South African Military History Society

October 1981 NEWSLETTER

Past meeting: Johannesburg - 3rd September,1981

An appreciative audience was treated to a very interesting lecture by Professor J.C. de Villiers, Head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Cape Town, on Medical Services during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899/1902. He divided the war into two phases, namely before June 1900 and after June 1900, and mentioned that medical services dated back to the Trojan War. Explaining that the techniques of warfare encountered in the Boer War called for new medical techniques in the treatment of wounds and diseases, he drew particular attention to the marked absence of wound infection resulting from the cleanness of the veld and the relatively dry climate.

Dealing firstly with the Boer medical services, which were virtually non-existent before the arrival of 14 foreign ambulance units from European countries, Prof. de Villiers listed in complete detail the names of all the doctors, nurses and other medical aides in these units, as well as where each unit was stationed during hostilities. While most of the units returned to Europe before the end of 1900, leaving the Boers to suffer as a result of inadequate medical support, many of the books and papers written by these doctors contributed greatly to medical knowledge of the time.

Turning to the British, he outlined the Royal Army Medical Corps (which had been formed in 1898 by the amalgamation of the Medical Staff Corps (Officers) and the Medical Staff Corps (Men)) with its rigid field organisation which soon changed structure to meet the demands of war in the hospitals, hospital ships and hospital trains in use. Some of these were privately financed. The types of field ambulances were also described in detail.

After referring to the "typhoid march" of February/March 1900 in Bloemfontein, when thousands of men succumbed to this disease, Professor de Villiers pointed to the beneficial results of the "testing ground" of the War, being new techniques and increased knowledge, some of which was to be invaluable during the First World War.

The lecture was enhanced by a selection of well-chosen slides and punctuated by dry humour, and the length of the question time afterwards was evidence of the interest generated in the audience by this unusual topic. (H.W.K)

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Future Meetings - Johannesburg

Thurs 8th Oct - 20H00 - Dr. F. Machanik - "Fortifications"

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

Thurs 10th December - 20h00 - Film Evening

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Future Meetings: Durban - (Contact Tania van der Watt 031-74-2970)

Thurs 15th Oct - 20H00 - Maj D.D. Hall "At the Call of King and Country"

Thurs 12 November - 20h00 - Mr Ian Player will present an illustrated talk on the Philippines

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

Thurs 8th October - 20h15 - Annual General Meeting and film show

Thurs 12th November - 20h15 - Mr H.R. Heitman - "South West Africa"

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Tour to Heidelberg -15th November,1981

The Tour Committee, their initial recce completed, are pleased to announce that the following will be among the sites of interest to be visited on this tour; the"Klip" Kerk museum, the Transport Museum, some houses of historical interest and (wait for it Nick and Maurice !) the Concentration Camp Cemetery.

Participants must meet at Heidelberg at 9.30 a.m. (details will be given in the next newsletter) and must bring their own liquid refreshments and food. Heidelberger Ian Uys will be the guide for all those Highvelders who have been lured down to the Suikerbosrand.

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Braai - 30th October, 1981

Response to the Societies planned Braaivleis has been very disappointing so far with only 18 paid acceptances having been received.

The fate of this braai lies in your hands and a descision to hold or cancel it will be made at the 8th October meeting so please fill in the coupon below and send it with your money immediately to the Secretary and insure the sucess of this social function.

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That is all ... Mike Marsh

Some useful phone numbers:
Nick Kinsey(chairman) 788-4047
Maurice Gough Palmer 616-1531
Mike Marsh(Scribe) 648-1657

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