South African Military History Society

NEWSLETTER No.245 Cape Town Branch MAY 1998

At the Cape Town Branch's 22nd Annual General Meeting, the Honorary Treasurer, Mr. Bob Buser, reported that our finances are in a healthy state. Regrellably, increases in postage tariffs and copying charges forced your Committee to slightly raise subscriptions for 1998. However, in spite of the increased subscription, our membership keeps on growing and now stands at 103 members. Three members have resigned due to health or similar reasons.

The previous Committee was re-elected, unopposed
Chairman: Mr.D. O'Riley
Vice-Chairman: Mr.J. Mahncke
Hon Treasurer : Mr.R. Buser
Members: Maj A. Gordon, Lt-Col M. Righiford, Mr.J. van den Berg, Mr. P. Lange

Any member, not present at the AGM., but wishing to obtain a copy of the Balance Sheet can telephone Bob at (021) 689-1639.

After our AGM, Squadron Leader Patrick Wells, took the floor and gave us the third of his amusing talks about his war experiences, conduding with his reminiscences of VE-Day. He distributed copies of the only existing original of a most secret order referring to aerial drops of paratroops on Sicily in July 1943. The order also assigned two Hurricanes of Pat's No.73 Squadron, one of which was flown by Pat, to patrol at an altitude of 2 000 ft., and douse searchlights with cannon fire which made them sitting ducks for the Geman light Anti-Aircraft guns. The order was ignored by the pilots, and the fighters did their duty at 3 000 ft, and lived to tell the tale! But in this, as in other complex night maneouvres, Operation HUSKY proved costly. Some carrier planes were downed by "friendly" fire; gliders were released prematurely by the towing aircraft of the USAAF 52nd wing and were forced to ditch in the sea, whilst the C47's of the USAAF 51st wing scattered their paratroop cargoes haphazardly over the sea and a wide area of the land. Notwithstanding these problems, Sicily was taken by the Allied Forces.

By this time Pat had been promoted and appointed as Flight Commander to No.255 (Beaufighter) Squadron, RAF, which defended airfields in Italy, and began intruder operations up the Italian coast. The squadron also provided night defence for cities already liberated. Another serious crash experienced by Pat, this time unconnected with any warlike activity, landed him in hospital once again. He had to lose the little finger on his right hand but refused to permit an amputation of the arm and, helped by the new wonder drug, Penicillin, was lucky, though his request to keep his finger in a pickle-jar to be used for special occasions, was denied.

Returning by hospital ship to Liverpool he passed an instructor's course in the north of Scotland on the Bristol Beaufort, an underpowered, unlovable aircraft .From there he was posted away to an airfield near Newcastle, where he trained navigators on Wellingtons, and eventually joined No.151 Squadron to fly Mosquitoes, and expected to be sent to the Far East. The surrender of Japan in August 1945, however, cancelled any such plans and Pat's war career was over.

Pat's three talks were well received and applauded by members on all three occasions, and brought more than just a passing smile on our veterans' faces.


Thursday, 14 May 1998. Meeting No.246

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.

Thursday 11 June 1998. Meeting No.247

A slide- and map -illustrated talk by GARTH BENNEYWORTH, which will inciude latest research on this subject. Garth will describe the defensive actions by the Boers to stop the British advance on Bloemfontein. However, the British broke the Boer defences and captured the city. His presentation will indude readings from diaries of actual participants in the battle.

Under the Durr Estate-sponsored Gun Recovery Programme two 12 pounder guns, dating back to 1782, and each weighing 2.2 tons, were recently recovered. They were once sited on the Camps Bay side of Kloof Nek, to command the wagon track, and were then "lost", until found by hikers. The guns have been restored to their former glory, including a pair of painstakingly-built gun carriages, through the sponsorship of Lovemore and Company, the builders. They have been placed at the top of Camps Bay Drive. Cdr Gerry de Vries, OC of SAS Wingfield, the driving force behind the gun recovery programme and author of "Durr Record of the Guns of the Cape", reports that since publication of his record, a further 24 guns have been discovered and added to his list.

SUBSCRIPTIONS. will members who have not yet paid their 1998 subscriptions please do so as soon as possible.

It would be appreciated if members could refrain from making interjections during talks at our meetings, as this is most disconcerting to the speaker. Questions can be asked or comments made after the speaker has finished his/her presentation.

Mr. Paul Lange, who resigned from the position of Branch Secretary late last year due to poor health, is again in hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are with him in his fight against his illness..

(Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167 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 /