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NAVAL HERITAGE TRUST – CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2024

I have been Chairman of the Naval Heritage Trust for a few years now and from the start, I have been inspired by the work that the Executive does.  Now I am more than encouraged by what has been achieved and what the NHT continues to do.  I know that the Society was started after the attempt to save the SAS Pietermaritzburg had failed, but I doubt that the original volunteers dreamt that the Trust would produce so much in the years ahead.

The Springboks have proved that sheer determination can push a team to achieve greatness -and this team has achieved more than could be expected.  The following report as provided by members of this team bears witness:

From the beginning the opportunity to record oral histories was identified as vitally important.


ORAL HISTORIES

The Trust presently holds 303 completed Oral Histories. This is an increase of 48 over the reporting period. The 14 OH`s which were previously written off due to poor quality have now been retrieved and typed up. There are 15 OH`s in the proofreading phase and one in the typing phase. Our three typists Irmgard Garthoff, Heather Withers and Hilary Sauls continue to do an amazing job in capturing the voices and stories. They are sincerely thanked for this difficult task.

During this reporting period 121 older Oral Histories were revisited and new front pages inserted with the members photo now included.

The cost of completing the Oral History is relatively high and is funded out of the Naval Heritage capital and small profits from book sales.  We are looking further afield for sponsorship of this undertaking.

The publication of Naval Digests has been part of our mission to make our heritage available to a wider audience.  And books were a natural progression.


BOOKS AND NAVAL DIGESTS

During 2023/4 the Trust was able to produce and send out Naval Digests, ND 36 and 37.  The book The Sea Was Kind To Me by Ronnie Eriksen was published with permission by his son Steve Erikson from Knysna

The books SA Naval Events 1488-2023 and Just Nuisance by Terence Sisson continue to be popular purchases.

All the Naval Digests’ and books are available for sale in the new NHT Office at the Submarine Museum Park.

There are now 29 books in the Trust collection and 37 Naval Digests available for sale.

In the publication pipeline there are a number of books and ND`s being worked on, with some close to completion.  The next Naval Digest, ND38 has unfortunately been delayed due to writer block but will hopefully be published and distributed by July 2024.

Naval Heritage Society members and the public can also purchase the Heritage publications through the Naval Heritage Web page and outlets at STADCO on Jubilee Square, Enkosi Afrika in Simon`s Town and the Naval Museum. These outlets sell the publication at full retail prices.

All paid up members are able to purchase the publication at the discounted prices.


DATA BASE OF ASSETS

Naval Heritage has a continually growing supply of Assets (painting, books of value, trophies, uniforms) which have been mainly donated. All the assets are registered and controlled in the NHT Data Base.


BOOK COLLECTION

Naval Heritage has a collection of Naval and military books, in excess of 600 and growing. Most of these books have been donated by NHS members.  Books that come in are sorted and those duplicates and not fully in line with SA Naval Heritage, are passed along to the Naval Museum and Sea Cadets.

The Sea Cadets have also received the duplicate Seamanship and Navigation Manuals and other books from the Trust, to assist in their training.


HERITAGE PENS

The Naval Heritage pens are still selling at R20 each.

Making ourselves visible and accessible is essential:


FACEBOOK SITE

The Naval Heritage Facebook page was started in April 2016 and has continued growing each month. The membership of this fb site is now 7021, an increase of 90 over the last year.

The daily Naval Heritage Day-by-Day is added each evening, and this continues to draw positive comments and reactions from the naval and civilian site members. Historic photos of the events mentioned are also included in most of these posts and these bring in many positive comments and memories from the veterans who experienced the events over the years. Additional stories and photos are also being added by the Heritage Society readers on the site.

The daily SA Shipwreck report issued by SAHRA is also added which is proving beneficial to the site.


NAVAL HERITAGE WEBPAGE

Our Web Master, Nicholas Dunn has put together and also 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. The site has had 13030 visitors to date.

We can do nothing without members.


MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTIONS AND POSTAGE

There are 257 members not including the Trustees.  But there are 44 delinquent payers. 

Membership subscriptions unfortunately had to be increased from January 2024. This was to assist in covering publication costs and postage. The saga with the Post Office deliveries had reached a stage where many posted publications were being returned undelivered. The Trust will now be posting publications out through PAXI Post (PEP Store) (19 members have chosen this option) and the Trust board members will do hand post drops for the Cape Town area. 112 members receive their Digests this way.

There is now an option for members to receive their Naval Digests as an electronic copy, and 65 members have chosen this option. 5 members have opted for both an electronic and a hard copy.

The new Heritage Subscriptions are R280 for the delivered hard copy and R180 for the electronic copy. Should a Hard Copy of the Digest then be required it can be purchased at the standard member’s rate.

Our Volunteers not only deliver the mail but work in our office.


THE VOLUNTEERS

The NHT volunteers can always be found in the NHT room enjoying a cup of coffee and a muffin or scone any time from 09h30 till about 12h00.  The scones and muffins are produced by Daphne, Eddie’s wife, who has yet to let the side down.  This is the short social part of the get together after which there is always much to be done.

This group usually comprises of Glen, Harry (Dave Harrison) Andre, Chris, Eddie, Harry Croome, Les and then always a couple of others that pop in at various times.  This is where members that need information or want to buy books can come and meet us and get what they want.

At these get togethers, books and projects are discussed and the finalizing of Digests and the photographs to be accessed and inserted is done – all a huge amount of work carried out by Glen and Dave (Harry).

Andre still does sterling work at the museum and is slowly but surely making inroads into the data base of all the contents of the library.

Having moved into our new accommodation, which will soon be part of the submarine park, there are numerous tasks to be performed to get the buildings equipped and fully operational where Chris is a dab hand at anything engineering wise or electronic.

Harry Croome, Mr. Simon’s Town, still does amazing work throughout the deep south which includes repairs of gravestones in the old cemetery and any other repair, move, update – in fact anything that needs to be done – Harry is always there to do it.  Many of these repairs are things that are naval and fall within our area of interest.

Eddie does all the printing of the oral histories which Glen produces on a regular basis.  Eddie does do the odd interviews, but Glen is the leader of the pack by far.

With the opening of the submarine now a pretty sure thing in the not-too-distant future, we will need many more volunteers to help with the various tasks to be performed.

The volunteers are a happy bunch of NHT members who socialize well together but also get a huge amount of work done.


SAS ASSEGAAI

Perhaps the most difficult assignment the NHT has undertaken has been the SAS Assegaai project in conjunction with the SA Navy.  I will leave it to our guests to bring you up to date on this, but I would just like to say that saving the submarine as part of the Museum is going to benefit all of South Africa and is arguably of international importance.  I have visited several submarine museums, and I can honestly say that ours will be the most complete and therefore the most interesting.  It will be an immensely proud moment when she has been placed in position and is open to the public.


LAWHILL AWARDS

The Trust awarded book prizes and R500 each to four students of the Lawhill Maritime School at the prize giving ceremony in November 2023.  Each student was identified by the school on their years performance. The students were each presented with a copy of SA Naval Events 1488-2023 and Honour and Duty.  


PARADES

The NHT is represented at all Memorial parades, and we lay a wreath to honour the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom and peace.


RESEARCH

The NHT and the Navy Museum receive many requests for information, historical facts, etc and many questions take time and intuition, knowledge and research to answer correctly.  I know that we act as a reliable resource for the public and the museum when it comes to sorting out documents, referencing old photos, items of interest, articles, books etc.  It is the essence of preserving heritage.

I must acknowledge the passing of Capt. Ian Manning.  Capt. Manning wrote 3 books on the SA Training Ship General Botha which were published by the NHT.  In addition, he bult a fine model of the shop which is on display in the Museum.  As Mac Bisset says, he was a perfectionist and his dedication to the history and heritage of the General Botha was exemplary.

Three other members of the NHT have passed away: Glenn von Zeil, Chris Mertz and Jeremy Day.  Our condolences to their families.

The Executive committee must be commended for all that they do.  We meet eleven times a year and I am reminded at each meeting of the work and dedication of each member.  I pay tribute to them and honour them in a world where money seems to mean more than generosity.  They are a remarkable team, and it has been a privilege to work with them.  Thank you.

All Naval Heritage Society members are invited and encouraged to visit the new Naval Heritage Office at the Submarine Museum Park alongside the Cole Point parking area. The Office is open on Mondays and Thursdays between 0930 and 1200.

The Naval Heritge board, the driving force for the next year. Front: Mike Bosazza, V Adm R Simpson – Anderson, Harry Croome Middle: Arne Soderlund , Glynnis Hellermann, Trunell Morom, Glen Knox Rear: Andre Wessels, Chris Dooner, Leon Steyn, Eddie Wesselo, David Harrison, Mac Bisset, Hanno Teuteberg Watch hound Gatsby in the foreground
The Chairman, Mike Bosazza delivering his 2024 Chairmans report
R Adm’s Hanno Teuteberg and Kevin Watson presenting the feedback on the Submarine Museum Project
Chris Dooner introducing the award the Cdr Mac Bisset
V Adm Simpson- Anderson presented Cdr Mac Bisset with his certificate for HONORARY LIFE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SA MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY CITATION FOR THE AWARD OF

HONORARY LIFE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SA MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY

TO: COMMANDER WILLIAM MAC EOIN BISSET SM MMM SA NAVY (Retired)

William “Mac” Bisset read History at the University of Cape Town and later joined the South African Navy Permanent Force as a Lieutenant (SA Navy) in February 1975. As a Lieutenant Mac Bisset was appointed as both the Staff Officer Naval Museums and Staff Officer Military Museums, Western Province Command, in what were then considered to be dead end posts.

In 1975 Major General HG Wilmot asked Mac Bisset to establish a branch of the SA Military History Society in Cape Town which Mac Bisset did with co-founding member Dr KVO Gunn. Then Lieutenant Mac Bisset was appointed as the secretary of the first Committee of the Cape Town Branch, which was chaired by Dr Ken Gunn.

Despite Mac Bisset’s appointment as the Staff Officer Museums and the establishment of a small SA Naval Museum in the Martello Tower, in Simon’s Town, there was apparently very little interest in a Naval Museum from the SA Navy. Mac Bisset also served on the Simon’s Town Historical Society Committee as the ex-officio SA Navy representative. The Simon’s Town society shared the Martello Tower with the SA Navy, each having a floor in the tower.

On 15 May 1976 the Chief of the South African Defence Force, Admiral HH Biermann, and the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Johnson, approved the establishment of a SA Naval Museum. The Museum staff moved into the Fort Wynyard precinct in 1984. Years of dedicated hard work saw the SA Naval Museum and Museum of Coast and Anti-Aircraft Artillery being opened under the curatorship of Mac Bisset at Fort Wynard by the Minister of Defence,

General MM Malan, in 1986. Mac Bisset’s appointment was then elevated to SSO SA Naval Museum, in effect the Curator of the SA Naval and relevant SA Army collections. The end of the ‘Border War’ saw the SA Museum move to its current location in Simon’s Town where it opened in 1994. Commander Mac Bisset officially retired from the SA Navy in 2002.

Mac Bisset has been an active member of the SA Military History Society, the Naval Heritage Trust, Castle Military Museum Trust, the Western Cape Military History Society and the Fort Wynyard Regimental Association. Mac Bisset still serves on the Naval Heritage Trust Committee, as a Trustee, and on the recently established Western Cape Military History Society Committee.

Mac Bisset has been a prolific writer for the SA Military History Society, SA Naval Museum and SA Naval Heritage Trust. He has conducted a lot of research with his papers serving as useful, accurate and easy to use research sources, or guides to sources.

The SA Military History Society has therefore decided to recognise Commander Mac Bisset’s contribution to Military History in the Western Cape with the award of “Honorary Life Membership of the Society”.

Retired Chief of the SA Navy and Honorary President of the SA Naval Heritage Trust, Vice Admiral RC Simpson-Anderson SSAS SD SM MMM SAN (ret), has graciously agreed to present Commander Mac Eoin Bisset SM MMM SAN ret, with the certificate awarding Mac Bisset Honorary Life Membership of the SA Military History on behalf of the Chairperson of the SA Military History Society, Mr David Scholtz.