South African Military History Society


JOHANNESBURG FEB Meeting saw Mr. Paul Adler speaking to us on "SANDFONTEIN 1914-l8 WAR ; S.W.A." , a little known topic. Unfortunately the slide projector packed up before any slides could be shown.

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Thu 8 Mar :: "SCHARNHORST/GNEISENAU" by Major Darrell Hall, assisted by Peter Fox and Gunther Vogel.

Thu 19 Apr :: Annual General Meeting and Film Show :

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Formal notice is hereby given that the next Annual General Meeting of the South African Military History Society will be held at 2OhOO (8 p.m.) on Thursday the 19th April, 1979, at the S.A. National Museum of Military History.


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BRANCH NEWS: CT - 12 Apr "THE SEVENTH FRONTIER WAR" by Dr Ken Gunn (please bear in mind that this is the Thursday prior to Easter, will you have any people present?):: News of Apr meeting not yet to hand from Durban :
: Klerksdorp - 15 Mar will be a "BOOK MEETING", members requested to bring along a book related to Mil. History and show it and discuss it with fellow members.

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DATES OF INTEREST 4 Mar 1917 "Battle of Baghdad" - 6 Mar 1943 "Battle of Medenine"
- 9 Mar 1942 "Fall of Rangoon" - 10 Mar 1900 "Battle of Driefontein" -
and "Battle of Neuve Chapelle" - 20 Mar 1943 "Battle of Mareth" and 1945
"Capture of Mandalay" - 21 Mar 1918 "Second Battle of the Somme"
- 23 Mar 1945 "Rhine Crossings" - 26 Mar 1917 "First Battle of Gaza"
1941 "Capture of Harrar" - 27 Mar 1941 "Battle of Keren" - 28 Mar 1942 "St Nazaire Raid"
- 29 Mar 1900 "Battle of Karee" 1941 "Capture of Diredawa" - 31 Mar 1900
"Battles of Bloemfontein and Sanna's Post" 1942 "Fall of Rangoon".

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ZULU WAR CENTENARY EDITION OF FAMOUS PAINTINGS : The British Naval and Military Gallery in London are issuinga commemorative limited edition (850) of two famous paintings, "ISANDHLWANA" by Charles Fripp and "THE DEFENCE OF RORKE'S DRIFT" by Alphonse de Neuville, each print is signed by Major Gen. LAD Harrod OBE, Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Wales - image sizes approx. l6" x 27" - overall sizes (incl border & caption approx. 22+" x 32" - price R250 the pair - interested parties contact Group Editors Box 33277 Jeppestown 2043 - telephone 543-3211.

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JOURNAL: Paid-up members, by this time, will have received the latest edition of' the journal, an excellent effort and the editors are to be congratulated on their stout effort. Further copies are available at R4 (four Rand) per copy. Get an extra copy now as this edition will become Africana.

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SUBS. Due now (R5) please pay promptly and so help to ease the administrative burden of your hard-working Sec/Tres.

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(Continued from Jan newsletter - by courtesy of "INDABA")

The Romans, who conquered the then world under Julius Caesar, met and overcame their enemy with infantry phalanxes, the soldiers' weapons being a shield and a short sword, which they cultivated with dominating effect in conjunction with man-to-man courage; their legions were made more systematic for spreading their domination by keeping troops longer in each local area of the field by building permanent fortified camps; the Legionaires seldom got home to their wives and families even at long intervals.

Gunpowder and Cannon

The weight of armour in battle, given some mobility on horseback, helped to shield European coasts against the sporadic landings and conquests of parties of Norsemen in longboats. Ultimately both were defeated by gunpowder, which came into the picture of war as early as the thirteenth century. Canon followed in the 15th, century, but only became a dominant feature when they were mounted on wheels and mobilised.

The first battle won by small arms fire is said to have been that of Cerignola; and by 1515 French field artillery beat Swiss pikemen at Marignane. In Mexico portable firearms enabled Cortez's tiny force to conquer Mexico, capturing fabulous treasure of hoarded gold.

Cavalry had, meantime, dominated much of ancient Europe. beginning with which the Assyrians, whom Montgomery classed as the Prussians of their times, all beat their neighbours in turn.

The next phase was the defence with mounted knights, bowmen and pikemen against invasions by the vikings, moors and turks; based on strongly fortified castles. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden organised trained troops including mercenaries; but he paid them well and equipped them with the then up-to-date weapons. He divided his forces into small units, instructed them well and used their mobility to advantage: his forces were equipped with rapid-firing mobile artillery cavalry and musketeers, protected while they re-loaded their weapons by a shield of pikemen. Cromwell based his army on this plan.

Bigger and Better Armies

ECONOMIC resources enabled kings to field much larger armies: Louis XIV fielded 150 000 men at a time; Frederick the Great raised an army of 100 000 men from Prussia, a relatively small state.

The British, under Marlborough, brought marksmanship to bear and controlled volleying a little earlier; and held cavalry off from his infantry by forming them into squares.

The greater size of armies required vast economic resources to maintain them. By the eighteenth entury, when populations had multiplied, roadworks became more efficient, and industry began to furnish enough coal, iron and raw materials, and timber was brought from overseas colonies, together with saltpetre for making gunpowder.

[To be concluded in the April newsletter]

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Were people saner or more amenable in the Middle Ages than we are today? Think of this: in those days as you may recall if you're an historian, it was taboo to fight battles from Wednesday evening till Monday morning; and whenever a Holy Day was reached, battles had to be suspended till later. It reflects on the freedom associated with religion that in England these truces were not observed; the reason was that pay-off to any belligerants in Europe was ex-communication, which was an absolute stopper.

That didn't, of course, prevent England from burning witches, or using the rack or the thumbscrew; Englishmen may have been less scared of eternal hellfire, that Continental bishops could use against sinners.

But it is on record that William the Conqueror fought the Battle of Hastings on a Saturday. After the battle, of course, he became King of England, and he could make the bishops toe the line.

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An officer must use his judgment in obeying, and must unite initiative with obedience.
Maxims of War.
Brett. 1905

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To the Surgeon.

As the soldiers are apt to be extremely troublesome to the surgeon of a regiment, and your mate may be ignorant, or too much of a gentleman, take a private man out of the ranks, and instruct him to act as your deputy. The principal part of his business will be to bleed and dress sore backs; as soon as he is expert in these you may teach him to draw teeth - which is soon acquired - but then he must take care in performing this operation to give the men a confounded pull, in order to show them that he is not a common tooth-drawer.

Advice to Officers of the British Army etc. 1782.

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Advice to Officers on Service, as regards their bearing towards their men.

Let us think as far as possible the respective titles of officers, sergeants and rcivates, merging them into the one great professional cognomen of saoldier, causing ALL RANKS to feel that it is a noble title of which the general as well as the private may well be proud. Let us give up the phrase 'officer and gentleman', substituting that of 'soldier' for it; let the word officer be used as seldom as possible, so that the private may really feel that there is no gulf as at present between them, but that they are merely separated by a ladder, the rungs of which all can equally aspire to mount.

The Soldiers' Pocket-Book 1869

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Bertie Simpkins


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