South African Military History 

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

Newsletter No. 22 - July 2006.
Nuusbrief Nr. 22 - Julie 2006.

In keeping with the decision to maintain a healthy contact and relationship with our far flung members the June meeting was held in Grahamstown. The venue was the Lecture Room of the Botany Dept. which has a rich military history. The building was once used as a military hospital during the Frontier Wars. The meeting was well attended and the numbers bolstered by visitors from the Grahamstown Historical Society.
Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn welcomed all and thanked Pat Irwin and the Grahamstown members of the Society for the arrangements for the day. A number of apologies were noted. Malcolm raised the issue of our meeting venue in Port Elizabeth and advised that he would be inspecting the venue in Lorraine used by the Moths. A further inquiry was received from Jenny Bennie of Bay World in Humewood. The enquiry had to do with the old fortifications that are located in the vicinity of Brooke's Hill and appear to be in danger of pending building developments in the area. They date to World War Two. It would appear as if the buildings may be at risk. Richard Tomlinson would investigate.
The Delville Wood Parade is scheduled for the 16th July . A reminder at this stage is that Ian Uys, an authority on that most famous of South African battles will be addressing the Society later in the year. It's a meeting not to be missed.

SAMHSEC Annual Meeting - Grahamstown.

Following the success of our meeting on the 10th June in Grahamstown and despite the Port Elizabeth numbers being disappointingly small the Committee has decided to retain the strategy of having the June meeting in Grahamstown. This meeting would be held on the second Saturday at 14,00 in lieu of the meeting held in Port Elizabeth on the second Thursday. Alternative suggestions are invited.

Gallantry Awards.

In the absence of Mike Duncan our Chairman did the honours of doing the presentation. The subject at hand was the Honoris Crux - our highest award for gallantry and its award to the first non South African. The recipient was Staff Sergeant Daniel Roxo, who also held the Portuguese Cruz de Guerra and Bar plus the Medalha De Servicos Destintos for service in Mozambique. After the April 1974 Revolution in Portugal he joined the South African Defence Force and qualified as a Special Services Operator. He was awarded the Honoris Crux for gallantry at Bridge 14 in Angola in December 1975. He subsequently became a founder member of 32 Battalion and was killed in an ambush on the 23rd August 1976. He left a large family, which he had by his Black wife. Roxo was one of many Portuguese who joined our forces at the unsettling times when the SANDF became involved in activities beyond our borders.

The Curtain Raiser - "The History of Medicine and the impact it has had on warfare through the Ages."

Yoland Irwin, a Society member, presented a most interesting discourse on a subject close to her. She qualified in Pharmacy at Rhodes and is a now lecturer in that self same Department! Her slide presentation took us through the ages and of wars fought in previous centuries. The data reflected much on the deaths, be it on the battlefields or from those who died through illness and or of their wounds. She also dealt with the advent of not only modern medicine but related to that used before the introduction of antibiotics as we know them today. She continued ......
Medicine as we know it today, with the sanitation measures we have come to expect is relatively recent. Prior to the conclusion of World War II, the medical situation was totally different.
In the 18th Centaury, though the 19th centaury, and even at the beginning of the 20th centaury, the main killer in wars was not the bullets or the battle itself, but rather the resultant wounds, the secondary infections in these wounds, the amputations to try and save the men, and disease in the camps that actually did the most damage in the way of fatalities on the battlefield or shortly thereafter.

In the American War of Independence, deaths from combat were a mere 17% of all deaths when compared to deaths from the wounds, disease and illness, which amounted to 81% of all deaths.
There was no sanitation in hospitals, no "trained" nursing staff, and all blood was wiped off the surgeons hands onto the same apron for all the injured. Sterilization of instruments was not heard of, as bacteria had not been isolated under a microscope at that point.

After the Crimea war with Florence Nightingale and her nurses, certain advances in sanitation took place and by the time of the American Civil war in 1861-1865 the deaths from disease had dropped to 61%.

By the time of World War I, the death rates overall had dropped to 10% for British Forces, aided with the invention of X-rays and vaccinations against typhoid for the troops. Ambulance services were also improved during this time.

Antibiotics only came about between the 2 World Wars, and the impact has been dramatic. The last 60 years has seen many medical advances, and the statistics for the Gulf War Part 1 are a mere 0.01% of troops dying due to any cause on the battle field.

The Main Lecture - "Some Views on the causes of the 2nd Anglo Boer War"

Alan Bamford who delivered this lecture has a long association with the world of historical collection and memory. He is also an avid book collector. He commenced his talk with the statement that his views were of a personal nature. He reflected at the onset on what may have happened in his personal lifetime had certain events taken place. Consider, for example, if Hitler had been assassinated in July 1944?. That war would have ended earlier with thousands of lives being saved. Consider, as well, that if Arch Duke Ferdinand had not been assassinated in 1914 there could have well been no First World War!
Alan then referred to the Anglo Boer War and with his full content of the subject detailed his thoughts and views. Kruger declared war on England in October 1899 but one may well ask what made him consider this option? Had Kruger taken the softer option and allowed material concessions to the Uitlanders of the Transvaal he may have saved the lives of 8 000 Boer Commando members and more than 25,000 women and children who died in the concentration camps. Imagine, Alan said, what a huge impact that would have made on the European population of the present South Africa?

But Kruger was an old man in 1899 and had a long memory. He could recall from his parents the Battle of Blaauwberg in 1806 where the British took the Cape. Slagtersnek is still recalled with acrimony, Slavery was abolished in 1836 by the British, English became the official language of the courts and education, The Keate award gave the diamond fields to the Cape Colony and the Boers received a paltry 90,000 pounds as compensation. Historian Theal summed it up by saying,
"To this transaction more than any other is due the feeling of suspicion of English Policy mingled with enmity towards it for which the next thirty years was entertained by the farmers in the Orange Free State" The lack of ethics is clearly evident for in 1888 Rhodes bought out his rival, Barney Barnato, for more than five million pounds to form De Beers Consolidated Mines. How does that relate to the 90,000 pounds paid to the Boers a few years previously for the diamond fields? The 19th century is littered with events that led to an ever-increasing suspicion that the Boers may not have trekked far enough away from the English influence! Alan detailed many of these events to his audience and his thoughts and views put a different perspective on those events and their influence on thinking at the time. This reality of an ever increasing presence of intrusion on what the Boers considered theirs in their own republic came to light when gold was discovered in the Transvaal - first at Barberton and then on the Reef which led to the greatest gold rush ever with thousands arriving to seek their fortunes.

Alan had the view that the British did not seek to control the gold mines. That they would control in any event as London was the bullion capital of the world. The British wanted to consolidate their influence over the Transvaal in order that they could unify the region on a stronger basis with in the Empire. The rest is history. The Jamieson Raid was launched and it failed. President Steyn of the Orange Free State organized the Bloemfontein Conference to bring Kruger and Milner to the table under the chairmanship of Abraham Fischer who was the Prime Minister of the Orange Free State. The two were miles apart and no agreement was reached. Kruger was under pressure to relent but as he no doubt cast his mind back over the previous 100 years of injustice he defied the British and an ultimatum was given to the British to withdraw from the borders of the Transvaal. This was declined and war was declared.
Lord De Villiers was The Chief Justice of the Cape Colony. Before the breakdown of negotiations he advised those in Pretoria it would not be wise to allow the Uitlanders to seek redress of their grievances from Rhodes and others. It would be preferred that Kruger relent and impose his own more lenient conditions. Had he done so the Transvaal would be largely retained in its present state. Alan concluded by adding that the Apartheid regime under De Klerk had not made the same mistake when it relinquished power. That is a strange act in Africa but done for the betterment of all South Africa's people.

Next Meeting - Thursday 13th July, 2006 at 19,30 hours at The P.A.G. Drill Hall in Central, Port Elizabeth

Ian Pringle
Scribe / Secretary.

083-636-6623 or

South African Military History Society /