The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 16 No 4 - December 2014


by Marjorie Dean
South African Military History Society


The South African Military History Society, in collaboration with the Majestic Film Society and Radio Today, will be coordinating the screening of a series of movies relevant to the Great War at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History over the next five years. The Sunday afternoon ticket price includes afternoon tea to allow discussion of the movies after each showing.

The first film, shown on Sunday, 10 August 2014, was the well-known 'Oh What a Lovely War!' Made in the 19605, it reflects attitudes to the War from that period. With a distinctly satirical viewpoint, this film is a classic of its kind, and was well received by an audience of more than 100 people. After the film, guests enjoyed a splendid afternoon tea laid on by Evelyn Mushi and the team from the Museum Staff.

The second film in the series, screened on Sunday 23 November, was 'Private Pleasant', a movie made for the BBC, and based on a book by Michael Morpurgo, author of 'War Horse', which enjoyed a very successful season in Johannesburg in October and November.

Scheduled for the first half of 2015 is, on 22 February, 'My Boy Jack', a movie which tells the story of the writer Rudyard Kipling. His son, Jack, was reported 'missing in action' on the Western Front at the Battle of Loos, and his parents spent three years in a search for the truth about what happened to their son, and to find out where he was buried. On 24 May, Peter Weir's famous film, 'Gallipoli', made in 1981, which highlights the experiences of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in this tragic campaign, will be shown.
Details of movies and tickets can be obtained from The Majestic at 011 4863648.

WAR AND PEACE CONCERT, 4 & 5 August 2014

At the Ditsong National Museum of Military History, commemorations of the centenary of the Declaration of War in August 1914 commenced with a War and Peace concert from the famous Chanticleer Singers, under conductor Richard Cock. This was scheduled to take place on 4 August, exactly one hundred years after the Declaration of War. So enthusiastic was the response when tickets went on sale that a second performance had to be staged the following evening. An audience of 250 people attended each performance.

The concerts were held in the Dan Pienaar Gun Park, remarkable for its excellent acoustics! A varied programme of music was sung, and some excellent readings of poetry and prose were given. The music ranged from popular songs to serious choral gems, but the theme of Remembrance was continued throughout. Readings were given by well-known actor Alan Swerdlow and Peter James-Smith, a Military History Society Committee member, who had first organised the event.

The evenings were very cold, but everyone was given a glass of hot spiced wine to ward off the chill. The music was superb, the readings well chosen and delivered, and it was a fitting tribute to the fallen of all sides to remind us of the sacrifice made in the Great War.

After the concert on 5 August, the audience was invited to go to the Anglo-Boer War Memorial, adjacent to the Museum, where a surprise was waiting. This was a visit from the famous 'War Horse', star of the play of that name which has been presented at the Teatro at Monte Casino. The magnificent, life-size puppet, made by the Handspring Company of Cape Town, has been seen all over the world, and it was a privilege to be allowed to see it so close up, and to see how ingeniously it is made.

'We will remember them ... '

Armistice Parade and Poppy Concert

On 11 November 2014, the MOTHs held their annual Shadow Parade in memory of South Africans who lost their lives in war. The service is usually held at the beautiful War Memorial, but heavy summer rains that turned the lawns into quagmires meant that the ceremony had to be held under cover in the Museum's Dan Pienaar Gun Park. (Perhaps this is a very suitable location, with the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm looking on.)

The Transvaal Irish Pipe Band performed admirably in rather cramped conditions, and the ceremony was conducted with dignity as befitted the occasion. The SA Legion had organised excellent drinks and hot food, which was much appreciated, before the second event of the evening began. This was a Poppy Concert, organised by the Museum and the Legion as part of the programme to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Over 200 people crammed into the Marrieres Wood Room to hear some wonderful choral singing from Cor MebionCymru De Affrig (the Welsh Male Voice Choir), the Deutscher Männerchor Liedertafel (German Male Voice Choir), and the Coro Guiseppe Verdi (Italian Choir). The choirs sang a varied programme, from opera to popular songs of the time (with much enthusiastic participation from the audience), and ended off with stirring renditions by a massed choir of more than 100 voices of the Welsh, German, Italian and South African National Anthems.

It was in many ways a joyous occasion, a remembering and celebration of the lives of so many young men from so many countries. We remembered them perhaps as they would best like to be remembered, in the words of Laurence Binyon:

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