The meeting was as usual opened by the Chairman, Flip Hoorweg who started by requesting a moment's silence in memory of William Lane, a member of long-standing in the Society who had recently passed away. He then handled the usual notices that included advance information on the Military History Fair to be held at Fort Schanskop in June and final notice of our tour to the Voortrekker Monument on 26thMay. Mr Andre Sharaskin, Senior Counsellor of the Russian Embassy, was then asked to come forward and was awarded the Felix Machanick prize for the Best Main Lecture of 2006. Mr Sharashkin had been unable to collect his prize at the Annual General Meeting last month because of illness. The prize was handed over by Colin Dean.
Flip then introduced the first speaker of the evening, Mr Donald Brown. Mr Brown was born in England and on completing his schooling did his National Service as a Radio Operator in the Royal Air Force, based in Egypt and Cyprus. After a spell working in the UK, he came out to South Africa in 1964 where he worked in the construction industry until his retirement. The subject of his curtain raiser talk was "A Child At War".
Donald spoke of his childhood in the London suburb of Wimbledon during World War II and what it was like growing up in London during the Blitz, surrounded by a large and widespread family. He gave us a description of how his family settled down to practice air raids and the use of air raid shelters during the initial "phoney war" and then how the war started in earnest for them with the bombing of the London Docks. Some of his family became Volunteer Firemen and others joined the Home Guard or grew vegetables on the local sports field that had been turned into "Dig for Victory" allotments. The bombing got steadily worse and young Donald and his mother moved to nearby Guildford to stay with relatives in the comparative safety of the country. After a few months they returned to London to find that their home had been bombed to rubble and had to find a new one. London was then being plagued by flying V-1 "doodlebug" bombs that were more psychologically terrifying than bombing because of their random landings.
As Donald got older he started taking an interest in the cinema newsreels and the war became more real to him, but his abiding nostalgic memory of that whole dismal period is of the various BBC radio shows of the time, particularly the ITMA show and "Much Binding In The Marsh". His final memory was the arrival of the end of the War and the street fancy-dress party that was held to celebrate, an event that was won by a child dressed to represent "The Union Jack".
Flip thanked Mr Brown for a most interesting and amusing talk and briefly mentioned his own boyhood in Nazi occupied Holland. He then introduced the next speaker for the evening.
This was Mr Clive Willsworth, who would speak on "The South African Artillery in Action 1975-1988". Mr Willsworth found himself in the artillery as a young National Serviceman in 1969 and, after starting at the School Of Artillery, served in various units as a National Service Junior Officer. After a spell as a quantity surveyor, he joined the Permanent Force as a lieutenant with the 14th Field regiment and thereafter served in South West Africa/Namibia and Angola, as well as taking part in Counter-Insurgency operations in Lebowa. In 1994 he returned to private industry and is currently a Certified Professional Logistician and is writing a book with the title of "First In - Last Out, The South African Artillery in Angola 1975-1988", of which this talk was a foretaste.
Using an impressive Power Point presentation of photographs, diagrams and maps, Clive showed us how an artillery regiment is organised; the topography of the terrain which was fought over and the political background of the various warring Liberation movements being supported by the USA, Soviet Russia and Red China. South African and Cuban involvement occurred almost simultaneously in 1975 when South Africa launched Operation Savannah, a covert operation that saw South African forces pushing north up the Angolan coast via Benguela and Lobito as well as up the centre of the country to within 18 km of Luanda. The South African artillery strength in this operation amounted to two guns, which grew to four. Because of poor support from the FNLA outside Luanda, the South Africans found their line of retreat cut off and pushed north to Ambriz where they were picked up off the beach by the SAS President Steyn, leaving their guns behind with the FNLA. These were later recovered. This operation also involved the well-documented saga of Bridge 14.
After the operation, the obsolete World War II field guns used by the SADF were supplemented by purchase of the 155mm G3, but this gun was never used in action. After an action at Etali, and the capture of a National Serviceman by the name of Van Der Nes, it was decided to strike a blow at SWAPO in Southern Angola and this resulted on Operations Bruiloff, Seiljag and Reindeer. At this time the SADF was sorely stretched to find sufficient Permanent Force artillery officers and this was the indirect cause of a friendly-fire incident when a plotting error brought own fire down on a forward South African post during Operation Seiljag. Operation Reindeer, which is well known because of the devastating results for SWAPO at Cassinga, was followed by Operations Protea and Askari, both of which Clive described in detail. Askari saw the introduction of the Israeli designed G4 that was not particularly suitable for Angolan conditions and was soon replaced by the South African G5 and Multiple Rocket Launchers. There then ensued a series of clashes in Central Angola around the towns of Mavinga, Cuito Cuanavale and Menongue when FAPLA attempted to push south to take Jamba and were held back by South African and UNITA forces in a series of operations known as Alpha Centauri, Modular and Hooper, in the course of 1987.
After this the Permanent Force and National Service participants in Angola were replaced by Citizen Force regiments, which then launched Operation Packer to once again repel the advancing enemy. By this time South African artillery participation had grown to Brigade size. The Cuban and liberation movement forces then prepared for a major strike south on Tsumeb, and Operation Hilti was planned by the South African forces to repel and, if possible, eradicate this force in the high ground east of Tsumeb. This attack never materialised and the fighting ground down to the eventual independence of Namibia.
There were a lot of lessons learned during all the above operations and these resulted in new world-class artillery pieces, improved locating devices, better communications and modern navigational equipment being provided to the South African artillery.
As mentioned before, this talk will hopefully be expanded into a book and Clive would like to hear from any ex-artilleryman who has something to contribute, particularly of a humorous or social nature, for inclusion in this book.
A brief question time followed after which Mr Willsworth was thanked, as from one NSM to another, by Hamish Paterson for an excellent and in-depth presentation. Flip then adjourned the meeting for tea.
Ivor Little (Scribe) 012-660-3243
KZN in Durban:
SAMHSEC in Port Elizabeth:
For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Mike Laing 031-205-1951 (email@example.com)
For Cape Town details contact Bob Buser (Sec'y/Treas) 021-689-1639 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 (email@example.com)
Johannesburg branch's day trip to Voortrekker Monument:
Seventeen members and friends were treated to Felicia Fourie's guided tour of the Voortrekker Monument
on Saturday 26th May. If you are ever in Pretoria and have the opportunity to spend a few hours catching
up on local history, contact Felicia for a very special view of one of her beloved city's historical landmarks
- we had previously been to Melrose House, the Kruger House Museum, the school from which Churchill
escaped and the old cemetery. Her husband Deon, a life member of the Society, spoke about the
Voortrekker firearms and Zulu weaponry and the military strategies of those times (1835 to 1854) with brief
summaries of four major battles. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or her cell is 083-376-2001.
Fort Schanskop was explored on our own after lunch and is also well worth a visit - it is contained within
the greater Monument precinct. (And it was at least two degrees warmer than in Jo'burg!!)
Early notice is given of SAMHSEC's tour to Tarkastad, Stormberg and Cradock from Friday 31 August to Sunday 2 September (dates TBC). Details from Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 or email@example.com SAMHSEC is invited to join the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth visit to the van Stadens River Gorge on Saturday 15 September 2007. Details from Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Battlefield Tour will take place on the last weekend of September 2007 - the 29th & 30th September. Day 1 will concentrate on the Battle of Elandslaagte and on the Sunday we will merge with the Ladysmith Historical Society to visit the location of the Battle of Brakfontein, which is the ridge between the Twin Peaks and Kranskloof in the Vaalkrans area. Details from email@example.com or 031-702-4828
Erwin Ureel, the Coordinator of the Scottish Memorial in Flanders-campaign (firstname.lastname@example.org)
writes: the new Scottish Memorial in Flanders will be unveiled on the 25th of August 2007 at the occasion
of a commemoration weekend which fits in the Passchendaele 1917- 2007 commemoration campaign.
There is a South African link to this story too. Web-site: www.scottishmonument.be
John Lincoln of the Cullinan Heritage Society (email@example.com) e-mailed as follows:
In an area of our village was an open air church, with and altar and benches. This was in area that was occupied by the army during the last war. Until recently it was used by the scouts. The mine here (Cullinan Diamond Mine, previously Premier Mine) sold the property to developers. I believe the open air church was constructed during the war. The problem we have as the Cullinan Heritage Society is that the developers have completely destroyed the church although we tried to tell them its significance. We have reported it to the authorities, Provincial Heritage Resources Agency, who have asked us to investigate to find out when it was built. They may wish to take action with the developers. My question is, do you have any members in your organisation who are still alive that maybe can remember this open air church? The area is to the east of the golf course which was also occupied by the army. I am afraid that the two people who were here during the last war have sadly passed on recently.
John Lincoln 012-734-1587 or 082-551-6089
Ivor C Little (Scribe) 012-660-3243
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