Trutees of the Naval Heritage Trust

from l to r back row   : Capt G C Knox; WO1 A Wessels;
L Cdr L Steyn (OIC SAN Museum); Cdr E N Wesselo;
R Adm (JG) A G Söderlund
front row    : R Adm C H Bennett (Vice Chairman);
Mr M F Bosazza (Chairman); L Cdr H A Farrow (Treasurer);
Cdr W M Bisset (Secretary)
The AGM for 2016 will take place at the Simon's Town Museum on Wednesday 13 July at 16h00.  The AGM will be preceded by a tour of the museum at 15h00 - well worth coming to see.  The museum is in Court Road (just beyond Admiralty House turn left into Court Rd.)
Ordinary Members are reminded that membership fees, still R75.00, for the 2016/2017 membership year are due on 1 July 2016.  Payment can be made by cheque posted to us at PO Box 521, Simon's Town.  If you pay directly into our bank account or by EFT could you please ensure that your name is on the deposit slip and also please advise me by email of such payment.  Our Bank details are:
Bank:                                 Standard Bank
Branch:                              Fish Hoek
Branch Code:                     036 009
A/c Name:                         Naval Heritage Trust
A/c Number:                      072 102 276

Naval Heritage Trust
Chairman's Report 2015/2016

I began to write this report a couple of months ago when we had agreed to have our AGM in May, but things changed and the AGM had to be postponed.  It also meant that what I was going to say needed a different approach.

So let me begin the revised report by referring to the year ended February 2016.  It was, as ever, a year filled with activities, hard work, successes and frustrations. The SA Naval Museum worked hard at the collection with the Transformation Display proving to be a big success. The Trust paid the registration fees for two representatives of the Museum to attend the South African Museums Association (SAMA) Conference in Durban which proved to be most valuable for them, and two awards were achieved: the SAMA President's Award for a first time presentation and the Designers Award for promotional material.  It was considered important for the Naval Museum to assert its position in the sphere of all South African museums, and we believe that this was done very effectively.

To assist the Museum, the Trust supported the remarkable team of volunteers who have done an extraordinary job of sorting, classifying, filing, identifying, answering queries, researching obscure facts and generally providing the public with a professional service.  My huge thanks go to Commander Andre Wessels and his team who performed this task.

When an opportunity arose to provide Admiral Chris Bennett with a new laptop, this was taken and his old computer went over to the Museum to make access to information that much easier.  Adm. Bennett has worked on another Naval Digest and I am extremely grateful to him for all the research, editing, formatting and arranging that he does for us.

The oral history programme continued (and still continues) to grow thanks to Commander Eddie Wesselo and Captain Glen Knox, and they have also looked after the website and the Facebook page. Their grasp of things technological is excellent and they have used this to raise the profile of the Trust. There were over 4000 members on the Museum's Facebook page and over 3000 on the Submarine's page.  Capt. Knox has also taken over the marketing of our publications, with marked success.

The Submarine project went along exceptionally well with the SAS Assegai an extremely popular museum exhibit.  The submarine came out of the water on 2 September in a fascinating exercise that was reported and illustrated in the SA Navy News.  Admiral Arne Soderlund's role in all of this has been extraordinary.

Alderman Nicki Holderness has continued to give of her time since her retirement and her sound advice and clear thinking have been most helpful to the Trustees.  Commander Mac Bisset adds careful, invaluable comment to all proposals and we have had the excellent support of Capt Trunell Morom for the past year.  Commander Herb Farrow has continued as our Treasurer, although he has now informed us that he wishes to hand over this baton to someone else.  Thank you to all the Executive Committee members who have attended regular monthly meetings and given so much of their time, counsel and effort.

At the beginning of the year I had met Flag Officer Fleet, Admiral Mhlana, with Commander Steyn and we had agreed to prepare for the centenary commemorations of the sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917 by producing a book for young adults, relating the history.  Discussions began with an illustrator and then an author as to the format and content of the book. 

We had progressed very well with this project when we were informed that Flag Officer Fleet required us to desist from further involvement with the Museum, and so our plans came to an abrupt halt. 

At this stage I would like to change the manner of my Report and to comment rather than merely state what we have done in the last year.  I must add that the current status of the Trust changed after the end of the year on which I am reporting.

I have had some involvement with a number of other museums: the National Gallery and old Cultural History sections of Iziko, the Irma Stern Museum, the SA Military History Museum, the Johannesburg Heritage Trust facility and Museum Afrika, and I have learned that some museums survive with the support of governing institutions and others in spite of their governing bodies.  Some museums are regarded as a nuisance, but some are seen as an educational asset, a valuable resource centre and even a tourist attraction.

The best-run museums cannot manage without a broad spectrum of staff: curators, directors, researchers, guides, restorers and so on.  With the never-ending financial constraints, the most effective way of coping with the pressure placed on any museum is to turn to volunteers who give of their time, knowledge and energy - often more effectively than the paid employees can do as they are not bogged down with administration issues. Any public benefit organisation will tell you, volunteers are invaluable.

The Naval Heritage Trust and its members have tried for the past 19 years to offer the Naval Museum support, both moral and financial, and we have provided the public with a resource of information, knowledge and wisdom.  I am immensely proud of what has been achieved.  There are many gaps to be filled since documents, photographs and journals tell only part of the story.  We have been collecting oral histories for many years now.  We have published digests on a wide variety of topics.  The books that have been published under our auspices are important additions to the body of naval history and knowledge.  Our Facebook page gives a daily update of historical interest.  And our Museum volunteers have supplied the public with accurate, informed and informative answers to a plethora of questions.

If that alone were our mission, I think that we would be able to say that we had done well.  And so my thanks to the Trustees and all the people who have worked so hard for the Museum and for the Trust.

But our aim is broader:  to generate an awareness of the South African Navy amongst the South African public at large and to instil a sense of communal pride in South Africa's naval heritage - and I believe that we have done that to the very best of our ability.

Thank you.