South African Military History Society


Past meeting - Johannesburg

On the 12th June 1980,Mr. Frans Pretorius presented his talk entitled "Life on Commando during the Anglo-Boer War, 1899/1902" to approximately 50 members and guests.

A few of the points mentioned in Mr. Pretorius's lecture were that all men between the age of 16 and 60 were eligible for military service, and had to report with their own horse, saddle, bridle, rifle, 30 rounds of ammunition and eight days rations. There were no uniforms as such, nor were there distinguishing marks to seperate the officers from the men. The officers were initially elected, and as such were regarded by the Burghers as little better than civil servants, to be obeyed or not, depending on their personal feelings. Later the C. nominated the officers and this resulted in them being shown more respect. Discipline among the Burghers was no good, partly due to their individualistic nature and that each Burgher regarded himself as his own general. The Burghers were also very concerned about their farms and families and went absent without leave whenever they felt the farm called. Punishment was not strict except for not looking after their horses or breaking the blackout regulations.

The Burghers regarded this war as a War for God, Country and Independence and saw it as just before the Almighty God. Divine Services were held regularly with readings mostly being taken out of the Old Testament as the Burghers saw their cause as similar to that of the Israelites. Sunday was a day of rest and many prayer and thanksgiving services were held. The Burgher relied heavily on his religion which was the bulwark of his Nationalism.

Initially the Burghers brought many luxuries with them which were carried in wagon trains with the Commando, but these wagons slowed the unit aown to such an extent that eventually the wagons and luxuries were abandoned.

Among the whites there were no social distinctions, although a "Boer aristocracy" existed. Blacks did not bear arms or fight alongside the Burghers, but were used to look after the Boers' cattle and possessions.

When food stuffs became scarce, the Burghers improvised and water was always abundant. Ammunition was smuggled in via Lourenç Marques or else taken from the British. (Shortly after the start of the War the British and Portuguese had entered into an agreement to stop ammunition being sent to the Boers via L.M.)

The Burghers' favourite pastimes were quoits, cricket, long-jumping and football. There even was an attempt to arrange a football match between one of the Commandos and a British Garrison.

Mr. Pretorius illustrated his well researched talk with slides.

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Future meetings - Johannesburg

Thurs 10th July 20h00 Mr. Peter Tunstall: "The Laughter, the Triumphs and the Tragedies of COLDITZ"

During WWII Colditz was the thousand year old fortress where the Germans concentrated, under maximum security, the officer P.O.W. who had become inveterate escapers. Even though the guards outnumbered the prisoners, there were more successful 'home run' escapes from Colditz than from any other prisoner of war camp.

The Colditz Story has become a legend through books ,film and TV. It is a saga of daring, fortitude, inventiveness and of spirits sustained by irrepressible humour in adversity. It illustrates the limitless scope of human endeavour and is proof that almost nothing is impossible where there is sufficient motivation and will power. (Over a nine month period a full scale, two man escape glider was secretly built under the noses of the Germans).

The lecturer speaks of his and his brother officers' prison experiences before and after incarceration in Schloss Colditz. The delivery is lively and humourous. Escape maps, forgeries, German photographs of tunnels and other memorabilia is displayed. (An extract from Mr. Tunstall's brochure)

Thurs 14th Aug 20h00 Maj. D.P. Tidy "The Museum's Aircraft"

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Know your Museum evenings Members in Johannesburg are reminded that the last two lecture evenings in the excellent series highligting some of the Museums exhibits are:- The next 2 talks in this series are:-

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Recent books on S.A.Military History (A Selection)

Sonia Clarke(ed), Invasion of Zululand 1879; Anglo-Zulu War experiences of Arthur Harness, John Jervis, 4th Viscount St Vincent; and Sir Henry Bulwer,The Brenthurst Press, Johannesburg, 1979. 295pp., illus., maps, bibl. Price R55.

Pool, G., Die Herero-Opstand 1904-1907, HAUM , Kaapstad,1979. 3llpp., illus., kaarte, bibl. Prys :R12-75

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That's all ... Mike Marsh

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