South African Military History Society

News-sheet No. 83. DURBAN BRANCH March 1980


The get-together in March was well attended, notwithstanding TV and other counter-attractions. Some members who had joined in more recent times had found it possible to attend one of our monthly meetings for the first time, and a hearty welcome was extended to all of them. Attendance at this meeting was well worth while because fellow-member Jeff Mathews' "maiden-speech" consisted of a well-presented and well-researched talk on LORD CHELMSFORD AND THE TRANSPORT PROBLEMS OF THE ZULU WAR. The "maiden" part of his speech refers, of course, only to his membership of this Branch, because as a lecturer in History at the Edgewood College of Education, history and lecturing seem to come to him "natur'ly'".

The speaker highlighted an aspect which one so often overlooks in military history. Generalship, personalities, battles with victories or defeats, are so much more spectacular that one is apt to forgot that purely military aspects are merely the spear-point, but that the shaft, the thrust and the weight behind it are provided by administration, commissariat and transport. Touching on the logistic and supply problems which beset both Marlborough and Wellington in their time, Mr. Mathews then sketched the reforms and reorganisation which led, in 1875, to the introduction and establishment in the British army of two separate departments: the Commissariat and Transport Department and the Ordnance Stores Department. He then dealt in detail with the immense problems facing Lord Chelmsford. The amount of supplies needed by his army, the distances to be covered, the absence or inadequacy of roads and alternative means of transportation, the shortage of draught animals and "rolling stock", speculation and profiteering, Sir Henry Bulwer's refusal to have martial law declared, squabbles between Clifford, Crealock and Strickland, all senior officers who should have pulled together, - all these factors built up into one colossal headache. With insight and understanding the speaker succeeded in arousing much sympathy for Chelmsford who became burdened with problems which should have been borne by others, and he was warmly thanked for his efforts, on behalf of the audience, by John Yelland.

A lively question-time then concluded the evening.


A warm welcome is extended to new member Mr. Robin Rowe. FUTURE EVENTS

Programme of Monthly Meetings:

Our Chairman, CMDT 'SB' BOURQUIN, will present a talk entitled "The Three Sticks" (This talk covers aspects of the Bambata Rebellion and the Zulu War).

(The venue will not be available during these two months.)

July 10th
Dr. John Buchan will present a talk on "Military Medical Milestones". August 14th
To be announced.

September 11th Fellow-member, Major Darrell Hall, will give a talk entitled "Long Tom".

The venue will be the Lecture Room, 'SB' Bourquin Building, (the Port Natal Administration Board's head office) on the corner of Jan Smuts Highway and Buro crescent, Mayville, on the second Thursday on the month, commencing at 8 p.m. There is ample parking in the grounds and vehicles are under guard. Glasses and ice will be supplied so please bring your own bottled or canned refreshments.


REMINDER 1980 subs (only R5 single or R7,50 double (husband and wife)) are now due. Please post cheques/postal orders; to the Treasurer, Mr. Maurice Gough-Palmer, P.0. Box 52090, Saxonwold, 2132. Prompt payment keeps you in touch and eases the work of the Hon. Treasurer.

(Mrs) Tania van der Watt,
Secretary, Durban Branch,
S.A. Military History Society,
Box 870 HILLCREST 3650
Tel 742970

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