South African Military History 


Newsletter No. 18 - March 2006.
Nuusbrief Nr. 18 - Maart 2006.

Our February meeting took place at the usual venue of the PAG Drill Hall and was attended by 27 members and guests. Chairman Malcolm Kinghorn welcomed all to the meeting including the main speaker for the evening, Mr John Parkinson. Apologies were noted. The Society welcomes Bruce Steele-Gray of Kenton-on-Sea as a new member and most regrettably bids farewell to Deryk Langman who is relocating to the United States. We wish him all well and who knows he may yet still remain a member. We after all live in a global and small world !

Annual General Meeting - Thursday 9th March, 2006.

Please make a note of this date. Its our AGM and its fitting that we have a good attendance more so that we will have as the Main Speaker that evening Dr Taffy Shearing whose subject will be "The Cape Boer of The Anglo Boer War". She has a number of books to her name and her thesis covered this War during which many of our grandfathers and family members were to be found on either side of the political divide. Our AGM takes the place of a curtain raiser and our good Treasurer has offered to buy a round of drinks.

Chairman Malcolm advised the meeting that our membership stands at 49 paid up members and to date 17 members have renewed their subscriptions for the forthcoming year. Members are reminded that in order to have the vote at our AGM they must be in good standing and be paid up. You may pay your subscription directly into the Johannesburg account of the Society at FNB Account 50391928346 with bank code 256655. Please then fax a copy of your deposit slip to Joan Marsh on 011-648-2085 as a confirmation. The single subscription fee is R140,00.

Forthcoming Events.

Richard Tomlinson, speaking on behalf of the Port Elizabeth Historical Society, advised the meeting of interesting dates on their own calendar. On the 18th February there will be a visit to the PAG Memorial in St. George's Park which has undergone extensive rehabilitation and repair. There after the group will move across to the Sharley Cribb Nursing College for tea. In its day this building housed the most elegant of hotels in what was then the residential area of colonial Port Elizabeth. On the 18th March there is a day outing to Kirkwood which takes in historical sites of that area including the grave sites of three members of Smuts's Commando.

Matters Arising.

It was noted that the Moth Shell Hole in Bird Street had now been sold and that the Remembrance Day Service celebrated each year on the 11th November would have to find a new venue.
The name of John Joseph Worrier was raised as one who had been part of one of the British Regiments that had been stationed here in the 1800's. Anybody know of the man perhaps? It's a long shot but this is in response to an enquiry.

The Month in Military History - February.

Amongst the full details of many recorded incidents were the following
* 1851 Fort Armstrong , near Fort Beaufort and held by rebel Khoi, was captured by the British. It was the only fort ever attacked by the British in this country
* 1901 General Botha engaged the British at Chrissiesmeer
* 1915 The Battle of Kakamas which was in fact was three skirmishes
* 1917 The Mendi was sunk in The Bay of Biscay
* 1942 Surrender of Singapore to the Japanese
* 1942 The Yalta Conference attended by the Big Three. Accompanying Churchill and on his staff was Mrs Elizabeth Nel - one of our own members !
* 1945 Edwin Swales VC, of Durban, was killed.

Curtain Raiser.

Die inleidingslesing is deur luitenant kolonel (afgetree) Jorrie Jordaan oor die 1950 stigtingsinname van die MilitÍre Gimnasium, waarvan hy lid was, gelewer.

Die besluit om 'n MilitÍre Gimnasium te stig waar ongeveer 600 jong mans per jaar deur militÍre opleiding gevorm kon word, is in 1949 geneem. Die eerste 80 kwekelinge het gedurende Januarie 1950 te Voortrekkerhoogte vir hierdie doel aangemeld. Hierdie getal is aangevul tot daar 'n volle 96 man erewag deur die Gimnasium verskaf kon word. Opleiding het die normale militÍrepatroon gevolg. Basiese opleiding, bestaande uit dril en dissipline, veld- en skietkuns is deur gevorderde opleiding in die onderskeie indelings van die destydse SA Weermag gevolg. Klem is veral op seremoniŽle aspekte gelÍ en die kwekelinge is met verskeie parades en seremonies aangewend. Kwekelinge wat daarin belanggestel het, kon leiersopleiding ondergaan om na hul gimnasiumjaar as of instrukteurs of offisiere in die staandemag opgeneem te word.

Die gimnasiumkonsep was so geslaagd dat daar later soortgelyke instellings in die SA Lugmag en SA Vloot gestig is. Die oorspronklike MilitÍre Gimnasium het daarna as die LeŽrgimnasium voortbestaan.

Kolonel Jordaan het gedurende sy lesing veskeie fotos vertoon van, onder andere, die oorspronklike gimnasiumlyne uit die lug sowel as die uitstapdrag wat gedra is. Van die fotos het die blywende kameraadskap wat tussen oud-Gimnasiumkwekelinge ontwikkel is, uitgebeeld. Melding is gemaak van die besondere agting wat kwekelinge vir van hulle opledingspersoneel gehad het. Treffend hiervan was die fotos van 'n aantal oud-kwekelinge van die 1950 inname wat hul destydse Regiments Sersant-majoor se 90ste verjaarsdag saam met hom gevier het.

The curtain raiser was in Afrikaans by Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Jorrie Jordaan on the 1950 first intake of the Military Gymnasium, of which he was a member.

The decision to establish a Military Gymnasium where approximately 600 young men per annum could be developed through military training was taken in 1949. The first 80 trainees reported for duty in January 1950 in Voortrekkerhoogte. This figure was increased until the Gymnasium could muster a full 96 man guard of honour. Training was according to the standard military pattern. Basic training consisting of drill and discipline, field craft and musketry was followed by specialised training in the various fields of the contemporary Defence Force. Much emphasis was placed on ceremonial aspects and the trainees participated in many parades and ceremonies. Those who were interested could do leader training to qualify them as either instructors or officers in the permanent force after their Gymnasium year.

The Gymnasium concept proved so successful that similar institutions were established in the SA Air Force and SA Navy. After this, the original Military Gymnasium continued as the Army Gymnasium.

Colonel Jordaan displayed several photographs during his presentation, including an air photograph of the original Gymnasium lines and a photograph of the step out uniform worn by trainees. Others bore evidence of the lasting comradeship which was formed between trainees. Mention was made of the high regard in which trainees held some of the training staff. This was poignantly depicted in photographs of ex-trainees of the 1950 intake celebrating their Regimental Sergeant Major's 90th birthday with him.

Main Lecture.

The topic, "HMS Dorsetshire - Flagship, Africa Station, 1933-1935" was presented by John Parkinson. It was a most comprehensive and thorough briefing on a cruiser that saw service in our waters over this period and which eventually was sunk off the coast of Ceylon on the 5th April 1942 in a dive bomber attack. The cruiser was one of 13 heavy cruisers launched between 1926 and 1929 and was built in Portsmouth. Being classified as a heavy vessel she was armed with 8" guns, a varying number of lighter guns and manned by 710 officers and men. She was commissioned in July 1933 at Plymouth and destined for service on the Africa Station. Admiral Evans took command of the cruiser on its arrival in Simon's Town in September 1933. Evans was a remarkable man. He had been on Scott's Polar expedition, served with distinction in the First World War and developed an ethos amongst South Africans that they had a maritime heritage by making many contacts with officials and the public to whom he opened the cruiser by holding open days. The first encounter that the new arrival had was unusual as a detachment from its ranks was deployed to the then Bechuanaland where the suspension of the young Khama Chief was announced. It was a question of exerting British military authority over what was a seemingly small incident involving a British subject, the inclusion of local women, and his subsequent punishment at the hands of the local Chief. It would appear as if one did not trifle with the British when they ruled the waves!

John's notes are very detailed and give a deep insight onto the times of the Navy of the 1930's. It was not all gunnery exercises but also a time of cricket matches, much socializing, and in the true British tradition, of hoisting the Flag when the Dorsetshire visited ports on the African coast line.

The Dorsetshire's first official visit was to Port Elizabeth in October 1933 on the occasion of the opening of the new Charl Malan Quay. This was the first of many official visits to ports on the coast. Social events were order of the day. On a more serious note she took part in a landing of The Dukes at Saldanha Bay which was a first in terms of a combined operation. Those actual orders for this exercise are housed in the Museum in Simon's Town. She played an integral part in the visit by Prince George to the country in 1934 and added much pomp and ceremony to the occasions where HRH was present and met.

The Dorsetshire was not idle. She completed cruises up the East Coast, then to the West Coast visiting ports including Lagos and the western extremities of her area being St. Helena. Financial considerations were a need and more so the cost of fuel. Even at her economical speed of 12 knots she burned 2,8 tons per hour of product.

By the end of January 1935 her time at the Africa Station was coming to an end. Amongst her last duties was the presence of a guard drawn from her ranks to be present at the opening of Parliament. Admiral Evans was the supreme host. He took members of Parliament on a cruise round the Cape and held a garden party at Admiralty House for more than 1400 guests. The event was described as a brilliant affair! She ended her duties on the 23rd January 1935 when she slipped out of Simon's Town to arrive in Plymouth on the 11th February, 1935. She was then ordered to the China Station but not before playing a significant role during World War Two.

She had now been taken over and captained by Captain Benjamin Martin, the first man in 87 years to reach Flag rank from the active list. He being knighted in 1946 and to later retire to the South Coast.. She spent much time escorting shipping including troop convoys and passenger lines rounding the coast and through to the Far East. She was also to see action and her most famous, albeit small role, was in the sinking of the Bismarck where she fired numerous round of piercing shell into the enemy ship and then from a range of 2600 yards put three torpedoes into her hull. She played a role in rescuing survivors of that raider and after being refitted found herself in the South Atlantic where she sunk the German supply ship,"Python".

Japan entered the War in December 1941 followed by the United States. The result was that the Dorsetshire was to spend much of her time there after doing escort and patrol duties in the Indian Ocean before meeting her end. On board when she went down were 16 South African ratings, all RNVR, and who were sadly lost.

March Meeting.

This meeting, see page one of this letter for full details, will be held at the PAG Drill Hall on Thursday 9th March, 2006 at 19,30 hours

Ian Pringle,
Scribe./ Secretary
0836366623 or

South African Military History Society /