South African Military History Society

Durban Branch May 1997 News Sheet No 268


Our DDH Memorial talk for April was given by fellow-member, Prof Mike Laing who delved into aspects of "Modern Science in the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902". Reminiscent of Darrell Hall's style, our speaker brought to light two little known aspects of the Anglo-Boer War, namely radio communication and X-Ray technology. Briefly, he outlined the discovery and development of both radio and X-ray in the nineteenth century and how they were used during the Anglo- Boer War. For example, radio communication was used by the British Army at Enslin (near Kimberley) and Durban and also by HMS Thetis in the blockade of Maputo. Similarly, X-Ray was used at Ladysmith and by means of an intriguing piece of photographic deduction, our speaker was able to locate the exact position of its use in relation to the Ladysmith Town Hall.,p> The main talk for the evening was given by Richard Henry from the SA War Museum in Johannesburg and should have been on the "Restoration of Armoured Fighting Vehicles". However, our speaker enlarged on the subject and included a history of one of the actions in which a recently restored armoured car on which he had been working, had been involved.
The vehicle concerned was the Crossley Armoured Car and the action in which it played a decisive role was "OPERATION IPUMBU" in Ovamboland in 1931 when a renegade chief called Ipumbu refused to pay a fine of 50 head of cattle for misconduct. In order to bring him to heel, the South African Government, at the request of the SWA Administration, sent a squadron of Wapiti aircraft to bomb Ipumbu's kraal and a ground force comprising two obsolete Crossley Armoured cars to go in and destroy any remaining opposition.
The journey from South Africa to Ipumbu's kraal in Ovamboland was an epic in itself with the under-powered and narrow, solid-tyred vehicles getting stuck in virtually every sand-drift along the way. However, the final action turned into an utter farce when a swarm of bees which had been agitated by the bombing, penetrated the interior of one of the Crossleys. In the panic that ensued a red flare was used to disperse the bees and this was taken as a distress signal by the supporting aircraft overhead which then continued the attack. Eventually order was restored and the armoured column was able to carry out its objective. Ipumbu fled to a neighbouring tribe, but was betrayed and returned to his kraal. He was told that this demonstration was mild and that if he continued in his evil ways "the air would be filled with bombs". It was interesting to note that Ipumbu's tribe was the forerunner of SWAPO.
The Crossleys returned to Pretoria and shortly afterwards were fitted with balloon tyres to obviate any similar debacles in the future. In 1940 they were completely rebuilt using the more powerful Ford engine and chassis. In WW2 they were used for training purposes and ultimately as exhibits for a recruitment drive towards the end of that conflict. Finally in 1944 they were donated to the then newly established War Museum where they formed the nucleus of the armoured vehicle collection.
New member, James Porteous on behalf of those members present thanked both our speakers for a most informative and enjoyable set of talks.


MAY 8th
"THE BATTLE OF THE MARNE" - A talk by fellow member, PAUL KILMARTIN.

June 12th
Talk by fellow- member, Philip Everitt
"The Campaign against the baPedi of Sekukuni" - Talk by fellow member, Alan Mountain

July 10th
"The History of Padres" - Talk by fellow-member, the Rev.Ernest Pugsley
"The Fall of France 1940" - A talk by fellow-member, Bill Brady


GET WELL SOON: Our good wishes go out to our former Chairman, "SB" Bourquin who is progressing very well from his recent stroke and expects to be with us again in the not too distant future.

ELECTION OF BRANCH COMMITTEE: Due to ever-increasing pressure of work on Ken Gillings, our Chairman, it has been decided that our Branch should conform to the norms set by the Cape Town and Johannesburg Branches and elect a Committee to handle the affairs of the Branch. Such a Committee would comprise a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer and two Committee members. Nominations for and/or volunteers for these positions on the Committee are required. Please complete the enclosed slip and post or hand it to Ken Gillings before our next meeting on the 8th May 1997.

KIMBERLEY BATTLEFIELD'S TOUR: It is proposed that this year's Military History Tour will include the Anglo-Boer War Battlefields in and around Kimberley on 24th-28th September 1997. Due to the high cost of bus transport, it has been suggested that we use our own cars as per our usual Natal battlefield's tours in previous years. It would be appreciated if members who would be interested in going on such a tour would indicate their preferences on the attached slip and hand or post it to Ken Gillings before our next meeting.

INTERNET & E-MAIL: The SA Miitary History Society has entered the electronic age with an Internet site address: and an e-mail address: SA Military History Society, rfid@pixie.coza.

The venue for all meetings will be the 1st Floor lecture theatre, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Natal, Durban, which is housed in the building on the right of the Memorial Tower Building (opposite the entrance to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre), commencing at 19h30 on the second Thursday in the month. Please bring your own refreshments and glass. VISITORS AND INTERESTED PERSONS ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND. Charge R2,00 - Students and Scholars free.
Tania van der Watt (Mrs)
Secretary: Durban Branch
Box 870 Hillcrest 3650
Telephone: (031) 764 2970


I, the undersigned, wish to use my own car /bus transport (delete as necessary) for the proposed Battlefield's tour to Kimberley on 24th - 28th September 1997.



South African Military History Society /