South African Military History Society


The 33rd Annual General Meeting of the SA Military History Society was held on Thursday, 8th April, at the Museum.

Retiring Chairman George Barrell reported that the Society is entering its 34th year in a sound financial condition. He was also pleased to reports that for the first time in many years the membership numbers had increased during 1998 in all three of the Society's branches. The trend has continued into the current year, the reason for the improvement being the increased publicity the Society had been getting from various sources, including its web site. All members were urged to continue recruiting from among their friends, this question of membership being central to the Society's continued survival. The Chairman once again complimented committee members Marjorie Dean, for her efforts in publicising the Society, and Kemsley Couldridge, for maintaining the quality of the lectures. He also thanked all committee members for their co-operation during his time in the chair.

The balance sheet presented by Hon Treasurer Joan Marsh showed a small operating deficit of R395 for 1998, with R614 having been transfered from Life Membership funds. Expenditure on the Journal continued to be the Society's largest single cost item, accounting for just over 50 per cent of total expenses.

The new Chairman of the Society is Martin Ayres, former Deputy-Chairman. One Committee member, Professor Ian Copley, a former Chairman of the Society, has resigned, and two new members were elected. They are Terry Leaver and John Murray.
In addition to these two, the Committee now comprises: Martin Ayres (Chairman); Joan Marsh (Hon Treasurer); George Barrell (Scribe); Kemsley-Couldridge; Marjorie Dean; Colin Dean; Heinrich Janzen; Lt-Col Dr Felix Machanik; Hamish Paterson (Museum Representative).

The Felix Machanik Prize for the best main lecture during 1998 was awarded to Colin Dean for his talk: "Solving the Puzzles of the Enigma Code Machine." The George Barrell Prize for the best curtain raiser of the year was awarded to Terry Willson for "A Relic from Berea: Facts and Speculation, or Coincidence?"

The main lecture of the evening, entitled "The Battles of Lexington and Concord", and given by Hamish Paterson, described the opening of clashes in what later came to be known as the American Revolutionary War, or the American War of Independence.

Tension between Britain and her North American colonies began mounting after the signing of the Peace of Paris in 1763 which ended the Seven-Years War. Grievances centred on trade, the limitations imposed on westward expansion, taxation and how the colonies' defence should be financed. The Massachusetts colonists adopted an increasingly rebellious attitude toward British authority, took control of the local militia, and began preparing for armed resistance. Thus the concept of the "Minute Men", capable of being mobilised at short notice, was born.

An illegal Provincial Congress was held at the Massachusetts town of Concord in early April 1775 and war supplies were stored there.

On directions from London, the British military governor, General Gage, who was based in Boston about 35km from Concord, decided to destroy these stores. He had at his disposal some 4 000 men made up of 10 regiments of foot, five companies of the Royal Artillery, and a Marine Battalion. His preparations alerted the rebels, who began preparing their resistance.

Gage's strike force, consisting of the light and grenadier companies, assembled at the foot of Boston Common at 22h00 on 18th April 1775. The dilatoriness of the commander of the force delayed the march by four hours. This gave time for rebel riders Paul Revere and William Dawes to set out to raise the alarm. They were joined at Lexington, on the road to Concord, by Dr Samuel Prescott. He alone was left to alert Concord when a party of mounted British officers intercepted the trio, captured Revere and caused Dawes to turn back.

The British march was unopposed until 05h00 on 19th April when it reached Lexington Common and was confronted by Captain John Parker's Lexington Militia. Both sides were under orders not to fire. But the sound of a shot from a nearby tavern caused the British light companies to open fire, leaving eight militia dead and nine wounded. The British then went on to Concord virtually unopposed and burned the military stores.

At noon the British force began the return march to Boston but ran into so many ambushes that by the time it reached Lexington it was in total disorder. A relief force expected at 02h00 was delayed by a series of mistakes and misfortunes, but nevertheless arrived in time to rescue the survivors.

In the retreat to Boston the British ran into heavy resistance at Menotomy, modern Arlington, where a savage street fight cost the British 40 killed and 80 wounded for a loss to the militia of 28 killed, 10 wounded and three prisoners.

The British finally broke through to Boston where General Gage, who had begun the day as Governor of Massachusetts was now the commander of a besieged garrison.


13th May
George Barrell - The Success of the Blitzkrieg: The Battle of France -- 1940
R Hooper - Box Long Rifles in Battle 1795 -- 1902 British Weapons in South Africa

George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581

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