South African Military 
History Society


News Sheet No. 9.
July 1973


(a) A party of thirty seven members, friends and children had a most enjoyable expedition to and around Ladysmith, over the weekend 23/24th June. Having met at the All Saints' Church where some time was spent in examining items of interest the party proceeded to No. 16, Poort Road, which was General Sir George White' s headquarters at the commencement of the Siege of Ladysmith, and thence to viewpoints on Convent Hill and Cove Redoubt. From these two vantage points the lie of the land and the salient points connected with the Siege were viewed and explained. After a visit to the Ladysmith Military Cemetery where "the second" grave of Captain Count von Zeppelin (the other one being in Heidelberg, Transvaal) attracted special attention, the party proceeded to a picnic luncheon on Observation Post, or as it was known to the Boers, the Red Fort. During the lunch interval Midge Carter told the story of Surprise Hill, Nicholson's Nek and the Boer attack on Red Fort. During the afternoon Devons' Post and the Intombi hospital site and cemetery were visited. Throughout the day Mr. Llewellyn (Wally) Hyde acted as a most capable guide whose services were greatly appreciated by all present.

The evening brought a sumptious buffet supper in tho Royal Hotel "Buttery" shared with members of the Ladysmith Historical Society under the Chairmanship of Mr. George, Tatham. But, the pièce de rèsistance came in the form of three slide talks by Major Darrell Hall who had come especially from Johannesburg to participate in this outing. The three subjects, "Belmont to Paardeberg", "Tobruk" and "Suez" were presented in the classical Hall style and drew prolonged applause. (Thank you Darrell).

On Sunday morning the party was led by Mr. George Tatham to the Wagon Hill/Caesar's Camp complex where he outlined the fateful events which led up to the investment of Ladysmith and the various actions which took place during the siege and, in particular, on Wagon Hill (Platrand). Following this talk time was allowed for inspecting Manchester Fort and various positions and monuments on Wagon Hill and Wagon Point before the group foregathered for a picnic luncheon under the thorn trees of Wagon Hill. Time had flown too quickly and a visit to Gun Hill had to be abandoned in favour of a visit to tho Ladysmith History Museum, specially opened for this purpose by Mr. Tatham. The Durban Branch is greatly indebted to Mr. Tatham for the time and effort he so generously placed at its disposal. Any member who missed this trip will never know how much he missed!

(b) Following on this most successful weekend trip, the Branch had a most interesting monthly meeting on 12th July when 22 members were addressed by Col. Frank Coulter on "Raiding Forces and the Levant Schooner Flotilla in combined operations in the Aegean Sea during the years 1943-45 when 400 allied fighting men kept 40,000 enemy garrison troops at bay".

Anyone who had wondered how a former naval officer could end up in an anti-guerrilla commando rôle soon found the answer after Frank had got his story underway.

The naval war in the Aegean Sea, during which Frank was decorated for gallantry, appeared to be nothing less than highly sophisticated and daring maritime guerrilla warfare. This explained how it was possible for 400 allied dare-devils to immobilise and wreak havoc among 40,000 enemy garrison troops. From this Frank drew interesting but rather disturbing parallels in respect of the guerrilla warfare presently being waged on our sub-continent. His story, interspersed with wry humour touching on captured enemy "playgirls" and the attractions of wartime Alexandria, revealed an aspect of World War II which was certainly new to most members of this Branch and has probably not received as much general attention as it would appear to merit.

One outstanding feature of this talk was the boautifully prepared operational display, supported by numerous photographs and other literature. Col. Coulter certainly made an unsparing effort to have his presentation "ship shape".


Arising out of the visit to Wagon Hill and to satisfy the curiosity of those members who were interested in the monument to Lord Ava who was mortally wounded during the attack on Wagon Hill (6th Jan 1900) the following facts have been obtained:-

Archibald James Leofric Temple Blackwood was born in 1863 and educated at Eton. He was the eldest son of the 1st Marquis of Dufferin and Ava and held the title of Earl of Ava. As a member of Methuen's Horse he served in Sir Charles Warren's Bechuanaland Expedition and later he served with the Carbineers, after which he obtained a lieutenancy in the 17th Lancers. He accompanied the Natal Force, in an unattached capacity, at the outbreak of hostilities. Lord Ava, with the rank of Captain, acted as Orderly Officer to Col. Hamilton when he feIl mortally wounded on Wagon Hill, and he died five days later on 11th January 1900.

Lord Ava's father, the 4th Baron Dufferin, (born 1826 - died 1902) was a former Governor General of Canada, British Ambassador to Russia and Turkey and Viceroy of India. He was created Earl of Dufferin in 1871 and Marquis of Dufferin and Ava in 1888. Business worries and the untimely death of his eldest son clouded the last two years of his life.


Heartiest congratulations are extended to staunch Branch member, Ken Gillings, on his engagement to Heather Hayter who herself is no stranger to the Durban Branch.


August 16th
Mr. Gerry Gore, a former Police Officer in Cyprus, will give a talk entitled "Cyprus, Island in Revolt." At present a serving officer in the Commandos, Mr. Gore has also served as an officer in the King's Royal Rifle Corps and in the King's West African Rifles. (Please note that this is the third Thursday in the month).

September 13th
Dr. Ian Copley will give a talk, accolnpanied by some slides, on "Robin Hood".

October 11th
Maj. Darrell Hall will give a slide talk on a subject of his own choice. (Whatever it is, it will be good!)

The venue, as usual, will be the Board Room, Department of Bantu Administration, 132 Ordnance Hoad, Durban, commencing at 8 p.m. Glasses and ice will be supplied but please bring your own bottled or canned refreshments.


The Johannesburg Headquarters of the Society is arranging a tour to localities connected with the "Zulu War of 1879" over the long weekend 1st to 3rd September.

Previous tours arranged by Col. Duxbury and the Johannesburg Head Office have always beon extremely successful and well-organized, so, if the Zulu War is a subject of interest to you, this trip should not be missed. Details and itinerary will bo made available soon.

Tania Johnston

South African Military History Society /