South African Military History 


Newsletter No 42/Nuusbrief Nr 42: March/Maart 2008

SAMHSEC's 14 February 2008 meeting opened with the Frontier Wars Regiments series presentation by John Stevens on the 95th Regiment. In 1800 an "Experimental Corps of Riflemen", the 95th Regiment, was raised. The Riflemen wore dark green jackets and were armed with accurate and long range Baker Rifles. The Rifles were trained to think for themselves and, together with the riflemen of the 60th Regiment, were the sharpshooters, skirmishers and scouts of the British Army. The Regiment participated in the 7th Frontier War, operations against the emigrant Boers in the Free State and the Second Anglo-Boer War.

Ian Pringle's curtain raiser told the story of the tea cup presented by Sir Gavin Arthur to the Eildon Church in the Baviaans River Valley near Bedford in August 2007. On 14 March 1901, a 2 man patrol of the Bedford District Mounted Troops, which was tracking the movements of a Boer Commando in the area, was ambushed while bivouacked and brewing tea. When the bodies were found the next day, the cup was still being held by one of the casualties, John Rennie, Sir Gavin's great grandfather. Sir Gavin felt it appropriate for the cup, which had become a treasured family heirloom, to be in safekeeping in the Bedford district.

The main lecture by Anne Irwin was on The Power of War Poetry. It is the expressive part of poetry, rather than the content of what is expressed, that stimulates thought and enriches our preceptive faculty: the evocative nature of sounds and imagery can convey much to the reader about the conditions of war, for, unlike mere factual details, poetry is able to explore the emotional nature of the experiences of war. In so doing, it provides a commentary, albeit often critical, on what people and nations do.

Circumstances of war ofter determine and help shape poetry. The extraordinary quality of the poems of the WW1 soldier poets, for example, is often explained by conditions in the trenches which afforded them time to draft and edit their poems. It is the response of poetry to various aspects of life, such as identity, loyalty, courage, duty and death, and its relation to moments of international crises that gives war poetry a powerful literary value.

Although many of the more familiar poems are written by men, there is a strong tradition of women's poetry written in response to war. These, too, cover a range of topics and are the products of exposure to war by women on active service as well as those involved in the war effort at home.

The role of the poet in response to war was also explored. Many poems extend our knowledge whilst capturing the raw realities of war and the long term impact of war on the survivors. As such, war poetry can point towards a clearer understanding of what war is about and help us to make rational and moral choices with regard to the conditions of war. Themes such as patriotism, personal joy, separation of loved ones, sacrifice and sorrow, as well as questioning the condition of war, were illustrated and explored through the reading of a variety of poems emanating from wars throughout history.

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SAMHSEC is invited to attend a Falcon Rock Black Powder Shoot at 1330 for 1400 on 8 March 2008. Click on the icon at the bottom of this newsletter for a route map to the venue. Those without Adobe can contact your scribe to get a fax copy. Or: go west on Old Cape Road past the junction with the road from Uitenhague at Fitch's Corner; follow the signs on the right to Falcon Rock (note: if you cross the railway line west of Fitch's Corner, you have gone too far).

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SAMHSEC's next meeting is on 13 March 2008 at 1930 in the PAG Drill Hall. The AGM will be held in lieue of the curtain raiser. The main lecture is The Legend of robin Hood by Ian Copley. The last in the Frontier Wars Regiments series presentation will be on the Royal African Regiment by Pat Irwin.

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Ansie and Richard Dalldorf are welcomed as new members of the Society.

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It will be assumed that members who have not renewed their membership by 31 March do not intend to do so and they will be removed from the Branch mailing list.

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Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /