South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER Cape Town Branch MARCH 1998

We were privileged to be presented with a double-feature by Cdr Mac Bisset and Maj Tony Gordon at our Society Meeting on 12 February 1998. The subject was THE CAPE COASTAL DEFENCES, and both speakers supplied a host of photographs, some extremely rare, illustrating the placement of the many defensive guns and their ancillary equipment along our extended coastline.

Mac Bisset quoted from very old records and port record books which have miraculously survived for centuries, with details of the guns and their technical data. Describing the state of preservation, or otherwise, of many of the sites, with the more distant locations being in particularly bad shape, they were, fortunately, able to report also on positive developments, in particular with respect to the defensive works at Fort Wynyard. They expressed the hope that it would be possible to upgrade more gun sites and restore vandalised emplacements, at least partially, to show visitors the location and the rudimentary layout. There are so many unique and fascinating defence features in the Cape Peninisula, to be seen nowhere else. Not only gun placement sites, but other installations as well, like the Martello Tower, the Blockhouses and Radar stations, of which just a handful have remained more or less intact.

A totally new class of historical tourist could be attracted, who would champion South Africa from a totally new angle once he returns home.All our heritage needs to be preserved, but this can only be done if and when sufficient funds become available.

Originally, the double-feature had been planned to precede the expert-guided tour of local defences on 18 February 1998, but unfortunately, both speakers were called away at short notice, to attend a most important meeting at the Castle, and so it had to be cancelled. Another tour has been planned for Wednesday, 18 March 1998.

Producing these picture-shows cuuid justifiably be described as a labour of love, and the audience responded to our presenters with well-deserved applause.

The British Army Manual for servicing 15 pounder guns was revised in the second World War when a training film revealed that gunner No 6 stood smartly to attention throughout the exercise without performing a single operation. After lengthy enquiries, puzzled Staff Officers finally found a veteran of the Boer War who could explain the function of G6 - he remembered that G6, at that time, used to hold the horses!

Submitted by fellow-member A.W. Husband.

Thursday, 12 March 1998 at 20h00 Meeting No.244
Slide-illustrated talk by Angus McBride, broadly describing the history of military illustrative art from early times, and its service to various regimes. Angus will also include slides of some of his own work, which he will discuss.
Thursday, 9 April 1998 at 20h00: Meeting No.245
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING AND SQN LDR P. WELLS DSO The AGM will be followed by the final talk of Sqn Ldr P. Wells about his experiences during WW2. He will take us down his memory lane to the invasion of Sicily, then on to Italy, and eventually back to the UK, where he flew Mosquitoes.

A high-level planning meeting took place at the Castle on Wednesday, 18 February 1998, conceming the future of Fort Wynyard. Cdr. Mac Bisset and Gerry de Vries from the SA Navy, and our own Maj Tony Gordon were present, and the proposed outcome is positive. Further information will be given by Tony at our AGM..

The next expert-guided tour of the Cape Peninsula Coastal Defences will take place on Wednesday, 18 March 1998. Anyone interested and NOT presently on Tony's list of participants is advised to contact him at (021) 61 4500, as soon as possible, please.

Our branch was sad to learn of the passing of one of our early members, Mr. Heinz Engelhardt. He presented lectures to our Society about his service in the German Forces during the closing stages of WW2, and also on German honours and awards. He will be missed.

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 /