Early history and formation of SAMVOA
The founder of SAMVOA, Veteran Tony Macquet MMM, documents the early history of the organisation as follows:
Two statements characterise the formation of the South African Military Veterans Organisation of Australasia that has taken on the acronym SAMVOA:
- SAMVOA was long in the making, yet I am reminded of what Garth Pienaar once said, “If you had not started it, I would have”. And 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 (retd.) 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 it was only me.
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 and 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 we have a remarkable museum and setting there. Michael had brought through groups of airborne veterans from many different countries.
When I arrived in Melbourne in 1995, 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 100th 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 about 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 looked after the Shrine at Delville Wood.
The SAMVOA Emblem
In 2003, Mike Doyle started encouraging me to form a South African group to march on ANZAC Day in Melbourne. We were both marching with the Rhodesians at that time as we had done since 1996. So he and I sat down one evening and started designing a logo to best represent the vision of South African Veterans. The outcome, which was a drawing on a piece of paper, must show that neither of us were artists. It happened the other day that this piece of paper dropped out whilst cleaning up, so I thought I would share this with our members.
We thought that there should be a laurel as a backdrop with 4 protea to show our national flower – the example we used was taken from the Commando badge. However, we did change the ribbons at the bottom to give us a different look. The next step was including the springbok, which we jokingly positioned to be jumping towards South Africa from Australia. We then thought the Southern Cross would be appropriate as this was a meaningful symbol to most southern hemisphere counties. We decided to make the stars in gold as we did not want to contribute to inter-country rivalry between New Zealand and Australia – and the other reason was to make it also South African.
We then struggled over the motto. Mike eventually asked me if I could remember the name of the medal that South Africans received for serving in SWA / Namibian operations. So that is how “Pro Patria” became our motto.
The next step was to find someone with artistic skills and, as it happened, I knew a New Zealander at work who was artistic by the name of Jason Downs and he produced the artwork as we now know it. For interest sake, our badge is registered at the right heraldic authority. So came into being the emblem that unites us in Remembrance, Equality, Brotherhood and Reconciliation.
First public appearance on parade
From 2003 I was talking to South African friends and acquaintances at BBQs and other events and the going was slow with guys concerned mostly about the reaction of the crowd. I pointed out that the Rhodesians marched every year and if anything, we drew applause because they turned out well and marched all the way, even the old teacher who gamely battled on to keep 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 very good marching group 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 then took over the Victorian leadership and he is building his organisation strongly, with increased membership.
Two WW2 Veterans joined us on that very first march, memorable in that Veteran Tom Robinson MC and Veteran Cliff Everton paraded in an old taxi, much to their disgust, and we were told to ensure proper military vehicles for future parades. Yes, Sir! Unfortunately Tom later passed on, but Cliff still parades to this day.
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.
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 for the first time in 2006. Subsequently he has taken over as National Vice Chairman in late 2011 and currently leads the biggest group of veterans in Australasia.
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 two 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.
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 Veteran Medal was struck and presented to veterans who completed or will complete ANZAC Day Marches from 2011.
New Zealand got off to a very slow start, despite being our most enthusiastic group in the beginning. Early last year Veteran Craig Lubbe took over the leadership of this Region and we intend to rebuild membership. It is interesting to note that Craig joined through SARUnited as early as 30th March 2004.
This summarises the early days of SAMVOA 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.
This is why we, SAMVOA exist, if only in memory of those who fell during this conflict and in preceding 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.
Veteran Tony Macquet MMM