South African Military History Society


The infidelities of his wife Josephine could have been a main cause of the ruthlessness that marked Napoleon's subsequent military career, and the generally low esteem in which he is known to have held human nature.

This is the view put forward by Kemsley Couldrige in the curtain raiser to our evening meeting of 11th August as one likely explanation of the change that took place in Napoleon's character during his ill-fated Egyptian campaign. It was then that the full realisation he was being cuckolded finally dawned, and when he sought consolation in the arms of Pauline Faure, the young wife of one of his officers.

The harsh attitude he showed both towards his enemies and his own troops, together with his emotional coldness with his many mistresses and his second wife, Marie Louise, could, Kemsley suggested, be attributed to his disillusionment with the behaviour of Josephine.

By such incidents is history so often shaped.

The main talk, Luderitzbucht to Gibeon, on the 1914-15 campaign in the southern region of what is now Namibia, was given by our Museum Representative, Hamish Paterson. The chief reason for launching the invasion of the German-held territory was to neutralise the powerful radio installations at Windhoek which, under the right conditions, could reach Berlin and were thus capable of playing a crucial role in whatever naval operations the Germans might decide to conduct in the South Atlantic.

Hamish explained in admirable detail how the invading force was structured from the Cape and Natal colonial forces, and the Transvaal Volunteer Force, and the extent to which it drew on the tradition of the commandos that had enjoyed such success in the Anglo-Boer War. Once again the mounted rifleman was to demonstrate his effectiveness in conditions as they existed before mechanization came to dominate warfare, although the extreme scarcity of the water required for the horses also served to reaffirm the vital importance of infantry even in a theatre where distances were so great.

The campaign was finally won, despite the harshness of the country fought over, the limitations imposed by the shortage of water, and the extremes of temperature that had to be endured by both men and animals.

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Coming lectures:
8th September Dimitri Friend: 32 Battalion
Terry Leaver: Dien Bien Phu

13th October Dimitri Friend: Koevoet
A video entitled: "Up the Line to Death
Four Poets of the Western Front".

This is an anthology compiled by Dr. Stanley Monick.

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It is with deep regret that we learn of the death, on 24th July, of society member Col. J. P. McGregor, formerly of 24th Squadron, S.A.A.F. Condolences to the family may be sent to his daughter, Pat McGregor. Tel: (012) 664-4226.

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That at one stage in World War Two the USSR was supplying up to 75 per cent of its requirements of natural rubber from dandelions? According to the BBC TV programme "On Track", Soviet scientists discovered that the sap collected from the humble dandelion contained 97,5 per cent latex, and that the country's rubber supply shortfall could be collected from dandelions grown on a mere 500 000 hectares of land in Siberia.

Any member who can confirm this little gem of knowledge, or elaborate on it, is welcome to contact:-

George Barrell

(011) 787-1524

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