The Beginnings of SAMVOA and SAMVO
A brief history of the South African Military Veterans Organisation of Australasia (SAMVOA),
leading to the formation of SAMVO, the international body.
First written circa 2012 – reviewed 2020
Written by the Founder, Veteran Tony Macquet MMM
Two statements characterise the formation of the South African Military Veterans Organisation of
Australasia that has taken on the acronym SAMVOA
SAMVOA was a long in the making, yet I am reminded of what Garth Pienaar once said, “If you had not started it ,would have”. No doubt he or someone else would have because it needed “starting” and it just did not seem right that almost every other nation was represented on ANZAC Day and there were no South Africans marching, particularly when South Africans fought alongside Australians in two World Wars and in Korea.
It is important to note that SAMVOA has had predecessors who were South Africans who had marched in Melbourne and probably elsewhere prior to 1996, but they were an older group of WW1 and WW2 veterans who by 1996 were too old to even travel by vehicle and they had fallen away. Around 1998, I contacted and spoke to their leader Major (retired) Norval who confirmed that their group had become too old to march and he was delighted that a younger group was interested, although at that stage I was the only South African pitching up.
I arrived in Melbourne in May 1995 and I looked up an acquaintance I had made in Johannesburg in Michael Doyle who was an Australian airborne veteran who had fought in Palestine and then moved down to Rhodesia to join the British South African Police where he was involved in operations in that country’s bush war. I met Michael whilst serving with the Transvaal Scottish where “The View” (RHQ of the Transvaal Scottish) was a big drawcard for visiting groups, because, it was originally the home
of the Cullinan family of diamond fame and The Transvaal Scottish Regiment has a remarkable museum and setting there. Michael had brought through groups of airborne veterans from many different countries.
When I arrived in Melbourne, Michael was the organiser of the local group of Rhodesian Veterans and he invited me along to march with them in 1996. I noted that there was a South African section in the Order of March, but I was the only South African who had pitched and, as a result, I marched with the Rhodesians from 1996 to 2003. This happened every year, except for 1998 when a CSM from the Cape Town Highlanders joined our section of the parade in full Review Order, as he had been
inadvertently omitted from the Victoria Scottish Regiments ranks. The occasion was the 100 th Anniversary of the formation of the Victorian Scottish, who also had an affiliation to the Gordon Highlanders, hence the CTH involvement.
From the beginning, Michael encouraged me to form our own group, which I started in earnest in 2002, starting with writing the constitution where my experience, which I had gained as a founder member and then Secretary of the South African Scottish Regiments Association – SASRA – again a neat little acronym.
On behalf of SASRA I sat on the Council of Military Veterans Organisations (CMVO) where I gained experience in veteran affairs by representing the CMVO on an Inter-Departmental Committee, made up of the Defence Headquarters (Chairing), Public Works Department, Department of Military Museums, Department of Foreign Affairs and the CMVO. This committee was responsible for the upkeep of the Shrine at Delville Wood in France.
Michael also featured in the design of our badge and it was he who recalled the operational medal Pro Patria, which then became part of SAMVOA’s badge and logo. This took an evening and featured a slightly revised Commando Badge, with a Springbok jumping back to South Africa (Mike’s humour) and the Southern Cross, which is dominant in Southern African skies, whilst also featuring the Australian and New Zealand National Flags.
Our artistic logo conception
From 2003 I was talking to South African friends and acquaintances at BBQs and other events and the going was very slow with guys mostly concerned about the reaction of the crowd etc., I pointed out that the Rhodesians marched every year and if anything, we drew applause because we turned out well and marched all the way, even the old teacher, who gamely battled on to kept up.
It was in the very early days, probably in December 2003 that I persuaded Veteran Michael Black, after about the third BBQ, to throw his weight behind the organisation. Now there were two! This gave Victoria the impetus it needed and we were able to put down a marching group 10 by the 25th April 2004. Mike served with distinction until late 2011 as Victorian Chairman and National Vice Chairman when he stepped down due to work commitments and he took on the portfolio of Ambassador at Large. Veteran Karl Brown JCD then took over the Victorian leadership and he built the organisation further before handing over the Veteran Mike Weber to carry on its growth. Karl has subsequently taken on the SAMVOA National Master-At-Arms and more recently, the SAMVOINT portfolio of Master-at-Arms.
In early 2004 I put out a message through SARUnited and received some very interesting responses, particularly from New Zealand. Exactly 60 members joined in this way in March and April and the first three members to join did so on the 12th March 2004 and they were:
Veteran Jan Diedericks Sydney, New South Wales.
Veteran Frank Howard Thames, New Zealand.
Veteran Olaff Arnold Whatkatone, New Zealand
Two WW2 Veterans joined us on that second march, memorable in that Veteran Tom Robinson MC and Veteran Cliff Everton paraded in a veteran taxi, much to their disgust, and we were told to ensure proper military vehicles for future parades. Yes, Sir! Unfortunately Tom later passed on in 2012 and
Cliff kept attending ANZAC Day and every Club Meeting day until his death in 2014. He was 96 years old.
Another WW2 Veteran, Dirk Ballot from Tasmania, also paraded with us, but he passed away in 2013.
I must note here that Veteran Garth Pienaar joined on the 28th April 2004 and took over the leadership of Western Australia in 2005, when they marched as a group for the first time in 2006. Subsequently he took over as National Vice Chairman in late 2011 and led the biggest group of veterans in Australasia. Since then, he handed over WA to Dave Stevenson and Garth is currently our SAMVOINT Medals and Awards Coordinator and still a very active member in Western Australia. He is directly responsible for the amazing museum they have in Perth.
SAMVOA was particularly proud to have a visitor from Swaziland parading on ANZAC Day in 2007, Kathleen Maier, who is the direct descendent of an Australian, Patrick Healy who volunteered for service in the Boer War, joining the 4th Imperial Contingent. He was born in 1878 into a large family who became pioneers of the Shire of Monbulk to the North East of Melbourne. Patrick returned to Australia at the conclusion of the war, but decided to return to South Africa. He settled in Swaziland and had a large family where he subsequently died in 1958 having been a trusted associate of the King of Swaziland. Communication between members of the Healy family in Australia and in Africa had been maintained over the longer-term and a strong sense of family connection has been preserved.
In Queensland, under the leadership of Veteran John Flint, this Region found itself closely associated with the Rhodesian Group (nothing wrong in that) but it struggled to gain its own identity. It was around 2009 that a new leader, Veteran Gordon Pugh reformed Queensland where today this region has a number of SAMVOA Clubs and puts down a good number of veterans on parade. This state was also the first outside Victoria to hold a Formal Mess Dinner in 2011. Veteran Shaun Winson now leads this Region.
New South Wales also needed strong leadership, which we found in Veteran Aubrey Sonnenberg. NSW Region marched for the first time in 2008. Aubrey pioneered the project to recognise our veterans where our former country had failed to do so, and the SAMVOA Veteran Medal was struck and presented to veterans who completed or will complete ANZAC Day Marches from 2011. The current leader of New South Wales is Veteran Frank White.
New Zealand got off to a very slow start, despite being our most enthusiastic group in the beginning. Veteran Craig Lubbe took over the leadership of this Region and it is interesting to note that Craig joined through SARUnited as early as 30th March 2004. Veteran Stephan Erasmus SD SM MMM took over leading New Zealand until his passing in June, 2018. Veteran Ashley Brown took over the reins of this fast-growing Region, which continues to show the SAMVO spirit.
Subsequently, the organisation grew beyond Australian and New Zealand borders with affiliated organisations and the growth, for historical interest, was the following:
SAMVOA started in Victoria in 2003.
SAMVOA Victoria officially started in 2004.
SAMVOA New Zealand started in 2004, but needed to re-start in 2010.
SAMVOA Western Australia started in 2006.
SAMVOA New South Wales started in 2007.
SAMVOA became affiliated to the CMVO Pretoria on the 22nd November, 2007.
SAMVOA logo registered in Pretoria in 2007.
SAMVOA Queensland started in 2009.
SAMVOA United Kingdom started its build up in 2009 and Europe is now known as SAMVOEU.
SAMVOA in the United States and Canada started in 2013 under SAMVOUSA.
With a growing global presence around the world, SAMVOINT was started in 2014 as the umbrella body with three Time Zones and four National Entities.
SAMVOA members in South Africa came under SAMVOZA in 2015.
The name change from SAMVOA to SAMVOINT was approved by the CMVO on the 24th June, 2015.
The SAMVOA / SAMVOINT logo was registered as a Trade Mark on the 4th June, 2019.
This summarises the early days of SAMVOA and SAMVOINT (now SAMVO) and the rest will become history, which our current group of veterans will write. We have an exciting group of new leaders coming through who are putting even more momentum into SAMVOA’s growth. Let us hope that this will not be all in vain and that we live long enough and that our Heritage Membership will become strong enough to carry forward the memory of an amazing time in our lives, when we did our job and faced off against the world’s most aggressive and formidable forces at the time. There can be no doubt that we served in the best army that Africa has ever seen and we made our opponents go home as a result of the heroism of a few, backed by many, which directly led to the New York Accord of 22nd December 1988 and the return of the Communist forces back to their respective countries.
Our casualties over the Border War period were 2,572 killed, of which, 791 were killed in action. The war lasted from Friday, 26th August, 1966 to Wednesday, 21st March, 1990, which was 23 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. In memory of this time, a SAMVO member in the United States, xxxx, proposed that the 26th August, being the beginning of the Border War, be always remembered as Bos Hoed Dag and members around the world recognise this day by wearing a bush hat, or a piece of their military clothing, or their dog tags in recognition.
This is why we, SAMVOINT exist, if only in memory of those who fell during this conflict and in preceding and subsequent conflicts.
“We will remember them”.
SAMVOA’s Dedication, motto and inspiration:
This Veteran Organisation dedicates itself, in grateful recognition and memory of our countrymen, the Immortal Dead of South Africa; who, at the call of Duty, made the great Sacrifice on the battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe, and in the Air and on the Sea. Their ideal is our legacy, Their sacrifice our inspiration.