South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER Cape Town Branch September 1997


We had great pleasure in welcoming Durban Branch Chairman, Ken Gillings, to our August meeting. Rather incongruously, he sported a white T-shirt with a black amaZondi Logo under his venerable Gunner's blazer, but explained that the amaZondi had asked him to wear this shin whenever he spoke about their tribe. The blazer, though, he wore in honour of the guns that had decided the battle of Mome Gorge

Ahead of his main talk, Ken reported on the Durban Branch's outstanding preparations for the Anglo-Boer War Centenary Celebrations that will take place during 1999. The Centenary Committee, chaired by Ken, has established a Publications Committee that currently evaluates 14 publications dealing with the project, and an Infrastructure Committee that deals with signage, roads, toilets etc. Under the guidance of the Commemoration Committee, virtually every town that is involved represents and organizes its own programme over the three-year period from 1999 through to 2002. The Natal Parks Board, the Durban Chamber of Commerce, and, of course, the South African Military History Society are all involved as well. Ken outlined the huge effort that is being made by many enthusiastic volunteers; a number of memorial services and reconciliation meetings are being planned, and thousands of visitors and VIP guests are expected, not only from South Africa, but from all around the globe.

THE BHAMBATHA REBELLION of 1906 in Natal was the theme of Ken's main talk, meticulously researched and well illustrated with slides. The main cause of the rebellion was the introduction of a Poll Tax in 1905, by the Government of Natal, to replenish the coffers of government that had been depleted by three years of war, which everybody was required to pay. It was apparently affordable in respect of the white settlers, but it was an intolerable burden on the indigenous population, who operated in a rural economy. The first signs of trouble became evident when the rural blacks began killing off their pigs and white poultry and started discarding European- manufactured utensils. These forms of protest indicated that the white settlers were the targets of this campaign

The events leading up to the "War", as referred to by the amaZondi, were precipitated by a minor chief, Bhambatha, who fled with his wife and family to Dinizulu, King of the Zulus, for protection. He ordered Bhambatha to return to his area in the Mpanza valley near Greytown and start a rebellion. This he did, and as a result a great force of Natal Militia, together with a number of guns, descended on the Nkandla forest area, an extremely rugged territory with dense vegetation. Bhambatha's men proved elusive in this bitter little war, but eventually the troops, in a series of driving actions in the inhospitable terrain, trapped Bhambatha in the Mome Gorge. Hemmed in on all sides, they were massacred by the guns, sited on the surrounding hills, and Bhambatha and a great number of his followers were killed

Following the conclusion of Ken's presentation, Committee member Lt Col Mike Rightford thanked Ken for a sympathetic and highly detailed illustration of a small part of the colourful military history of Natal.

Cape Town
Talk by Cdr G. de Vries, OC SAS Wingfield

Panel discussion chaired by Col O.E.F. Baker

Talk by Mr W.C.C. Newton

Dec 97 In recess

Meetings are normally held on the second Thursday of each month (barring December), in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite the Rosebank railway station, below the line. Visitors are welcome. Donation R 2.00. Scholars and students free. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Col Ossie Baker is still looking for ladies who served in the SA Womens' Services in WW II and who would like to participate in his October panel discussion. Any one who is interested, or anyone who knows of such a lady, kindly contact John Mahncke at (021) 797-5167.

At an outstanding function in the Wardroom at SAS Wingfield, attended by more than 200 invited guests, the OC, Cdr G de Vries, and the MD of Durr Estates, Mr. Len Schmidt, launched a limited edition of "The Durr Estates Record of the Guns at the Cape". It represents the results of painstaking labour over a long period by Cdr de Vries and Jon Hall, registering the 500 guns known in the Cape, and is an excellent work of basic historical research. All tribute to the authors and the sponsors. Most copies were sold, but a few are still available at R 70.00 each. A very few copies of "Wingfield, a Pictorial History" are also still obtainable at R 75.00 each. Please place your orders with Mrs. M. Brand (021) 590-2875 or with John Mahncke (021) 797-5167.

Maj Tony Gordon plans another guided tour of the Cape Peninsula Coastal Defences, probably some time in mid-October, once the weather becomes more predictably pleasant. Interested parties may contact Tony at 61-4500.

The Committee wants to assist presenters of future talks by reproducing their illustrations on 35mm slides. Unfortunately, the society's previous source of supply, supplying the branch with slides at no charge, has dried up. Anyone who can help, kindly contact John Mahncke (021) 797- 5167.

John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167

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