South African Military History Society

News-sheet No. 99. DURBAN BRANCH October 1981.


The presentation of 'At the Call of King and Country' by Major Darrell Hall at our October get-together was a story, not of generals and armies, but of one young man who, at the call of King and Country, left family and friends in South Africa, sailed to England to join the British Army and fell in action in France during World War I. Apart from its technical perfection and sophistication: two projectors, two screens, tape deck and amplifier, background music, voices from the past, a principal story-teller and two aides, this presentation was an object lesson in family, military and historical research, which at times revealed itself as meticulous detective work.

The story itself is a reasonably straight-forward one, concerning Hugh Wilfred Hall, an uncle of Darrell, who was born in Durban in 1894 and grew up in the Eastern Transvaal. Well educated and a keen sportsman he joined the 1st Imperial Light Horse when war broke out in 1914. After service in German South-West Africa he joined the British Army and after passing through the Inns of Court OTC was commissioned on 24 June 1916 into 3rd Battalion The London Regiment. The story then moved to the battlefields of France in the region of Arras and more specifically the Bullecourt sector, facing the German Hindenburg line. Maps, old photographs, battle scenes contrasted starkly with present-day views, the story itself emphasized by recorded eye-witness accounts of an aged veteran, Mr. Charles Depinna (a newly discovered personal friend and brother-officer of Wilfred Hall) painted a vivid picture of both sides, British and German. It was here that on 15 May 1917 during heavy fighting Lt Wilfred Hall laid down his young and promising life.

An outstanding feature of the presentation was the warm, sympathetic and sensitive treatment which Darrell had accorded both friend and foe. Fellow-member Steve Watt expressed a warm word of appreciation to Major Hall and his two aides, Ken Johnson and Ken Gillings. He gave special credit to the painstaking research, aided at times by remarkable luck and coincidence, which had gone into the making of this story. Starting only with some elementary detail Darrell had succeeded in building up a life-sized story with an identification of most persons involved, and historical facts and figures relating to the participants, in this particular action British, German and Australian. It gave a clear indication of the wealth of information on past events which was available to those who search for it.



As already announced this Branch is planning an outing to Ladysmith over the week-end 7th/8th November 1981. The object is, in conjunction with four members from the Johannesburg branch (Mr. Nick Kinsey (Chairman), Maj Darrell Hall, and Messrs. Maurice Gough-Palmer and Ian Uys), to study in detail two night actions fought near Ladysmith during the siege.

The rendezvous will on both days be the Royal Hotel, Ladysmith, at 09h00. It is proposed to devote Saturday, 7 November, to a visit to Nicholson's Nek and Surprise Hill, as this will require more time than the visit to Gun Hill and Lombard's Kop, which is to follow on Sunday, 8 November. This arrangement will enable both Johannesburg and Durban members to depart from Ladysmith for home at about mid-afternoon.

Participants must arrange their own accommodation if they wish to stay over, as also picnic lunches and other refreshments. In view of the scrub vegetation and stones for which the Ladysmith area is well-known good walking shoes are strongly recommended. Hats, sun-glasses, walking-sticks, water-bottle, suitable clothing for both hot and cold spells, cameras, etc., are items which must receive individual consideration. The principal guide and commentator will be fellow-member Steve Watt from Pietermaritzburg, assisted by our Chairman, SB, and Midge Carter.

Members of the Ladysmith Historical Society have been cordially invited to participate.



The venue will be the Lecture Room, 'SB' Bourquin Building, on the corner of Jan Smuts Highway and Buro Crescent, Mayville, commencing at 8 p.m. Glasses and ice will be supplied so please bring your own bottled or canned refreshments. FRIENDS AND INTERESTED PERSONS ARE WELCOME TO COME ALONG.


A warm welcome is extended to new members Messrs. Barry Clements, R.N. Fletcher, and P.R. Everitt.

(Mrs) Tania van der Watt,
Secretary, Durban Branch,
S.A. Military History Society,
Box 870, HILLCREST, 3650.
Tel. (031) 742970.

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