South African Military History 

South African Military History Society Eastern Cape Branch
Suid Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging Oos Kaap Tak

Newsletter No. 23 - August 2006.
Nuusbrief Nr. 23 - Augustus 2006.

We had a good attendance with more than 30 persons, including visitors, at our July meeting. With the admission of Anne Warring of Grahamstown the local branch now boasts a membership of 50 members. Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn welcomed all and a number of apologies were noted.

The Battle of Delville Wood took place 90 years ago this week. The events of those times took place on the same dates as in 2006 and it was fascinating to hear from Moth Declan Brennan the sequence of events as they unfolded all those years ago. Brig. Tim Lukin led the Brigade. The engagement lasted from the 14th and ended on the Thursday 20th July when the South African Brigade was relieved. Of the 3153 men that had entered the field of battle only 755 were present for roll call on the next Friday. They had been to hell and back.

Declan illustrated his presentation with vivid slides and his narration of the battle was most interesting. There are no survivors left of that memorable engagement. The dear departed will always be remembered in this action which is immortalized in our military history.

Administrative Issues.

Dave Whitehouse agreed to audit the Branch's financial statements and Pat Irwin was thanked for all his arrangements for the Grahamstown meeting. The meeting was well attended though we could have had more support from the Metro members. It was also agreed that the Branch would join the local ECHO organization (Eastern Cape Historical Organization) which is a loose alliance of historical societies in the Eastern Cape.

Member Taffy Shearing of Sedgefield is writing a book on her young days in Somerset East. She has her own blog site on the web and members may make contact with her work on this site.

Malcolm congratulated Des Kopke on his contribution in the Journal dealing with The Battle of Amalinde. It is a first for our Branch and others were urged to put pen to paper.

Gallantry Awards.

Private William Faulds was the first South African serving in a South African unit to be presented with the Victoria Cross. This he achieved, appropriately, at Delville Wood. Mike Duncan, in his monthly presentation, spoke graphically on the exploit. Faulds was part of a bombing party under a Lt Craig. The party was horribly exposed and under fierce fire the party was decimated. None the less Faulds went over the parapet and rescued Craig. He picked him up and carried him to safety. Two days later he was again involved in a similar exploit and carried a wounded man nearly half a mile to a dressing station.


Piet Hall is arranging a tour to the King William's Town / Komgha area for the weekend of the 25th/27th August. King, as we know it, has a rich military history and the Komgha area was the scene of a number of engagements during the time of the Frontier Wars. Members will be briefed shortly on arrangements.

In April 2007 a tour will take place to Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen. It is an area that has a strong association with the Anglo Boer War. Commandant Gideon Scheepers was imprisoned and later excecuted outside the town. The Coldstream Guards took over the Graaff-Reinet Club and the long association continues to this day. We hope to have address us one of the last remaining survivors of Die Middelandse Regiment (The DMR). It was a regiment that was taken at the fall of Tobruk. With that loss almost the entire manpower of the Jansenville, Graaff-Reinet and Cradock districts was consigned to the POW camps of Germany.

Curtain Raiser - The Last of The Ironclads by Robin Barkes.

Robin is a renowned collector of old arms. He also has a deep interest in the American Civil War and a number of years ago took part in a visit to Vicksburg. It was a town on the Mississippi river held by the Confederate Army and was under siege for six weeks. Robin gave a background to that War and to the forces that were pitted against each other. It was the first modern war where trains were used to transport troops, telegraph was on hand, machine guns played a vital role and snipers were in place to pick off their targets from a 1000 metres. Vicksburg was the prize. Upriver and on a tributary named the Yazoo River, was an ironclad boat. It was to all intents a floating gun carriage heavily armed with 42 pounders and clad with 2 inch steel. The ironclad, named the "USS Cairo" was manned by about 40 men and was paddle steam driven. From its berth up river this boat would then venture out and proceed down river and pound Vicksburg with its heavy guns. The Feds came up with a plan and history has it that they made a floating mine out of a five gallon glass whiskey flagon. This was detonated from the bank by the Feds, using, it is suspected, a form of wiring, attached to the flagon. The "USS Cairo" steamed directly into the path of the mine and and two explosions took place. Where the second came from is not known but the ironclad sank into the river. For years nothing was done about the boat though fishermen on the river knew of it. In recent years it was pulled from its watery grave and taken to its present site in the Vicksburg museum complex. When the ironclad was taken out of the water the artifacts on board were revealing. Boots and tin plates carry the names of the crew and other personal effects had been well preserved.

The "USS Cairo" is well preserved and the hole in its side is very evident. It has been treated to prevent decay and rot. Its size is quite awesome and one may well wonder how the demolition experts must have felt when this huge steaming giant bore down on them and their loaded whisky flagon!

The Main Lecture - Two South African Brothers in the RAF - by Carolyn Rodger.

Carolyn Rodger is the daughter of Peter Henry De Kaap Bocock who was born Pieter Heinrich Neugebauer. His elder brother was Ian Maxwell Theodor De Kaap Bocock and he was born Hans Max Theodor Neugebauer. Sounds confusing does it not? These two brothers, born ten years apart, were to be amongst the earliest pioneers in aviation. They served in the RAF before and during the Second War. In doing so they changed their name by deed poll but being South African kept the name De Kaap !

Carolyn's uncle, Ian, joined the mines in Benoni in 1929 but resigned in 1932 to enter a flying career. He joined the RAF and flew many types of aircraft flying a total of 2759 hours. His first posting outside England was in Ambala which is North of Delhi, India. He qualified as an officer and made application to be trained on the old flying boats. He was accepted provided he paid his own way back to England. Life in England before the Second War provided an idyllic existence for flying officers whose company was sought. It was indeed a life of wine and roses in that lull prior to the next confrontation. He was to take part in the 150th Anniversary of New South Wales and the flight from Plymouth across the Mediterranean, North Africa, Iraq, across to India, down to Singapore and across to Australia was an epic by itself. The squadron was given a hero's welcome in Sydney. His wartime career saw Ian promoted to Squadron Leader and he flew Blenheims and Beaufighters. He saw service in Canada but was later to return to the European theatre of war. He shot up trains in France, downed a Dornier over Holland and was to return on one occasion to base flying on one engine.

Ian was tragically killed in 1943 when his aircraft flew into the ground at a steep angle near Kingston. It was an end to a pilot that had over the previous decade flown almost every kind of aircraft, under many conditions, and in many parts of the world

Carolyn' father, Peter, followed his brother into the RAF in 1939. Educated at Bishops, Cape Town, his brother was indeed a father figure to him.. He qualified to fly on flying boats and was based in the Shetland Islands where he did patrols on the Sunderlands which were to remain in use until 1959. The aircraft were indeed large and had two decks, a galley with wardroom and ablutions. There after he was transferred to the West Coast of Africa where he was based in Freetown and Sierra Leone. From here much of time was taken up on patrols covering the many convoys that made their way on that coast. His operational flying duties came to an end in 1942 when he crashed into four feet of water near Jui in Gambia. He was very lucky to survive and after a spell in hospital was transferred to Youngsfield in the Cape. He was demobilized from the RAF in 1945 having flown a total of 2677 hours. The facts on the exploits of the two brothers are immense. That they have been recorded and only found after all these years in an old apple box is indeed fortuitous. History has been preserved.

Next Meeting

Thursday 10th August at 19,30 hours at the usual venue of the Prince Alfred's Guards Drill Hall.


Curtain Raiser - Elephants in the Role of War by Prof. Pat Irwin
Main Lecture - Wargaming - A Way to Refight the Past - By Dave Whitehouse.

Ian Pringle
Scribe / Secretary.

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