South African Military 
History Society


June 2006

The DDH was by Major General Chris Le Roux, entitled Political Scandals. By chance he came across the book "Worlds Greatest Political Scandals" by Nigel Cawthorne, and was so open-mouthed amazed by what he read that he felt he must tell us about some of the Scandals. He briefly went through the 30 described in the book and then focussed on three (deliberately side-stepping the biggest scandal of all times, Bill Clinton's infamous Zippergate). Three of these talks that really struck a note are:

1. The Profumo Affair: In early 1963 John Profumo, Britian's Secretary of State for War, was sharing Christine Keeler, a good-looking prostitute, with the Russian Naval Attach‚ in London, Yevgeny Ivanov. That was bad but worse, Profumo lied to the House of Commons about this affair. Worse still, MIS was involved because of the Russian connection. Profumo was forced to resign, and soon afterwards the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, too had to resign. In the following general election the Conservative party was swept from power, and a Labour government was elected, with Harold Wilson as Prime Minister.

2. Evita (Eva Peron): Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber, the world knows of her through the song - "Don't cry for me, Argentina". In October 1945, Juan Peron took control of the Government of Argentina and, in February 1946, he was democratically elected president. By his side was first lady, Evita. who had previously been an actress and a part-time prostitute. She died in July 1952, aged 33, of cancer of the uterus. She is said to have made contributions to the government. Juan Peron was deposed in September 1955 and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was very involved with a 13 year old girl, Nellie Rivas, and was accused of being a paedophile. He married Isabelita Maria in 1961, and she became president when Juan died in 1974 (keeping it in the family).

3. Diamonds Are Forever: Many otherwise reasonable nations support unpleasant dictators in overseas countries as part of the game of global politics to gain access to crude oil and valuable minerals. France made an embarrassing mistake in supporting Jean Bodel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic, whose "coronation" in 1977 cost 10 million pounds, mostly paid by France. He arrived in a coach drawn by horses flown in from Europe, wore a flowing scarlet robe trimmed with ermine, sat on a throne under a great eagle, and like Napoleon, his great hero, he crowned himself. He had 9 wives and 54 children. He also had a cookie jar of diamonds in his office from which he would take some to hand to visitors as a gift. In 1979, he was said to have ordered the killing of over 100 school children. He ended up in jail in 1993. (and there are more gory details in the book!)

In Summary all of the Scandals involved men and throughout each story a common thread runs: Power, Women and Money.

The main talk of the Evening was by Brian Kennedy: The battles of Fontenoy (1745) and Culloden (1746)

Brian carefully outlined the links between these seemingly unrelated battles that were fought hundreds of miles apart. Fontenoy is on the continent of Europe in Belgium, Culloden is on the island of Great Bntian in Scotland. The connections are complex and indeed, subtle:

Fontenoy, 1745

The French army under Marshall de Saxe invaded Belgium, including the blue-coated Royal Ecossais, a regiment of Scottish soldiers. On the British side were the Scottish troops of the Black Watch. The French had the Irish Brigade whose men wore red coats (being originally part of the army of James II)

Saxe positioned his men on a plateau at the top of an incline above the Scheldt River in a triangle of fortified redoubts. The British and Hesse army was under 24 year-old William Augustus. Duke of Cumberland. The army arrived to do battle but the exact whereabouts of the French army was uncertain. The English cavalry ventured up the incline, came under cannon fire and withdrew; and took no further part in the battle.

Next day, 11 May, the British infantry attacked up the incline. They suffered severely, but attained the crest. There stood the whole French army at close range. Sir Charles Hay is reputed to have called out, "Messieurs les Gardes Francaises, si'l vous plait tirez le premier." The French declined this kind offer, having learned at Lens in 1648 that firing first at long range was a waste. But this time the range was short; they had made a big mistake.

The British fired, knocking down 700 French with their first volley. The French retreated. Saxe threw in his reserve, the red-coated Irish Brigade which charged the British, shouting their famous war cry - "Cuimhnig ar Luimneach agus feall na Sassanach".

The British were forced to retreat; the French remained in possession of the field of battle. But it was a costly victory: the French had lost 7 000 men and the Irish losses were especially heavy.

Culloden 1746

Bonny Prince Charles Stuart was the 25-year old cousin of the Duke of Cumberland and pretender to the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland. In June 1745 he sailed from France with the aim of raising the Jacobites in revolt against George II. On 25 July he landed at Loch nan Uamh near Glenfinnan, accompanied by the Seven Men of Moidart. He raised a small army and advanced, scoring victories at Edinburgh, Prestonpans, Carlisle and he reached Derby in December. But there was no general uprising in England, so he began the retreat back to Scotland.

Cumberland returned from France with the army of English and Hessian troops. By February 1746 Charles was at Inverness and Cumberland was about 25km away at Naim. On 15 April the Jacobites moved 8km east to Culloden Moor, foolishly leaving behind their food and supplies(!). On this day Cumberland celebrated his 25th Birthday, and gave his troops a special ration of brandy and food to celebrate. As night fell the Jacobite commander, Lord George Murray, decided to march on Naim (20km away) to surprise the English. It was a terrible mistake. By dawn the army was still 3km short of Naim. They turned and retreated to Culloden.

At 11am, 16 April 1746, they faced Cumberland's army across 500m of Culloden Moor. The men were hungry and exhausted, no food or sleep for two days, on ground totally unsuited for their single tactic of charging. The 5 000 Highianders were outnumbered by 8 000 English with artillery. [The outcome was certain] Cumberland had trained his men to attack not the man in front, but the man one to the right. The Highlander soldier with upraised sword in his right hand and his targe on his left arm was vulnerable to a bayonet thrust under his right arm. (We saw a beautiful colour picture that clearly illustrated this manoeuvre.)

The English artillery fired on the Jacobites who then charged. Their ranks were swept away by the cannon and musket fire and it was all over in an hour. One thousand Highlanders lay dead on the field. No quarter was given; the wounded were slaughtered. This earned William Augustus the title "Bloody Cumberland".

The Royal Ecossais and Irish fought a stubborn retreat to Inverness where they surrendered, and were well treated as prisoners of war. Prince Charles fled to the Western Isles and eventually escaped to France from again Loch nan Uamh. The final result was disastrous for Scotland. The kilt, plaid and the Gaelic language were outlawed.

One may ask in today's climate would Cumberland be charged with War Crimes?

By bringing his army back from the Continent to attack the Highlanders, Cumberland made possible the decisive French victory at Raucoux (Rocourt) in 1746. In 1747, Cumberland returned to Belgium, but he was defeated again by Saxe, at Lauffeid. Thus his victory at Culloden caused defeats for his allies. The War of Austrian Succession ended in 1748, and Maria Theresa remained on the throne of Austria.

Vote of Thanks
Our Chairman, Adrian, Thanked the speakers; Chris for showing us the murky and sleazier side of politics, and Brian for presenting to us two important battles, their outcomes and connections about which most of us knew very little.

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Topics: DDH: Mike Laing will speak on "Sherlock Holmes and the Great Boer War" - an unusual title but he assures me that he has a book to back it up.

The Main Talk is by Jimmy Alberts and Peter Spiller; entitled "Bridge 14".
This was a critical battle of the South African campaign in South West Africa/Angola which began 30 years ago with Operation Savanah.

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Other events:

3 June, Fort Schanskop, Pretoria. Re-enactment of the British occupation of the fort, militaria displays, traders, war gaming, lectures, helicopter and military vehicle displays, etc. Entrance R15

10 June, Bhambata Parade, Greytown 9 am. Major military parade through the town. Armoured vehicles and 400 troops.

11 June Bhambata retreat ceremony at Mome Gorge near Nkandla for further detail please contact Ken Gillings

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There was an earlier announcement that the Annual Battlefield Tour would take place in May 2006. Due to an unavoidable clash of dates and availability this has been changed to the 1st weekend in AUGUST, being the 5/6th AUGUST. Please make a note in your diaries for this important change in dates. The tour this year will be on BULLERS ADVANCE FROM LADYSMITH, and will cover the battles at HELPMEKAAR, BOTHA'S PASS and ALLEMANSNEK. More details will be given in future newsletters, but KEN GILLINGS is planning to get 2 teams from our members to consider the problems faced by both BOER and BRITISH forces. The aim is to have a great fun weekend, with very little preparation, in order to have reactions to the reality of those events. Those wishing to take part should contact KEN GILLINGS on 083-654-5880 or 031-702-4828.

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THIS IS IMPORTANT AND WILL BE HELD AT OUR NEXT MEETING ON THE 8 JUNE. We need more members on the committee so please propose members and possibly volunteer yourself.

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8 June 06
DDH - Prof Mike Laing - Sherlock Holmes and the Great Boer War
MAIN - Jimmy Alberts/Peter Spiller - Bridge 14
13 July 06
DDH - Captain Brian Hoffman - Naval Traditions
MAIN - Bill Brady - Operation Sealion


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Subscriptions for 2006 are now due. Membership has been increased by R1O, to R140 per year for Single membership, and R160 for Family Membership (for a maximum of 2 members of the same family). Please send your subscription ASAP to Joan Marsh in Johannesburg, or directly into the Society Account at FNB Bank, Park Meadows Branch, Nc 50391928346, Branch code, 25-66-55, Name: South African Military History Society

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Some Committee contact details
Mike Laing 031-205-1951
Phil Everitt 031-261-5751 (after hours)
Adrian van Schaik 082-894-8122 (after hours)
Bill Brady 031-561-5542 or 083 228 5485
Ken Gillings 083-654-5880

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South African Military History Society /