South African Military History Society

October 1982 NEWSLETTER

Past meeting - Johannesburg - 9th September 1982

(The following report on the talk is by Contributing Scribe, J. Marsh.)

Regular readers of this newsletter might recognise the scribe as the main speaker but those who were unable to attend will have to imagine the Peninsula Campaign being described in the soft American tones befitting one born on the Fourth of July. When Mr. Murchison warned that his subject matter would take about 9 hours, nobody took him seriously. But, he is obviously used to the precise language demanded by computers and he meant it.

Beginning with Napoleon's conquest of the rest of Europe and the Berlin Decrees which placed an embargo on trade with Britain, he told of the dark double-dealing of Napoleon with King Charles of Spain and his son, Ferdinand. Bonaparte's forces infiltrated Snain and Portugal and he succeeded in forcing Charles to abdicate. He then took Ferdinand prisoner and installed his own brother, Joseph, as King of Spain. The Spanish were singularly unimpressed and within the same month (May 1808) had risen and appealed to Britain for assistance.

Rod went on to describe Arthur Wellesley's (later Wellington) very frustrating battle at Vimiero when he was prevented from finishing off the defeated French, which was followed by the Cintra Convention and its humiliating aftermath. The extent of his research became apparent as he described the moves and counter-moves as Sir John Moore marched north-east from Lisbon to his enforced retreat across the snowbound mountains with the tragic loss of about a quarter of his men and the final action at Corunna where Moore lies buried.

At this point, time intervened and with nearly two-thirds of the campaign remaining the talk ended. Ian Copley thanked Rod for his talk. In the tradition of "Rocky" and "Superman", we look forward to hearing Peninsula II (and possibly Peninsula III.) (j.m.)

This time Darrell's usual introductory program, "Soldiers in Uniform", concentrated on ceremonial uniforms rather than battledress. A quick world tour provided an interesting insight into the influence which their colonial past has had on many of today's Third World nations. Maj. Hall announced that this was to be the last of his slide shows in the current series. After allowing the sighs of relief to die down, he then promised to start in on a new theme for future meetings. The topic is as yet undetermined but, we can expect a pleasant surprise.

At the start of the meeting, the Chairman announced that the promised day-trip to Nooitgedacht has been arranged. For full details of the trip and a map of the routes to be followed please refer to the attached sheet. We are most indebted to Prof. Barnard and Mr. Kinsey for the effort that they have put into arranging this outing and those able to attend will certainly find it enjoyable.

The Old Kit Bag - Various Items

Owing to great demand and various subtle pressures, the much sought after Darrell Hall has agreed to present his slide show on "The Falklands Conflict" for the benefit of those members who may have missed it earlier. This presentation will take place at 20h00 on Thurs. 7th October in the Library of the Museum, where the monthly meetings are held. Maj. Hall will be giving this show several times during the immediate future and has agreed to give us a special showing for which we are most grateful. (Despite the occasional asides and tongue-in-typewriter comments in this newsletter, his shows are always polished and professional as well as interesting and entertaining (and those who attend will be well rewarded for their effort.) Please take note of this event and give it your support.

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Those who are going on the Nooitgedacht trip may find the followinq of some use to you. It is taken from "The Soldier's Pocket-Book for Field Service" by Maj.Gen. Sir G. Wolseley.

'A staff officer should be cool to the utmost extent. If by nature he is excitable, a strong curb must be placed upon his mannner, for no one has confidence in reports made in an excited way. His verbal reports should be almost impassive in the style in which they are made. He should always look jolly and unconcerned as if engaged in that complicated operation of attacking a supposed enemy at "Caesar's camp." Excitement is painfully catching. A staff officer galloping in a high state of excitement, with an order to a column, may play 'old Harry' with the spirits of the men, and cause them to think there is some unknown danger, or that things in other parts of the field are not going as they should; it gives rise to a hundred speculations of a gloomy nature; whereas the man who gallups up, no matter how quickly, but with a smiling face, and gives his orders precisely without any flurry, having a nod for his acquaintances in the ranks and perhaps a flying remark for them, spreads abroad a feeling of security and success, which soon reaches the smallest bugler, making all feel that they are on the winning side.'

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Rod Murchison (726-3111(B))
(Scribe - Sorry to be long winded)

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Nooitgedacht Outing: Sunday, 24th October, 1982.

In the light of the success of the one-day outing to Heidelberg on 15th November, 1981, your Coinmittee has agreed to arrangements being made for a one-day trip to Rietfontein and the site of the Nooitgedacht Battle of 15th December, 1900, on Sunday, 24th October, 1982, under the guidance of Prof. C.J. Barnard, who will be the main speaker. 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 will be as follows: -

09h50 Assembly at Rietfontein which is 7,1 km beyond the junction of the R511 (from Johannesburg) and the R27 (from Pretoria) Routes as shown on the attached sketch map. Introductory talk by Prof. Barnard on Rietfontein and Silkaats Nek. (Members coming from Johannesburg are advised to take the R511 Route - William Nicol Drive/Witkoppen Road through well-known "Four-Ways Intersection" and on through Hennops River to the junction with the R27 from Pretoria which is South of Saartjies Nek. Members coming from Pretoria will take the R27 to its junction with the R511.)

10h45 Convoy of cars will stop at Check Point B after having come through the tunnel at Hartbeestpoort Dam prior to turning left on to the R512 over Commando Nek. This Check Point is 9,7km from Rietfontein.

11h00 Visit to Sappers' Memorial where morning tea will be taken. The turn-off to this Memorial is 7,5km from Check Point B.

12h30 Turn-off to Nooitgedacht at Check Point D which is 55,6km from the Sappers Memorial turn-off.

12h45 Check Point B at entrance to Nooitgedacht Farm. This point is 8,2km from Check Point D.

13h00 Arrival at Nooitgedacht Farm where toilet facilities will be available and where there will be a lunch break of about one hour.

14h00 Lecture by Prof Barnard on the Battle of Nooitgedacht on 15th December, 1900, followed by question time and discussion. Unfortunately, the owner of the farm will not allow access to the top of the Nek in view of the fire hazard to the farm's grazing, but members will be able to see all that is necessary from below.

15h50 Taking of afternoon tea or other refreshments and departure of individual cars for home.

It has not been possible to include a visit to the Hekpoort Blockhouse as access to this has now been forbidden completely by the owner of the farm. This should be an interesting and sociable day and members may join the tour at any of the points mentioned, and as illustrated on the attached sketch map which should be of help to members. Look forward to seeing you.

First map

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