South African Military History Society

November 1981 NEWSLETTER

Past Meeting: Johannesburg - 8th October, 1981

Members of the Society in Johannesburg had their attention drawn to a different aspect of military history by way of a very interesting and informative lecture on "Fortifications" by Dr. Felix Machanik, a founder member and past chairman of the Society. In order to deal more effectively with his subject, Dr. Machanik divided fortifications into five main classifications namely, natural, earth, timber, rock and ferro-concrete and, in a wide sweep, dealt fairly thoroughly with the subject from man's defence of his family unit in caves in the dim and remote past down through the long years of human conflict to the massive ferro-concrete fortifications of the two World Wars. In this way he traced the evelopment of fortifications from caves or natural mountain or hill fortresses, through the various stages of simple earthworks, timber barricading, the more sophisticated stone or rock forts and castles, down to the complicated concrete fortresses of the present day. Obviously, as he pointed out, there had been combinations of the various classifications and, in this respect, drew attention to the trenches of the First World War, which were earthworks, alongside the concrete pillboxes, and many examples of the use of earth, timber and rocks in the same fortifications.

One must accept that fortifications throughout the ages is an enormous subject, but Dr. Machanik managed in the space of his address to deal with the more important aspects, and illustrated his talk with some ery well chosen slides showing a large variety of fortifications from Maiden Castle in Dorset, dating back to about 2000 B.C., and various other hill forts in England, composed mainly of earthworks and moats, to numerous stone forts and fortresses throughout Europe and the Middle East. With regard to the latter, Dr. Machanik spoke on the development of fortified villages and walled cities, and showed us numerous slides of fortified towns and cities throughout the world, but mainly in Europe and the Middle East dating back to Biblical and Greek and Roman times, such as Jericho, reputed to be the oldest city in the world probably dating back to 7 000 B.C., Jerusalem, Ur of the Chaldees, Masada, Athens (the Acropolis), Mycene, Troy, Constantinople, Carcassonne in France, Tarragona in Spain, Great Zimbabwe, etc. He also drew attention to such extensive and remarkable fortifications as Hadrian's Wall, and the Great Wall of China, which appeared in later form in such modern defences as the Maginot Line.

Dr. Machanik also spoke on how fortifications had changed and improved with the evolution of weaponry. He also mentioned the origins of some present day army terms such as artillerymen, sappers and miners, which date back to antiquity, and referred to the army engineers in the Roman Army. Altogether a most interesting and informative address.

Dr. Machanik was thanked very ably by Mr. Rod Murchison, who complimented Dr. Machanik on the detailed and thorough manner in which he had drawn our attention to so many aspects of a vast subject.

* * *

Future Meetings - Johannesburg

Thurs 12th November - 20h00 - Dr C.A.R. Schulenburg - "Breaker Morant"

Sun. 15th November - 09h30 - Heidelberg Trip

Thurs 10th December - 20h00 - Film Evening

Future Meetings: Durban (Contact Tania van der Watt 031-742970)

Sat./Sun. 7th/8th November Field Trip to Ladysmith.

Thurs. l2th November 20h00 Film Evening "Zulu Dawn"

Future Meetings: Cape Town (Contact P. Lange at 021-617441)

Thurs. 12th November Mr. H.R. Heitman - "South-West Africa"

* * *

Heidelberg Trip: Sunday, 15th November, 1981.

As has already been intimated arrangements have been made for members of the Society to visit a number of places of interest in Heidelberg on Sunday, 15th November, 1981, under the leadership of Heidelberger Ian Uys whose book "Heidelbergers of the Boer War" shoul be consulted before the visit by those who are fortunate enough to have copies. (Copies still available in all good bookshops) Members, who should provide their own transport or share transport, should bring their own refreshments for morning tea and lunch, and the programme for the day is briefly as follows:-

09h30 Assembly about 100 metres along "Heidelberg/Wit Nigel R42"
Off Ramp. Introductory talk and viewing of Concentration Camp Cemetery.
10h00 Viewing of certain buildings and residences of historical interest, including Heidelberg Club and old Gaol, etc,
(City Hall Toilets), Many of these feature in Ian's book
11h00 Proceed to old town Kloof Cemetery. Break for tea. Talks on Soldiers, Burghers and Townsfolk buried there.
12h30 Visit to Transport Museum at Old Heidelberg Station for lunch and viewing of the Museum (charge of 30 cents for adults and 10 cents for children). Toilets
14h15 Move to Triumvirate Statue and Klipkerk Museum
l5hl5 Visit to farm of Mr. & Mrs. Uys for afternoon tea. View of Blockhouse Hill and scene of train derailment. Visit to old Kraal Station or swimming. (Tea will be provided)
l6h45 Departure for home.

This should be an interesting and sociable day so we look forward to seeing you. Bring costumes for a mid-afternoon dip.

* * *

Majuba Climb Certificates. Col. G.R. Duxbury has advised that the Majuba Climb Certificates should be available for distribution/presentation at the monthly meeting on Thursday, 12th November, 1981.

* * *

Back Numbers of Journal. Dr. P.J. Venter a member (501 Bootes Street, Waterkloof Ridge, Pretoria, 0181. Tel. 012-467360) wishes to purchase the following back numbers of the Journal: Vol. 2 Nos. 5,6 and Index, Vol, 3 No. I. Can anyone help, please?

Nick Kinsey, Acting Scribe

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /