The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 12 No 5 - June 2003


... Just one thing, in the last edition (Vol 12 No 4) you had something on the memorials put up at Elands River, Groot Marico. I have been there recently and have seen that the 'English memorials' have been vandalised (with replacements now in place). I really wonder if this is not something which should be discussed in the pages of the journal. In a very similar vein the English brass plaque at Majuba has been removed. I do not know if this is something which has been discussed at higher levels in the Museum and the Society but I was a bit taken aback by this political vandalism. Rob Burrett, Zimbabwe

... It may be of interest that there have been other events connected to the wreck [of the Birkenhead see Military History Journal Vol 12 No 4, December 2002]. Public lectures were held in Edinburgh on 6 November and in London on 5 December, both in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund, with good turnouts but much colder weather! The main speaker was Major Colin Innes, Black Watch (the 73rd Highlanders were in the wreck) with help from Capt James Russell who was present at our ceremonies here with his son Alec (Foreign Editor of The Telegraph of London). The Russells are connected to the young Ensign Russell (74th Highlanders) whose tragic tale is related in the journal article by George Barrell. Also attending Mrs Sarah Drury (great great granddaughter of Capt Salmond, the ship's captain) and many members of her family. Sarah and Charles Drury had also attended the Gansbaai commemorations.

Capt Antony Wilkes, RN (retd), spoke on the naval aspects and will attend a small memorial service at Danger Point near Cape Town on 26 February 2003. As a result of the Birkenhead website, a good number of relatives of both survivors and victims have been in contact with us. This is ongoing and some interesting stories are emerging. There is plenty of scope for research-especially in South Africa, where there are many reports and newspaper articles still to be analysed. No South African reports are mentioned in the books on the subject!

I was particularly pleased that George [Barrell] brought out very well the aspect of 'utmost haste' in connection with the Birkenhead's voyage. It is not mentioned in any of the books, nor in the court martial proceedings, but I am convinced it had a lot to do with the actual wreck and the haste to get to the Cape.

Maj Antony G O Gordon (Letter shortened owing to space constraints - Editor)

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