12 January 1915, The South African forces move in strength into German SWA. The forces include the Kimberley Regiment.
Aircraft during the German SWA campaign
The use of aircraft in warfare came of age in the Great War, the intrepid flyers of both the Allies and the Germans becoming instant media and public heroes with many individuals receiving the highest gallantry decorations available.
When war in German SWA began, the Germans had three aircraft. Bruna Buchner’s Pfalz biplane had arrived in May 1914, while the other two used in German SWA were an Aviatik P-14 and a LFG-Roland, piloted by Lt Freiherr von Scheele and Lt R Fiedler respectively. It is believed that Lt Fiedler overflew South Africa on occasion, making his the first hostile aircraft in friendly airspace.
Despite aviation pioneer John Weston requesting from the South African government permission to start a military aviation school in Bloemfontein in 1913 to train pilots in aerial defence, when war began there was no aviation corps in South Africa. However, Weston was in the Royal Naval Air Services as a Lieutenant and was appointed to the South African Aviation Corps on 6 February 1915 with the same rank.
The first pilots of the fledgling South African Aviation Corps were KR van der Spuy, GS Creed, BH Turner and GP Wallace, while the first six trained pilots to undertake training overseas as pilots in the SA Defence Force were van der Spuy (qualified 2 June 1914), EC Emmett (9 June 1914), with Creed, Turner and Wallace qualifying two weeks later. The sixth was MS Williams. All had been with the Compton Paterson flying school at Alexandersfontein, Kimberley in 1913. Many more South Africans would follow during the war, and indeed, become aces with the Royal Flying Corps and its successor the Royal Air Force.
Two of the better known aviators of World War I were Kimberley’s Andrew Cameron Kiddie DFC and the Beaconsfield born and educated Christopher Joseph Quentin-Brand KBE DSO DFC MC. Yet another with Kimberley links – his mother was sister to Ellis Wynne Weatherby – was the all-time most highly decorated South African Andrew Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor VC.
Pictured are AC Kiddie (left) and Sir Christopher Brand.
12 January 1915, The Union (of SA) Defence Force move in strength into German SWA. The forces include the Kimberley Regiment.
DID YOU KNOW
By the end of the Boer Rebellion, generally dated in January 1915, additional SA Field Post and Telegraph Corps Post Offices had been at the following towns in the Northern Cape region: Namies, Narries, Schuitdrift, Boesmanspruit (west of Kuruman), and Rooidam (near Upington). Some had opened for a few days only.
Christmas time at war in South Africa in 1914 saw the military post offices as follows:
GHQ in Cape Town
No 1 Field Base Post Office in De Aar
No 2 FBPO in O’okiep with a Field Post Office at Steinkopf for the region including Port Nolloth, Pella, Springbok and Raman’s Drift.
No 3 FBPO in Upington with a Field Post Office at Kakamas serving Keimoes and region.
No 2A FBPO in Kroonstad with Field Post Offices at Bethlehem and Kroonstad serving the entire Orange Free State.
No 4 FBPO in Luderitzbucht serving German SWA
No 5 FBPO in Johannesburg
No 1 Field Post Office in De Aar for exchange purposes and general storage depot
Miltary Section under civilian control in Kimberley .
Some 52 members of the Postal Corps were fully active at this time.
The Field Base Post Offices then transferred their attentions to the campaign in German SWA and moved with and close to the various operational forces within that country.
Identification Discs, known to all as “Dog Tags” were introduced during the Great War. Initially there was just the one red circular disc made of vulcanized fibre, and the purpose was twofold: it was taken from the body of the dead soldier so as to advise the next of kin; and also to make sure that his pay was stopped virtually immediately. However, in the carnage of the trench warfare, all this did was to ensure that there were many soldiers buried with the caption on their stones reading “Known unto God”. By September 1916 a second disc was introduced being of the same material but coloured green, the red to be taken, the green to remain so that if and when the body was buried his name could be inscribed on the memorial stone.
The standard rifle carried by most if not all the Imperial soldiers was the short-magazined Lee Enfield, known to the Quartermaster’s stores by the acronym SMLE and to the soldiers as SMELLY! This rifle would remain in service with the British army until the early 1960s.