South African Military History 


Newsletter No 45/Nuusbrief Nr 45: June/Junie 2008

SAMHSEC's 12 May 2008 meeting was held in the new venue for its Port Elizabeth meetings, namely the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club (EPVCC) clubhouse in Conyngham Road. It is regretted that the second Monday of each month, being the only evening available for SAMHSEC at EPVCC, is not suitable for some members. PE meeting dates for the rest of 2008 are 14 July, 11 August, 8 September, 13 October, 10 November and 8 December.

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be at 1400 on Saturday 14 June 2008 in Grahamstown, venue to be confirmed. The curtain raiser will be by Mary Knowling on her service with the SA Coastal Artillery during WW2. The main lecture will be by John Jackson on the Romans at war. The meeting will be preceded by a morning visit to the War Memorials at St Andrew's College and Graeme College. Note that this is SAMHSEC's annual visit to Grahamstown. It would be appreciated if as many members as possible attend.

The meeting opened with Stephen Bowker's photographs of his January 2008 visit to Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift. We look forward the photographs of his visit to Blood River.

Pat Irwin then presented the first in the new series on historic artillery pieces in South Africa. The 7.7cm calibre guns developed by Krupp of Essen, contributed significantly to the successes of the Prussian army during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The FK [Feldkanone] 96 entered service with the Imperial German Army as a field artillery piece in 1896 and held a brief period of dominance until surpassed, both technically and in performance, by the French "75" in 1897. By the beginning of WW1 it was obsolete, but still in use throughout the German Empire. The FK 96 n.A was introduced into the German army in 1906. It was the standard field artillery piece when Germany entered WW1. This was a technically much advanced gun with a hydraulic buffer and spring recuperator recoil system which stabilised the gun when firing. It also had a 4 mm thick gun shield. The crew no longer had to stand well clear when firing because of the recoil. Highly regarded for its accuracy and reliability, it was a tactical gun, lacking the range needed for indirect fire and trench warfare. By 1916 a modified version, the FK M 16, had been developed which, with improved ammunition, in many respects outperformed its French and British counterparts. It remained in use in the German army until 1945. Together with the FK 96 n.A, it was widely used by Germany's allies and was freely dispersed as war reparation. Features identifying the three types were illustrated and their conservation status noted. Many of the 7.7 cm guns in South Africa are at war memorials, but few are in a good state of preservation; exceptions are those in the SANMMH or in the care of regiments such as the Natal Carbineers.

Zane Palmer's illustrated curtain raiser focused on the two 7-pounder RMLs he is restoring. He discussed the gun's colonial predecessor on it small carriage and explained the need to increase stability and maneuverability for its use in the rougher terrain in South Africa, where the 7 Pdr was mounted on a 9 Pdr carriage and known as the Kaffarian gun. The whereabouts of 9 of these guns is known, 8 in South Africa, in varying states of preservation, and 1 in Canada in perfect condition, together with its limber. As far as is known, there is none in the UK. The locations of the South African guns are 2 in Grahamstown (formerly from The Cape Town Volunteer Artillery; 3 were given, but it is not known what happened to the third), the 2 which Zane is restoring (1 of which formerly stood outside the MOTH Shell Hole in Queenstown), 1 at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, 1 at the SANMMH and 2 at the Mafeking Museum. The 2 guns captured by the Zulus at Isandlwana, were recaptured at Ulundi and taken to London. They were remounted on the original small carriages and given to an Admiral on his retirement. They were eventually sold in the USA, but where they are now is not known. The types of ammunition used and the range and effectiveness of the 7-pdr RML were discussed. The talk concluded with a brief mention of some of the other guns to be found in the Eastern Cape.

The Main Lecture on the Indian Invasion of Goa in 1961 had been prepared by SAMHSEC founder member, the late Chris McCanlis, BCR, prior to his death on 20 July 2007 and was presented by Malcolm Kinghorn. Chris served in the Middlesex Regiment in Cyprus during the EOKA terrorism 1956-58. While serving in the 4th Battalion of the Rhodesia Regiment, he was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia for Gallantry in Action. Chris' previous presentations to SAMHSEC were on the British Retreat from Kabul in 1842, the Shangani Patrol and the Nuremberg Trials. His contribution to SAMHSEC is fondly and respectfully remembered

On 18 December 1961 India invaded the Portuguese Indian enclaves of Goa, Diu and Damao on the west coast of India, ending by military conquest nearly 5 centuries of Portuguese rule. With overwhelming Indian force levels, the outcome was never in doubt. After WW2, most Western nations withdrew from their former colonies. Portugal, the poorest country in Europe, fought to retain her empire. To achieve this, her annual defence budget was 40% of the total and conscription for her youth was 4 or 5 years. Portugal was the highest taxed nation in Europe. Of the 650,000 population in and surrounding Goa, 50% were Christian and of Portuguese extraction. Culturally, linguistically and generally racially, Goans had little in common with the rest of the sub-continent. They expressed not the slightest interest in freedom from imperialist Portugal. Indian Prime Minister Nehru announced that Goa would be liberated, whether the inhabitants wanted it or not. Following months of subversion and extensive anti-Portugese propaganda, the invasion occurred with a 3 pronged attack from the North. The Portuguese retired before the Indian advance. The capital Panajim was not defended. The Portuguese forces retreated to the Mormagoa Peninsula. The Governor General Manual e Silva, later found to be under communist influence and prominent in the 1974 Portuguese Coup d'Etat, surrendered on 19 December, but fighting continued until the 20th. With most of the Portuguese army in Africa, it had been planned to hold out on the Mormagoa peninsula until Lisbon had rallied its NATO allies and world opinion for a cease fire. This never occured. Months later, 3302 Portuguese POWs and officials were returned to Lisbon. There is a Free Goa Resistance Movement, which is largely treated with cordial indifference by the rest of the world.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /