To quote Spike Milligan, I thought I’d begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads anything of mine.
Last year I began by saying that 2020 would surely go down as one of the strangest years in history. 2021 has seen a return to life closer to the old normal – or is this the new normal? We began the year with Exco meetings on Zoom but thankfully have been meeting in person since September. The meetings probably take longer now but they are so much pleasanter and, I believe, more productive.
And it has been a busy year. 2022 has seen the 40th anniversary of the SAS President Kruger tragedy on 18th February and the 100th anniversary on 1st April of the start of a navy in South Africa. The NHT was closely involved with both these anniversaries (thanks to Arne Soderlund and Leon Steyn) and wreaths were laid to honour the men who lost their lives serving their country. We have also attended the annual memorial parades for the sinking of the SS Mendi and the Gunner’s Association. We believe that it is appropriate to acknowledge the sacrifices made by men and women of all the branches of the armed forces.
With the relaxation of the Covid 19 regulations the NHT office opened again, and our Volunteers were able to gather. Eddie Wesselo who reports back to Exco on the volunteers writes:
The NHT volunteers meet regularly in the NHT room at the Simon’s Town Museum every Monday and Thursday morning from 10h00 till 12h30. As a rule, there are six members there and anyone wanting to come and visit, buy books or just have a chat is more than welcome. Monday mornings are muffin and coffee mornings, and Thursdays are scones and coffee.
The NHT room which has a fine collection or books, paintings and memorabilia is worth a visit where all members and friends are always welcome. Les Gale, who keeps the rooms absolutely pristine, clean and tidy, is also available to give a tour through the NHT room and the MOTH Shellhole next door, which have a huge number of badges and memorabilia and can keep visitors entertained for hours. This is also where the huge number of oral histories is kept together with many records of the NHT.
Glen Knox, our Deputy Chairman, has provided me with a comprehensive report and I quote:
The Naval Heritage Facebook page was started in April 2016 and has been growing each month with new members joining on a regular basis. The membership of this site is now 6709.
The daily NH, Day By Day is added each evening and this has continued to draw mainly positive comments and reactions. Aggressive and unfavourable comments are removed along with the poster. Photos are also included in most of these posts and these bring in many positive comments.
The daily Shipwreck report issued by SAHRA is also added which is also proving beneficial to the site.
Our Web Master is Nicholas Dunn and he has put together and maintains our attractive Web page. The site covers Membership, Newsletters, Book`s and ND`s, Naval 100 slideshow, History of the SAN, videos and submarine project updates when they are available. The site has had 4907 visitors to date
According to our membership secretary, Andre Wessels we had
212 members including Trustees and Ex Trustees. We have 9 overseas members in the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Portugal and the Philippines. 5 Naval Digest are sent to Legal deposits and a further 17 are sent to various offices.
The biggest problem I have is trying to decipher the handwriting on Application for Membership, especially email addresses. It is also frustrating to find members have changed their email addresses and they have not informed the Membership Secretary. This results in trying to find the correct information on the internet or making a phone call if we have a contact number. In addition, on delivering Naval Digests, post boxes are often too small to receive the books!
Like so many other societies, membership is not as large as we would like it to be and quite frankly that is mystifying because non-members miss out on all the benefits.
What are the benefits? Well, as Glen reports
BOOKS AND NAVAL DIGESTS
4 Naval Digests have been completed and issued since the last AGM, ND31,32,33 and 34. All these have been warmly welcomed and enjoyed by the members even though ND 32 caused a wee rumble. The standard of the ND`s has continued to improve and are being eagerly awaited by the members. The order run for NDs is now 300 copies per addition, allowing for a small stock to be kept in the office for weekly sales.
No NH books were completed by the Trust during the last year although NH was able to acquire copies of “President Mandela’s Admiral” by V Adm Simpson-Anderson and “A Century of SA Naval History” by Prof Andre Wessels. Both these books were sold to NH members at a good discount compared to the standard retail price. Both books have sold well with a few copies still in stock for weekly sales.
In the publication pipeline there are 10 Books and ND`s being worked on at present with some close to completion. The book (Day by Day 2022 version) and ND 35 are still to be released this year.
In the longer publication pipeline, there are an addition 15 publications that still need attention before publication.
The public are able to purchase the Heritage publications through the NH Web page as well as outlets in the Cape Town area. These are Clarkes Bookshop, Select Bookshop, STADCO, Bookworm, Bookworm Fantasy in Somerset West, Enkosi Afrika in Simon`s Town and the Naval Museum. These outlets sell the publication at retail prices.
All paid up members are able to purchase the publication at the discounted prices
Incidentally we try to ensure that all educational institutions with an interest in the Navy have a full collection of our Digests for the learners.
On just one of the books in progress Mac Bisset reports;
Capt Tony Nicholas and I have been working on the SATS General Botha War Record 1939-45 which will be published as a Naval Digest. Details of all the General Botha Old Boys whose war service has been traced will be included. This information has never previously been published.
If you were to calculate all the hours spent in writing, editing, compiling, publishing and distributing the digests alone, you would be astounded at the value you get for you membership fees. So, if you know anyone who is NOT a member, please persuade them to join.
Despite the restrictions enforced on us over the past few years, meaning that we couldn’t visit people,
The trust presently holds 248 completed Oral Histories. There are unfortunately 14 OH`s which are in complete due to poor recordings. There are 6 OH`s awaiting completion as well as 6 OH`s being self-written.
The Covid pandemic slowed the collection of OH`s as recordings were not possible. It is hoped that as the restrictions are eased this OH program can once again get back up to speed.
DATA BASE OF ASSETS
Once again, we have received donations of books and photographs, for our collection.
Naval Heritage has a continually growing supply of Assets (paintings, books of value, trophies, uniforms) which have been either purchased or donated. All the Assets are registered and controlled in the NHT Data Base.
NH has a collection of Naval and military books in excess of 516 and growing. Most of these books have been donated by NHS members. Where there are duplicates, these books are offered to the NHS members at a low price. There are also a considerable number of general reading books which are also available to members at low prices.
Please remember us when you are thinking of getting rid of your old “stuff”. It may not appear to be significant or interesting – especially to the younger generation – but it may add to the wealth of heritage that we are trying to preserve.
In the spirt of Navy100 the Trust purchased stylish pens for all the paid-up members and these were issued with the ND`s 33 and 34. They have proved very popular and are still being sold at R20 each. The supply will be kept going until year end.
S A NAVAL MUSEUM
We supported the SA Naval Museum in their Navy100 Photographic Display which was opened at the launch of Professor Andre Wessel’s book, A century of SA naval history. You will have the opportunity to see this excellent display after this meeting.
SAS ASSEGAAI PROJECT
News of the SAS Assegaai project is good. A comprehensive Memorandum of Agreement between the SA Navy and the NHT has been accepted and now just awaits being signed. When it has been signed the project will move forward very swiftly.
After telling you what we have done I would like to thank the committee for all their hard work. But there are two important points that I want to raise.
R ADM CHRIS BENNETT
The first is the very sad passing of Adm Chris Bennett, the very day of our last AGM. You will recall that we had decided to invite him to be President of the Naval Heritage Society, but before I was able to call him, he passed away. I wish that I had jumped the gun the week before the meeting, but I wanted him to know that we had the full support of our members. I deeply regret the delay.
VICE ADM ROBERT SIMPSON-ANDERSON
The very good news is that Admiral Robert Simpson-Anderson has agreed to be our President and we will welcome him appropriately when he and his wife return to Cape Town. His excellent book, President Mandela’s Admiral, has sold very well and is a fascinating read.
I hesitate to name each member of Exco individually for they all have played a vital role: Capt Glen Knox, our deputy Chairman, R Adm (JG) Arne Soderlund, Capt Chris Dooner, Cdr Mac Bisset, Cdr Leon Steyn, director of the SA Naval Museum, Cdr Eddie Wesselo who looks after our volunteers, SWO Dave Harrison who digitises our records, WO1 Andre Wessels our membership secretary, WO1 Les Gale who works so hard in the NHT room, WO1 Harry Croome who fires guns and restores installations, Capt Trunell Morom our secretary and Glynnis Helleman our treasurer. All contribute to making the NHT such a vibrant and productive society. Thank you.
Naval Heritage Trust Board
Chairman: Mike Bosazza
Deputy Chairman: Capt Glen Knox
Secretary: Capt Trunell Morom
Treasurer: Mrs Glynnis Hellemann
R Adm (JG) Arne Soderlund
Cdr Eddie Wesselo
Cdr Mac Bisset
WO1 David Harrison
WO1 Andre Wessels
Web Master: Nicholas Dunn
WO1 Les Gale
WO1 Harry Croome