South African Military History Society


Our Society evening of 11th began with one minute silence in remembrance of all soldiers killed during World War One.

The curtain raiser, with a difference, by Kemsley Couldridge, offered us a fascinating glimpse into another segment of history, namely the relationship of Napoleon to Maria Walewska, a member of the Polish aristocracy. With great knowledge and sympathetic insight, Kernsley created a picture of a tempestuous, sometimes tender love affair, (and subsequent marriage). He cited letters, read from contemporary sources and written publications, employing satire and humour.

His artistic delivery held us spellbound and entertained, and the applause for this unusual talk was certainly well deserved.

The main lecture was given by Brig Roland de Vries, OC of 7 Div., Kensington, Johannesburg, who spoke about MOBILE WARFARE. Using excellent graphs, he provided descriptions and examples of positional and mobile warfare and the basic differences in its employment.

Having studied the German concept of deployment of armour, among many other available sources, he quoted one of Rommel's Chief of Staff, Gen von Mellenthin, and his dictum: Schwerpunkt bilden = Focus of main effort. Gen Guderian, the German Panzer leader, expressed it in similar vein: Nicht kleckern sondern klotzen = Not piecemeal but concentrated.

The Gazala Gallop, the battle of Gazala in North Africa, was a typical example of the difference between British positional warfare (unsuccessful) and German mobile warfare (successful), with the latter securing a defeat of enemy units.

Brig de Vries detailed the characteristics of Lightning War (Blitzkrieg). Meeting at a centre point of "Integration of effort", the following properties were required: Mobility, Deep Objectives, Destructive Force, Tactical Scope, Simplicity and Surprise, Elan and Audacity, Doctrine and Training.

Our speaker, having served extensively on the border and in Angola, informed us about one segment of the war, the battle for Cuito Cuanavale. He outlined the reasons why the SADF failed to take and occupy Cuito Cuanavale, after having successfully routed an enemy, who insisted on positional warfare. He named the defeat: the Chambinga gallop, after the river of this name. However, the final push could not take place due to difficulties with a very long supply line and the fact that the armoured attack had lost momentum.

Looking at famous and popular military commanders, Brig de Vries enumerated the criteria. They were: Professional competence, Moral Courage, Integrity, Initiative, Audacity. Creativity, Flamboyance, Inspirational Appeal and Physical Stamina.

Two Video films were also shown. One very short one, giving us an impression of the kind of difficult terrain in the bush in Angola in which the SADF had to fight; the other about mobile armoured attacks of the Israeli Army during ,the 1967 war. The latter was most impressive with its unstaged battle scenes.

Hamish Paterson then thanked our guest speaker for his very interesting academic lecture and the high standard of his presentation.

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Forthcoming talks:

9th Dec. a) Curtain Raiser: Col Jack Clayton BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC

b) Main Talk: Hamish Paterson PRINCELING BEATS NAPOLEON (The battle of Aspern-Essling, 2l/22.Aug. 1809)

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Notes from Durban: The Durban Branch will celebrate their 25th Anniversary at a dinner on 10th Dec.,at the Westville Country Club.

During dinner a presentation will be made to the Secretary Tania v.d. Watt, in recognition of her 21 years of outstanding service to and involvement in running Durban Branch.

Hearty congratulations to the Durban Society and to Tania!

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Note from Cape Town: Due to health considerations, Tony Gordon has, unfortunately, been forced to step down as Chairman. Allan Nathan took over temporarily as Chairman and will act in this capacity until the next committee meeting.

The PRO, Paul Lange, will keep us posted.

In the meantime, we wish Tony a speedy and total recovery.

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The Society Plaque is now available from the Chairman (011 453 63 53) at a price of R 60.- each plus P & P of R 5.-.

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Fellow member John Wollheim offers a self-contained Holiday Cottage on his farm near Slabbert, between Fouriesburg and Bethlehem and close to the Brandwaterbasin area. Boer-War Historians planning an outing to this area might find this of interest.
Please phone: 058 303 64 95 for further information or the Chairman.

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I am indebted to Maureen Richards from Ladysmith for extracts culled from an old ARMY INSTRUCTION MANUAL. As space permits, I will include some of the text in this Newsletter.

"The only rewards that are justly our due are the gratitude of our country and the praise of our superiors. Company offrs. should remember that it is always in their power to bestow the latter, and they should never lose an opportunity of calling attention publicly to the gallantry of their men, distinguishing individuals and holding them up to the admiration of others.

In an army praise is the greatest of all moral levers, if administered with discrimination; it is a trump card costing nothing, that is always at the disposal of the offrs., be he commander or captain, which enables him to win if he knows how to use it.

The bestowal of praise creates an intimacy between the giver and the receiver which it is most desirable to establish between all ranks. Study to be familiar without being vulgar, and habit, if not intuition, will soon enable you to be gracious and intimate with your men without any loss of dignity."

Strange that so many of the modern-day managers seem to be lacking in this department, despite training seminars, courses and "How to" books.

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The Society Committee wishes all members and readers COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON and a PROSPEROUS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!


(Chairman & Scribe)
Tel. (011) 453 63 53

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