The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 17 No 1 - June 2016

3 October 1936 - 22 January 2016
Military uniform artist and weapons expert

Andy May was born in Buckie, north-east Scotland on 3 October 1936. He became interested in military uniforms, weapons and equipment at an early age. At school, his hobby became the drawing of military uniforms, which complemented his favourite subjects, art and history.

After a thirteen-year stint in the British Merchant Navy, Andy moved to Durban in 1971, where his hobby gradually became his full-time profession. In 1986, he joined the South African Defence Force, where he was appointed as a full-time military artist. Based at Military Museum Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria, Andy held the rank of sergeant and served as the resident military uniform illustrator and consultant as well as curator of weapons. Throughout his career, Andy was commissioned by many military museums, journals and societies for his detailed coloured pencil drawings of military uniforms.

Andy's relocation to South Africa led him to discover a keen interest in uniforms worn by soldiers in the Anglo-Boer wars and the Anglo-Zulu War. He also had a long time passion for uniforms associated with the American Civil War. Andy's work featured in two of the South African Military History Society's centennial journals, namely those commemorating the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the first Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881).

Andy was most proud of the commission he received from the Ciskei government to design and draw three sets of postage stamps, which appeared in 1983, 1984 and 1986. They depicted the uniforms worn by British troops serving in the Ciskei area at Fort Beaufort from 1821 to 1835. Another highpoint in Andy's career was his contribution to the film 'Zulu Dawn', which was shot at Pietermaritzburg, Rorke's Drift and Babanango in Natal in 1978. The film starred Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole. Andy designed all of the uniforms used in the film, and was responsible for buying historically accurate props. He was later also props consultant on the set of the internationally successful South African mini-series, 'Shaka Zulu'.

Andy's work appears in many museums around the world, including the New Zealand Army Museum, the Dorset Military Museum in England, the Scottish United Services Museum and the Forfar Museum in Scotland. In South Africa his artwork can be seen in the Ditsong National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, the Natal Mounted Rifles Museum in Durban, the Ladysmith Siege Museum and the Talana Hill Museum in Dundee, amongst others.

Andy's passing on 22 January 2016 was indeed a tragedy. He leaves behind his wife, Irena, whom he met at the Military History Society. At his memorial service his former commanding officer at Military Museum Fort Klapperkop, retired Colonel Andy Malan, commended him for his tireless diligence and passion for excellence. Andy's sense of humour, amusing stories and wealth of knowledge concerning military regalia and weaponry is unmatched to this day. His passing is a sad loss to his family, friends and all military history enthusiasts locally and abroad.

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