South African Military History 


Newsletter No. 37: October 2007
Nuusbrief Nr. 37: Oktober 2007

Mike Duncan opened SAMHSEC's 13 September 2007 meeting with the Frontier Wars Regiments Series presentation on the 42nd/73rd Regiment, The Black Watch. Six independant companies were amalgamated to form The Black Watch in 1729. The Regiment became the 43rd Regiment of Foot in 1739, renamed the 42nd Regiment of Foot in 1751. In 1779, the Second Battallion of the Regiment became the 73rd Highlanders, renamed the 73rd Perthshire Regiment in 1862. This is the Regiment which participated in the Frontier Wars. The regiments amalgamated to form The Black Watch (42/73 Royal Highlanders) in 1881. Note: the roster for this series is vacant from December 2007 to March 2008. Members who have not yet presented in this series are encouraged to volunteer.

In preparation for the main lecture debate on military leadership, Malcolm Kinghorn's curtain raiser highlighted the elements of military leadership reflected in the Deeds of Commission of the UDF and the SADF respectively. He then discussed the leadership during the Myer's Drift skirmish on 12 March 1879, which led to an officer being court-martialled for abandoning his men while engaged with the enemy. Contemporary thinking on military leadership was summarised by Sir Garnet Wolesley in his reasons for refusing to confirm the findings of the Court, which acquitted the officer concerned. Malcolm contrasted Wolesley's comments with the leadership displayed by the senior officers of the Reserve Battalion of the 91st Regiment, who all disembarked in Cape Town on 27 August 1842, leaving the Battalion under command of a junior officer on board the Abercrombie Robinson, while the ship was known to be in an unsafe anchorage in deteriorating weather. The ship broke her moorings and ran aground that night.

The main lecture took the form of a debate facilitated by John Stevens based on the leadership of Colonel Henry King Burgwyn, Jr, (1841-63), the youngest Colonel in the Confederate Army. Commissioned as a Captain after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute, his sense of military discipline and outstanding leadership qualities led to his rapid promotion to Major and Commander of Camp Carolina. In August 1861 he was the second-in-command of the 26th North Carolina Regiment at the age of 19. A year later, he became the Colonel of the Regiment, just short of turning 21. On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Burgwyn led his regiment in an attack on Brigadier General Meredith's "Iron Brigade" against almost hopeless odds and was mortally wounded. Aspects debated included the election of miltary leaders as practised during the American Civil War and in the Boer Armies, the phenomenon of remarkably young senior officers, the charisma and personal magnetism of successful military leaders, the role of heriditary factors and personal backgounds in the success of military leaders, the role of intelligence and emotional maturity in the success of a military leader, the ability to know the right thing to do in crises, the role of experience in contrasting mature and young leaders, whether there is a role for a martinet approach in successful military leadership, the role of mentors in forming a successful military leader and whether there is such a thing as a born military leader. The debate was concluded with a summary by Mac Alexander. The meeting's concencus was that debate is a welcome variation on the usual format of meetings.

Saturday 15 September was the day chosen by the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth (HSPE) for a self-drive excursion to the Van Stadens River gorge, some 40km west of PE, to visit the railway bridge on the PE to Avontuur narrow-gauge railway and the recently-discovered Anglo-Boer War fort. As Richard Tomlinson was the organiser of the outing and is a member of both Societies, an invitation was extended by the HSPE to members of SAMHSEC to attend. As a preliminary, Dave Whitehouse arranged a brunch, the food and company being greatly enjoyed by 10 SAMHSEC members. At the bridge, the party was addressed by Eric Kirk from the Apple Express Society who, helped by his wife, Colleen, gave us some facts and figures on this, the highest narrow-gauge railway bridge in the world, completed in 1905. Richard then led members to the track below the fort where he told the story of the PE Town Guard and how the 4 forts (2 here to cover the pump house and 2 above the Upper Dam) came to be built in 1901. The lower fort here was found only in late 2004 by two members of a local adventure recreation firm, hidden in thick pinewoods, which were soon after destroyed in a huge forest fire. The fragmentary upper fort, not visited this time, was identified more recently. The stalwarts of the party then made a frontal assault on the mountain to see the lower fort close up, together with its contour trench, 7 tent platforms cut out of the steep hillside and an arrowhead trench to the north looking over the upper gorge. 18 members attended, about half from each Society.

# # # # #

Fellow member Mike Duncan underwent heart surgery on 20 September 2007. SAMHSEC extends best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

# # # # #

David Edgecombe (tel 041 585 8825) is looking for a good home for a scrapbook compiled by a South African POW in Italy.

# # # # #

SAMHSEC's next meeting is at 1430 on 13 October 2007 in the Botany Department of Rhodes University. The Frontier Wars Regiments Series presentation will be by John Stevens on the 98th Regiment. The curtain raiser is on Grahamstown's First City Regiment. Copies of the Regimental History "First City - A Saga of Service" 2nd Edition by Reginald Griffiths, published in 1987, will be available for purchase at R25 per copy. Alan Bamford is the main speaker on "Some Ideas on the Causes and Course of the 1st Anglo-Boer War - 1880/1881". Note: the annual meeting in Grahamstown is a gesture of appreciation to the Grahamstown stalwarts who regularly attend SAMHSEC meetings in Port Elizabeth. Attendance by as many members as possible will be appreciated. Port Elizabeth members offering or requiring lifts are to advise Ian Pringle by 5 October so that contact with one another can be arranged.

Fellow member Alan Bamford is leading a Military History Tour in Grahamstown in the morning. The programme is as follows:

1. Come prepared for all weathers. It is better to peel garments off as it gets warmer than not to have warm garments if it gets colder.

2. If the weather is so inclement that we cannot proceed up Mountain Drive, Alan will give his talk on the first 4 Frontier Wars inside Monument upstairs overlooking Grahamstown. Bring chairs to sit on.

3. Bring chairs to sit on at the Toposcope.

4. Advise beforehand whether you are to be counted in for tea and eats @ R15 each for catering purposes (Alan Bamford: tel: 046 622 5705,

Malcolm Kinghorn.
SAMHSEC SCRIBE 082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /