Newsletter No. 508
PLEASE NOTE: the contents of and documents attached to this newsletter, do not necessarily reflect the views of, or endorsement by the South African Military History Society, the Kwa-Zulu Branch, or the Scribe. They have been circulated in good faith, in the belief that they may be of interest to some members, Fellow Members, and Friends of the Kwazulu-Natal Branch of the South African Military History Society
The June meeting opened with Chairman Charles Whiteing extending a welcome to members and visitors alike. The annual Ken Gillings Memorial Battlefield Tour is confirmed for the weekend 18/19 August under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Chris le Roux. Chris announced the details of the tour which will have two options; either to attend the Saturday tour including the visit to Spionkop and surrounding area only. The other option is to stay overnight at the Platrand Lodge and complete the rest of the tour on the Sunday, which will include visiting Chievely where Winston Churchill was captured during the Boer War.
The DDH talk was by Professor Philip Everitt titled "Science comes to the Military."
The talk commenced with an overview of England in the 1600s which included the overthrow of Charles I, the Cromwell period, the great Fire, the Plague, and the coronation of William the Conqueror.
The end of the century culminated in a period of social development, printing, increased use of books, public schooling including the scientific achievements of Wren, Boyle, Newton, Hooke and the founding of the Royal Society in 1660. There were developments in the military field including gunpowder leading to the use of muskets, cannon, construction of fortifications and military officer training hand books which the talk was based on.
The book "An Epitome of the Whole Art of War" was published in 1692 for a Thos Axe but also dedicated to England's oldest regiment, the Honourable Artillery Company" or HAC. The topics were the basis of the talk which focused on Military Discipline including infantry drill and musketry. It detailed of how to set up formations e.g. how to marshal 16 900 men into a "Battel (sic) of the Grand Front."
The mathematics of the exercise required dividing the number by 4, extracting the square root and the "Quadrupling" resulting in the required 6 men per file with 260 in a rank. The book continues with the topics of Fortification and Gunnery including the layouts of forts which gave supporting covering fire for the defenders and offering maximum strength against the attacking artillery. The book concluded with comments exercises for "Dragoons on Horseback."
The presentation included with a discussion on the place of the HAC on today`s British Army. The HAC is now a territorial unit with some 2 500 members of which 400 are actively serving with a HAC Detachment of the Special Constabulary of the City of London Police. Its responsible ceremonial duties at the Tower of London which includes all gun salutes, and duties for the Lord Mayor. This link dates back to the training of the "trained bands" and the City Imperial Volunteers of the South African War. A ceremonial company of musketeers and pikemen was also granted a Royal Warrant in 1955.
Following his introduction by the Chairman the MAIN Talk was given by Captain Richard Brook-Hart titled "The role of Phantom in World War Two". His talk was supported by an excellent Power Point presentation which illustrated features of his talk. His father, Captain Denys Brook-Hart MC was a member of Phantom during the war and the talk included his experiences and locations during his years of service.
The origins of Phantom started in France in 1939 where use of the wireless was identified as a vehicle giving accurate feedback from front line positions. The codename given to the missions was 'Phantom' which became the official designation for the unit. After the Dunkirk evacuation it was reorganised into the 'Reconnaissance Corps' recruiting personnel with varied skills backgrounds.
Operation Overlord saw Phantom patrols landing on D+1 with a mission to establish and record the various British, Canadian and American unit positions and passing this information back to HQ. The fiasco of Operation Market Garden saw Phantom operatives being the only link between the surrounded airborne troops and HQ. Two members of Phantom were awarded the MC for their contribution during the operation. They were also operating with General 'Boy' Browning and XXX Corps at his HQ next to 82nd Airborne in Grosbeek.
Other theatres of operations by Phantom included North West and South East Europe, North Africa and Italy. Each Phantom squadron supported an army consisting of a Squadron HQ (SHQ), with one patrol per Corps with a further ten patrols forward of each Corps. Each patrol comprised an officer, an NCO, and up to 9 other ranks. They were equipped with Norton motorcycles, Jeeps, Morris 15cwt Lorries and White M3 A1 Scout Cars. Once embedded within other formations, they went on specially directed missions to provide the collection, passage and dissemination of real-time progress-of-battle information to be reported to HQ. On some occasions, they undertook parachute drops with the SAS to provide communications on behalf of SAS Brigade HQ. The proven Phantom efficiency resulted in similar arrangements being made with the US Corps.
Richard Brooke-Hart announced he had some memorabilia on display.
The Vote of Thanks from the audience was given to both speakers by Dr John Cooke who presented our guest speaker with a set on engraved wine glasses.
Next meeting: 12 July 2018
DDH: "After Colenso, the demise of General Buller" by Steve Watt
Main Talk: "Flyers of the First World War" by Charles Whiteing
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