South African Military 
History Society


November 2008

Contact: Mike Laing 031-205-1951
Bill Brady 031-561-5542

Due to the late postponement of our scheduled speaker this evening's DDH talk was an illustrated presentation by Phil Everett about two propaganda cartoon movies made by the Walt Disney Studios in 1942-1943. The first was "Education for Death; the making of the Nazi", based on the book by Gregor Ziemer. It shows how a young boy is slowly changed from someone who "questions" to an automaton. He is given a copy of "Mein Kampf" to replace the Holy Bible. He joins in the Sieg Heil saluting in class, and the marching in ranks; and finally marches away to end up as one of the serried line of graves.

The second was "Donald Duck in Nutziland", also known as "Der Fuhrer's Face". Donald wakes up to a brass band, and then goes off to work: to make shells for the big guns. The pace of work increases, the demands get bigger, until he can't cope and he nearly goes mad. Then he wakes up; the sun is shining. He is back in the USA; the horrible experience was only an ugly nightmare!

In both films the anti-Nazi cartooning is brutal, not the typical Walt Disney that we know so well. In fact, until recently both films were on the list of "banned cartoons" because of their extreme racist images. One can now buy these films commercially on DVD. For those who missed Phil's presentation (and who have access to the Internet and Google), search WIKIPEDIA, for "banned cartoons", "Walt Disney". This gives details of the making of the cartoons, and shows film clips.

The Main Talk was by Steve Watt, entitled: Deelfontein - A Hospital in the Karoo, and Cemetery Today. The main railway line to Cape Town runs through De Aar, and 50 kilometers south you come across a dot called Deelfontein. In 1899 it was "a large water tank and pump, and a small store". In 1900 a large military hospital was established there. All that remains today are two cemeteries, one with 127 graves and the other with 5.

It started with Black Week. The British War Office called for volunteers to serve in South Africa. A corps of mounted men was formed, called the Imperial Yeomanry. They were between 20 and 35 years of age and were "good riders and marksmen".

Two ladies decided to organize a hospital for the Imperial Yeomanry (the War Office did not). Lady Georgina Curzon and Lady Beatrice Chesham published appeals to the British public for funds. The response was 174 000 pounds sterling, enough to equip and staff four hospitals. An Imperial Yeomanry Hospital committee began to function in January 1900, and by mid-February 1900, the medical staff sailed for South Africa (6 weeks! Amazing!)

Lord Roberts (CIC) required that the hospital should be located not further north than De Aar. Deelfontein, 1 360 meters above sea level, had a bracing climate and good water supply and was ideal for the hospital.

The medical staff left Cape Town on 3 March, arriving at Deelfontien on 5 March. The prefabricated huts and stores were carried to the site 400 meters from the railway. By 17 March, the hospital was officially opened as the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, Colonel AT Sloggett (RAMC) in charge, Mr HD Fripp as Senior Surgeon. There were 21 doctors and a total staff of 191 persons. We were shown the site plan and a beautiful aerial view of the hospital as it was in 1900. The first ambulance train of 100 sick and wounded men arrived on 19 March. By 30 March, 300 men had been accommodated.

There is [sic] a high standard of cleanliness to prevent the outbreak of diseases like typhoid (enteric). In mid-May, Lady Chesham arrived and personally distributed gifts of books and tobacco to the patients. The hospital continued to expand, and by mid-June 1900, could accommodate 800 patients. Prefabricated wards were assembled in sections, named after the donors. There was a separate X-ray room with its own electrical generating plant; a dairy with concrete floor and sterilizers; a steam plant; four bath-houses supplied with hot water; and a fire station. The patients and staff could play cricket and football on the adjacent field.

There was an epidemic of dysentery in the army hospital in Bloemfontein, and as a result, a Royal Commission under Lord Justice Romer visited Deelfontein Hospital on 30 August 1900 to hear evidence. On 1 November, Lord Milner visited. On 3 December a violent storm struck, wrecking seven of the largest marquees. A cemetery was laid out; in it are buried staff that died: Dr Fitzhugh, Surgeon Sells, Major Marsh, Lt. Cummings.

In December 1900, Boers invaded the Cape Colony, and the number of casualties rose sharply. On 1 April 1901, the volunteer staff returned to Britain, and the hospital became Army No 21 General Hospital. Over 6 000 patients had been treated. Only 81 died (compare this to what went on in Bloemfontein). (We saw fine photographs of the cemetery as it was in 1900, and as it has survived to 2000.) There is a photograph of the nursing staff taken on 24 May 1900 (Queen Victoria's birthday). On the hillside in the background are large letters IYH.

All that remains of the IYH at Deelfontein is the cemetery. The stone boundary wall is gone, the Yeomanry Hotel is gone; the H is just vaguely discernable on the hillside.

Captain Brian Hoffman thanked the speakers for presenting such very different and interesting aspects of military history. Serious anti-Nazi propaganda in Technicolor, in brutal over-kill and little subtlety in those Disney cartoons. As always, Steve Watt gave us a very clear insight of what occurred, with such beautiful pairs of "Then" and "Now" pictures. It is difficult to imagine how busy Deelfontein was in 1900, when we see what is there now. This was a most enjoyable evening.

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THURSDAY - 13 November 2008 19.00 for 19.30
Usual Venue: Murray Theatre, Civil Engineering Building, Howard College Campus, UKZN

DDH: Charles Whiteing will present his talk on Eagles Nest. Charles will provide an in depth portrayal of the construction of this Nazi resort plus the comings and goings and intrigues of international statesmen.

MAIN TALK:Paul Kilmartin will deliver his talk on 1918: the 90th Anniversary of the End of World War One. When the Armistice came into force it ended intensive fighting that cost the military of all involved countries a total of 9,500,000 deaths. To mark Armistice Day itself Paul will end with a description of some of the events of that day, including how the fighting continued up to 1100 hours despite the fact that all fighting forces knew of the impending end to the war from 0700 hours.

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: December 2008 to February 2009

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We need a minimum of 15 per 'leg' to make this viable. A 50% non-refundable deposit must be paid by mid-November 2009. Please contact Ken Gillings if you are interested ( / 083 654 5880 / 031 702 4828).

Egypt leg
14 May - Fly Johannesburg - Cairo. Meet RBL guide. One night half board in Cairo (4 star - don't even think abut anything lower!) Dinner beside the Nile.
15 May
* Cairo - Egyptian Museum.
* Pyramids and Sphinx.
* Drive to El Alamein (4-5 hours) & overnight. Half board.
16 May - El Alamein area
* War Cemetery
* Museum
* Battlefield area. Lunch provided.
Drive to Mersa Matruh & Overnight. Half board
17 May - Packed lunch provided.
* Sollum/Halfaya
* Drive to Libya (Bardia) & overnight
18 May
Desert tour by 4WD vehicle (packed lunch provided) to include:
* Tobruk defences
* Knightsbridge & Gazala battle
* Knightsbridge Acroma War Cemetery, plus, if time & energy permit,
* Sidi Rezegh
Return to Bardia & overnight. Half board.
19 May
Return to El Alamein - it may be possible to fly to Italy from here, if not
20 May
Drive to Cairo RBL guide departs. Fly to Italy

Italian Leg
Day 1 (19 or 20 May) Arrive Naples (or Possibly Rome if flights don't fit) Meet new RBL Guide - drive to Cassino area (via Caserta). Two nights half board (3-star - same standard elsewhere in Italy).
Day 2 - Cassino battlefield area including 6 SA Armd. Div area.
Day 3 - Drive to Rome. Two nights half board.
Day 4 - Free day in Rome or optional city tour.
Day 5 - Drive to Florence. One night half board
Day 6 - Optional Florence tour or free day until late p.m. Drive to Castiglione, north of Florence. Two nights half board.
Day 7 - Castiglione area, including South African Cemetery an 6 SA Armoured Div Front Oct 44 - Apr 45). Monte Stanco/Monte Sole.
Day 8 - Drive to Po valley/Adige valley area. Overnight near Verona. Half board
Day 9 - Two options. Either:
* Return to SA, or

Europe Leg (Optional)
* Fly to UK - Overnight in Union Jack Club, London. Two nights B&B. (We get a special price)
Day 10 - Free time London. Opportunity to visit Imperial War Museum. Persuade SA High Commission to give you a reception?
Day 11 - To France via Dover/Calais and drive to Somme area with RBL guide. Two nights half board in Arras area (2-star family run hotels)
Day 12 - Battle of the Somme 1916 to include:
* Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
* Delville Wood including SA Memorial & Museum.
* Butte de Warlencourt.
* Optional visit to L'Historiale de la Grande Guerre - Péronne
Day 13 - Battle of Arras 1917. 9th (Scottish) Div Memorial. Drive to Ypres. Two nights half board.
Day 14 - The South African Brigade in 3rd battle of Ypres including:
* Passchendael Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke.
* Tyne Cot
* Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate.
* If time permits - Messines Ridge - SA actions in Mar 1918.
Day 15 - Return to UK. Overnight in Union Jack Club London. B&B.
Day 16 - Return overnight flight to SA.
Day 17 - Arrive JHB.

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At this time in history (October).

1899 The Boer ultimatum expires and Newcastle is occupied.
1900 The ZAR is annexed and renamed Transvaal.
1915 Nurse Edith Cavell is executed on charges of spying.
1918 The Germans request an Armistice.
1931 Birth of Bishop Desmond Tutu.
1939 Hitler makes his "desire for peace" speech.
1941 Hitler announces that Russia is broken and launches the attack on Moscow. General Zhukov is appointed to command the defence of Leningrad.
1942 The first U-Boat is sunk in an action by a British Liberator.
1943 Italy declares war on Germany.
1945 General George Patton is fired by General Eisenhower.
1949 The Peoples Republic of China is declared
1973 The Yom Kippur war breaks out in the Middle East.
1981 HMS Edinburgh was salvaged with gold bullion worth 45 million pounds.
1984 The IRA bomb the Grand Hotel in Brighton that is hosting the Tory Party Conference. Margaret Thatcher narrowly escapes death.

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South African Military History Society /