South African Military History Society

January 1983 NEWSLETTER

Past meeting - Johannesburg - 9th December 1982

There was no speaker on this occasion as it was a film evening. The film shown was 'A Bridge Too Far' which dealt with Operation Market-Garden, the massive airborne landings intended to breach the Rhine and "end the war by Christmas". Although the film was somewhat Hollywood and boasted a large cast of stars, ranging from Sir Laurence Olivier to Robert Redford, it remained faithful to the text and was for the most part historically accurate. For those who have not already recognized the title, this film is based on the book by Cornelius Ryan whose credentiuals as a thorough researcher are highly respected.

The film begins with the plans for the operation already set and authorized and dwells at some length on the misgivings felt by a large number of the personnel involved as to the feasibility of the undertaking. Gen. "Boy" Browning is depicted as brushing aside most objections and ignoring warnings but this is inaccurate as he was actually very concerned about the many shortcomings of the plan and made the comment from which the title of the film is taken before the operation was launched. Once the story gets as far as the beginning of the action it follows the facts very well. (This is not surprising when you look at the credits for Technical Advisors and realize that it includes virtually every important personage who was involved at the time and is still alive.) Being a cinematic rendition there are of course many instances of the spectacular, such as thousands of troops boarding gliders and planes, hundreds of Dakotas taking off, the sky being literally covered by the air armada and the ultimate spectacle of thousands of parachutes descending over the drop zones. (It was pointed out by Maj. Darrell Hall who spoke briefly during the changing of reels that these scenes were actually achieved by the use of 9 operational aircraft and lots of trick photography.) The large number of individual actions which took place during the ten days that Market-Garden lasted were well and accurately rendered although some of the more sensitive members of the audience were a bit put off by the extremely realistic depiction of the carnage attendant upon warfare.

Your scribe is most reluctant to attempt any further summary of the plot and would much rather recommend that you read Mr. Ryan's book or see the film for yourself. It suffices to say that the primary emotion felt at the end of thef ilm is one of great admiration for the heroism of the men who took part in this event and in particular the men of the British 1st Airborne who borethe major brunt of the fighting. A secondary feeling is that it was a great pity that so many lives had to be lost owing to relatively minor errors or oversights such as the wrong crystals in the wirelesses.

As the final meeting for 1982 it rounded off the year's program by supplying both education and entertainment to the large number of members and guests who were present.

Prior to the start of the film, the Chairman announced that the schedule for next yewar has been set and promises to be of the same high standard which the Society has enjoyed in the past. For further details please refer to 'Future Meetings'. Mr Kinsey closed the meeting by wishing those present and the entire membership a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

The Old Kit Bag - Various Items

Durban branch informs us that the book by Col. C.F. Hodgson, "From Hell to the Himalayas", which was the subject of a two-part talk given to the branch last year has now been published.

While on the subject of publications, it is worthwhile to remind members of our Journal. Submissions for last year were most gratifying both in terms of numbers and of quality but we cannot rest on our laurels. As we are now entering a brand new year some of you may bemaking resolutions and I would like to suggest that we resolve to continue to support the Journal with articles and save our Chairman the trouble of having to appeal for submissions.

Your scribe would like to wish all of the readers of this newsletter all of the very best for 1983 and to extend his own wishes that you all will enjoy a happy and healthy year. (Isn't it funny that at about the time you are finally becoming used to writing '82' on your cheques those numerals become obsolete and you have to start trying to remember '83'?)

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Rod Murchison (726-3111(B))
(Scribe - wondering where the year went)

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