South African Military 
History Society


June 2007

Contact: Mike Laing 031-205-1951
Bill Brady 031-561-5542

The meeting on 10 May fell on the anniversary of the German invasion of the Low Countries and France in 1940 and of Winston Churchill taking over as Prime Minister

The DDH talk "The other side of GENERAL SIR CHARLES WARREN GCMG, KCB, FRS" was delivered by fellow member Prof. Philip Everitt.

A marvelous talk presented in Philip's unique style. Charles Warren was born in February 1840, the son of Major-General Sir Charles Warren, K.C.B, Colonel of the 96th Foot. He attended Grammar Schools of Bridgnorth and Wem, and at Cheltenham College and later Sandhurst in 1857. After graduation, he posted to Gibraltar, where he spent seven years and constructed two models of the famous fortress, one of which is now at the Rotunda at Woolwich, and the other at Gibraltar. In 1859 he was initiated into the Freemasons and married Fanny Margaretta Haydon in 1863.

In 1867 Warren was posted to Jerusalem where he became most active in Freemasonry, attending meetings at the Temple Mount, convened by Dr Robert Morris PGM GL of Kentucky. Others who took part in the ceremony were Noureddin Effendi, the Turkish Governor of Jaffa, who was a member of the Amitie Clemente Lodge of Paris and held the 28 Degree in the Scottish Rite; Henry Peterman, Consul of Prussia in Jerusalem, four Christian Americans then living in Jaffa, and the American Vice-Consul, R. Beardsley, of Elkhart, Indiana.

In 1869, Warren was promoted to Captain and in 1870 returned home to command 10th coy RE at Dover Castle, When Kimberley was annexed by the Cape in1876 Warren was asked to lay down the boundary between OFS and Griqualand West and was appointed special commissioner West Griqualand to settle cases.

In 1878 he commanded Diamond Fields Horse (a colonial volunteer unit incorporated into the Kimberley Regt during the Boer War) in the Frontier war against Gcalekas, and was wounded at Perie bush. In 1880 Warren returned to England as Chief Instructor Of Surveying Chatham. In 1884 Warren was appointed to lead expedition to Bechunaland, Stellaland and Goshen in command of 5000 men including Methuen's (raised in England) and Carrington's (colonial) Horse. Warren persuades Kruger to give up his claim; defeated rebels and brought Stellaland leader van Niekerk to trial in Vryburg. In 1885 he laid out the town of Mafeking and constructed numerous structures still standing. In 1886 he accepts post as Commissioner of Metropolitan Police offered by Home secretary, Childers who was soon out of office. Warren was by now a Major General and Past Grand Deacon UGLE this position also held by Wolsley, Chelmsford, Roberts and Kitchener. In 1888 he was awarded Knight Commander of Bath (KCB)

In 1889 he was posted to Singapore and set up The Lodge St Michael which is a research lodge, and the Singapore Philosophical Society (limited to 20 men of literary standing). He returned to England in 1894, promoted to Lt Gen and retired to Ramsgate.

In 1899 he returned to South Africa and commanded troops at the Spionkop debacle. Recalled to England in 1900 he faced the "Commission of Enquiry" into the War, which included his famous "disagreement" with General Buller at Spionkop.

He assisted Baden Powel with the foundation of Boy Scouts and died in 1927

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The main talk "NAPOLEON'S invasion of Egypt, 1798 - Its influence on European tastes" was delivered by guest speaker Nicholas Schofield.

A fascinating talk beginning with what made Napoleon great; he had charisma (as did Hitler), was androgynous, appealing to both men and women and a full general at the age of 30. After the victorious Italian campaign of 1797 and realising there was no chance of a successful invasion of England, Napoleon decided to attack England by interfering with her trade to India through Egypt. He amassed an army of 30 000 men and in 1798 sailed from Toulon in 200 ships, capturing Malta en route. He soon captured Alexandria and advanced towards the Nile. This was a nightmare for his troops clad in heavy blue serge in temperatures of around 35 degrees. The Egyptian rulers, Murad and Ibrahim Bey had two separate armies, on each bank of the Nile. Napoleon advanced along the west bank. At the "Battle of the Pyramids," Murad's Mameluke cavalry charged and were slaughtered in just two hours by the disciplined French who had formed a "square."

Thus ended the 800 year influence of the Mameluke dynasties. Napoleon entered Cairo on the 24 July 1798, he imposed order, improved water supplies and sewage disposal.

Meanwhile Nelson's fleet which had been scouring the Mediterranean for the French found them at Aboukir Bay and reaped disaster on Napoleon with a decisive victory. Napoleons army was now cut off from the homeland. Nevertheless the French advanced up the Nile, accompanied by an expedition of 200 savants, scientists and intellectuals. They discovered many amazing monuments along the Nile and these were described with meticulous care in the 28 volume "Description de l Egypt" (1809-1828). This work revealed to Europe for the first time the wonders of the art and architecture of ancient Egypt.

Turkey declared war on France in September 1798 and as a result Napoleon began an advance on Syria, reaching Acre in March 1799, laying siege. This was a failure and he withdrew to the Nile in May. The second Turkish army landed at Aboukir in July and was soundly defeated and driven into the sea.

By now Napoleon had had enough of his Egyptian campaign; there were bigger fish for him to fry in Paris. He handed over command to General Kleber and departed Egypt on 22 August 1799. The remains of his army did not get home to France until 1802 (after the Treaty of Amiens).

The famous Rosetta Stone was found in August 1799 by a Frenchman named Bouchard. This stone is now in the British Museum, having passed into British hands in October 1801 when the last French troops sailed from Egypt on British ships as a trade off. By 1821 the French scientist Champollion finally translated the hieroglyphics. Napoleons well known stance with his hand in his jacket pressed against his midriff is not just a pose but points to chronic stomach pain due to ulcers and ultimately a tumor.

The entire presentation was beautifully illustrated with many well chosen paintings of the time on power point, e.g. Napoleons coronation with his absent mother present, a magnificently arranged Marmeluke; the French square at the Battle of the Pyramids, and others.

Captain Brian Hoffman thanked Philip for the little known details of General Warren's background on Freemasonry and archeology. This background rendered him less suitable for commanding in the field, yet it does not explain his failure at Acton Homes and Spioenkop.

Nicholas gave us a whole new perspective on Napoleon. He abandoned his army in Egypt and did the same in 1812 when he abandoned the shattered freezing remains of the Grande Armee near Vilna. Yet until Napoleon invaded Egypt with his intellectual army, Europe had no idea of the glories of ancient Egypt. We also learned of the links between Napoleon, the Louvre, and the artist David.

This was a truly great evening.

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Please note that the 2nd Thursday in August is a public holiday, but as the auditorium at the University is fully booked for all Thursdays in August, your committee has decided to hold the meeting on our normal 2nd Thursday, despite it being a public holiday. Please make a note in your diary that the August meeting will be held, as normal, on 10 August 2007.

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Another important date for your diaries!! It has now been confirmed by Ken Gillings, that the 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 Brakfontein, which is the ridge between the Twin Peaks and Kranskloof in the Vaalkrans area. Brakfontein was of strategic value to the Boers as it commands one of the routes to Ladysmith.
A full itinerary will be published in the next newsletter - but in the meantime, please put this date in your diary as our Battlefield Tours are a highlight of the Military History Society year.
Any members or guests wishing to play the roles of the various commanders are requested to contact vice chairman Ken Gillings.

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We are now well into 2007 and a small number of members have yet to pay their subscriptions. It is easy to overlook an annual payment of this kind, so please check your bank accounts to ensure that payment has been made. If not PLEASE send your subscription to Joan Marsh in Johannesburg without delay, or directly into the Society Account at FNB Bank, Park Meadows Branch, A/c 50391928346, Branch code, 25-66-55, Name: South African Military History Society.

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THURSDAY - 10 MAY 2007

DDH Achtung Panzer - Michael Wittmann.
Speaker: Bill Brady

Bill will speak on Germany's greatest exponent of the art of armoured warfare. He was awarded Nazi Germany's coveted decoration, the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, for his many campaigns both on the Eastern front and in the West.

MAIN Yorktown 1781. The Last Battle of the Revolution
Speaker: Robin Taylor

The American War of Independence began in 1775 and got going properly in 1776. In October 1781 British commander Lord Cornwallis was besieged in Yorktown and finally surrendered to American and French forces. The role of the American navy proved crucial to this defeat.

Once again we have two contrasting talks on little known episodes of military history.

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: July to September 2007

12th July
DDH - Mike Laing - Who is it? (A quiz, and something different!!)
MAIN - Brian Kennedy - The English Civil War in Ireland

9th August
DDH - Brian Hoffman - Admiral Drake
MAIN - Peter Schneider - The Hungarian War against Communism: 1956

13th September
DDH - details to be confirmed
MAIN - Natal Mounted Rifles Base Visit

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South African Military History Society /