South African Military History Society


Past meeting: Johannesburg, l3th March, 1980

Capt. Julian Orford's talk titled "Methuen - Man of the West" opened new fields for many of the 56 members and guests who were treated to a detailed description of aspects of the Anglo-Boer War in the Western Tvl.

Lt.General Lord Methuen was an unusual commander in that he often led his columns on patrol,even though he was a general. He was also a strong advocate of the policy of placing Boer women and children in concentration camps for which he was not popular with the Boers.

He was placed in command of the Western Transvaal in May 1901 with instructions to contain De La Rey and De Wet whom had become such a force that they had managed to recapture Klerksdorp.

Methuen suffered his first major defeat in this area at Ysterspruit when one of his convoys under command of a Col. Anderson was attacked shortly after breaking camp on the 24th Feb.,1902. The Boers were short of ammunition and arms and were after the 3 ammunition wagons in the convoy. The "Siener" van Rensburg had also prophesied a victory for the Boers. The Boers took the convoy capturing more than a quarter million rounds of ammunition and eventually trooped 150 released British prisoners through Klerkdorp having relieved them of all their impedimenta except for their helmets and boots.

Stung by this defeat, Methuen formed another column to avenge Ysterspruit, but before he could meet up with Kekewich's forces, he was attacked on March 7th, 1902 by De La Rey's forces at Tweebosch. The "Siener" van Rensburg had described that in the forthcoming battle "the Red Bull (Methuen) would come charging down a hill,only to turn back with a crippled fore leg".

Despite conspicuous bravery, Methuen's column was decimated. Methuen himself, his horse shot from beneath him, fell with a bullet in his thigh and was pinned to the ground by his horse which fell on his wounded leg. ( A Col. Townsend was wounded for the 5th time in this war while trying to help Methuen.)

Methuen surrendered personally to De La Rey who arranged for him to be returned to Klerksdorp hospital. The other Boers however, because of Methuen's support for the concentration camp policy, diverted the ambulance to a farm house from where he was only released on 12th March,1902 and taken to Klerksdorp and arrived in England on the 9th July.

Methuen was the first and the last British General to be captured during the Boer War.

Methuen returned to South Africa in 1908 as GOC.

Maj. Darrell Hall thanked Capt. Orford on behalf of the Society.

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Future Meetings : Johannesburg

Thurs 10th April 20h00 Annual General Meeting and Film Show
Mr Paul Barker has arranged for 3 half hour films, some or all of which will be shown after the business of the A.G.M. has been completed. They are:-
"Desert Air force"

"Past & Present" - The development of the War Plane

"Unquiet Peace" - Airpower after WW2 - Berlin & Korea

Thurs 8th May 20h00
Cmdt. Deon Fourie "Angolan Adventure 1975/6"

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Proposed Military History Tour.

Owing to unforseen circumstances,the battlefield tour we had in mind for the 15th to 18th May this year has had to be postponed. Members will be informed of the venue and new dates in due course.

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Know your Museum Evenings.

The next two evening talks in this series are:-

Attendance at these meetings is usually about 60 and we really recommend members attend these most interesting evenings.

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New Guns at the War Museum.

Two new guns a 7pr. and a 9pr. - are on display at the South African National Museum of Military History. Guns like these - and maybe these actual guns - were used in the Zulu and First Anglo-Boer Wars.

The 7 pr. was originally a mountain gun, and two of these guns, on small mountain carriages, are in the Museum. In the 1870s, 7 prs. in South Africa were mounted on bigger Colonial Carriages. The new carriage gave these guns greater mobility and effectiveness in South African conditions.

The new 7 pr. is one of these. Guns like this were at Isandlwana and other battles of the Zulu War.

The 9 pr. was the standard field gun of the time. Six of these 9 prs. were at Ulundi. In the First Anglo-Boer War, 9prs. were at Laing's Nek and Schuinshoogte, and the Sieges of Potchefstroom and Pretoria.

Both guns were meticulously restored by the late Mr Bill Acker of the War Museum. (D.H.)

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That's all ... Mike Marsh

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