South African Military History 


Newsletter No. 17 - February 2006.
Nuusbrief 17 - Februarie 2006.

Following the festivities of the Xmas period and that of the New Year the Society met on the 12th January with a somewhat reduced number in attendance. No doubt as the year progresses and family weary and tanned souls gather their loins together the activities of the Branch will swing into higher gear. Arising from the meeting much is planned including an extended weekend tour in May of the Keiskamma Hoek / Alice area from which the party will extend their trip from the most suitable Fort Fordyce base with its well equipped accommodation. Our Annual General Meeting will take place in March and takes the place of the Curtain Raiser on that occasion. The Main Lecture that evening will delivered by Dr.Taffy Shearing and her subject will the Cape Boer of the Anglo Boer War. Her thesis revolves on the subject and she has written a number of books on that War which deal with the excursions of the Boer Commandos into the then Cape Colony. It promises to be an evening not to be missed more so by enthusiasts of that campaign.

Chairman Malcolm welcomed all to the meeting . He reported that the parking issue continues unresolved and it has become an issue beyond the scope of our hosts, the PAG. The forthcoming dates and changes to the calendar were noted

* The April Meeting moves to Thursday, 20th April due the clash with Easter.
* The tour to the Keiskamma Hoek Area is planned for the weekend 12th -14th May
* The June meeting will take place in Grahamstown on Saturday, 10th June
* It was agreed by a show of hands that in December we should continue to have the monthly meeting plus the envisaged trip to Grahamstown. Pat Irwin gave a report back on the Battle of Blaauwberg and its enactment in Milnerton. He stated that had it not been for the keen and enthusiastic participation of Basil Mills of Grahamstown who provided much of the uniform and regalia the event would not have been as colourful and enjoyable.!

As with the meetings there has been a regular slot on looking back at the month in history and herewith are some of the more unusual events that took place in the month of January over the years.
* The British Retreat from Kabul which was only survived by Surgeon Bryden
* The Siege of Whittlesea
* Battle of Fort Beaufort where Hermaans Matroos was killed
* The Jameson Raid
* Gideon Scheepers was executed outside Graaff-Reinet.
* Penicillin was used for the first time.
* Eisenhower assumed control of the Allied Forces in Europe.

The Curtain Raiser.
Barry De Klerk, a Librarian by profession, admits that he has always been interested in the obscure hence his talk was " Fighting by Numbers ". He stated that numbers can give one an understanding of what is happening and to this he referred to WW11 where there was such a large scale of numbers that could be attributed to any action and or event. Numbers confuse as well and people are inclined to believe statistics without examining them too closely. He illustrated his talk with a number of slides where he drew comparison with events of similar nature and we compare herewith some of his data,
* The Israelis flew 1000 sorties with 260 aircraft in the first two days of the Six Day War compared to only one flown per day by the US Air force in the Gulf War.
* Over 100,000 Allied Bomber Crew lost their lives over Europe with the major raids on Ploesti and Schweinfurt incurring up to 30% of the flying force.
* Almost 6000 B-17 Bombers were lost in action in comparison to 2000 B-24 units.
* 51% of RAF Bomber Crews died in action, 9 % died in crashes,3% injured in crashes ,1% escaped on crash landing, 12% landed in POW Camps and only 24% survived - such were these statistics of that time * The Battle of Britain claims and who shot what and when dowm. The statistics reveal double the number of claims made by the RAF in relation to actual losses and in the end the admitted losses were lower than the actual losses
* In The battle of Britain the RAF claimed almost 2500 Luftwaffe aircraft where as the actual losses sustained by the Germans only amounted 951 aircraft.
* Top Aces, those who had claim to kills only accounted for 17% of the aircraft downed - the rest were downed by other defences ! Such is the world of statistics.
Barry's slides were well presented and colourful and he timed his presentation to perfection though we admit it could have indeed taken the length and interest of a Main Lecture such was his accumulation of numbers and data.

Die Hooflesing / Main Lecture
Die hooflesing is in Afrikaans deur kolonel (afgetree) Gerhard du Plessis oor die SA LeŽr Gevegskool (LGS), waarvan hy 'n stigterslid was, gelewer. Die bestaansreg van die LGS word in die leuse daarvan "si vis pacem, para bellum" (indien jy vrede verlang, berei voor vir oorlog), weerspieŽl.

'n Studiegroep is in 1977 aangestel om terrein waar alle korpse gesamentelik konvensioneel opgelei kon word, te soek. Riglyne was dat die terrein sentraal geleŽ moes wees, oor geskikte terrein en klimaat moes beskik en op grond wat vir staatsgebruik beskikbaar was, moes wees. 'n Geskikte standplaas is te Lohatla in die Noord-Kaap gevind.

Die primÍre funksie van die LGS is om die SA LeŽr se konvensionelemagte op te lei om die landwaartse geveg te wen. Die opleidingsfilosofie van die LGS beklemtoon gekombineerde operasies, mobiliteit, gebruik van gevorderde tegnologie, buigsaamheid en die ontwikkeling van goeie leierskap.

Nadat die Hoofkwartier van die LGS op 18 Januarie 1978 gestig is, is die eerste eenhede, naamlik Regiment Groot Karoo en 7 Medium Regiment, in Oktober 1978 opgelei. In Januarie 1979 is die eerste formasie, 82 Gemeganiseerde Brigade, opgelei. In September 1984 is 11 000 lede van 7 Infanterie Divisie in die grootste Suid-Afrikaanse konvensionele krygsoefening sedert die Tweede WÍreldoorlog in Oefening Thunder Chariot opgelei.

'n Tradisie eie aan die LGS is die seremonieŽle stapel van klippe as teken van 'n soldaat se belofte dat hy homself doeltreffend sal oplei, uitrusting sal oppas en die land sal verdedig. Klippe is vir die eerste keer op 29 Oktober 1978 deur 81 Pantser Brigade gestapel.

Die LGS bestaan uit 'n bevelselement, opleidingsgroep, steungroep, logistieke steunvleuel en 'n werksplaas. Die infrastruktuur sluit 'n operasionelegebied met gebiede vir die aanvanklike opleiding van die onderskeie korpse, 'n administratiewegebied en 'n onderhoudsgebied in.

Kolonel du Plessis se aanbieding is afgesluit met 'n reeks skyfies van verskeie korpse onder opleiding wat die LGS se uitlewing van die leuse indien jy vrede verlang, berei voor vir oorlog, uitbeeld.


The main lecture was in Afrikaans by Colonel (retired) Gerhard du Plessis on the South African Army Battle School (ABS), of which he was a founder member. The raison d'etre of the ABS is reflected in its motto: "si vis pacem, para bellum" (if you desire peace, prepare for war).

A study group was appointed in 1977 to find an area in which all corps could be trained in joint conventional operations. Guidelines were that the area should be centrally situated, have suitable terrain and climate and be on ground which was available for government use. A suitable location was found at Lohatla in the Northern Cape.

The primary function of the ABS is to train the SA Army conventional forces to win the landward battle. The training philosophy of the ABS emphasizes joint operations, mobility, use of advanced technology, flexibility and the development of good leadership.

Following the establishment of the ABS Headquarters on 18 January 1978, the first units, namely Regiment Groot Karoo and 7 Medium Regiment, were trained in October 1978. The first formation, 82 Mechanized Brigade, was trained in January 1979. In September 1984, 11 000 members of 7 Infantry Division were trained in the largest South African conventional exercise since the Second World War in Exercise Thunder Chariot.

A tradition unique to the ABS is the ceremonial placing of stones in a cairn as token of a soldier's promise to progress his own training, look after equipment and defend the country. The first such ceremony was by 81 Armour Brigade on 29 October 1979.

The ABS consists of a command element, a training group, support group, logistic support wing and a workshop. The infrastructure includes an operational area with areas for initial corps training, an administrative area and a maintenance area.

Colonel du Plessis concluded his presentation with a series of slides depicting various aspects of the training through which ABS lives up to its motto of if you desire peace, prepare for war.


Speaker's Roster - February Meeting which will be held on the 9th February at the usual venue, the PAG Drill Hall, at 19,30 hours.
* Curtain Raiser - ,, Die eerste Militere Gimnasium Inname 1950" - Lt. Colonel (Rtd) Jorrie Jordaan
* Main Lecture - HMS Dorsetshire - Flagship-Africa Station 1933-1935 and in the Cape during WW 11 by John Parkinson.


Members attention is drawn to the proviso that only those in good standing at the Annual General Meeting may vote at this meeting. Please, therefore, pay your dues, directly to the Society in Johannesburg at FNB Account 50391928346 and with bank code 256655. The cost of single membership is R140,00. Please then fax a copy of your deposit to Joan Marsh on 011-648-2085. If all else fails then by all means let me have your cheque and the correct amount at the February meeting and I will do the necessary. After that you will need to find a branch of FNB as the next time we would meet is at the AGM in March.

Ian Pringle,
Scribe./ Secretary
0836366623 or

South African Military History Society /