South African Military History 


Newsletter No. 39: November 2007
Nuusbrief Nr. 39: November 2007

SAMHSEC regrets that fellow member Elizabeth Nel's chair will be vacant at future meetings. Elizabeth was born in England, grew up in British Colombia and died in Port Elizabeth on 30 October 2007. She served on Churchill's personal staff during WW2.

The Frontier War Regiments series presentation was by Pat Irwin on the 24th Regiment. Founded in 1689 to fight in Ireland, the Regiment participated in the 2nd British invasion of the Cape in 1806. Both battalions served in the 9th Frontier War of 1877/78. The 1st Bn was used to suppress malcontents on the Kimberley Diamond Fields in 1878. The Regiment is best known in South Africa for its role in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. It has over 60 battle honours and has been awarded 23 VCs, including 8 at Rorkes's Drift. In addition to Isandlwana where 5 companies of the 1st Bn and 1 of the 2nd were wiped out to a man, the Regiment has had its share of disasters, starting with a failed raid on Brest in 1694. At the siege of Cartegena in 1741, 90% of its strength was lost. In 1756 it surrendered after Admiral Byng failed to relieve Minorca. In 1771 it capitulated again at Saratoga. At Talavera in 1809, the 2nd Bn lost over a third of its strength extricating Guards from a difficult position. The following year en route to Mauritius, the 1st Bn transports were attacked by French warships and the colonel and 5 companies captured. At Chilianwallah in 1849, the 24th lost 300 other ranks and 14 officers, including their colonel and both of his sons. The regiment was also badly mauled during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. On the 30th anniversary of Chilianwallah, the officers of both battalions dined together at Helpmekaar. The toast was "That we may not get into such a mess again and better luck next time". 21 of the 24 officers present were to die in action within the fortnight, including the proposer of the toast.

The curtain raiser was on "The Terrible Twins: Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers" by Richard Tomlinson. In the English 1500s military hierarchy, artillery and engineers administered the King's fortifications and works, arsenals and military equipment. Artillery and ordnance trains were raised for specific crises and then disbanded. In 1716 artillery and engineers were separated. In 1722 the Royal Regiment of Artillery and Soldier Artificer Companies for construction of fortifications, commanded by officers of the Corps of Engineers, were formed. In 1787 a Corps of Royal Military Artificers was formed to construct seaward defences. In 1793 the Royal Horse Artillery raised to support cavalry. During the Peninsular War, CRMA became the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners. The motto "Ubique" (Everywhere) was adopted by both corps in 1833. In 1856 the CRSM was absorbed into CRE, ending the anomaly of officers and other ranks belonging to separate corps. In 1859 RA companies became batteries, divided into field and garrison batteries. In 1899 the RA reorganized into 2 separate branches, Royal Horse with Royal Field, and Royal Garrison. In 1924 the RA became a single corps, with the RHA retaining its title and badge. From 1862 the RE was responsible for communications and military aviation (observation balloons). In 1912 aviation was taken over by Royal Flying Corps. In 1920 the Royal Corps of Signals was formed to take over the communications duties of RE. Neither the RA nor RE carry Colours. Guns are regarded as the Colours of the RA, which is why extreme action is taken by gunners to retrieve guns.

Geoff Hamp-Adams introduced his main lecture slide show on Pearl Harbour with an orientation of the aircraft involved, the layout of Pearl Harbour and the approach routes taken by the Japanese fleet and aircraft. Slides included Japanese deck crews cheering aircraft taking off from the fleet carrier Shokaku; the Arizona blazing fiercely before blowing up with the loss of 1 177 lives (probably the best known photograph of the attack); the capsized Oklahoma; the severely damaged Maryland; crew abandoning the burning California; rescue launches picking up survivors from the West Virginia and the Tennessee; the capsized cruiser Helena (she capsized 2 hours after the attack, some say from fright); the damaged cruisers Utah, Raleigh, Tangier and Detroit on the north of Ford Island; the damaged battleship Nevada, moved from her mooring on Battleship Row by the duty crew and run aground on the Waipio Peninsula; the destroyer Shaw, which was set on fire in the floating dock and later exploded; the damaged battleship Pennsylvania and destroyers Cassin and Downes in dry dock, which was flooded to raise the Pennsylvania to the level where her anti-aircraft guns could be brought into action; a photograph taken from a Japanese aircraft during the attack on Wheeler Airfield; the wreck of a Zero shot down south of Hickam Air Base and another well known photograph of the south-east corner of the Naval Air Station on Ford Island giving an impression of the chaos which existed during the attack. The presentation concluded with several slides of the Arizona Memorial.

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The National Committee has fixed SAMHS subs for 2008 at R150 for single and R170 for family membership.

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Members are invited to submit suggestions for SAMHSEC 2008 tours to Ian Pringle, 083 401 6623,

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The updated 2008 Speakers Roster is attached. There are 2 curtain raisers open. Members are encouraged to contribute to filling the vacant slots within the guideline that speakers should not address the Branch more than once a year. The willingness of those members who have stepped forward to address the Branch is appreciated.

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SAMHSEC's next meeting is on 13 December 2007 at 1930 in the PAG Drill Hall. The curtain raiser will be Black Powder by Robin Barkes. The main lecture will be The Battle of Bannockburn by Mike Duncan. Should Mike not be available, the alternative is 2 presentations on ships and shipping: the first by Pat Irwin on the Konigsberg and the second by Malcolm Kinghorn on the Halifax Explosion. The Frontier Wars Regiment series will be on the 91st Regiment.

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Date Curtain Raiser Subject: Curtain Raiser Speaker: Main Lecture Subject: Main Lecture Speaker:
10 Jan 08 The Helen Duncan story Peter Duffel-Canham South African Paratroopers in World War 2 McGill Alexander
14 Feb 08 Ian Pringle The Arthur Cup (title TBC) The power of war poetry Anne Irwin
13 Mar 08 AGM   Ria Meyer Diary of a 2007 D-Day to Berlin Tour
10 Apr 08 The tank that stormed Saigon Ken Stewart The First Four Frontier Wars (date TBC) Alan Bamford
8 May 08 either "Making of model cannons" or "Restoration of 7 pdr RMLs" Zane Palmer Chris McCanlis, BCR Memorial Lecture: The Indian invasion of Goa Malcolm Kinghorn
14 Jun - 08 (Grahamstown) Mary Knowling Service in the SA coastal artillery in WW II. John Jackson Greeks (or Romans) at War
10 Jul - 08 Pitfalls in medal collecting Mike Duncan Gettysburg Robin Barkes
7 Aug - 08 The RAF's most decorated squadron Tim Jones Electronic and Modern Information Warfare Barry Irwin
11 Sep - 08 Revolutionary Warfare Piet Hall 5 SA Infantry Battalion Jock Harris
10 Oct - 08     The Battle of Hastings Pat Irwin
14 Nov - 08 A British Army National Serviceman in the 1950s Richard Tomlinson Xhosa Warfare Peter Gordon
12 Dec - 08     TBC Ted Botha

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Malcolm Kinghorn.
SAMHSEC SCRIBE 082 331 6223

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