South African Military History 

South African Military History Society Eastern Cape Branch
Suid Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging Oos Kaap Tak

Newsletter No. 33: June 2007
Nuusbrief Nr. 33: Junie 2007

Tim Jones opened SAMHSEC's 10 May 2007 meeting with the first in the new series on Frontier Wars Regiments on the Staffordshire Regiment, which incorporates the 38th and 98th Regiments, both of which participated in Frontier Wars. The regiment was formed on 31 January 1959 with the amalgamation of The South Staffordshire Regiment and The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's). The Stafford knot was common to the badges of both regiments, the South being surmounted by a crown and the North by the Prince of Wales's plume, coronet and motto. These distinctive features were incorporated in the new badge. The 1st Battalion was designated 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment in 1782; the 2nd Battalion, the old 80th, had Staffordshire Volunteers as its secondary title in 1795. In 1881 the 38th and 80th were linked to form the South Staffordshire Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, the former 98th Foot, was granted "Prince of Wales's" as a secondary title in 1876. The 1st Battalion was the old 64th, or 2nd Staffordshire Regiment, since 1782, but on the amalgamation of the two regiments in 1881 the title became The Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire) Regiment.

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The curtain raiser on Campaign Furniture, aptly sub-titled Elegance under Canvass, was presented by Rob Melvill of the Port Elizabeth company Melvill and Moon, which makes replicas of the camping equipment used during military campaigns, hunting safaris etc throughout the British Empire. Rob's talk included slides of catalogues dating from the 18th century, which showed that the comfort to which members of the aristocracy were accustomed was not compromised in the field. Photographs of various persons, from Maj Gen Pole-Carew at Modder River through those made familiar in the Out of Africa book and film to the Prince of Wales (later Duke of Windsor), were shown using various items of campaign furniture, ranging from Roorkhee chairs to stretchers which could be converted into baths. Items were collapsible for ease of transport. Examples, both replica and antique, of several of the illustrated pieces were displayed to remind us of the time when "a gentleman discreetly removed his shoes, his hat and his monocle to cool himself off by the waters edge".

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Chris McCanlis' paper on the Nuremburg Trials 1945-1946 was presented by Malcolm Kinghorn in Chris' absence. During WW2, Allied propaganda reported German terror bombing, prisoner executions, machine gunning of U-boat victims, atrocities against civilians and the extermination of 6 million Jews. After the defeat of Germany, it was inevitable that some form of War Crimes Tribunal and retribution presided over by the 4 victorious Allies be organised. Nuremburg was an appropriate venue because of its association with the pre-war Nazi Rallies.

The first trials started in August 1945 with 22 Nazi leaders as the accused. All were arraigned on very broad charges, namely waging war, crimes against humanity, causing war and war crimes. The plea of "obedience to superior orders" was inadmissible. Defendants were stripped of their badges of rank and medals The Russians and, sporadically, the Western Allies jailed the families of the defendants. All their available property was seized. German defence lawyers had little access to the documents the Prosecution had assembled. They had no facilities to travel to obtain evidence. While German terror bombing, the 1939 invasion of Poland, unrestricted U-boat warfare and execution of Allied prisoners were freely charged as culpable, deemed inadmissible as evidence were bombing of German cities, Russian participation in the invasion of Poland, affidavits from US & British admirals stating they had issued orders in the Pacific and Norway to sink enemy shipping on sight, alleged atrocities by Allied commando units and summary execution of SS troops. Whilst German lawyers in theory had equal opportunity, the collective war guilt of all Germans lay over them. Probably, from the defendants' point of view, their greatest crime, for which there could be no redemption, was to have lost the war! On the other hand the trials were generally conducted with fairness and decorum. By 1949 the tribunal was reduced to trying junior civil servants, businessmen and even private soldiers.

The presentation then focused on one of the 22 defendants of the first Nuremburg trial, Hans Fritzsche. He was the propagandist in control of the German News Service on Berlin Radio. His stentorian "Hier spricht Hans Fritzsche" was known to every German and thousands of foreigners. The Allies fervent wish had been to try Minister of Propaganda Goebels, whose propaganda was far in advance of its time, but he had committed suicide. The luckless Fritzsche was the Allies' available substitute. As a broadcaster, he had avoided, as far as he could, extreme claims and unlikely optimism that caused many a German to switch a broadcast off, especially later in the war. Fritzsche was captured by the Russians in Berlin and transported to Moscow, where he signed several unlikely confessions, obviously penned by his Soviet interrogators. They read: "I helped the Fascist war criminals attack their peace-loving victims" and "I did all I could to further the criminal plans of the Hitlerites." Armed with these confessions, the Russians took him to Nuremburg to be tried. One of the charges brought against him by the Western Allies was that "He promoted beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, seeking to subvert the influence of the Church over the people." In view of the anti-religion policies of the Soviet Union, this charge must have brought a smile to the faces of the Russian delegates. However, the Tribunal accepted, with the Russians predictably dissenting, that propaganda was a new weapon where no international codes existed. Fritzsche's performance was deemed not substantially different to that of Allied propagandists and he was acquitted. However, his problems were not over. German de-Nazification Courts took a much sterner view of his heresies and sentenced Fritzsche to 9 years hard labour and he lost his pension, vote and all opportunity of employment. He had also to pay the cost of his trial. In September 1950 he received a pardon, but his persecutors hounded him into an early grave in 1953.

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Members are reminded that the next meeting is on 7 June 2007, which is the first Thursday in June to avoid conflicts arising from the 16 June public holiday. Speakers are Dave Whitehouse on the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment, Bill Mills on The Graz Armoury and Jock Harris on SANDF Integration.

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Early notice is given of SAMHSEC's tour to Tarkastad, Stormberg and Cradock from Friday 31 August to Sunday 2 September (dates TBC).

SAMHSEC is invited to join the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth visit to the van Stadens River Gorge on Saturday 15 September 2007. Details as follows:
Meet Richard Tomlinson in car park opposite Ultra Liquors, Hurd Street, Newton Park (cnr William Moffett Expressway - approach off Cape Road via 6th Avenue south) at 1245 for departure at 1300. Drive via Cape Road, N2 Cape Town freeway, R334 Uitenhage road and gravel road south of Ladies Slipper, a total distance of 40km, including 5km of gravel. We will first visit the railway bridge on the Avontuur line, the highest railway bridge in South Africa and one of the highest in the world, 196 metres long and 77 metres above the river; completed in 1905. Lesley Lowe will talk about its history and will mention a small wood and zinc church nearby which was destroyed in a recent bush fire. Next we will visit the small stone fort discovered in 2004 in thick woodland on the slope of the Vanstadensberg, apparently built by the PE Town Guard in 1901 during the Anglo-Boer War (at the same time as the 2 forts near the Upper Dam). Close to the fort are trenches and 6 circular platforms for tents. Members are warned that the access to the fort from the nearest parking is a steep climb uphill for about 200 metres. Bring your own picnic tea. There is no charge.

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Tim Jones (041 374 7135) requests research assistance as follows:

Request 1: "I am researching a WW2 RAF Squadron which included three South Africans, namely Lt R T Whittingham DFC (SAAF), Lt R Briggs DFC (SAAF), Sqn Ldr J H Ploqis DSO, DFC (SAAF). My information is that these officers wore RAF uniform with the shoulder title South Africa and wore RAF ranks while serving in this particular Squadron. Further information on these officers is requested."

Request 2: "26 Squadron RAF: formed November 1914 at Netheravon from a unit of the South African Aviation Corps. In October 1915 became No 26 "South African" Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. Moved to Mombassa 31 January 1916. Returned to England in July 1918 and disbanded at Blandford. Reformed on 11 October 1927 at Catterick with Atlas aircraft, the first Squadron to utilize the Atlas. I can find no reference to a make of aircraft ATLAS that which they used at Catterick in 1927 - is there any connection with the Atlas Aircraft Factory?"

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Malcolm Kinghorn.
SAMHSEC SCRIBE 082 331 6223

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