South African Military History Society



The customary M.G.H. Military Magazine opened the evenings proceedings - the subject being the Second World War. A superb audio visual summary of the war was provided, from the initial German successes until the eventual Allied victory.

The main speaker was Colonel David Hanson, OBE, who is the British Military Attaché. His subject was "Northern Ireland, 1969/1984". Colonel Hanson was commissioned into The West Yorkshire Regiment in 1952 and apart from his Northern Ireland service he also completed tours of duty in Egypt, Malaya, Kenya, Aden, Cyprus and Germany. His considerable first hand experience of the troubles in Ireland (his company being the first soldiers in the streets of Londonderry in 1969 when the age old troubles again flared) make him particularly well qualified to speak on this subject.

He provided a brief historical background to the Irish problem, starting with the Norman invasion under Henry II. In 1921 the Irish RerAiblic was established in the south and the British Government made the commitment that Northern Ireland would be retained as part of the United Kingdom. This move was approved of by the Protestant majority in the north but vigorously opposed by their Roman Catholic countrymen who felt themselves to be at a political and economic disadvantage. It is interesting to note that recent unemployment figures indicate that a far higher proportion of Catholics to Protestants are unemployed.

The recent troubles were sparked off by the civil rights demonstrations and riots in 1969. The authorities lost control of the situation, and, with one third of the police force injured, the BritIsh Army was called in. The troops' arrival was initially welcomed by both Catholics and Protestants alike.

The two major terrorist movements, the Provisional I.R.A. and the I.N.L.A. gained strength in 1969 and the early 1970's. Although every effort was made against the active terrorist units, the political arm, Sinn Fein, was allowed to operate freely. In 1972 the U.V.F. was formed by the Protestants as a counter to the I.R.A. and I.N.L.A. Colonel Hanson outlined the circumstances that greatly assisted the terrorist movements in the early years - local support was provided by the Catholic areas and a safe haven was just across the border in the Republic of Ireland. Initially the terrorists were armed mainly with hand guns, but their armoury has become increasingly sophisticated. A motto in the early years when petrol bombs were extensively used was "Throw well, throw Shell". The weapons purchases are financed through robberies, other criminal activities, and donations from foreign sympathisers (including sympathisers in the U.S.A.).

The general policy to counter the terrorist operations was to gradually increase the size of the police force (R.U.C.) and decrease the size of the army contingent. Important priorities were to attempt to isolate the terrorists from the local population and also to maintain good relations with the local population.

The Army was employed in fort, vehicle and helicopter patrols, the use of spot checks and road blocks, and the deployment of specialist groups (e.g. bomb disposal squads). A full range of covert operations was arranged. Each army unit in the infantry role was required to form a close observation platoon. The deployment of these units was particularly successful. In addition, the Royal Navy also patrolled the Coast to prevent arms and explosives smuggling. However, due to the fact that the security forces were prime targets, a major problem was the dissipation of it's strength in self defence.

This policy has been largely successful. However, Colonel Hanson observed that although support for the I.R.A. might have waned, the support for the Security forces has not necessarily increased. The Provisional I.R.A. has now reformed on a cellular structure geared towards a long war and has possibly 200 hard core terrorists and approximately the same number of active supporters. In 1984 these terrorists still operate, albeit at a much reduced level. It is hoever, unlikely that peace-will be obtained until there is a political settlement.

A lively question time was testimony to the interest of the audience in Colonel Hanson's talk. Amongst the topics discussed were army morale, army relations with the media and the question of the justification for the open operation of the political arms of terrorist movements in the United Kingdom (e.g. Sinn Fein and A.N.C. offices).

Prof. Deon Fourie thanked Colonel Hanson on behalf of the Society for his expertly presented talk which certainly contributed to the clarification of an extremely complex situation.

Next meetings

Johannesburg - Thursday; 9th August - 20h00
"Naval Medical History" Dr. Felix Machanik

CAPE TOWN - Thursday, 9th: August - 20h00
"Winged Warrior" Brig. W van den Bos

DURBAN - To be announced. Please contact Mrs Tania van der Watt
Telephone: (031) 742970

Mrs Payne advised the meeting of the opening to the public of the Cabinet War Rooms in London.

The latest volume of the Military History Journal has been sent to all paid up members of the Society. In addition, the following back numbers are available from the Museum:

Volume 1 Nos: 1 - 7 R1.00 per copy
Volume 2 Nos: 1,3 and 4 R1.00 per copy
Volume 3 Nos: 2 - 6 R1.00 per copy
Volume 4 Nos: 1,2,3,5 and 6 R1.00 per copy
Volume 4 Nos: 4 R2.00 per copy
Volume 5 Nos: 1,3,4,5 and 6 R1.00 per copy
Volume 5 Nos: 2 R2.00 per copy
Volume 6 Nos: 1 - 3 R3.70 per copy
Index for Volumes 1 - 4 R1.00 per copy

The Ladysmith Historical Society holds it's Annual General Meeting on Friday, 10th August, followed by a talk "Relieving Ladysmith - Buller's Personal Struggles" by Mr' Gilbert Torlage. Their activities for the weekend include a tour of the battlefield at. Elandslaagte on Saturday, 11th August and a tour of the Ladysmith Siege areas on Sunday, 12th August. Contact the Secretary for details (Ladysmith 27526).


Political and public pressure result in the authorisation of an expedition to relieve General Gordon besieged in Khartoum for the last four months. General Sir Garnet Wolseley was appointed Commander of the force with Maj. General Sir Redvers Henry Buller as his Chief of Staff. A major in the Royal Engineers was very prominent at this time, doing good work on the lines of communication with Khartoum and for the Intelligence Department - his name Major Herbert Horatio Kitchener

The Z.A.R. makes tentative moves towards setting up a Republic in Zululand and hence gaining access to the sea. A move thwarted by the British annexation of St. Lucia Bay.

Due to the recent publicity concerning the Delville Wood Memorial Museum, Major General Black has provided the following information concerning the establishment of this museum:


The idea of establishing a museum at Delville Wood was born with the building of the National War Memorial there in 1926. To this end, one of the rooms of the caretakers cottage which was built at the edge of the Wood, was set aside as a "public room" in which a small collection of photos and other memorabialia, mainly of the Delville Wood battle, was displayed.

However, it soon became quite obvious that the display was hopelessly inadequate and the fact that the display was housed in the caretaker's cottage resulted in it being viewed by few of the many visitors to the Memorial. Further, no facilities for the sale of items of interest or the selling of refreshments were available and the only toilet in the area was the single toilet in the caretaker's cottage itself.

Over the years numerous complaints regarding the paucity of facilities for visitors to Delville Wood and an almost complete lack of the story of South Africa's contribution to the two World Wars, filtered back to South Africa, mainly via the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) whose Head Gardener for the area occupied the cottage. A further major complaint of the lack of a Roll of Honour at the Memorial was noted following the 50th Anniversary Pilgrimage in 1966.

As a result of these complaints and a visit to South Africa by senior personnel of the CWGC, action was finally taken in 1979 to look into the feasibility of building a proper museum and visitors facilities in the area. In 1980 a Museum Committee was established to develop such a project. At the same time certain military veterans and other organisations were consulted regarding the proposed project. However, due to the extreme sensitivity of diplomatic action which still had to be taken to get the project approved by the French Government, all consulted were asked to keep the matter confidential to the executive level of their respective organisations, until a public announcement was made.

The 16th July 1936, the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Delville Wood, was chosen as the most suitable opening date for the new museum and to achieve this, building had to start in 1984. Further in early 1983, five senior and prominent military veterans were asked to form a special Fund-Raising Committee, to raise the monies required from the general public. However, in order to proceed with the project as planned, the Government agreed to underwrite the project until such time as enough money was raised by the Fund-Raising Committee.

Finally all the preliminary negotiations required were completed and the public announcement of the project and the formal establishment of the Delville Wood Memorial Museum Fund-Raising Committee, was made by the State President on the 25th May, 1984.

On hearing that the Prime Minister would be in Europe in May and June, the Museum Committee initiated action to invite him to lay the Foundation Stone of the new museum. This the Prime Minister graciously agreed to do, in spite of the fact that he would not be visiting France officially. To witness this event, three members of the Fund-Raising Committee and ten military veterans, two of whom were survivors of Delville Wood, were invited to attend the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony in France on 7th June, 1984.


Mr Ian Uys is attempting to set up a central register of First World War veteran's accounts of their activities and experiences in the Great War. If you can assist him in this regard kindly contact him at P.O, Box 2143, Rensburg, 2401. Telephone (011) 825-3433.


"To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself". - The Art of War by Wu Sun Tzû c490 B.C.

(609-8621 (Business))
(783-1383 (Home))

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /