South African Military History 


Newsletter No 51 December 2008/Nuusbrief Nr 51 Desember 2008

The 10 November 2008 meeting opened with the series on historically significant guns in South Africa by Pat Irwin on the German 8.8 cm FLAK 37 or '88', as this gun was well known as an anti-tank weapon to South Africans in North Africa. The gun's origins lay in the Franco-Prussian War as a Ballonabwehrkanon to shoot down French observation balloons. Towards the end of WW I, it was adapted as an AA gun and subsequent models were tested in the Spanish Civil War. The final model in the AA series, the FLAK 41, was in use in Eastern Europe until the 1960s. In 1943 a dedicated anti-tank version, the PAK 43, was developed. By 1944 some 14 000 '88s' had been produced, 80% of which were for German AA home defence. The mystique of the gun, however, derives from its performance as a tank destroyer in North Africa, Russia and Normandy. Factors which contributed to its success were the quality of its design, engineering and technology, its camouflage potential, high mobility, well trained crews and its ammunition, both AP and HE. Possibly no more than 15 of these guns remain, distributed in several countries where their state of conservation varies from pristine, such as the gun at the SANMMH, to very poor. (Acknowledgements to Cmdt O Baker in Museum Revue Vol 1 No 5 1987).

Richard Tomlinson's curtain raiser was on his recent tour of Anglo-Boer War sites in the Northern Cape and Free State. The hotel near the site of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein has been demolished since Richard's previous visit in 1996. The Standard Pattern masonry blockhouses at Orange River Station and Modder River railway bridge have been restored by an organization in Kimberley. The former has had a steel band fitted all around the building to secure the walls. Modder has a new middle floor and both have steel ladders to allow access to all levels. At Orange River, Richard looked for and found traces of a drystone fort built and manned by the Antrim Artillery. He recorded the ruined North Blockhouse on the old railway alignment. In Kimberley, he viewed the bunker behind Fort Kumo, constructed when a house was fortified during the Siege. At Danielskuil he recorded the last surviving of 5 small forts built by the Duke of Edinburgh's Own Volunteer Rifles. At Warrenton the 3-storey masonry Standard Pattern variant by the railway bridge which he recorded in 1986, has collapsed. Jacobsdal is well-maintained, with an immaculate cemetery containing British and Boer graves, a NG church which served as a British hospital and a small masonry blockhouse, which has been restored, including a look out tower on the roof. In Bloemfontein, the Queen's Fort has good displays of Free State military history, but is poorly maintained. The Anglo-Boer War Museum is impressive, with a Rice blockhouse with masonry base, relocated from elsewhere in the city. South of Bloemfontein, the restored Orange River Octagonal blockhouse at Riversford has had its roof blown off in a gale.

The main lecture was by Barry Irwin on Electronic or Cyber Warfare. Barry traced various Cyber Warfare incidents, including the Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm 1990-91, Sino-Japanese incidents 1998-2001, NATO-Serbia cyber war 1999 and Titan Rain (USA/China) 2003-2006, before concentrating on Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008. Barry's lecture gave insight into a world where "if there are fights on the street, there are going to be fights on the Internet"

Estonia has a highly evolved internet marketplace, including Government services, tax filing and various forms of e-commerce. On 27 April 2007, the Estonian Government announced highly controversial plans to move a WW2 Memorial from the city center to a Defense Forces Cemetery in another part of the city. Cyber attacks started on the same day, using a network of as many as a million computers from as far afield as the USA and Vietnam. The websites of Parliament, President and Prime minister were disabled or defaced. On 29 April hackers broke into the website of the ruling party, posting a fake letter of apology from the Prime Minister for ordering the removal of the highly symbolic statue. By 30 April, most daily newspapers websites were disabled and a crisis was declared. By 1 May, attacks completely swamped websites of parliament, ministries, banks, newspapers and broadcasters. On 5 May, the Estonian government blamed Russia for coordinating the attacks, which was denied. There was a huge spike in incoming traffic from around the world to coincide with the Victory Day holiday in Russia on 9 May. Attacks tailed off in July. Some observers reckoned that the onslaught on Estonia was of a sophistication not seen before. The case is studied intensively by military planners of many countries as, at the time it occurred, it may have been the second-largest instance of state-sponsored cyber warfare following Titan Rain.

Before Russian troops invaded South Ossetia on 8 August 2008, cyber attacks began against Georgian cyber infrastructure and key government web sites, including the defacing of websites, web-based psychological operations, a fierce propaganda campaign and Distributed Denial of Service. Many of Georgia's internet servers were under unauthorized external control from late on 7 August. The Georgian Government then decided to relocate key web sites to a web site hosting service in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. Estonia, Ukraine and Poland offered technical assistance and web pages for Georgia to use during the attacks. Some evidence exists that Estonia was attacked in revenge by Russia and Chechnya. The Georgian attacks were more advanced than those in Estonia and included evidence that some systems had been compromised in advance with attackers lying dormant.

The Estonian attacks triggered a number of military organisations around the world to reconsider the importance of network security to modern military doctrine. NATO established a Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence to operate out of Estonia from August 2008. A US military report into the future of geo-political relations with China has claimed that the Chinese government is developing a Cyber Warfare Division (5th Dimension) for use in possible future conflicts. Hamas declared cyber-war on Israel on 25 October 2008.

SAMHSEC's next tour will be to Lower Albany in late May or early June 2009. Members are invited to submit suggestions regarding the tour to Ian Pringle on or 071 366 6933.

SAMHSEC's next meeting will be at 1930 on Monday 8 December 2008 at the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club. The curtain raiser will be on The Leeds Armoury by Barry de Klerk. The main lecture will be on Gettysburg by Robin Barkes.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /