South African Military History Society


Past Meeting - Johannesburg Members evening, llth October, l979.

In a change of format,there were three short lectures in one evening given by branch members. The first was Bill Garr who started his talk entitled "Gettysburg" by giving a general background to the American Civil War of 1861-1865. Events leading to the historic confrontation between General Robert E Lee's 75 000 confederate troops and General Mead's 90 000 men were sketched. A detailed description of the 3 day battle at the start of July 1863 followed. Gettysburg is now a national monument and a tourist attraction worth visiting.

Paul Barker gave an illustrated talk on "Some planes of the Luftwaffe" He spoke briefly on a variety of German planes, noting characteristics of interest of each of them. Among other points mentioned: the Fiesler Storch could land in 20m and take off in 65m, and was used in the rescue of Mussolini; the Me 109, of which 33 000 were constructed, held the speed record of 397m.p.h. in 1937; the Focke Wulfe 190 which was 30 m.p.h. faster than the contemporary version of the Spitfire and which was later used in a piggy back role to guide unmanned JU88's loaded with explosives onto targets; and the Messerschmidt 262 jet fighter which was 100 m.p.h. faster than the Allied fighters.

He was also able to trace the history of 3 of the planes on display at the museum. Mr Geoffrey Mann was then introduced and spoke of personal encounters with Me 262 fighters.

In the third lecture, entitled "Some episodes in the war in the desert", Fred Wright recounted some of his personal experiences including defending the pass at Acroma Keep on the road which bypassed Tobruk. He highlighted the bravery of Lt. J.P. (Tiekie) van Niekerk who arranged a Red Cross Truce enabling Allied and German wounded from a shelled convoy to be evacuated by German ambulances. Communications between Acroma Keep and Tobruk were carried out in Xhosa much to the consternation of the Germans who had tapped the line. Fred Wright was captured at the fall of Tobruk and became a P.O.W. in Italy and Germany until rescued by the Russians in July 1945.

This very successful evening was attended by 50 members and guests.

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Future Meetings-Johannesburg.

Thursday 8th November: Mr Keith Campbell - "Sino-Vietnamese War, Feb 1979, and an assessment of China as a military power."

Thursday 13th December: Film Evening. (Details in next newsletter)


Thursday 8th November: Lt Col N.S.E. Martin - "The history of NATO".

Thursday 13th December: Dr. I. Copley - Rhodesian war films.

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Dedication of Natal Burgher Memorial.

On Wednesday 10th October, l979, several members attended the dedication ceremony of the Burgher Memorial on Wagon Hill, sited on the farm Platrand donated to the South African War Graves Board by Mr. & Mrs. M.J.W. Jacobsz of Ladysmith. This memorial was erected on the instruction of the War Graves Board in commemoration of the 781 burghers who fell in Natal during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902.

Seven imposing concrete structures, similar to the likeness of hands, of which the highest towers more than 9 metres tall, are symbolic in depicting hardiness, boldness and fearlessness as well as distress, suffering and grief. They stretch upward in faith and afford protection to the sepulchre where the majority of the fallen have been reburied. On the inner side of each hand,which faces in the direction of a battlefield, appears a list of names of those who fell in each specific battle.

A special granite slab has been built into the memorial to indicate the position of the battlefields in the Natal Campaign. For safekeeping, the remaining original headstones have been built into the wall adjoining the approach to the monument.

The symbolism of the structures is explained on a special plaque at the entrance to the memorial, on which a short poem by the Afrikaans poet Ernst van Heerden is engraved.

The State President, Mr. M. Viljoen, DVD, unveiled the memorial which was dedicated by Ds. G.R. van Rooijen. Wreaths were laid by the State President; Lt. Gen. C.L. Viljoen, Chief of the Army; the Administrator of Natal; Gen. M.C.W. Geldenhuys, Head of the S.A. Police; Col. E.H. Tremlett, the British Military Attaché on behalf of the Chief of General Staff and all ranks of the British Army; the S.A. War Graves Board; the mayors of several cities, towns and villages in Natal and various other institutions and bodies.

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Recent Books on S.A.Military History.

Sonia Clarke (ed.),Invasion of Zululand 1879: Anglo-Zulu War experiences of Arthur Harness: John Jervis. 4th Viscount St. Vincent: and Sir Henry Bulwer, The Brenthurst Press, Johannesburg, 1979. 295pp., illus., maps, bibl. R55-00.

Pool, G., Die Herero-opstand 1904-1907, HAUM, Kaapstad, 1979. 3llpp., illus., kaarte, bibl. Rl2-75.

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At the last Jhbg. branch meeting, members observed a minute's silence in memory of Mr. Rauri Chisholm, a fellow member whose book on the siege of Ladysmith was recently published. Mr. Chisholm was a counsellor at the British Embassy and died at the age of 54 while on holiday in Scotland.

Thats all....Mike Marsh

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