South African Military 
History Society


September 2008

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

The evening's DDH talk was presented by committee member Mike Laing on "Lili Marleen".

The words of this famous wartime song were written by Hans Leip in 1915 about two of his girl friends, Lili and Marleen. It was put to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze who also wrote "Bomben auf Engelland" and "Panzer rollen in Afrika vor." [We saw the coloured hand-painted cover of the original music of Lili Marleen].

In 1939 Lale Andersen (nee Bunnenberg) recorded the song; however, only 700 records were sold. Forces Radio Belgrade was opened in 1941. Its powerful transmitter was able to reach the Mediterranean and all of Europe. This radio station aired Lili Marleen in August 1941 and it became overwhelmingly popular with the Afrika Korps who demanded that it be played every night at 09.55 pm.

The British Eighth Army in North Africa also heard the broadcasting and hijacked Lili Marleen to become the official theme song of the Eighth Army. [We saw a picture of this songbook]. American cartoonist Bill Mauldin said in his book "Up Front" that the Germans had labelled the British as "Low Plagiarists" for 'stealing' their song.

In 1944 the words were officially translated into English by Tommy Connor of "Biggest Aspidistra in the World" fame. Several other English versions exist including "The D-Day Dodgers". The English version was recorded by several well known singers of the time, such as Anne Shelton, Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich.

In 1942, German Propaganda Minister Goebels demanded a more militaristic version of the song. This Lale Andersen recorded. But now there were problems for Lale. Pre-second world war she had acted in plays directed by a Jewish man called Rolf Liebermann. She was confined to Berlin under the eyes of the Gestapo. Lale Andersen stayed on in Berlin until 1944 and then left for the Island of Langeoog near Bremerhaven. After the war she entertained the British occupying forces and later toured Britain. In 1961 she toured the USA and Canada. [We saw pictures of her taken in 1941, 1945, 1950, and 1952, looking very attractive].

She wrote her autobiography in 1972 called "The Sky has many Colours," that topped the best seller list in Der Spiegel. Lale Andersen died later that year in Vienna and was buried on Langeoog. A memorial was erected on the island depicting her standing beneath a lamp. A film about Lili Marleen and Lale Andersen was made in 1980 [in German] by Fassbinder.

Norbert Schultze died in 2002 aged 91 years.
Mike treated us with recordings of different versions of the song; 1941 by Lale Andersen, and 1944 by Ann Shelton.

Lili Marleen was played at the funeral service of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, and is the regimental march of British regiment "Special Air Services'.

The Main Talk, entitled The Battle of Shiloh in the American Civil War, was by Robin Smith. This was a carefully researched presentation with many beautiful illustrations of the commanders involved and maps to illustrate the talk. It is impossible in this brief report to do justice to the amount of detailed information that we received.

The battle became known as "Bloody Shiloh" and was the greatest battle ever fought on American soil. Each side suffered 1 700 dead and 8 000 wounded. It was inconclusive in that the Confederate army withdrew but the Union army could not pursue and destroy it. However, it was decisive in its effect on the Civil War.

It was the supreme effort of the Confederacy to recoup what had been lost along the Tennessee - Kentucky line, a battle they had to win. They failed. From then on they had to fight an uphill struggle to save the Mississippi Valley and the control of the Mississippi River.

The preliminaries began in February 1862 at Fort Henry on the Tennessee south of Paducah. The Union river ironclads pounded it as the garrison escaped to Fort Donelson, 20 km to the east. Snow and sleet made things miserable. Overnight men froze in the trenches.

Grant now advanced his Union army of 25 000 men to attack the fort with its 15 000 men. The fortress commander, Brigadier Simon Bolivar Buckner, asked for a truce to negotiate terms. Grant's reply was, "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender". This was the Noth's first great victory. Grant now became famous and in April he advanced into Tennessee. His army of 37 000 rested near Pittsburgh Landing on Sunday, April 6. Nearby was a further 20 000 troops under Gen. Buell. However these were mainly raw recruits. To the south was the Confederate army of 40 000 under General Johnston. He had planned to attack on 5 April, but the dreadful rain forced a delay. The plan of attack was drawn up by Beauregard: it was that of Napoleon at Waterloo with wave upon wave of infantry. They attacked, catching Grant's men by surprise, and driving the Union troops back past Shiloh church toward the river. The Confederates were stopped by Sherman's troops and the Union artillery firing cannister. Both sides got water from the same place, Bloody Pond. Gen. Johnston was hit in the leg, and bled to death from the artery behing the knee. General Wallace was hit behind the ear and lingered for a week before he died.

The Confederates halted for the night, and planned to renew the attack in the morning of 7 April. But now it was too late. The night was dreadful, cold and wet. Men suffered. The field hospital was a nightmare scene. That night Buell's army arrived, prevented a disaster, and after a day's savage fighting, the Confederates retreated, leaving a field covered with the dead troops of both armies. Grant in his memoirs recalled the misery of the night and the horror of the bodies on the battlefield.

The New York newspapers attacked Grant and Sherman for being caught unawares. But the greatest weaknesses on both sides were the same: untrained troops, poor command and communication. General Bragg pointed to lack of discipline and the looting by his men at the Union camp at Shiloh - "It ruined us." The amateur armies of both sides paid the price for this inconclusive battle. The butcher's bill of 20 000 dead and wounded shocked both sides. But worse would come during three more years of war.

Dave Mathews thanked the speakers; Mike for his light-hearted talk which drew singing of an Air Force version of Lili Marleen by one of our audience; and Robin for his excellent presentation that so clearly drove home the complications, horrors and influence of this battle at Shiloh.

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THURSDAY - 11 September 2008 19.00 for 19.30
Usual Venue: Murray Theatre, Civil Engineering Building, Howard College Campus, UKZN
DDH: Brig Gen Albie Gotze will present a talk entitled "My experiences in the Ossewa Brandwag.

MAIN TALK: The well known historian Gilbert Torlage will talk to us on 'Die Weisse Rose: Honourable Treason'.

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FUTURE SOCIETY DATES: October to December 2008

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Battlefield Tour on 9th / 10th August 2008.

This proved to be a tremendous success due to the organisational abilities and enthusiasm of Ken Gillings. The tour had the highest attendance to date with almost 70 members, guests and associate societies attending.

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To celebrate this occasion the society has arranged a buffet lunch to be held at the Durban Country Club on 21st September this year. The cost will be R85,00 per person and includes wine and a commemorative set of glasses engraved with the SAMHS 40th anniversary. All are most welcome. Please note payment to be made by September meeting to Charles Whiteing.

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At this time in history.

1769 Birth of Napoleon.
1814 The British take over the Cape Colony from the Dutch.
1899 British troops despatched to Natal
1900 FM Lord Roberts annexes the ZAR and renames it the Transvaal
1900 President SJP Kruger arrives in Delagoa Bay en route to exile in Europe
1900 Beginning of the Guerrilla stage of the Anglo-Boer War
1901 The Battles of Ithala and Fort Prospect
1927 Birth of Fidel Castro.
1940 The Battle of Britain commences with Eagle Day.
1941 Hitler diverts the German assault on Moscow.
1942 Montgomery takes over the 8th army and the Germans advance on Stalingrad.
1944 The Allied air forces drop supplies at Warsaw and a landing is made on the south of France.
1945 The Japanese emperor broadcasts the acceptance of unconditional surrender.
1961 The Berlin Wall is erected.

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South African Military History Society /