South African Military History 


Newsletter No 44/Nuusbrief Nr 44: May/Mei 2008


SAMHSEC is to use the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club (EPVCC) clubhouse in Conyngham Road, one building from the corner of Conyngham Road and Cape Road, as the venue for its Port Elizabeth meetings in future. The only evening available for SAMHSEC at EPVCC is the second Monday of each month. The monthly meeting will therefore be held on the second Monday and not the second Thursday of each month as before. SAMHSEC's appreciation to PAG for the use of its Headquarters as a meeting venue in the past is recorded with appreciation. Thanks to Dennis Hibberd for facilitating of SAMHSEC's use of the EPVCC.

The curtain raiser was by Ken Stewart on The Fall of Saigon. There have always been differences between North and South in Vietnam and the country was divided at the 17th parallel in 1954. In response to communist North Vietnam's guerilla activities, the ostensibly pro-western, non-communist South Vietnam asked for US assistance in 1959. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 led to US involvement in the conflict with large scale deployment of US troops. Anti-war sentiment in the US resulted in the start of US troop withdrawals in 1969. Despite a peace treaty being signed in January 1973, North Vietnam continued operations against South Vietnam, now on its own with only US observers. Saigon was attacked on 27 April 1975 and the South Vietnamese forces, with a few notable exceptions, collapsed. Having been unnerved when a renegade South Vietnamese pilot bombed the Presidential Palace on 8 April, President Thieu resigned, leaving too late any attempt by his successors at an accommodation with the North. The final historic act by the North Vietnamese Army, the capturing of the Presidential Palace on 30 April 1975, was tinged with a degree of farce. Major Hoa, commanding T54 tank no 843, with six others following, got lost and had to ask directions from a young girl on a motorcycle before driving through the Palace gates. The South Vietnamese surrender was received in the Palace. Both the aircraft which bombed the Palace and Hoa's tank are on display in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

Alan Bamford's main lecture was on the First Four Frontier Wars. Dutch Governor van Plettenberg visited the eastern border of the Cape Colony in 1778. He verbally agreed with some minor Xhosa chiefs that the Fish River south to Kommadagga and the Bushman's River south to the sea would be the boundary of the colony. In November 1780, the DEIC Council of Policy resolved that the Fish River along its whole course would become the boundary. This made the Zuurveld a Dutch possession, which became causa bella for the nine wars that followed in the next hundred years.

The 1st Frontier War from 1779 to 1781 was caused by quarrels between Trekboers and Xhosa over stock thefts and grazing rights. Field Cornet van Jaarsveld was instructed to expel the Xhosa from the west bank of the Fish River, which he achieved by 19 July 1781.

The 2nd Frontier War from 1789 to 1793 followed Chief Ndlambe of the amaRharabe's invasion of the Zuurveld, during which Xhosa stole cattle and murdered many Boers. Commandos sent to retrieve cattle were only partly successful. Landrost Maynier of Graaff Reinet was forced to sue for peace. Chief Langa of the amaMbalu agreed to cease hostilities but not to restore stolen cattle. Maynier also came to terms with Chief Chungwa of the Gqunukhwebe, whose tribe had occupied land in the Zuurveld at the Bushman's River.

The causes of the 3rd Frontier War from 1799 to 1803 were complex. The British had conquered the Cape in 1795 and put down a rebellion in Graaff Reinet. Khoikhoi changed sides and fought with the Xhosa against the British and Boers. To avoid a war with his nephew Ngcika, Ndlambe crossed the Fish and marched westwards, killing Boers and destroying farms. Acting Governor Dundas reached an agreement with Ndlambe, leaving him in the Zuurveld. When the Dutch again took over the Cape in January 1803, Boers went on the offensive, forcing the Xhosas and Khoikhoi to agree not to venture beyond the Zuurveld.

The 4th Frontier War took place after the British retook the Cape in January 1806. Following Xhosa incursions into the Colony in 1810 and 1811, Governor Cradock resolved to drive the Xhosa across the Fish River and enforce the boundary. He appointed Captain John Graham, who had been at the Cape since 1806 and had formed the new Khoikhoi regiment there, as Commandant-General and Special Commissioner for Civil and Military Affairs in the Eastern Districts on 30 September 1811. Graham's campaign began on Christmas Day 1811, with a three-pronged strategy. Landdrost Anders Stockenström of Graaff Reinet was to lead a commando from the north into the Zuurveld. Landdrost Cuyler of Uitenhague was to cross the Sundays River at the coast and march on Chief Chungwa of the Gqunukhwebe. In the centre Captain Fraser of the Cape Regiment, accompanied by Graham, was to march on Chief Ndlambe of the amaRharabe. Cradock instructed Graham to attempt to persuade the Xhosa to retire peacefully, but to resort to severe measures if they refused. In the face of overwhelming odds and the largest force ever assembled against the Xhosa up to that time, Ndlambe was obliged to retreat. The Cape government had, at last, achieved control up to the west bank of the Fish River. Graham was instructed to establish a new military headquarters in the Zuurveld. To acknowledge Graham's part in the success of the campaign, Governor Cradock named the post Graham's Town.

The next SAMHSEC meeting will be at 1930 on Monday 12 May 2008 at the EPVCC. Pat Irwin will present the first in a new series of presentations on guns of historic significance in South Africa. Stephen Bowker is to show slides of his Natal Battlefields visit in January. The curtain raiser will be on the restoration of 7 pdr RMLs by Zane Palmer. The main lecture will be the Chris McCanlis, BCR, Memorial Lecture on the Indian Invasion of Goa, presented by Malcolm Kinghorn.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

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