South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.247 Cape Town Branch July 1998

With his talk on DRIEFONTEIN AND THE BRITISH ADVANCE ON BLOEMFONTEIN, fellow member GARTH BENNEYWORTH once again proved his skill in vividly describing another episode in the Anglo-BoerWar. He used overhead transparencies showing step by step the advance of the British troops under Field- Marshal Roberts, involving the relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeberg. But then his troubles began. Roberts, faced by a severe shortage of food, horse fodder and water, with the soldiers having to survive miserably on half-rations or less, wanted to take Bloemfontein as quickly as possible, and so he divided his forces into three separate columns. But by doing this, he weakened his fighting strength, and his commanders found it difficult to communicate with each other and their commanding officer to co-ordinate their movements.

At Driefontein, the British had to face the Boer troops of the legendary General de la Rey, a brilliant tactician, and if in the final analysis, he could not hold his exposed positions against a numerically superior enemy, he inflicted heavy losses on their soldiers and all but crippled a large portion of the British cavalry whose horses had been driven too hard and had collapsed. De Ia Rey left the bafflefield with his units almost intact, but Bloemfontein was taken, and occupied by the British on 13 March 1900.

Garth showed colour slides to illustrate the almost flat and featureless battle terrain, indicated Boer positions behind clusters of boulders and marked and even more unmarked graves,and told the audience in detail of his painstaking research. It is quite plain that his love of military history is coupled to a dogged patience, if not stamina, to cover miles upon miles of desolate terrain under a blistering sun to explore and discover new evidence, however small, to complete our picture of the Anglo-Boer War.

His quotes from diaties of survivors of the battles, completed his presentation, and Chairman Derek O Riley thanked him for his expert talk.

From THE CASTLE comes the news that the building will be gradually brought back to its former glory as a little town in itself by restoring old crafts like blacksmith and coppersmith. A bread bakery and wine cellar will be opened, and four flats converted into guest houses. This will undoubtedly upgrade The Castle and change it into a foremost museum and tourist attraction for the benefit of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula.

When Paris was besieged by the Germans in 1870-71, various ways of getting mail into the city were devised. One was a waterborne system by which the letters were soldered into galvanised steel balls and floated down the Seine. The Germans had a marvellous time practicing their marksmanship on these "boules de moulins", and the system had to be abandoned.
(From SETEMPE, SA Stamp News, May/June 1998.)

Thursday 9 July 1998
A talk by CDR GERRY DE VRIES (OC SAS WINGFIELD) about the history of Wingfield from 1931:Air Base - Air Force Base - HMS Malgas - Municipal Airport - Naval Base

Thursday 13 August 1998
1) Illustrated overview of developments of SA air-to-ground weapons
2) Strategic "Cooks" World Tour of current conflicts

The Imperial Light Horse Regiment/Light Horse Regiment, celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 1999. To preserve their history a museum will be established at the Regimental HQ in Johannesburg, and a leaflet has been printed. The Museum is looking for donations or loans of any books. memorabilia, uniforms and medals which have ILH/LHR connections. Interested members can telephone John Mahncke at (021)7975167.

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

South African Military History Society /