South African Military History Society

News-sheet No. 79. DURBAN BRANCH November 1979


The talk presented by Lt Col N.S.E. Martin at our November get-together was one with a difference. Whereas most of the talks deal with preparations for war, or with the way a particular war or battle has been waged, Col Martin, in speaking on "The history of NATO", illustrated by colour-slides, presented a picture of an organisation intended to preserve the peace. Col Martin was particularly well equipped for this task because of the 26 years he had served as a regular soldier in the Royal Marine Commandos he had spent 8 years on the staff of NATO. He could thus speak from personal experience and deep insight.

He explained how it had come about that on April 4th, 1949, in Washington D.C., representatives of 12 countries signed the North Atlantic treaty. The singatory nations were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. This list was increased to 14 during the Korean War, when in October 1951, in accordance with its conditions Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty. France subsequentiy withdrew to the extent that she makes no military contribution to the NATO forces but will become a supporting member in any emergency.

With its headquarters at Brussels the NATO defence area is divided into three defence regions: the Atlantic Command; European Command; Channel Command. The Supreme Allied Commander is always an American, while his deputy is always English. Notwithstanding the fact that NATO is numerically inferior to the Warsaw Pact countries it has so far provided an effective counter-balance to the growing influence of the Communist world and is acting as a powerful deterrent to any unduly irresponsible action, intimidation and aggression.

The well presented talk aroused so much interest that, in the end, it needed some determined action on the part of our Chairman to bring question time to an end.


Members of this branch are again invited to meet at the abovementioned cemetery (near Port KwaMondi) at l0h00 on Saturday 2/4th November 1979 for the purpose of fixing nameplates to the crosses on individual graves. Gutter bolts will be available but members are asked to assist by bringing a screwdriver and a smallish pair of pliers or better still, a 6" shifting spanner, if they posses any of those implements; but even without implements all helpers will be welcome. In conjunction with a picnic lunch (please bring your own requirements) the plaque (sponsored by this branch) in memory of those members whose individual graves can no longer be identified, will be unveiled.


DECEMBER 13THFellow-member DR. IAN COPLEY will show some films on the war in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. (At this meeting a collection in aid of SARA, (South Africa/Rhodesia Association) will be taken)

Reproduced below is an "Extract from Intelligence Summary".


The following is a translation of a CAPTURED GERMAN document:


On the Tobruk front a large force of Italians attacked one enemy cyclist causing him to dismount.

After heavy and prolonged fighting they were able to puncture his tyres. The front wheel was destroyed while the loss of the rear wheel must also be considered probable. The handlebars are in our hands but the possession of the frame is still being bitterly contested.

HQ Royal Italian Army.

(Mrs) Tania van der Watt,
Secretary, Durban Branch,
S.A. Military History Society.
Box 870 HILLCREST 3650.
('Ondini' Eskotene Rd. Everton)
Tel. 742970

The venue for all meetings will be the Lecture Room, 'SB' Bourquin Building (Port Natal Administration Board's Head Office) on the corner of Jan Smuts Highway and Buro Crescent, Mayville, on the second Thursday of each month, UNLESS OTHERWISE ANNOUNCED, commencing at 8 p.m. Glasses and ice will be supplied so please bring your own canned or bottled refreshments. Friends and interested persons are welcome to come along.

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