South African Military History Society

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The September meeting was opened at the usual time by the Chairman, Flip Hoorweg, who commenced by welcoming all present and giving out the usual monthly notices. He then asked Bob Smith, our Deputy President, to come forward and give details of our next outing. This will take place on Saturday, 17 November 2007 and will be a guided tour of the Johannesburg Military Museum under the leadership of Hamish Paterson. The tour will include glimpses behind the scenes and, commencing at 11h00 at the museum gate, will last approximately two hours. This will be followed by a "bring your own" picnic lunch on the lawns of the museum (there is a tea room on the premises which also sells light meals). The cost will be R30 per person, pensioners R20 and children under 12 R10. The proceeds will be donated to the museum library.

Flip then introduced our curtain-raising speaker, Mr John Cramp. Born in Middlesex in England, John is a retired petro-chemical engineer who has served all over the oil-producing world and retired in South Africa in 1996. He then became involved in community affairs in Johannesburg and is at present a practicing Natal Battlefields Tour Guide, with a special interest in "The Scramble For Africa". The subject of his talk was "Soldier Prince - Edward of Kent, Queen Victoria's Father".

Using computer graphics, John started by questioning why we know so little about the father of a queen who gave her name to an era. One of the 15 children born to King George III and Queen Charlotte, and the youngest of five brothers, Edward was born on 2 November 1767. The five boys were raised extremely strictly and Edward was packed off to military school in Germany as a cadet at the age of 17. There he was swindled out of much of his allowance by his tutor Baron Wangenheim who, in order to cover this up, also censored the correspondence between Edward and his father the King. This interference in their correspondence led to a gradual estrangement between father and son until, in desperation and dire poverty, Edward absconded from his tutor while in Geneva and came home to see his father personally. King George refused to see him as he had left Geneva without his permission but eventually the two got together for less than an hour, the first time that they had met in six years.

This meeting had the result that shortly afterward Edward was posted to Gibraltar as the Officer Commanding a garrison regiment. This was not a success. His Prussian training and repressed childhood had turned him into a vicious and cruel martinet, and in modern terms it would seem that he showed signs of being a psychopath. The rumblings of discontent that followed ensured that he was quietly transferred to Quebec as Colonel of the 7th Royal Fusiliers, at the age of 23. There he met and fell in love with Alphonsine Therese Bernadine Julie de St Laurent, an aristocratic French Canadian. This love was to last the rest of his life and displays another side to Edward.

In his private and social life he was a loving, caring and gracious person, exactly the opposite of his military personality - almost a Jeckyll and Hyde situation. He was forever deeply in debt, commencing with his time as a cadet and growing worse through a series of misfortunes while in Canada and it is estimated that at one time he was over 200 000 pounds in debt!

His cruelty to the men under his command resulted in an attempt at mutiny and assassination but, in February 1793 when war broke out between Britain and France, he was promoted to major General and tasked with the invasion and occupation of Martinique in the West Indies. He carried out this task brilliantly, displaying great personal bravery and winning the grudging respect of his troops. In 1799 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the British garrison in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, created Duke of Kent and Streathern and Earl of Dublin. Based in Halifax, this appointment lasted three years after which he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar. His orders were to clean up Gibraltar, which had become a den of iniquity for British troops. This he did with his customary ruthlessness, provoking yet another mutiny and leading to his recall. Promoted to Field Marshall at the age of 38, he was retired. He then became involved in "good works" but sank ever deeper into debt. To resolve this problem, he needed to get married to qualify for an allowance and so he quietly set about finding a wife, while still living in Paris with his mistress Julie. He found one - a divorced lady with two children, married her, fathered Victoria, and promptly died at the age of 52 when Victoria was 8 months old. Because of the vagaries of dynastic succession she, of course, went on to become the Queen Empress of Britain.

Flip thanked John for his most interesting talk and then introduced the main speaker for the evening. This was to have been Paul Kilmartin, who was to have spoken on World War I but who, for personal reasons, was delayed in the United Kingdom and unable to appear. Hamish Paterson stepped into the breach at short notice. Hamish is well known to all of us as a past President of our Society and active participant in every monthly meeting, as our Museum liaison officer, and he had chosen to speak on "Cleopatra Versus Augustus - The Battle of Actium".

The Battle of Actium marked the closing stages of the Roman Civil War and Hamish commenced with a brief description of the status of Egypt at that time. The ruling Ptolemy family was not of Egyptian but Greek descent and this rankled with their subjects. Ptolemy XII, Cleopatra's father (her mother's name is unknown), got involved in a succession struggle in Cyprus and while he was away the citizens of Alexandria rebelled. The throne passed to Ptolemy XIII and Berenice, and on the subsequent assassination of the latter, to Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra, who did not enjoy the confidence of Egypt's Regency Council.

As a result of the Roman Civil War, Pompey who was in conflict with Julius Caesar fled to Egypt. There he was murdered and his head presented to Caesar, who was in hot pursuit. In a famous incident involving a carpet, Cleopatra had herself smuggled into Caesar's presence and commenced a relationship with him for her own advantage. Ptolemy XIII was promptly deposed and his place taken by Ptolemy XIV and Cleopatra followed Caesar to Rome where she bore him a son, Caesarian. There she also undoubtedly met Mark Anthony. With Caesar's assassination, Cleopatra returned to Egypt and with the death of Ptolemy XIV ruled Egypt as regent on behalf of her son.

Back in Rome, with the establishment of the Second Triumvirate, a gradual slide towards trouble between Caesar's nephew Octavian, henceforth also known as Augustus, and Mark Anthony developed. Augustus was no soldier but he had as his right hand man a general named Marcus Agrippa who, in addition to being a fine soldier, was also a very good admiral. Anthony became embroiled with Cleopatra when he was involved in the death of her sister at Tarsus and met her there, but it was only four years later that he commenced an affair with her, although he was married to Octavia, Augustus' sister. Augustus could not tolerate an alliance between his rival Anthony and wealthy Egypt and, to settle matters once and for all, declared war on that country. Because of the geographical constraints, it would be a sea war and Anthony and Cleopatra, acting jointly, assembled over 800 galleys. Unfortunately they could not find sufficient oarsmen and only 187 ships mustered in the Gulf of Corinth, to which they transported their land forces. There on the mainland of Greece they were confronted by Augustus' army in a stand off where both armies faced each other across the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth. To break the deadlock, the Egyptian fleet was moved North to off Actium where it was met by Agrippa.

With the aid of maps and cut away drawings of triremes, biremes and even quinquiremes, Hamish described the course of the subsequent sea battle in which Agrippa demolished his opponents using superior tactics and "Greek fire" missiles. The result was a complete victory for Augustus. Cleopatra and Anthony made their way back to Egypt where both committed suicide. With time the remainder of the Ptolemy family, including Caesaria, were quietly eliminated and Egypt became a province of Rome.

After a short question period Marjorie Dean thanked both John Cramp and Hamish Paterson for two excellent talks and for Hamish's easily understandable summing up of a series of complex events. Flip then adjourned the meeting.

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Poppy Day collection

Please contact Ivan Feinstein at 011-485-5024 or 082-509-7509 if you are ready, willing and able to shake collection tins for the benefit of War Veterans on Saturday 10 November from 08h00-13h00 at one of the following shopping centres: Sandton City, Killarney, Balfour Park, Randpark Ridge or Bryanston.

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Book news

John Mahncke, who retired at the end of last year as the vice-chairman and Scribe of our Cape Town branch, announces the impending publication of
U-Boats and Spies in Southern Africa. Further details are available from or e-mail John at:

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Photographs - Nursing Services WWII

A recent e-mail query to the web-site asks if anybody has, or knows of, photographs of nurses involved in Nursing Services in SA in WWII: is specifically looking for photographs of Miss Margaret Stoney, a relative, who was appointed Matron in Chief in 1946.

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For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Mike Laing 031-205-1951 (
For Cape Town details contact Bob Buser (Sec'y/Treas) 021-689-1639 (
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 (

Ivor C Little (Scribe) 012-660-3243

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