Regrettably, Rudi Roth, who was to talk about cannons on the 9th September, was hospitalized in Switzerland and had to cancel his trip. The news reached us too late to make alternative arrangements, but he has promised to give his talk at our next meeting.
PETER HUMPHRIES took the floor and, from his vast knowledge on maritime matters, spoke on the Anglo/Boer War. Although it was a land based conflict there is a maritime link, albeit of minor, if interesting, significance. Anticipating the need for arms and ammunition, Dr. Leyds, Special Envoy and Plenipotentiary of the Kruger Government, hired two ships, the GIRONDE and ROUSSOLON, in 1899 with the intention of running guns to the Boer Forces in the Transvaal. However, nothing came of it.
Instead the Royal Navy began a sea blockade at Lourenco Marques, perhaps fuelled by a spurious rumour of a German Captain who had declared a number of bulky crates lashed on deck of his ship to contain pianos, when they were full of weapons for the Boers. HMS MAGICIENNE stopped the German Imperial Mail Steamer BUNDESRAT and escorted her to Durban to be searched. Nothing was found on board, and the ship was allowed to continue after 19 days. The same fate befell the HERZOG and the GENERAL which were intercepted off Durban and Aden respectively, and released after a few days. These actions resulted in a whirlwind exchange of telegrams and in recriminations between Germany and Gt. Britain, although, with the fall of Pretoria in June 1900, outside help to the Boers stopped.
The British freighter MASHONA with a cargo of flour from the US, as well as the German sailing ships MARIE und HANS WAGNER, also carrying flour, tried to run the gauntlet of the naval blockade, but were boarded and taken to Port Elizabeth and Durban where the flour was taken off and impounded as a prize of war, while the ships were allowed to sail on.
Other warships on patrol were HMS BARRACUDA and DORIS protecting Port Nolloth and Mossel Bay, HMS WIDGEON Plettenberg Bay and HMS PARTRIDGE Saldanha Bay. The latter was fired on from the shore by two enthusiastic Boers, Thys Boonzaier and P.v.Niekerk, and the PARTRIDGE fired back. No blood was drawn, and this was the only time fire was exchanged.
There was one accident, though. In the evening of 15 Jan 1901, HMS SYBILLE approached Lambert's Bay in good weather and landed Captain Hugh Williams and a party of 50 sailors to protect the British port. The First Lieutenant, Hubert Holland, put to sea and returned to pick up the landing party early the next morning. But the weather had turned foul, and what he had also not considered was that the current had taken the ship 6 miles to the south. Consequently, the SYBILLE ran aground and was wrecked. Still, luck was with them, the crew got off and reached the shore safely, only one fatality was recorded, and eventually the ship's company arrived in Simon's Town.
At the ensuing Court Martial the First Lieutenant, the navigating officer and the officer of the watch, Sub-Lieutenant Street, were dismissed from the ship and severely reprimanded.
Sub-Lieutenant Street resigned his commission in 1906 but served in the Royal Navy again in both World Wars and retired as a Commander. His name appeared in the Royal Navy's Retired List for the last time in 1967.
We are most grateful to PETER that he introduced us to some fascinating details of military engagements of a different kind.
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167