The highest adjutant course in the SANDF (SA National Defense Force), the Joint Warrant Officers’ Program (JWOP) based at the Adjutants Academy, Military Base Wonderboom, visited historic Simon’s Town earlier in November .
As part of the JWOP, a new short course on military culture has been developed by Professor (Dr) Ian van der Waag – and presented for the first time from 4 to 12 November, writes Commander Leon Steyn, curator of the Naval Museum of the SA. The short course, weighing 20 credits, is presented by the Faculty of Military Sciences at Stellenbosch University with the residential phase at the Saldanha Military Academy.
“Two days were set aside for a hands-on ‘field visit’ to Simon’s Town, where the SA Naval Museum hosted ten senior warrant officers with their leaders from the Military History Department. They were Van der Waag, Dr Evert Kleynhans, Louis Makau and Anri Delport. Piece work and homework were given to students before leaving Saldanha.
The tour of Simon’s Town began at the SA Naval Museum where the group was greeted by Steyn who also introduced visitors to the concept of military museums, their uses and functions, as well as an overview of the history of military museums in South Africa.
“The visit,” Steyn writes, “was scheduled to coincide with Armistice Day (also known as Poppy Day) and the group traveled to Middle North Battery, where the old cannon is located. Rifed Muzzle Loader from the museum. At 11:00 a.m. sharp, the cannon was fired by members of the South African Gun Association, in tribute to members of the South African armed forces who died in the line of duty. The last message was sounded by a bugle from an SA navy group, after which a two-minute silence was observed by all present ”.
“Simon’s Town is a wonderful example of military fortification and the different layers of coastal defense and artillery over the years. For a better understanding of its history and functions, the group moved to Scala Battery where retired SA Navy Captain Chris Dooner organized a tour of a large 9.2 gun installation. inches. The group descended into the little-known underground operations room which was an important part of the coastal artillery installation during World War II.
“The afternoon was spent in the Old Naval Cemetery (old cemetery) in Simon’s Town, where Van der Waag organized activities to uncover the often hidden social military history of the naval base. This led to a discussion of the sinking of the Birkenhead, twelve Russian Imperial sailors buried in the cemetery, and a young man who fell to death during construction work in the shipyard at the turn of the last century. The important work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has not been missed.
“The next day the group visited the Martello Tower at Simon’s Town Naval Base. The tower dates from 1796 and is said to be the oldest British structure built in South Africa. WO1 Harry Croome (retired) gave an informative talk on the fortification, its original function and preservation efforts over the years.
“The visit ended with a visit to the frigate SAS Isandlwana (F146). En route to the ship, it was time to pass the historic Selborne Dry Dock. The dry dock was opened in 1910 and, in addition to its important vessel maintenance function today, it features a historic collection of 140 ship badges along its walls – a tangible testament to our naval history.
“The group returned to the Naval Museum for a well-deserved rest and to reflect on two totally absorbing and enjoyable days in Simon’s Town.”
Published with attribution and appreciation to Cmdr Leon Steyn, SA Naval Museum.