South African Military History Society


Past meeting - Johannesburg

On March 12th forty five members and guests listened to Maj. A.B. "Theuny" Theunisson's reminiscences of his experiences as a General Staff Officer during World War 2. He recounted his conversion from a theoretician into a practical officer during the war in the desert with the 6 S.A. I. battalion, including Operation Lightfoot, the minelifting exercise which culminated in the Battle of El Alamein.

After further descriptions of the Italian campaign, he ended with a thumbnail sketch of the "ideal" GSO, including amongst other things the necessary ability of sleeping while standing up.

Major Theunissen was thanked by Alastair Martin, himself an ex-Staff Officer. (J. M.)

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Re-enactment of Colley's Night March to the summit of Majuba.

On the evening of the 26th February at 21H00, 41 enthusiasts (witless?) gathered outside the Holiday Inn to embark on the bus to be taken up to the staging point at Mount Prospect. One of the party carried a full pack weighing 58 lbs, as well as his rifle, another a rifle and 49lb pack, and about 12 had 25 lb. packs. Our guides were Dr. Briscoe, the owner of part of the land we were crossing, and Col. Duxbury. The aim of the march was to follow Gen. Colley's route with his approx. 550 men up the side of nKwelo mountain, across the connecting shoulder to the foot of Majuba, and from there to the top, 100 years to the hour after Colley's original march.

The sky was overcast and the wind was cold, no lights were allowed and the climbers were numbered and had to stay in that order in single file, always making sure that they could see or hear the climber immediately in front and behind them. In view of the almost total darkness, it was not possible to see where one was putting one's feet, and all obstacles had to be negotiated following the directions of the climber in front of one. The first tough section of the climb was up the side of nKwelo, which had many of us wondering what we were doing and sure that we were never going to make it. We could see Majuba to our right 5km away and it looked very high compared to what we had achieved so far.

After frequent stops and a lot more climbing, we reached the top of the connecting shoulder, and could see the glow of the lights of Volksrust over the top of Laign's Nek. At last the route was flattening out. The connecting shoulder was completely wooded and although the going was easier, the trees blotted out what little light we had had, and in our almost blind state we had to negotiate all the fallen trees and overhanging branches in our path. Eventually after about 4 hours of marching since leaving Mount Prospect, we emerged from the woods at the foot of Majuba (In Colley's time there were no woods on the connecting shoulder). From here it was a climb straight up the side making sure to pass to the left of Sailors Knoll to arrive at the top via one of the few climbable approaches. This part of the climb took almost 2 hours and got steeper as one approached the summit. To make matters worse, a mist bank completely engulphed the mountain reducing visibility to about 30 feet. The whole party had broken up, each trying to find his way to the top at his own pace. As we got nearer the summit, the rocks were wet and one kept on losing one's footing. The final stages had to be scrambled up using hands and feet.

Arriving at the top, we were overcome by a sense of elation at having succeeded in covering this 9km historic ordeal in about 6 hours.

After a 20 mLnute rest in the freezing mist and wind, we all gathered at the cemetry and had a prayer and short talk about the British defences and the battle, as well as having a group photograph taken. As the sun rose we started the 30 minute descent down the side from which the Boers attacked, to the waiting bus below at the Amajuba camp site.

These 41 climbers are to each receive a certificate from the Museum commemorating this historic event.

The names of the climbers are:
Richard Briscoe George Duxbury Andrew Walker Malcolm Meyerowitz
Peter Leggat Bruce Dalgleish Bert Simkins Sheila Terry
Glen Terry Jack Bester Barbara Pretorius Phil Pretorius
Steve Watt Barrie Thomson Richard Tomlinson Ari Amoils
Hymie Amoils Mike Marsh Rob Jordan Ian Uys
Paul Barker Bill Garr Ivor Little Fiona Barbour
Peter Carter Leonard Dann Ann Carter Stephen Carter
Midge Carter Ken Gillings Richard Dey James Findlay
Achilles Kallos Andy Malan Hercules J.v.Vuuren Allan Kretzman
Val Stephenson Barry Stephenson Barbara Neall V.Hickman
Martin Donaldson.      

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Future Meetings:- Johannesburg

9th April - 20h00 - ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING at which a new Chairman and incoming Committee of the Society will be elected. This will be followed by a slide show.

Those who attend the AGM will be rewarded by another of Darrell's slide shows, this time of the recent tour to Majuba. So if you wish to find out whether your face is included in his "Hall of Infamy" - and just how libellous it is - do join us on the 9th April! Legal advisers welcome:

14th May - 20h00 - Mr Peter Tunstall- "Colditz"
Members who attended Peter Tunstall's lecture on Colditz last year will be delighted to renew his acquaintance when he expands on his POW life. Those who were unfortunate to miss his lecture last time, will now have an opportunity of sharing his experiences, as dramatised by this raconteur.

Future meetings:- Durban (Contact Tania v.d. Watt 74-2970)

9th April - 20h00 - Ron Melrose: - "Genghis Kahn"

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Forthcoming Tour

The Museum is arranging a single bus tour to the Durban area from 28th May to 1st June. The Durban Branch of the Society will act as guides at the various battlefield stands. The tour will also include the Military Tattoo which this year forms part of the Republic Festival, so that while hotel accomodation has been reserved, seats on the bus must be booked early. Itineraries and further details may be obtained from the Museum at phone no. 41-5513

* * *

Item of Interest: Loss of a V.C. at Bronkhorstspruit
Having returned from Majuba, our "Kimberley Korrespondent"(Fiona Barbour) has unearthed the following. Refening to the loss of a Victoria Cross medal: "A slightly different circumstance attended the loss by Francis Fitzpatrick, since this was lost in action against the Boers at Bronkers Spruit, for which reason it was replaced in June 1881 at public expense. Oddly enough, the original Cross was subsequently found, being returned to the MS at the WO on Aug 18, 1881, but it appears that no attempt was made to exchange this for the replacement Cross then in Fitzpatrick's possession".

from M.J.COOK (1975) ..... "The Evolution of the Victoria Cross"

That's all ... Mike Marsh

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