South African Military History Society


The Society evening began with a detailed, well researched talk by Mr. Roy Glynn of the battle of Verdun, the longest and costliest battle (10 months) of all time. Using a personal, recent visit to the battlefield as a starting point, Mr. Glynn covered the topic, describing the eerie landscape which, even after all these years, still has not totally recovered from the ravages of WW I. Remnants of equipment are still found and it is advisable not to stray from the demarkated tracks.

This battle has the distinction of having led to the heaviest concentration of killed per square meter, while the fact that certain generals were quite unmoved by the daily casualty reports but threw for ever more troops into the field to gain or lose a few worthless feet of soil, still lingers on in the poems of Blunden, Graves and Sassoon.

Col. J. Murray-Wall DSO, TD, MFC, was the main speaker and delivered his reminiscenses of his part in armoured warfare from pre WW II days to the battle in France.

The Royal Tank Corps which developed into the Royal Armoured Corps had Vickers Medium Mk I A as training vehicles. It was a Ford car with the body removed and then fitted with steel(boiler) plates for protection. They were mainly used as recce cars.

The following were Cruiser tanks which served until 1939, very cramped inside, with limited visibility when shut down for battle and posing lots of technical snags. During the French campaign they continued to be employed on a diminishing scale since, as with any tank, spare parts supply is vital, and once the supply dries up, a tank without tracks is useless.

The opposing German Panzer forces, (Rommel) used mainly Panzer 3 and 4 and they also had the advantage of naving gained battle experience during the Polish campaign. Until the arrival of the Matilda Mk II their guns proved very effective.

During the French campaign the Light Tank Mk VI was used as a recce vehicle, as well as the new Matilda Mk I, the latter tank being a distinct improvement for their crews, although both tanks were better suited for fast travel (up to 8 mhp) on roads than on rough ground. However, the Matilda had bullet-proof armour and was relatively safe against the German Pak.

The Matilda Mk II was also a good infantry tank, did 15 mhp on roads, and with bulletproof armour, improved gun capacity and a crew of 4 made a name for itself, especially in North Africa.

Although the excellent Christy suspension, developed in the USA, and extensively used by the Russians in their tank designs, was offered to British designers, it was not incorporated in British tanks which was a drawback.

Col. Murray-Wall gave us a ground-eye view and appreciation of a tank commander, well presented, humorous, while understating his role during the enforced fast learning process which British crews, fresh from the Island had to undergo to be able to face the enemy.

Mr. Hamish Paterson, on behalf of the Society, thanked the speaker for his talk which was enjoyed by all present.

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JOHANNESBURG BRANCH: The following preliminary details for the Rustenburg Tour were received: Date 13/14. March. Begin 10.30 Sat. End 17.00 Sunday.
Saturday: Visit Modderfontein, Vlakfontein, Olifantsnek, Breedtsnek, etc.
Sunday: Visit Buffelspoort, Nooitgedagte Cemetery and Farm.
Description of Battle. Accomodation and price thereof are still under consideration.

For further information kindly contact the Scribe.

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Subscriptions: The subs for single members are now R 30.- and family members R35,-

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Lecture Programme for 1933. A list of forthcoming lectures is attached.


11th February The final Battle of the Hottentot Uprising in SWA 1908. - Mr. Wulf Haacke

11th March Convoy PQ 17 - Mr. Hamish Paterson

11th February Talk by Mr. Brian Thomas on his medal collection "Defenders of six Siege Towns".

11th March "The role played in World Science by the SADF in the discovery of the Coelacanth". Prof. Mike Laing

11th February Illustrated talk by Maj. Antony Gordon on his visit (1992) to various battlefields in Europe and their cemeteries.

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Contact telephone numbers:
Tania v.d. Watt 764 29 70

Cape Town: Paul Lange 617 441

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Members corner Mr. Wulf Haacke is trying to locate a published article covering a trek by members of the Cape Mounted Police (Camels) up the Nossop River to Simon Koppie (Kopp) in 1907. There were photographs included, taken by Sub-Inspector Attwood, although he was not necessarily the author of the article in question.
Anyone able to assist is asked to kindly telephone Mr. Haacke at (012) 322 76 32 or the Scribe.

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A NEW PRIVATE MUSEUM for Ladysmith (open to public during the day) has been opened. It is called the BLOCKHOUSE MUSEUM and is situated on the farm of historian Dougie McMaster on the Windsor Dam turnoff from the R 103, a few km northwest of Ladysmith.

More information can be obtained from the Scribe.

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Extract from Wall Street Journal, 17th June 1992. (Ex C.T. Newsletter)

BARBED WIRE HOLIDAY. A British businessman is providing a bizarre weekend for people who want to play at being prisoners of war, complete with work parties, roll calls and escapes. The event, at a former Royal Air Force base in Hampshire, is the idea of entrepreneur Mike Lowe who describes it as a fun weekend. Guests will be able to hire wartime uniforms for their two days behind bars. The parts of the camp guards will be played by members of a battle re-enactment society.

(A case of being re-bagged??)

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

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