South African Military History Society



The 17th A.G.M. of the S.A. Military History Society, was held on the 2lst April 1983 at the S.A. National Museum of Military History.

In his report the outgoing Chairman, Mr. Nick Kinsey reviewed the Society's activities during the past year. The membership of the Society now stood at 500, of these 376 were in the Transvaal and the remainder in Durban and Cape Town. The lectures presented during the past year were of a high standard, and judging by the attendances, were well received. A high-light of the past year was the one day outing in the Magaliesburg. Some 70 people enjoyed an interesting day in fine weather. The tour covered the battles of Zilikats Nek and Nooitgedacht. Professor Barnard covered the Tour. He gave us intimate details of these battles. He also read extracts from General Smut's unpublished diary. General Smuts was present at these battles. The tour included a visit to the Sappers Memorial Chapel.

The cancellation of the Kimberley Battlefields Tour was regretted but it is hoped to organize another tour for later this year.

The proposed Fellowship for the best Military History publication each year, was in the hands of a Selection Panel. The Roderick G. Murchison Memorial Prize for the best contribution to the Military History Journal was also in the hands of a Selection Panel. The Chairman appealed to members to send in contributions for publication in the Journal.

The Chairman for 1983 is Major D.D. Hall, he was elected unopposed.

The Secretary Treasurer in his annual report (Mr. Mike Marsh) presented the financial position of the Society. He was also pleased to report that the Socieity now had 41 Life Members and 14 Family [Life] Members.

Mr. Mike Marsh was re-elected as Secretary Treasurer for 1983.

The vice-chairman is to be elected. The Committee for 1983 is as follows:

Major D.D. Hall (Chairman)Dr. Felix Machanik
Mike Marsh (Secretary/Treasurer)Maurice Gough-Palmer
Rod G. Murchison (Scribe)Dr. Stanley Monick
Will Carr J.P.Mr. Nick Kinsey
Dr. J.J. CraigDr. Ian Copley
Bill Garr 

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At the end of the Meeting the first part of the evening's programme was presented in the form of a letter written to the Society, inquiring about various aspects of the Society's activities, particularly Battlefield Tours. This letter was read by Nic Kinsey and a suitable reply was made by Darrel Hall at the same time showing a slide that was not quite in keeping with the reply, in fact they were the evergreen pictures taken by the "rovering camera" during past Battlefield Tours showing members in various poses; relaxing, sleeping, eating, drinking; and so on, to the great amusement of the audience. For example to the inquiry whether the buses were reliable; the reply "only the best buses available were hired"; the slide, the not too unfamiliar scene of a bus broken down with Hymie Amoils and other members of the tour looking into it. Another inquiry "was there much drinking on Tours?", the official reply, 'very moderate' at the same time showing our Chairman at the time Nic Kinsey passing round bottles of wine. A most entertaining programme which raised a great deal of laughter. The programme was organized and presented by Major Darrel Hall and assisted by Mr. Nic Kinsey.

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Who would have believed that at our usually staid meetings the audience would sing and what more they liked and enjoyed it. That was part of the programme "100 Years of Barrack Boom Ballads". This was a slide show with appropriate music accompaniment. Major Darrel Hall started with the songs that were sung during the American Civil War. Such as My Old Kentucky Home Nellie Gray, Drink to me only with thine eyes and Ballads by Stephen Foster. To the Southerners: Dixie and Home Sweet Home, Suitable slides of the American Civil War were shown.

From North America to Britain where the Music Hall provided the entertainment and Ballads were popular. This was the age of Queen Victoria's little Wars fought in Africa, N.W. Frontier of India and Burma. "Come back to Mandalay" still a popular song, was one of them. The programme then moved to the biggest war of them all. The Anglo Boer War. Two of the songs still well known to us "Soldiers of the Queen" and "Goodby Dolly Gray". While the Boer Kommandos sang the ever popular "Sarie Marais".

The programme then moved to the terrible years of 1914 to 1918, "Pack up your troubles" and the most famous "Tipperarry". Others were "Take me back to dear old Blighty", "There is a long, long trail awinding". In 1917 the Americans joined in and a popular song was "Oh how I hate to get up in the morning". As the war dragged on and the men just wanted to get home, "Keep the home fires burning".

Twanty one years later, 1939 at the outbreak of WW II the song was "We are gonna hang the washing on the Ziegfried Line" of course this never happened. Convoys sailed to North Africa, the Far East and the S.A. Soldiers went North they all sang "Bless 'em all Bless 'em all". In the Desert the 8th Army adopted a popular Afrika Corp. song "Lili Marlene" beamed nightly from Belgrade and sung by Lola Andeson. Vera Lynn sang many popular songs amongst them "When the lights go on again". From W.W. II to the fighting in Vietnam and the famous song sung by the elite American Corp the Green Berets was called the "Green Berets". And in 1975 the song sung to the boys on the Border "Die Grens wag".

The "finale" was a tribute to the Gunners by way of a song written by Rudyard Kipling to the music of the "Eton Boating song" called the "Screw gun" A light mountain gun that could be carried in two parts on pack mules in the campaign on the N.W. Frontier. We sung this song twice.

This programme demonstrated how songs express the moods and feelings of the men and is most important in accessing the moral[e] of the troops.

The vote of thanks was made by Bill Carr, who thanked Major Hall for a most entertaining programme.

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Late announcement: I have just been advised that a Tour of the Mafeking Battlefield Area is on for the 5/6/7th August. The Society's Mafekeng (new spelling) contacts recommended other than the Mmabatho Sun Hotel, a Hotel at Rooigrond called Fishoek, some 10 km. from Mafekeng. Further details the next Meeting.


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