South African Military History Society


Once again the two lectures offered to our Society members on 5th July, were of a very high standard, wnich made us aware and appreciative of how fortunate we are to be presented with such a varied lecture programme in 1993. Our thanks must surely go to Prof. Ian Copley who, as programme organizer, manages tne selection of speakers of high calibre.

Vincent Carruthers began with his talk on the African wars of the Magaliesberg (pre-colonial era). Basing his findings and acquired knowledge mainly on native folklore as collected by A. Breutz and verbal history of the Tswana people, he sketched the many battles fought between the tribes of the Magaliesberg.

After the Tswana people moved from Central Africa about 1 500 years ago into the Magaliesberg range and the plains adjacent to the mountains, they split into various tribes who developed the area, raised cattle and also became mining and smelting experts.

However, about three centuries ago these tribes not only involved themselves in internecine fights, but they were also attacked by other tribes who wanted to extend their own sphere of influence from east, west and south.

A continous chain of battles ensued, with some tribes being more successful than others or more ruthless, while in addition tribal leaders were done away with by their successors. On the whole, though, tribal chiefs were cleverer than today's African politicians, since they were not out to annihilate their enemies, but apart from raiding their cattle and enslaving women and children, integrated the fighting men into their own armies thus extending their power and influence. They realized that extermination of an enemy was definitely not the answer.

Assisted by excellent maps and aerial slides, Vincent took us through the history of warfare, supplying sidelights on social and development issues and, although admitting to be an amateur only, entertained us with his thorough grasp of the intertwined history of the Magaliesberg and beyond.

The next talk was given by Dr. Jane Carruthers, who is an expert on South African War Art with a string of books and journal articles published to her credit. One of her main interests is the war art of the British artist Melton Prior (1845 - 1910).

Prior had been invited by Barney Barnato to come to South Africa in 1895 to produce a series of sketches of the Magnate's mines. Prior was a prolific graphic artist with vast experience since he had been a pictorial chronicler of Queen Victoria's large and small battles all over her colonial globe.

When the Anglo-Boer war began he was commissioned by the Illustrated London News to depict the battles in South Africa. This he did with great thoroughness, an eye for the dramatic moment, a humane compassion for men and horses alike and with almost photographic effect.

Well liked by his journalist colleagues, suffering hardships, although otherwise well organised as far as his personal comforts were concerned, he gave his viewership an up-to-date picture of the war while his fairmindedness was appreciated even by the military.

Jane supplemented her discourse with many slides of Prior's lifelike work to which she added her humorous and warm hearted comments.

Jenny Copley thanked both speakers on behalf of the members for their very interesting presentations.

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Forthcoming talks:
12th August The Trojan War. - David Panagos
Curtain raiser by courtesy of M.G.H.

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Tours: 15th AugustBr> Magaliesberg Walk - Horn's Nek to Silkaatsnek. 8 m walk over fairly rough terrain. Suitable clothing advisable as well as food and water. (Further details available from the Scribe).

Meeting at Rietfontein Military Cemetary at 9 a.m. - How to get there: Take R 511 from Sandton to Hartebeestoortdam. Take Ifafa turnoff, then take first road left to top of road which is the Cemetery. Parking to be decided on the spot.

Prof Ian Copley promises a very interesting day of sightseeing.

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Society Braai:
Our Braai will take place on 29th October 1993. - Please keep this Friday evening free to attend. The catering will be supervised and organised by Dr. Felix Machanik. Tickets of R 25.- p.p.,which includes drinks, will be available nearer to the date. We need ladies to supply salads for the Braai. Any volunteers kindly contact the Scribe.

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Durban Branch has organised a tour of the Northern Natal Battlefields for 18th and 19th September 1993.
Itinerary available from the Scribe.

The Venue of Society Meetings has been changed. Anyone interested to join future meetings can contact the Scribe for details.

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The Properties, Office and Duties of a Gunner - Cyprian Lucar, 1544

"A Gunner ought to be sober, wakeful, lustie, hardie, patient, prudent and a quick-spirited man: he ought also to have good eyesight, a good judgement and perfect knowledge to select a convenient place in the day of service, to plant his Ordinance where it may doe the most hurt into the enemies, and be least annoyed by them, and where his Ordinance may not be surprised by the enemy!"

(From UBIQUE - Gunners Association Magazine)

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John Mahncke (Scribe)
Tel.: (011) 453 63 53

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