South African Military History Society

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The June meeting was surprisingly well attended for a cold and wet winter night. With the Chairman, Bob Smith, overseas on holiday the opening was done by his deputy, Ivor Little, who welcomed the large number of people present.

Ivor then gave the usual notices, which included feedback on the recent visit to the headquarters of the Light Horse Regiment. This had been an extremely successful visit. A group of about 20 members were hosted by the Officer Commanding the Regiment, Major Heinrich Jansen, himself a past committee member of the Military History Society. The group was welcomed with tea and coffee to accompany their picnic lunches, followed by a tour of the unit, with special emphasis on the Regiment's outstanding museum, ending with drinks in the Officers' Mess. A truly delightful and informative afternoon.

Ivor then introduced the curtain-raiser speaker, Mr Nick Cowley. Nick has spoken to us on two previous occasions and is a keen amateur historian, as well a radio news editor for the SABC. His talk was entitled "The Admirals of Rosebank", a most interesting topic for all the locals present.

For obvious reasons, Johannesburg has very few maritime connections. The suburb of Parktown has a vandalised monument to SAS PARKTOWN and one or two school badges include an anchor as the heraldic symbol of hope but, strangely enough, the suburb of Rosebank has a decidedly nautical background.

Using computerised slides, ably managed by Ray White, Nick then showed us a series of well-known Rosebank buildings with their street name and number affixed to the walls. These street names are unique in that (with two exceptions) they are all named after First World War British Royal Navy admirals, the exceptions being admirals of the South African Navy.

In October 1919, when Rosebank was proclaimed, the City Council decided to honour the admirals of the recent war. Nick then took us through the suburb, street by street, giving potted biographies and a photo of each admiral in turn. These were Cradock, who was gallantly defeated by von Spee at the Battle of Coronel, and Sturdee, who avenged Cradock's defeat a few months later by defeating von Spee at the Battle of the Falkland Islands. These were followed by Hood, who died in the battle cruiser HMS INVINCIBLE at the Battle of Jutland, and Jellicoe, the British Commander at Jutland.

After Jutland there were two more North Sea battles, at Heligoland Bight and the Dogger Bank, in which the British admiral Tyrwhitt distinguished himself. Finally there was Keyes, the hero of the Zeebrugge Raid. One famous admiral of the period is conspicuous by his absence and this is Beatty. Apparently there was already a Beattie Street in Yeoville.

At a later stage two more streets were pushed through in Rosebank and these were named after Admiral Biermann of the South African Navy and Vice-Admiral C J Walters, also a former Chief of the S A Navy.

Ivor thanked Nick for a most interesting talk and, after a brief question period, introduced the main speaker of the evening.

This was Dr Jack Mink. This is the first time that Jack has spoken to us and he was about to introduce the novel concept of a musical evening. A medical doctor by profession, Jack has an abiding interest in World War II, and particularly in the aircraft of that period. In addition to this, he is an avid music fan and he combined these interests in a talk entitled "The Music of World War II".

Using an impressive sound system, ably commanded by Dave Goldstein, Jack set the stage by musically introducing the initial protagonists - the Colonel Bogey March for Britain; Alten Kameraden for Germany; the March of the Bersaglieri for Italy - and a selection of South African marching songs.

The "phoney war" then followed with George Formby deriding Hitler. Things then got serious with Vera Lynn singing "There'll be Blue Birds over the White Cliffs of Dover" and Marlene Dietrich doing "Lili Marlene". The entry of the USA into the conflict was marked by George Formby, Spike Jones and "The Stars and Stripes Forever". "The Longest Day" signified the invasion of Normandy and things then took a turn for the better with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing "Don't Fence Me In" and Glenn Miller's rendition of "The St Louis Blues March". The end of the war was clearly marked by Vera Lynn singing "When The Lights Go On Again All Over The World".

Jack then paid a musical tribute to those who fought in World War II in the form of music from a Sunset Ceremony, followed by his own personal favourite "Aces High".

A lively discussion time then followed until David Scholtz was asked to thank the two speakers. This he did, closing with a bit of feedback about the re-naming of Edwin Swales VC Drive in Durban and the state of the British Commonwealth graves in the Western Desert. These are being maintained in an excellent manner.

Ivor closed the meeting with an invitation for all to attend the tea and coffee being served in the Hall.

Ivor C Little

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