perform, we are even prepared to look after the equipment between lecture evenings. Any willing hands?



Our two contacts at HERITAGE WESTERN CAPE may be contacted at the following e-mail addresses: and


Forthcoming Lectures:

11th May

Organisation and history, concentrating on WW II, Vietnam and Iraq.
An illustrated Talk by Sergeant Richard Dollar, US Marine Corps Deputy Detachment Commander, Cape Town.

8th June

In the footsteps of the South African Brigade - 90 years on.
An illustrated Talk by Johan van den Berg


Society meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 20h00 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) O.E.O. Mahncke,
Tel.: 021-797-5167

South African Military History Society /