South African Military History 

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

Newsletter No. 21: - June 2006.
Nuusbrief Nr. 21: - Junie 2006.

The Society met at the usual Drill Hall venue on the 11th May at a meeting presided over by Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn. The attendance was 25 persons and a number of apologies were noted. Amongst the audience was our noted and valued member Mrs. Elizabeth Nel who served on Churchill's wartime staff and is the widow of a former Officer Commanding of The Prince Alfred's Guards.

In the notices we welcomed Lynn Phillips to the membership fold and details of the tour to Fort Fordyce and vicinity were made available. Chairman Malcolm was pleased to announce that only the Main Lecture slot for October was open such was the interest in the Speaker's Roster.

Pat Irwin supplied details on the next meeting which will held in Grahamstown on Saturday 12th June. The venue will be the Botany Dept Lecture Theatre on the Rhodes Campus. We plan a 14,00 hrs start but it is anticipated that Pat will arrange and provide details on a number of sites that could be visited earlier in the day and that through lack of time were not covered in the December visit.

Curtain Raiser - The History of Medicine in Warfare by Yolande Irwin
Main Lecture - Some Causes of the Anglo Boer War by Alan Bamford

The Second Annual General Meeting.

Due a technical glitch at a previous meeting this meeting was postponed to a later date. In order to formalise the activities of the Branch the meeting in question was held in conjunction with the present May meeting. All correspondence relating to the meeting, including the notice convening the meeting , had been previously distributed by the Secretary . Chairman Malcolm called the meeting to order and with the aid of a digital projector projected the various reports which were proposed , seconded and adopted without any undue debate. The Chairman lauded Treasurer Dennis Hibberd for a most comprehensive and detailed Financial Report. Richard Tomlinson then took the Chair very briefly and Malcolm Kinghorn was voted in for a second term with acclaim.The constitution for the Branch was also adopted Malcolm was thanked by the Secretary for his huge contribution to the continued progress and growth of the Branch. Our membership stands at a healthy 47 members. The Committee, and all members indicated their willingness to serve once again , was voted in without change. For the purposes of record the Branch Committee for 2006 will comprise the following

South African War Heroes.- Major Hans Garret Moore VC.

Following on our new series Mike Duncan presented to the meeting the profile on Major Moore who earned his Victoria Cross at The Battle of Draaibosch which is situated between King William's Town and Komga. It was the first Victoria Cross to be won on South African soil. Hans Moore was born in Dublin in 1835. He joined his father's regiment, the 88th Connaught Rangers, that landed in Cape Town in 1877 and which was then sent to serve on the Eastern Frontier. On the 29th December of that year he was part of a small patrol that was ambushed by Gaika warriors near Draaibosch and he rode into action in an attempt to save a Private Giese but his efforts were in vain and he escaped with stab wounds to his arm. He later left the regiment and returned to England where he joined the 93rd Foot. Here some two years later in 1879 he wrote his own warrant and recommendation for the Victoria Cross which was awarded to him in these unusual circumstances. The award was gazetted in 1879 much to the chagrin of those who served with him. He retired in 1888 and drowned when sailing off Dromineer Bay on the Ireland coast. Mike is thankful to the references of this soldier and his actions which are detailed in Ian Uys's book entitled " South African Military Who's Who "

Dennis Hibberd informed the meeting that the plaque in memory of Moore and which was erected on a cairn on the National Road at the scene of action has been removed by the local Moths and is in safe keeping in the Anglican Church in Komgha. A well thought out action as it would have no doubt landed in a scrap yard!!

Curtain Raiser

Fellow member Peter Duffell-Canham's curtain raiser told the story of his father's unpublished memoir of his service during and immediately after WW2. The title of the book "Seaman Gunner, do not weep" is taken from a lower deck song of the time. A point of interest is that it is written in the third person so that it could be the memoir of any of the sailors with similar experiences. John Duffell-Canham, following family naval tradition, served in the Mediterranean as a gunner on one of several South African whale-catchers converted to minesweepers. He joined as a frustrated sea cadet and like a good many of his time lied about his age and he entered service at the age of seventeen years.

He arrived in Port Said to have as his Section Leader one H.H. Bierman who was later to head the South African Navy. He served on the "Little Ships" which were converted whale catchers that had been fitted with armour and made seaworthy after having had tons of cabling removed and the vessel having to be rebalanced. He was later based in Alexandria and then moved round much of the Mediterranean. He was privileged to see Vesuvius erupting and also took part in a 28 day voyage escorting a dry dock through Suez and onwards to the East. That he was strafed by fighter aircraft on many occasions is an understatement. His main action was on D-Day and his involvement in the Greek Theatre.

There is a twist to the tail. Whilst in Athens a young girl called Maria joined the crew and she is pictured in a photograph. She was a survivor and thankful to be employed to do the washing. A platonic relationship took place and in 1980 John set out to look for her but with no luck. What happened to her is not known. Perhaps she may have been caught up in the Greek Civil War but the dark haired beauty remains an enigma.

After the end of the war in Europe, John's ship continued serving in Greek waters, which were of the most heavily mined of the war, against the background of the Greek Civil War. He settled in Cape Town where he died. After his death he was awarded a Certificate for General Service by the Greek Government which was accepted by Peter.

Main Lecture.

The main lecture on the Shangani Patrol by fellow-member Chris McCanlis, BCR, told how 34 white men were killed in action in Matabeleland on Monday 4 December 1893.

King Lobengula of the Matabele had granted mineral rights to the British South Africa Company. Due to interference with mining operations, Matabeleland was invaded. By the time Bulawayo was occupied on 4 November 1893, King Lobengula had fled north towards the Zambezi.

On 13 November, a force of 250 men, consisting of A and C Companies Salisbury Horse, the Victoria Rangers and a small Bechuanaland Border Police contingent, under Sandhurst-trained Major Patrick Forbes, with 4 Maxim guns and 3 days rations was sent to capture the King. At Inyati, Forbes sent 100 sick men with 1 Maxim gun back to Bulawayo. On 3 December, Forbes reached the Shangani River in almost continuous rain. He sent a patrol of 16 volunteers under Major Allen Wilson, an experienced colonial soldier, miner and policeman, to apprehend the King on the other side the river. They had instructions to return before dark. Matabele strength and determination were grossly underestimated. Later it was discovered that the King had sent 2 500 warriors south of the river to intercept Forbes. Matabele numbers north of the river were unknown.

The patrol advanced about 5 miles through thick bush in heavy rain. On turning back just before dark, three men were found to be missing. Unwilling to abandon them, Wilson found the best shelter he could. Later reports indicated that 7 000 to 8 000 Matabele warriors were closing in on the patrol during the night. Before sunrise, the missing men were found. Wilson then sent 2 men with blown horses across the river to Forbes. He sent no information or request for reinforcements. Nevertheless, Forbes sent an additional 20 men to Wilson. Soon after the reinforcements joined, the patrol was attacked. By approximately 10h30 the patrol had been annihilated. There is evidence that, when their ammunition started running out and they knew that they were going to die, the white men all stood, removed their hats and sang the National Anthem. Matabele casualties are estimated at 2 500.

It was later learnt from Majas, an Induna, who was at the scene of battle that only a tall man remained who had gathered the last of the available ammunition. Defiant to the last Wilson and his men had fallen but so impressed were the attacking warriors that the bodies were left as they fell. They were neither looted and or ransacked.

On the other side of the Shangani, Major Forbes waited impotently until the firing ceased and all hope of rescuing survivors was gone before retiring along the river under continuous attack. It was not a heroic retreat. Morale was low, rations depleted and ammunition short. Back in Bulawayo, Forbes was blamed for the loss of Wilson's patrol. He was eventually exonerated and went on to a distinguished military career. The unidentifiable bodies of the Shangani Patrol were recovered and eventually interred at the Matopos with Rhodes and other Rhodesian heroes. The Shangani Patrol had failed to capture the King, but the manner of their deaths was a source of pride to later generations of Rhodesians.

History will have it that those who died were well educated and sons of gentry and society. Many had public school education and had Sandhurst experience. They were indeed the cream of British South Africa Company.

The Tour - Of Forts, Assegais and Aloes.

The SAMHSEC tour from Fort Fordyce to Keiskammahoek and places between from 12 to 14 May 2005 was attended by 15 members and guests.

Fort Fordyce is rich in military history and is associated with the Waterkloof, Macoma and the Frontier War of 1851 -52.The group took over the very comfortable self catering guest house which has magnificent views over the Hogsbacks, Elandsberg, Katberg and the Winterberg mountains. An inspiring vista.

Day 1 ( Friday )was spent visiting the sites of various actions in the Fort Fordyce area during the 8th Frontier War. This included the area where Col. Fordyce fell to a snipers bullet, Tenth Pass and Nilands's Pass and the old pass road. This was built by the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders who created this road into the dense forests and in search of Macoma and his warriors.

A demonstration of period weapons was given at Fort Fordyce in the evening by Gert van der Westhuizen who has a rich knowledge of the area and who recounted much round the camp fire that evening. Gert set up a target and a few direct hits were made by enthusiasts who took their turns with arms once used by Queen Victoria's soldiers. It was then a fairly early night after enjoying a traditional braai and salads round the fire.

On Day 2 ( Saturday ) the tour visited Fort Hare and Fort Cox. Enroute to the later we stopped on the road between Alice and Middledrift where Piet Hall described what has become known as The Battle of The Ridge which took place on 29 December 1850. It was the unsuccessful sortie from Fort Hare to establish communication with the Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, who was besieged in Fort Cox. The 34 British dead are remembered on a memorial in the military cemetery at Fort Hare. The ruins of Fort Hare remain in fair shape on the campus but Fort Cox is in the main overgrown though one may determine from the stones the layout of the fort.

The sites of the actions at Burnshill and Boma Pass, Ngqika's grave and the monument erected and inscribed in Latin by soldiers of the 85th Regiment (Shropshire Light Infantry) to commemorate their construction of a road and bridge near Keiskammhoek in 1860 were also visited. The location of the Battle of Boma Pass was viewed from across the waters of the Sandile Dam which has largely submerged the old road. It was an epic encounter and it is hard to believe that losses were less than five on the side of the British who had set out with the firm intention of putting the tribes into place. That evening we enjoyed a delicious lamb potjie, salads and roosterkoek. Old soldiers have not lost their touch and are well qualified chefs!

On Day 3, ( Sunday ) the tour visited Lakeman's Fort near Fort Fordyce before moving to Bailey's Grave and discussing the annihilation of Lt Bailey's patrol on 27 June 1835. Lakeman was an Englishman who recruited his own men and formed his own unit and whose devisive tactics proved to be the scourge of Macoma. Bailey's Grave was of particular interest in the context of the main lecture of the SAMHSEC meeting on 11 May having been on the annihilation of the Shangani Patrol in 1893.The circumstances of both encounters are very similar but unlike the hero status given to Major Wilson by generations of Zimbabweans Lt.Baillie and a party of 29 Coloured soldiers were on a patrol. They failed to return to King William's Town and it was only three months later that the field of battle found with only Baillie's body intact. It was tragic that the body was discovered by Baillie's own father. He is today hardly remembered. Situated a short distance from Baillie's Grave is an old Lutheran Church and in its churchyard lie graves with many familiar German names and which hail from the days of the German Legion. Fifty years ago this was the centre of a vibrant community but time has taken it toll in many ways.

The tour then visited Macomo's grave on N'taba kaNdoda before moving to the site and discussing the Battle of Amalinde, fought in October 1818 between Ndlambe and Ngqika. It is a shame that the grave of the warrior chief, Macoma, lies derelict. His remains were re-interred fairly recently having died on Robben Island. The great fighter and tactician who deployed the might of The British Empire lies to all intents forgotten The Society is thankful, once again, to fellow member Piet Hall's arrangements for the tour. The services rendered from such a knowledgeable individual are much appreciated.

Next Meeting - Saturday 10th June - Grahamstown - 14,00 hours - see details in this Newsletter.

Ian Pringle
Scribe / Secretary.

083-636-6623 or

South African Military History Society /