by H W Kinsey
Donald Roderick Forsyth
Members of the Military History Society have been saddened by the sudden and unexpected death in Johannesburg on 22 December 1988 of Mr Donald Roderick Forsyth, an Honorary Life Member and the first Chairman of the Society. He collapsed while out shopping and, despite strenuous efforts to revive him, died on the way to hospital.
Donald Roderick Forsyth was born in the village of Camfer in the George district of the Cape Province on 18 August 1915. During the Second World War he saw service in Egypt and Libya in the South African Tank Corps, subsequently returning to South Africa with the advance party of the 1st SA Division on its return from active duty. Thereafter, he served as an instructor in armoured fighting vehicles in South Africa and was stationed at Defence Headquarters in Pretoria for some time.
In civilian life he served in the banking profession, and was a bank manager at various branches of the Standard Bank until he retired in 1975.
Don Forsyth was one of the most enthusiastic of the early supporters of the move to establish the Military History Society and was one of the foundation members. He attended the inaugural meeting on 5 October 1966, and was the first Chairman from that date until April 1969. He was most active in all the work involved in placing the Society on a firm footing, when his leadership and guidance were invaluable. He contributed articles to the Military History Journal, and was made an Honorary Life Member in recognition of his work for the Society.
He was to a large extent instrumental in establishing the Military Medal Society of South Africa in 1974, together with Messrs Terry Sole and Ian Uys. He was the first member and was awarded Honorary Life Membership. Throughout the life of that Society he took a most active part in its affairs, and made a substantial contribution to its funds by way of money earned in carrying out research on behalf of members. He contributed regularly to its newsletters and journals.
However, his most important contribution to military history and medal collecting were his remarkable series of South African campaign and gallantry medal rolls - about fifteen published works in all - which have deservedly earned him both local and overseas acclaim, and might be considered to be one of his memorials. These medal rolls, which are models of meticulous and painstaking research, have proved to be of inestimable value to both medal collectors and military historians.
Although Don did not take an active part in the affairs of the Military History Society in recent years he retained contact with many of the members, who often sought his advice and help in their research projects. He was an active, friendly and helpful person, and was always willing to share the results of his research with others. He will be sorely missed and affectionately remembered by all those who enjoyed the privilege of his friendship, and who recognized the value of his remarkable knowledge of military history.
The funeral service was held on Thursday, 29 December 1988, at the MOTH Cosy Corner Shellhole in Brakpan, of which Don was the first curator.
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