South African Military History Society

Durban Branch September 1997 News Sheet No 272


The talks for our August meeting were complementary in that our DDH lecture dealt with the history of the Natal Carbineers from the close of the Second World War to the dawn of the New South Africa in 1995 and our main talk took over from that time and projected us into the future.
Regimental historian, Mark Coghian, gave us a pre-view of his new book, "Pro Patria - Another Fifty Carbineer Years :1945 - 1995" which is to be published in the not too distant future. Starting off with previously published histories of the Royal Natal Carbineers which encompassed its history up to the end of WW2, our speaker covered the immediate post-war years to 1948, when the Nationalist Government was first elected and through the dark years of the 'Fifties to the start of the Republic of South Africa during which time pressure was put on all the traditional units in the UDF. to change radically. Fortunately common sense prevailed when the common enemy in the form of African Nationalism manifested itself as a military threat and those same regiments came into their own again, albeit much changed in title, colours and insignia. He then traced the history of the Natal Carbineers in Namibia in the '70's and early '80's through to their role on the townships of the late '80's.. The 1990's saw the beginning of the New South Africa and the subsequent reversal of the previously mentioned destructive policies. The Natal Carbineers along with many of the traditional regiments have now reverted back to their historic volunteer roles.

Mark Coghian's book, as mentioned previously, will be published shortly and we hope he will keep us informed as to its availability as there are many of our members who would like to add it to their collections before it becomes a complete sell out. We wish him luck with his venture.

The main talk of the evening was "The 'Future History' of the SANDF in the Durban Area" and it was given by Regimental Sergeant Major Peter Sinden who was deputising for Lt Col Graham Clark who had been called to Pretoria unexpectedly. Starting off with a short recruitment-type video entitled "Partners for Peace" our speaker then used overhead projection transparencies to illustrate the new direction of the whole of the SANDF. The main thrust of this was the "One Force" concept whereby the SANDF will comprise both full-time and part-time components which jointly, must defend South Africa. Elements of the full-time and the part-time components would be expanded as and when required by utilising additional fully trained part-time volunteers. About 85% of the part-time component would be in the Army and would comprise two elements, namely Conventional and Territorial units.
The Conventional units would be trained in conventional warfare to a high degree of proficiency, while the Territorial units would be employed in regional defence. In peace-time they would co-operate with the local communities, local authorities and SAPS in upholding law and order. These part-time units would be supported by a Part-time Force Commission, an Officer Reserve, the National Liaison Council and the Council of Military Veterans.

All service would be voluntary, but the volunteers would be expected to commit themselves in writing to an annual period of training for a specific number of years and would be drawn from the part-time members and reservists plus a limited number of untrained new recruits. They would all be paid at the same rate as the full time Army and entitled to the same benefits while on active service. It was felt that this would lead to a cost effective SANDF which would be operating on democratic lines.

From general principles, our speaker then focussed his talk on his own unit: the Umgeni Commando and how the above strategies were being implemented. The Umgeni Commando covered the area from south of the Umgeni River to Isipingo in the south. Their Headquarters are located in Smith Street and their unit comprises two companies totalling 376 members. Their main function was co-operation with the SAPS and he noted that when their operational area had been on the Beachfront earlier this year, crime in that area had reduced dramatically.

After our usual lively question time, fellow-member, Graham Fuller thanked both our speakers for a most informative and interesting evening.

Sept.llth: DDH Talk: The Affiliation Ceremony of the Royal Regiment of Wales and 121 Battalion at Dukuduku. A Video by our Chairman: Ken Gillings.
Main Talk: "The Buller/Botha Debate": A Video of a hypothetical debate between the two leaders on the Natal Campaign 1899/1900.
Oct 16th A Visit to a Military Unit - To be announced (Please note this is the 3rd Thursday in October).
Nov. 11th Armistice Day Service at Warriors' Gate. (Please note this is Tuesday) and the Remembrance Service will start at 10h40.
Nov. 13th: DDH Talk: "Hometown V.C." A talk by fellow-member, Bill Brady
Main Talk: "The Bayeaux Tapestry - A Pictorial History of the Norman Invasion of England in 1066." An illustrated talk by Neil Lee.
Dec. 11th Annual Dinner at a venue to be announced

KIMBERLEY MILITARY EXPO TOUR This is over the period 7th - 12th October 1997 and will be an own car event. All the accommodation at the Kimberley Club has now been booked, but if there are any members who are still interested in going along, there is plenty of accommodation available at the various B&B's.

CONDOLENCES: We all extend our deepest sympathy to our Secretary, Tania van der Watt on the recent loss of her beloved husband and fellow member, Jannie, who passed away on Sunday 17th August 1997 after a short illness.

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

South African Military History Society /