The April meeting of the Society took the form of the Annual General Meeting, followed by a lecture. In this case the AGM was surprisingly well attended. Usually members tend to lie low when it comes to the AGM but the chairman, Bob Smith, had far more than the necessary quorum when he opened the meeting with a tribute to the late Professor Johan Barnard.
Professor Barnard was a past Chairman of the Society and a minute's silence in his honour had been observed at the March meeting. However, in this case Bob gave a brief biography for the information of those present. In addition to being a very keen member of the Society and an Honorary Life Member, the professor was an eminent historian and academic and fully deserved the tribute bestowed on his memory.
The business of the meeting then followed when the Secretary/Treasurer, Mrs Joan Marsh, gave the apologies and read the minutes of the 2008 AGM. These were accepted and were followed by the Chairman's Report, during which Bob gave the highlights of the last year; thanked the outgoing committee and gave a potted biography of each committee member and the contributions each had made during the year.
Joan then stepped forward again and gave us the Treasurer's Report (we are financially sound), followed by a Membership Report. The Society now numbers 530 members and readers will no doubt be surprised to hear that the Eastern Cape branch now has more members than the Cape Town branch and is busy chasing down Durban!
Bob then called on Colin Dean to announce the prizes for the best lectures of the year. The best "curtain-raiser" prize went to Mrs Felicia Fourie for her talk on "Four Remarkable Women of the Anglo-Boer War". The best main lecture was "Airborne and Air-Mobile Warfare in Southern Africa" by Marius Whittle. Felicia was unable to be present to claim her prize but Marius was there and accepted his prize to a round of applause.
The Vice Chairman, Ivor Little, then took the podium briefly for the election of the Chairman. The ever-popular Bob Smith was unanimously re-elected. This was followed by the re-election of the Committee en bloc with the exception of Mr Flip Hoorweg who was not available for re-election because of ill-health. Our accounts officer, Mr Gavin Moore, was also unanimously re-elected. This closed the AGM, which had taken exactly fourteen minutes!
Bob then gave out the usual notices regarding future activities and meetings and introduced the speaker for the evening. This was the well-known Past Chairman, computer boffin and popular speaker Colin Dean, who had chosen as his subject "Nazis on Ice".
Using the clearest and best Power Point presentation yet presented to the branch, Colin then proceeded to show how purely fictional suppositions can be twisted into historical facts. He used Nazi German activities in Antarctica as his case study and this proved a fascinating exercise in debunking myth in the process of becoming history.
In the Antarctic summer of 1938/39 an almost by-now forgotten German expedition visited the western part of Queen Maud Land, which borders on the Wedell Sea. The expedition used the ship "Schwabenland" and was commanded by Captain Alfred Ritscher. It was a civilian expedition with the object of establishing a whaling station in the South Atlantic. At that time whale oil was still used in a large variety of essential products and this was to be the first of a series of such expeditions.
The area was extensively mapped by two flying boats carried by the "Schwabenland" and in the process discovered a new mountain range, which they named the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains, as well as a small area of rock containing, surprisingly, several small ice-free lakes, and this was named the Schimacher Oasis. Only three very brief landings were made, all for less than a day. Although the area was to all intents and purposes Norwegian, the expedition claimed it for Nazi Germany and then sailed off. The outbreak of the Second World War put a stop to any further expeditions.
The scene then shifted to 1945 and the dilemma of the time regarding Adolph Hitler's death. The great mystery of the time was "is he alive or dead?" and, if alive, where is he? For most of WWII Argentina had remained neutral and pro-German and only threw in her lot with the Allies during the closing months of that war. This probably influenced the decision by the captains of the German U-Boats U530 and U977 to surrender there at the close of the war. They both undertook long and arduous journeys to get there from their patrol areas, followed by intensive interrogation of their crews on arrival in Argentina. However, the delayed arrival, combined with the date of Hitler's death, gave rise to intense speculation that they had between them spirited Hitler and his entourage away from Germany. But, if so, to where?
In 1947 an author named Ladislas Szabo published a book stating that Hitler and his group were alive and well and living in "New Schwabenland" in Antarctica, in a sophisticated base in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains and with access to the Schimacher Oasis. Newspaper articles in a similar vein followed this, to the extent that even American and British military and scientific missions to Antarctica were coupled to "The Search for Hitler". The theory was still being propagated until recently and still figures prominently on the Internet.
Colin methodically and conclusively debunked these sources and their claims and proved once and for all that they were nothing but figments of over-heated imaginations.
At the conclusion of his talk, he was thanked by Ivor Little. Colin's wife, Marjorie, then took the floor and told us about Weston College which is building a memorial made of horseshoes, to honour the 30 000 horses, mules and oxen killed during the Anglo-Boer War. Weston College is on the site of an old transport camp and the students had collected the horseshoes on site and are selling them to form part of the memorial. The Society had purchased such a horseshoe as a donation. She also gave details of a book-signing function for the book "Nineteen with a Bullet" and the forthcoming Cassinga Day ceremony at the Military Museum.
Bob then notified all present of the death of Dave Unwin, plus that of one of the founder members of the Cape Town branch, Woody Nel, and of our forthcoming tour, on 16 May.
The meeting then adjourned for tea.
Ivor C Little (Scribe) 012-660-3243
Sympathy is extended to the family and friends of Dave Matthews, Treasurer of the KZN branch who has passed away.
The loss incurred in 2008 was R5 120. Anybody wanting a copy of the Society's financial statements for 2008 is welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the office at the letterhead address.
KZN in Durban:
SAMHSEC in Port Elizabeth:
Congratulations to Durban on their 400th newsletter!
For KwaZulu-Natal details contact Ken Gillings 031-702-2848 email@example.com
For Cape Town details contact Bob Buser (Sec'y/Treas) 021-689-1639 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For Eastern Cape details contact Malcolm Kinghorn 041-373-4469 (email@example.com)
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