South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.244 Cape Town Branch April 1998

From the beginning of human progress, artists have recorded, or have been instructed to record, not only domestic, mystic or hunting scenes, but also to depict scenes of fighting and warfare as well. Originally, they did this on flat rock surfaces with pigments, or by engravings in stone. The resulting images were one- dimensional. Later civilisations, like the Egyptians for instance, vastly improved this artform, and from there it developed creatively over the centuries until today. The guest speaker at our meeting on 12 March 98, ANGUS MCBRIDE, one of our foremost illustrators of military history, took us on a highly informative trip, accompanied by the showing of slides, from the (lost) baffle of Kadesh, where it was imperative to restore the King's tarnished image in the eyes of his people, via Greek, Roman and European battles, where military paintings and illustrations became successively more elaborate, crowded and dramatic,through to when they reached their pinnacle, during the reign of Napoleon, when war- and battle scenes - were cleverly manipulated to glorify the Emperor of France. From there it was one step to the present-day propaganda pictures that were produced to sway and indoctrinate people, with, perhaps, the exception of the Great War which created its own generation of artists who did not flinch from gory, depressing or brutal details.

ANGUS then turned to his own drawings and illustrations of uniforms, and vividly described the' scope of his research that was necessary before he could even start on a picture. To be able to be as accurate as possible, he has to take many photographs, make many sketches and talk to many military experts. His studies have taken him to many parts of the world: to museums, to exhibitions of weapons, to picture galleries, photographic collections and even to other illustrators.

Each one of his superior book covers, a selection of which was shown by Committee Member Johan van den Berg, demonstrates his love of his fascinating profession and his painstaking devotion to detail.

An appreciative, although rather small audience applauded the speaker for his interesting discourse, and Major Tony Gordon thanked him on behalf of all present.

Thursday, 9 April 1998 Meeting No.245
The AGM WIll be followed by the final talk of Pat Wells about his experiences during Ww2. He will take us down his memory lane to the invasion of Sidly, then on to Italy, and eventually hack to the UK, where he flew Mosquitoes

Thursday, 14 May 1998 Meeting No.246
GERMAN PARATROOPS IN BELGIUM AND THE ASSAULT ON FORTRESS HOLLAND -1940 When German assault gliders landed on the roof of the Belgian Fortress Eben Emael with their teams of paratroops early on 10 May 1940, they initiated an entirely new concept in warfare that was to shape many subsequent military airborne operations around the globe. Talk by Johan van den Berg

The December 1998 edition of the Military History Journal will be a special Anglo-Boer War edition. Suitable contributions in written or illustrative form are invited from members of the public. They should be submitted as soon as possible, but no later than the end of August.

The Community Service of the CITY OF CAPE TOWN plans to establish a Local Arts Council to advise the City on the allocation of funds for art and culture (including heritage, i.e.history) and other matters related to the effective service/delivery thereof. it is hoped that this will include local military history as well.

Maj Tony Gordon reports that, at last, signs have been erected by the Cape Town City Council to direct visitors to the NOON GUNS at Lion Battery, on Signal Hill. Also, Tony adds, the NATIONAL PARKS BOARD will soon be taking control of some of the batteries of the coast defences. The HOUT BAY HERITAGE TRUST are already looking after the guns around Hout Bay. This is most welcome in the preservation of our history and will benefit the tourist trade in that area. The Trust will be soon extending their activities to include the Apostle Battery above Llandudno.

From the ANGLO-BOER WAR CENTENARY SOCIETIY comes the suggestion to locate and describe the many historical sites in the Western Cape, which are now mostly unknown. No significant research has been done, to date, and it is felt that such studies should be undertaken before these sites fade into obscurity. Anyone who has any knowledge of any Boer-War Sites should please phone Tony Gordon at (011)614500.

Meetings of the Cape Town Branch are normally held on the second Thursday of each month (barring December) at 20h00 (8.00 pm sharp), 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 3.00. Scholars and Students free. Tea and biscuits will be served.

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

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