Author Archives: Cameron Kirk Kinnear

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Ex ZIPRA fighter regrets downing Rhodesian Viscounts

 

By Shine Moyo, Special Correspondent

Mapotos: A former member of the Zimbabwe People’s Liberation Army (ZIPRA) who was part of the gang that shot down tow Air Rhodesia Vickers Viscount planes in 1978 and 1979 says he regrets the two incidents which resulted in the death of 107 people.

Nkululeko Norman Mabhena (61) told Zimbo today.com this week, just before the commemorations to mark the 38th year of the downing of the second Viscount (Umniati) in February 8th, 1979 that he regrets the two incidents – which he was both involved in – and that the whole war effort was not worth it.

“With age and looking at what has become of this country, i can say the whole war effort was not worth it. I personally regret the incidents. In hindsight, I realise that I should not have been involved in these acts in the first place…. acts that resulted in more than 100 innocent people losing their lives, but that is what war is like, young people are used to do stupid things… I was young and I was used, when I look at what we were fighting, I realised that this is not it. It makes me very sad,” Mabhena said.

 

Mabhena and other members of ZIPRA shot down two Air Rhodesia civilian planes – the first one on September 3rd 1978 and the second one in February 1979 killing 48 and 59 people respectively. It was these acts – together with the torching of the fuel tanks in Salisbury (now Harare), aldo done by ZIPRA – that contributed to forcing the white minority government of Ian Smith to agree to give up power. However, people like Mahbena now regret having fought int he war in the first place after witnessing the wanton destruction that Robert Mugabe and his government have done to the independant ZXimbabwe. Zimbo Today was able to to talk to Mabhena at Matopos National park, the venue of President Mugabe’s lavish 93rd birthday bash, where he has gone with other war veterans to protest against the event that is planned to take place there later this month.

(Republished with permission from the Editor of Zimbo Today.)

 

 

 


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HMSAS Southern Floe

Category : Articles , WW2

Badge of H.M.S.A.S. Southern Floe which was picked up in an Italian dugout in the Desert by a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the North African Campaign. (SA Military History – http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol013hk.html)

11 February 1941

HMSAS Southern Floe was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with 1 sole survivor, Stoker C J Jones


A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare photograph in Alexandria Harbour (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

This sole survivor was Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. He was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a bare month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.

After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

Information from Naval-History.net

Southern Floe (SANF), ship loss
ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
FARRINGTON, Charles E, Stoker Petty Officer, P/KX 81373, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian McK, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
ROBERTSON, William M, Able Seaman, C/SSX 25307, MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
YOUNG, Reginald A J, Able Seaman, D/J 87257, MPK


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Thiepval – End of Battle Somme Ceremony

Category : WW1

Event Gallery here.

THIEPVAL, France – Friday 18 November 2016 was a date of solemn remembrances and stark reminders on several levels. Peter & Karen Dickens (representing the Royal British Legion UK Branch) and Andrew & Johanna Bergman (representing the SA Legion EU Branch) travelled to the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France for the Battle’s End – Last day of the Somme Ceremony.

The first stark reminder was the date: We’d all been there previously in July to mark the beginning of the Battle of Delville Wood, which was only part of the much larger Somme offensive. That occurred with Legion and other veterans’ banners unfurled in brilliant summer sunshine. Now, as we approached the town of Albert, from where shuttle coaches would ferry guests to Thiepval, the windscreen wipers were struggling to keep up with intermittent late autumn showers, driven by an icy west wind.

And all this time, 100 years ago, the battle had raged on, relentlessly and unforgivingly, for five months.

As we arrived at Albert, and during the short bus trip to the memorial, there was a temporary lull in nature’s fury, and we dared hope the clearing in the clouds that let a brave sun through would hold. Well it did, for a while.

The French State of Emergency dictated that all guests were pre-screened, and to the supreme credit of the Royal British Legion and Commonwealth War Graves Commission organisers, everything went like clockwork. The seating – placed in the approach to the arch, using the Memorial as an imposing backdrop, was designed so that everyone had a good view. The ceremony was moving and dignified, although punctuated by heavy gusts of rain-sodden wind. It was unavoidable to think how miserable the conditions must have been in the muddy trenches of 1916.

After the main ceremony, organisations and individuals were invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes at the Thiepval memorial arch itself. Peter Dickens laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal British Legion UK Branch, while I laid one for the SA Legion EU Branch.

The return by coach to Albert station went as efficiently as our outward journey: Bravo Zulu to the Royal British Legion and Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The South African contingent then re-grouped for lunch at Le Tommy Bar in Pozieres, where we placed a South African Legion Shield among those of some of the Commonwealth’s most prominent regiments.

It was an honour to thus pay tribute to the many thousands of men and women who fell or were injured in body or spirit in this terrible battle.


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South African Legion Shields

Sometimes, taking a wrong turn in cyberspace is not a complete waste of time. A few months ago, while searching for something completely different, I surfed-in on the website of Rowan Displays http://www.rowandisplays.com/

Pictures of their work reminded me of a lunchtime conversation that sprang up among Legionnaires admiring the array of regimental and association shields displayed across the breadth of Le Tommy Bar in Poziéres, following the SA Legion Somme Remembrance Ceremony at Thiepval in July.

Andrew Bergman hands Dominique, owner of Le Tommy Bar in Pozieres his shield.

The company offered to make a free preview mock-up if supplied with good artwork. I sent them a digital version of the Legion badge, and asked for two design options: one with a dark green background to mimic our green blazers, and another backed by the Murray of Atholl (modern) tartan.

 

I was immediately impressed by the professionalism of their service, and received the designs a few days later. The Committee were unanimously divided when they saw them. “Both look great” was the consensus, so we resolved to approve both designs, with a preference for the medium mahogany backing shield.

There was also the option to emboss the shield, which needed a once-off die to be made, but the added cost would prove more than worth it.

 

The first order was placed in the nick of time to ensure delivery by our Branch AGM in London following the Cenotaph Parade on Remembrance Sunday. They were delivered to our Chairman’s home in Oxfordshire, and his reaction was so positive, I motored through from North London to collect them. Some were to be collected personally at the AGM, while others would be sent-off by mail.

Well, Rowan Displays certainly did us proud. They are of super quality, and can be displayed with pride in any office, mess, bar, or man cave.

Andrew Bergamn assists Michael Ricketts, proprietor of Café Restaurant Tjing Tjing in Amsterdam, places an SA Legion Shield among his eclectic collection of South African memorabilia. Tjing Tjing is a favourite hang-out for SA expats, visiting Afrikaans musicians, and Amsterdammers with an affinity for South Africa.

The week after the AGM, Peter & Karen Dickens, and my wife Johanna and I travelled to Thiepval for the ceremony organised by the Royal British Legion to mark to mark the end of the Battle of the Somme.

Afterwards, we thawed our fingers and toes at Le Tommy Bar, where a South African Legion Shield now rubs shoulders with shields placed by regiments and associations from around the world. And it stands out!

Dominique, owner of Le Tommy Bar in Pozieres proudly hangs his shield.

Peter & Karen later presented one to the curator of the Delville Wood Museum. Shields have subsequently been placed in the Springbok Bar in The Hague, as well as Tjing Tjing South African restaurant in Amsterdam, both favourite meeting places for Saffas in Polderland.

Springbok Bar proprietor Troy Spears

The next batch of SA Legion Shields will be ordered soon. They are available to members only. We need to order 25 units to get the best price, so please email Andrew Bergman and let me know if you are interested in a dark green or tartan one. The price will be around £30 (including postage to a UK address).

Springbok Bar proprietor Troy Spears and Andrew Bergman

Article by Andrew Bergman for the SA Legion UK & Europe.


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SA Legion Shield Award at Royal Hospital Chelsea

Shield Award

After attending the Carabiniers Boer War commemoration there was socialising with the resident Chelsea pensioners, and the opportunity to present John Rochester, Heritage Manager of Royal Hospital Chelsea, with the coveted SA Legion shield. John has been a strong supporter of our cause since day one, who himself was inspired by the strong historic link South Africans have with the hospital.

It is rather fitting that a close relationship with the Royal Hospital Chelsea has been established – playing a pivotal role in the birth of the SA Legion UK – as this was the very venue which saw the laying up of the last South African veterans associations from the Great War, as they were handed over for safe-keeping by the last remaining survivors.


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Medal Award after 33 years

Category : Articles

Legion awards medals to worthy recipient

Following the parade, newly elected chairman for the South African Legion England Branch, Lgr Claudio Chiste, awarded Tim Smart his two long awaited service medals with the ceremony being held on the parade ground of the famous Royal Chelsea Hospital. The proud recipient commended the Legion for taking action and awarding him with the medals he had been waiting 33 years for.

(Article by Claudio Chiste’ and images by Karen Dickens and Theo Fernandes)


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Carabinier Boer War Remembrance 2016

The remembrance service with the South African Legion and the Royal Scots Dragoons was hosted by the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

The annual participation of the SA Legion in the Carabinier Boer War Remembrance day has become institution for the Legion in recent years, with continued participation ever since first being invited 4 years ago.

 

(Article by Claudio Chiste’ and images by Theo Fernandes)


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AJEX 2016

Members of the SA Legion joined more than 1,000 war veterans and supporters taking part in the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women’s (AJEX) annual parade and service on Sunday 20 November at the London Cenotaph to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

After the parade marched into position, Lord Sterling, the AJEX president, lead the tribute to the members of the forces who fought at the Somme, the pivotal World War I battle which took place 100 years ago this week, on November 18 1916.

Lord Sterling said: “It is with great pride that we hold this annual ceremony of remembrance to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to the Crown.”

He added: “We have a job to do. Ten years from now many of us will not be here. We have a responsibility that in 20 to 50 years, Jewish communities everywhere carry on honouring what we have done and continue to do.”

Speaking at the reception following the parade, Rabbi Mirvis said: “In every circumstance war is a tragedy. But it is our duty to protect everything that we stand for. I’m proud of our Jewish servicemen and women who have fought so that we can live in peace, and so that we can live, in the first place.”

He added: “I was heartened today to see Whitehall closed for the Jewish community, a week after Remembrance Sunday, for us to march and say we are proud to stand up for our country. It’s more important than ever that our young people are here today to take part and see that.”

An AJEX spokesperson noted that the parade had attracted increased support from ex-servicemen and women’s families and communal groups in recent years.

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Jewish integral part of SA history

There is a deep-rooted history of Jewish servicemen contributing to South African military history, with heroic acts scattered from the time of the Boer War – where Jews served on both sides – to the modern day. The exact number of Jews who served on the Boer side will never be known, but it is likely that around 250 fought in the commandos (including at least a dozen medical personnel) and perhaps another 50 served in a reserve capacity, in the various town guards and in the POW camps (interestingly, at least two Jews were amongst those guarding the captured Winston Churchill)[1]. A notable Jewish combatant was the grandfather of the former SA Deputy Defence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, Mr Nathan Kasrils, who evidently fought on the Boer side at some stage. General de la Rey had reportedly issued him with a certificate describing him as a ‘sharpshooter and spy’ (‘skerpskutterenspioen’). Interestingly, Kasrils was also at some stage a member of the Kimberley Mounted Rifles, meaning he had experience serving with both the British & the Boers.

(Article: Jews on Commando, by D Y Saks)

Report by Claudio Chiste for the SA Legion


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Jan Smuts and Isaac Ochberg

Category : Articles , WW2

 

You might remember heroic figures like Oskar Schindler (the famous “Schindler’s List”) who, during World War 2, rescued groups of Jews from certain annihilation. But did you know Jan Smuts also played a significant role in rescuing 200 Jewish orphans from the Ukraine in 1921? Here’s a little bit of unknown history involving an unlikely South African hero, Isaac Ochberg, and it’s one we can all stand proud of.

In the early 1920s, reports trickled through to South Africa of tragic forces occurring in the Ukraine. Following the collapse of the old Czarist Empire in 1917, rival Red and White armies were fighting for control. Although the battles did not start out as particularly anti-Semitic, the Jews’ condition deteriorated.

Famine was followed by typhoid epidemics for the entire population, but it was made worse for the Jews by pogroms. Ukrainian and Polish peasants joined forces with reactionary military forces to massacre Jews wherever they found them inside the Pale of Settlement.

In despairing letters smuggled through enemy lines, Jews begged their cousins in South Africa for help. These pleas immediately stirred South Africa’s Jewish communities. People asked at meetings across the country if at least the children could be rescued from the Ukraine. Before any organisation could step in, generous offers of financial and other assistance were made by Russian-born Cape Town businessman Isaac Ochberg.

Two questions became critical: How could the orphans be rescued from a war-torn region, and would the South African government create any difficulties in admitting them? Ochberg quickly met Jan Smuts, prime minister between 1919–1924, who gave the children entry visas. Smuts could have sunk the rescue plan in an instant, had he chosen to. His support was essential and warmly welcomed.

As reports of the Jews’ plight continued to arrive in South Africa, the size of the tragedy became clearer. 100,000-150,000 Jewish men, women and children were slaughtered by Ukrainian nationalists and another 400,000 Jewish orphans were starving. The next step was for someone to travel to Eastern Europe and make arrangements on the spot. Ochberg agreed to go. For two months Ochberg travelled by train, wagon and on horseback around the Pale, looking for orphaned children. The Ukrainian children knew only that “The Man From Africa”
was coming and he was going to take some of them away to a new home, on the other side of the world.

Ochberg’s worst problem was how to select which children to take and which he had to leave in Eastern Europe. So he decided to choose eight children from each institution, until he reached a total of exactly 200. Since the South African government required that the children had to be in good physical and mental health, careful selection was essential. In addition, only those who had lost BOTH parents were accepted.

In Pinsk alone, so many children had been orphaned that 3 new orphanages had to be opened. At first, Pinsk was so isolated by the fighting that the children were dependent solely on their own resources. There were no blankets, beds or clothes. Typhus broke out in one of the orphanages and the pogroms raged for a week at a time. As order was restored, food supplies began to trickle in, first from Berlin and then from the Joint Distribution Committee.

Ochberg moved from town to town, visiting Minsk, Pinsk, Stanislav, Lodz, Lemberg and Wlodowa, collecting orphans. How did he get the children out – on wagons.

Three months later, with the 200 children in London, he wrote to Jan Smuts in South Africa: “I have been through almost every village in the Polish Ukraine and Galicia and am now well acquainted with the places where there is at present extreme suffering. I have succeeded in collecting the necessary number of children, and I can safely say that the generosity displayed by South African Jewry in making this mission possible means nothing less than saving their lives. They would surely have died of starvation, disease, or been lost to our nation for other reasons. I am now in London with the object of arranging transport and I hope to be able to advise soon of my departure for South Africa with the children.”

A tremendous reception awaited the orphans when they came ashore in Cape Town. So large was the group of children that the Cape Jewish Orphanage was unable to house them all, so 78 went on to Johannesburg.

Ochberg died in 1937 while on an ocean voyage, 59 years old. He was buried in Cape Town at one of the largest funerals ever seen there. Ochberg left what was then the largest single bequest to the Jewish National Fund. The JNF used it to redeem a piece of land in Israel called Nahalat Yitzhak Ochberg – which included the kibbutzim of Dalia and Ein Hashofet.

An Ochberg dedication ceremony took place at Kibbutz Dalia on 19th of July 2011. For the thousands of descendants of his orphans, he is the reason they are alive.

Over the years various projects and films have been compiled, many of the original orphans’ children and grandchildren have been traced and have honoured Ochberg’s memory, South Africa’s very own “Oskar Schindler”.

Content and article sourced from The Jerusalem Post from an article by Lionel Slier 07/18/201. Researched and posted for the South African Legion by Peter Dickens.


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HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall

The Cruisers HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall were attacked and sunk on the 5th April 1942 by Japanese aircraft.

The ships were spotted by a reconnaissance aircraft from the heavy cruiser Tone, and subsequently attached by over 50 Val dive bombers. In less that 8 minutes HMS Dorsetshire had been hit by 10 bombs, and sank stern first after one bomb detonated a magazine.

HMS Cornwall was hit 8 times and sank bow first 10 minutes after HMS Cornwall.

The following day the cruiser Enterprise, accompanies by two destroyers Panther and Paladin rescued 1,122 men out of a combined crew of over 1,546. Among the casualties were 39 South Africans.

These two links provide an insight into the experiences of the crew:

Lt E. A Drew, Engineering Branch, HMS Cornwall

Walter Fudge, HMS Dorsetshire

The South Africans are honoured on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

 

 


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