South African Military History Society


Past Meetings: Johannesburg.
Thursday 13th December,1979:

Approximately 60 members and guests attended this film evening arranged by Mr. Paul Barker. The show consisted of three films, namely "Cranwell's Squadrons", "Make a Signal", and "Desert Victory". "Cranwell's Squadrons" was made to commemorate 50 years of the existence of this R.A.F. college. It showed the traditions associated with this institution as well as what life is like for students at the college.

"Make a Signal" is a film about Naval Communications and followed the course of signals originating on a ship at sea somewhere in the world, through the communications system till it eventually arrives at its destination. The film also covered the training of the various personnel to operate the communications system.

The highlight of the evening was the film "Desert Victory".This film was made from excerpts of films taken by war correspondents during the war in the desert, from the period starting at Tobruk up to the time of victory in Tripoli. The films were taken right in the front line and provided a most interesting insight into the conditions in the front line during this campaign, as well as giving an overall view of the whole campaign by means of charts and maps. This very successful evening rounded off the SAMHS program for 1979.

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Thursday 10th January,1980

Despite rain thirty four members and guests arrived to hear fellow-member Dr. Philip Gon talk on "The Last Frontier War" at the first meeting for 1980. In researching the history of the ist Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot in South Africa prior to its decimation at Isandlwana, Dr. Gon discovered that the ninth and last Frontier War, had almost been totally neglected by contemporary and recent historians. In fact he complained that not even the SAMHS newsletter had mentioned its centenary.

Dr. Gon sketched the political backgound centering on attempts to form a federation of the peoples in South Africa as envisaged by Lord Carnarvon. Sir Bartle Frere found that his position as Governor of the Colony (and proposed Governor-General of the planned Confederation) frequently led to disputes with the Prime Minister of the Cape, John Molteno.

The Ninth War was sparked by an incident between the Mfengu and Gcaleka guests at a wedding in August l877, which led to cattle raiding and later the intervention of the Colonial Forces to try to restore the peace. The Colonial phase of the war was similar to previous frontier wars and consisted of punitive raids into the offending tribes territory culminating at the Battle of Ibeka. Frere however saw the "independence" of these many fragmented tribes as a threat to confederation, and by this time the Ngqika had allied themselves to the Gcaleka cause, hoping to revive the Xhosa as a native power.

Extreme nervousness on the part of the frontier farmers added to Frere's misgivings. Molteno refused to authorise payment to Imperial forces asked for by Frere (1st Batt. 24th Regt.), as he regarded their presence on the frontier as an unnecessary expense. Frere dismissed Molteno and took over the adminstration of the war which culminated in the battle of Centane (7th Feb 1878) at which the Xhosa allies' power was broken. Mopping up took until July 1878.

Martini-Henry rifles were extensively used for the first time at Centane and contributed materially to the victory. The next major use of this weapon was at Isandlwana with vastly different results.

Dr Gon was thanked on behalf of the Society by Mr.H.W. Kinsey.

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Omissions: Centenary plus

One hundred and two years ago - Ninth Frontier War

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Future Meetings: Johannesburg

Thursday 14th Feb.,1980 - Professor Markus Arkin : "All at Sea : John Company's Adventures in South African Waters".

Thursday 13th Mar.,1980 - Capt. J.G. Orford : "Methuen - Man of the West" (with particular reference to the battles of Ysterspruit and Tweebosch.)

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Know your museum.

In an attempt to give members of the public a greater interest in their Museum and a better knowledge of the exhibits, a programme of talks, demonstrations and films has recently been started. Members and friends of the SAMHS are also most welcome to attend. It is hoped that people attending these talks will become sufficiently interested in Military History that they become more involved in the activities of the Museum and may even join the SAMHS - so if you know of anyone who would like to know more about the Museum and its associated activities, please bring them along.

Talks are held at the Museum, at 20h00 on alternate Wednesday evenings and seating may be reserved by telephoning the Museum (41-5513/4/5)

The provisional titles (subject to change) are:-

The programme runs into July 1980 and other subjects include guns, swords, small arms, muzzle loaders, medals, uniforms, war art, German aircraft, British aircraft and films on Hitler.

We hope that members and their friends will support this programme with the enthusiasm it deserves. (J.M.)

That is all,

Mike Marsh

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