South African Military History Society


The main speaker of the Society evening of 14th October was Capt. Ivor Little, who had chosen another Naval Topic. This time it was the Pacific War of 1879 to l883 between Chile and Peru. One reason for the war was the fact that Spain's and Portugal's power struggle had left badly defined borders between Peru and Chile. The other was economical. When Bolivia increased taxes on its Nitrate exports to Chile, this country declared war, with Peru joining in because it had a secret pact with Bolivia.

On the Pacific ocean and along the coastline, the navies battled it out. They had few modern ships, some were almost obsolete, most were inadequately armed, often badly led, but on other occasions with brilliance. The captains in the Chilean navy were often British, as were a number of their sailors, while numerous Chilean officers had been trained in British warships. This, perhaps, more than anything, helped Chile to eventually win the war, but while it was fought, fortunes see-sawed, often alarmingly.

Without communications, confused by incorrect reports, both navies fought on. Ships were lost by accident or by theft, or they ran aground; others were destroyed through cunning traps. In the end it was Chile who won the war when the army and navy combined to attack Lima, with the naval guns supporting the troops who captured the city.

Although organized resistance stopped, guerilla activities continued for two years. The treaty of Ancon in 1883 ended the fighting, leaving Chile the dominant country on the South American west coast.

With the help of rare and descriptive slides Ivor made history come alive, while adding a few humorous asides to entertain us once again with an interesting evening.

Members can obtain the typed manuscript of Ivor's talk from the Chairman.
(It makes fascinating reading.)

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Forthcoming talk:

11th Nov.93 Brig Roland de Vries. MOBILE WARFARE. (A personal account of his experiences.)

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The Society Braai on 22nd Oct. was a great success, enjoyed by members and guests alike. Special thanks to Dr. F. Machanik for organising everything and Martin Ayres who braaied and kept us supplied with drinks.

We also thank Gen Pretorius for making his Museum's facilities available, Capt Speir for his preparatory work, and Hamish Paterson for erecting the tent which kept us dry when a short shower cooled the night air.

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The Editor of our JOURNAL always requires articles for publication. Any member wishing to submit suitable manuscripts is asked to please contact the Chairman.

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The following notice has been received from Prof Ian Copley:
As a result of the activities of our Society in the Hartbeespoort basin (Silkaatsnek, Kalkheuwel, Rietfontein military camp, 1901 Magaliesberg blockhouse, Horn's Nek to Commando Nek), the Hartbeespoort Historical Society * is being formed under the auspices of the Town Council.
The object is the identification and preservation of all local historical monuments, sites, documents etc., before it is too late.
This does not only include military or Boer War history, but also Stone Age sites and all buildings and artefacts more than 50 years old. Further information will be published in this Newsletter.

*(The final name has not been agreed upon yet.)

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The curtain raiser on ll.Nov. evening will be "Napoleon's Polish wife", (The events before, during and after the conquest of Blacha Palace). The presenter will be B.E. Kemsley Couldridge.

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MUSEUM NEWS: MAJOR HOLT, the well known British Battlefield Tour Organiser, will be in South Africa in November, bringing his tour group with him. Anyone wishing to meet him, for a specific purpose only, can contact Capt Tony Speir for further information.

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An Exhibition of War Art by South African artists and Italian prisoners of war will be open from 29th October at the Museum. From advance publicity received, this will be an exhibition not to be missed.

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The Museum offers excellent conference and function facilities (auditorium, terrace, gun park). Children's birthday parties are a great hit with the youngsters. For information please contact Capt Tony Speir.

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CAPE TOWN BRANCH announce an excursion on Sat. 20th Nov. commencing at 2.30 in the afternoon from the "Poshuis", Muizenburg, hosted by the Muizenburg Conservation Society and led by Mrs. Ute Seeman, to recall the Battles of Muizenburg (1795), and to visit sites of known defences.
Any member interested can contact Paul Lange (PRO) at 021 617 - 441 (a.h)

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The Book "South African Radar in WW II" by Peter Brain, with chapters on filter room life by Mrs. Sheila Lloyd and personal reminiscences by Dr. Frank Hewitt, is available from: SSS Radar Book, P.O. Box 44553, Claremont 7735. Price: R 50.- plus R 5.- p & p.

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Fellow member Ian Uys is publishing two more books to add to his growing stable of publications. They will be available from leading bookstores just right for the Xmas season:

1) Bushman Soldiers/their Alpha and Omega. (Last 20 years of Bushman military history with the South African Defence Force).

2) Survivors of Africa's Oceans. (Shipwrecks from the mid 16th century to present day, incl. Grosvenor, Birkenhead, Warratah etc., Oceanos. Also including survivors' accounts.)

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Please promote our Society! Natal Branch's last weekend trip of well over 40 participants netted them 14 new members. Admittedly, we don't have "Ladysmith" here in Johannesburg, but we have an outstanding Museum with excellent exhibits which we can promote.


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

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