South African Military History Society


Past meeting: Johannesburg

The 12th February, 1981 meeting saw 71 members and guests turn out to hear Col. Duxbury's lecture entitled "Schuinshoogte, Laing's Nek & Amajuba Battles of the Transvaal War of 1880/81". This lecture served as a briefing for those members who were going on the Majuba Centenary Tour. The contents of the lecture are covered in detail in the commemorative issue of the Journal (which you should all have received), as well as Col Duxbury's book entitled "David and Goliath".

Majuba Battlefield Tour

Heavy rain delayed the departure on Thursday 26th Feb. of two bus-loads of Society members on the tour to the battlefields of the 1880-81 Anglo-Boer War. Tony Spier was destined to have his schedule ruined further as - yes, you've guessed it! - one bus broke down, developing severe power loss and pulling like an "anaemic field mouse". Hymie Amoils and one of the drivers were able to coax the engine back to life sans Bendix and we arrived 2 hours late at the Holiday Inn at Newcastle to find some rooms leaking after a spectacular rainstorm.

A strangely attired group of people assembled at 9pm ready to retrace Gen. Colley's night march from Mount Prospect to Majuba and embarked on the bus. Those of us remaining at the hotel were full of mixed feelings - sad not to be part of this historic re-enactment of Colley's last manoeuvre, yet relieved to be facing warm beds instead of a large chunk of mountain.

The climbers returned at about 7 a.m. in various stages of exhaustion and sunglasses were very much in evidence as the buses left at 9 for Mount Prospect where Col. Duxbury addressed us on the Laigusnek battle, in the shade of the bluegums next to the cemetery where Colley lies buried. A newly trodden path up the flank of nKwelo bore silent witness to the night's march and the non-climbers realised what they had missed (escaped?). After a quick look at the cemetery it was on to Laignsnek toposcope for a better view of the battlefield,before descending on the Valley Inn to overwhelm their bar and have lunch in their grounds. One bus having been left in Newcastle for repairs, we had used a school bus which now returned to carting juveniles. The group, in excess of 100 people with the Durban members, a kombi of teachers and others in private vehicles having joined, settled down near the hotel's driveway for Col. Duxhury's lecture on the skirmish at Skuinshoogte which was visible on the near horizon under threatening clouds. Mike Marsh reported briefly on the effect of shooting a contemporary Westley-Richards rifle with sights set to 400 yards, at a target only 130 yards away. Bus One's passengers returned to the Valley Inn bar while Bus Two left for Schuinshoogte only to find the rain and hail too heavy to allow any excursion and a retreat was made to Newcastle. By the time the bus returned to rescue the 2nd half of the party, their interest in the battlefield was only academ(h)ic.

Saturday saw the party joining several thousand others at the tent camp on the "Amajuba Feesterrein" for the official commemoration ceremonies. While a festive atmosphere was felt in the camp with its tents of souvenirs and traditional foods for sale, and around the clearing where group gymnastic displays and other "delights" entertained spectators, the many who climbed the mountain from the Boer side were more serious. One middle aged lady was overheard to say "Dit gaan nie oor die op- of afklim nie, net die oorlewing". Heavy breathing was heard aplenty as many called it a day without reaching their goal, but those who were on the summit shortly before noon saw the State President unveil a plaque before a helicopter whisked him off to lunch and they made their footsore descent.

Forsaking the politicians the group returned to the Laingsnek site and had lunch on the lower slopes of Deane's Hill with a superb view over the valley towards Mount Prospect, nKwelo and Majuba. Col. Duxbury desribed the Majuba action and then led many of the party up the hill to visit the monument to the 58th Regiment.

On the way to revisit Schuinshoogte, now without rain, a comfort stop at the Valley Inn revealed the superior tactics of the "undisciplined rearguard" who raced from Bus No 2 before it was parked to claim the bar and toilets first. The Schuinshoogte cemeteries were visited on the way back to Newcastle.

A late start on Sunday took the tour members to Fort Amiel, now surrounded by suburbs, where Nick Kinsey gave a short talk before the last cemetery of the tour was visited. Lunch was in Volksrust and the buses arrived back at the Museum ten minutes ahead of schedule, to Tony Spier's delight. (J.M.)

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Re-enactment of Colley's Night March.

Due to lack of space in this newsletter, a report on this historic occasion will be published in next month's newsletter.

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Future meetings: Johannesburg

12th March - 20h00 - Maj A.B. Theunissen - "Why did I wake the General?
- Reminiscences of a General Staff Officer."

9th April - 20h00 - Annual General Meeting and Slide Show or Film Show

Durban (Contact Tania van der Watt 74-2970)
12th March - 20h00 - Ron Melrose - "Gcnghis Khan"

Cape Town (Contact Paul Lange 61-7441)
12th March - 20h15 - Film Show "Mussolini" & "The Rise of the Red Navy"

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Tour to India

The Council for Adult Education is running a tour to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka,including the sites of the Indian Mutiny if interest warrants it. Those interested should contact Clare Rheinallt-Jones at 41-3765

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Sea Wolves

Clare Rheinallt-Jones writes:
Those of you who have read "Boarding Party" and seen the film "Sea Wolves", will be interested to know that Nigerian Civil Servants did "the same thing" two years earlier. I was there at the time when the white Civil Servants left Lagos and stole a German destroyer from Fernando Po. They bought the ship back successfully to Lagos, and their only recognition of the feat was an ashtray each. It was April 1940.

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You should all have received the latest issue of the Journal within the last month together with your account for the 1981 membership of the Society. Please pay this amount as soon as possible.
(Ordinary=R7.50, Family=R10.00, Life=R75.00) Contact Maurice Gough-Palmer at 616-1531(H) if you have any queries

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Apologies to any member who might receive this newsletter after the 12th March, but in order to report on the tour this was unavoidable.

That's all ... Mike Marsh

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