Signals Association

End of an Era


Background and Message from the last Chairman of the 3rd Brigade Signal Company Reunion Association as presented at the Historic Handing Over of Tradition Event held at the Italian club of Cape Town on Sunday, 1 May 2016:

Charles Daniel Holloway was born in Cape Town on 15 June 1918.

After leaving school he joined the Post Office and was sent to be trained as a Post and Telegraph Assistant. This included being trained as a Telegraphist.

In 1937 at the age of nineteen he was called up to do his three year compulsory part-time Military Service. Being a Telegraphist he joined 3 Brigade Signal Company. He liked the army so much that he regarded it as a hobby.

After attending his courses at The Military College in Pretoria, he became a Sergeant Instructor at the end of 1939. World War II had begun and he and three other members of 3 Brigade Signal Company were selected to do an Officers’ Training Course in Potchefstroom. On their return to the Unit they found that all seven Officers of 3 Brigade Signals’ Company had signed on for Active Service. There were no vacancies for new officers. The Unit was mobilised on 27 May 1940 so Corporal Brian Sewell and he decided that they would go with the Unit in their present ranks. He became a Platoon Sergeant and Brian was placed in charge of the radio section with the rank of Sergeant.

They campaigned through East Africa and Abyssinia until they arrived in North Africa where on 1 July 1941 they were both commissioned. They were transferred to the 1st S.A. Brigade. Brian Sewell became Signals Officer to the 1st Transvaal Scottish and Charles Holloway was attached to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own     Rifles, a Cape Town Regiment. He returned to South Africa with the 1st Division when they were withdrawn after the second battle of El Alamein. He also served in the first battle when the Germans were stopped just short of Cairo.

On return to South Africa everybody was medically examined prior to being trained for Armour for the 6th S.A. Division to go to Italy. He was bordered ‘C’ on account of relapsing malaria, which he had contacted in Egypt. It meant that he could not leave South Africa again.

By this time he was a Captain and was appointed Adjudant, 4 Armoured Divisional Signal Company at Auckland Park. Thereafter he moved to the Signal Training Centre at Potchefstroom as Instructor and eventually in October 1944 as Officer Commanding, School of Signals, Military College, Pretoria. He held this position until the end of hostilities and was released from fulltime Military Service on 22 October 1945. He then transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

On 6 November 1954 he was appointed Officer Commanding of 3 Brigade Signal Company, his wartime Unit, with the rank of Major.

He retired on 31 August 1960 and was appointed 2IC, RHQ Corps Signal Regiment, a new Unit which was established. It was the Senior Unit in the Corps of Signals. This Regiment was disbanded on 1 December 1961 and he was placed on the Reserve of Officers with rank of War Substantive Major.

He was still active after this as either Chairman or Committee Member of the S.A. Corps of Signals’ Association which was started towards the end of the war and of which he was a foundation member with Colonel Collins as Chairman.

In 1937 he met Inez Dick (better known as Dickie).  When war broke out Charles went off to do his duty and was posted to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia).

Dickie enlisted in the Womens’ Auxilliary Army Services and was sent to Cairo. They were married in Cairo on 31 October 1942, but any chance of a honeymoon was soon thwarted when General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps joined in battle with the Allies at El Alamein.

Charles and Dickie moved back to South Africa with the 1st S.A. Division. They had three children. (Pam, John and Susan).

In August 1958 he was transferred to Bloemfontein on promotion, by the Post Office. Prospects did not look good so at the end of 1964 he resigned and joined the S.A. Sugar Association Export Division to develop the newly built Sugar Export Terminal in Durban.  He held the position of manager for eighteen years until he retired in June 1981 aged sixty-five.  Charles and Dickie then ran a very successful extra Afrikaans coaching school from their home until 1999.

In 2000 they moved back to Cape Town to be nearer to some of the family.

They celebrated their Sixtieth (Diamond) wedding anniversary in October 2002 surrounded by forty two family members and friends. This event brought the family together from all parts of the world. Daughter Susan arrived from Sydney in Australia and son John came from Amsterdam. Two grandchildren arrived from Melbourne and Wellington in New Zealand whilst other guests arrived from the UK, Durban, Johannesburg and other parts of the country.

Charles and Dickie visited Australia eight times and Europe fourteen times to see the family. He has six grandchildren and four great grandchildren, who keep in touch regularly.

Dickie played the church organ for 47 years. She sadly passed away, aged 89, in 2008. They were married for 66 years.  Charles currently resides at Huis Luckhof in Rosebank, Cape Town.

Charles’ Message to the SIGNALS ASSOCIATION on the occasion of their Handing Over of Tradition event held on 1 May 2016

“For seventy years we have maintained the comradeship built up during the war by meeting regularly, sometimes more than once a year. To quote Mr Churchill, ‘The Battle of Alamein was the beginning of the end of the German army in North Africa.’  I now hope that the Signals  Association in Cape Town will be the beginning, as an example, and not the end of their effort, for the rest of the Signals in the Republic of South Africa to follow.  Let them help to keep the ‘flame’ burning.”


Background and Message from the last Secretary of the 3rd Brigade Signal Company Reunion Association as presented at the Historic Handing Over of Tradition Event held at the Italian club of Cape Town on Sunday, 1 May 2016:

Sydney Thomas Ireland (95) was born in Cape Town on 9 March 1921.

He started working at age eighteen for the General Post Office (GPO) as a postal clerk and attended the Telegraph School.  After holding various positions at the Post Office, he finally retired at age 60 as Branch Postmaster of Caledon Square Post Office.

Syd joined the army in 1940 and when war broke out he went off to do service as a wireless operator in Kenya, Abyssinia, British Somalia and Egypt where he saw the WW2 campaign taking place. He spent much time in Cairo and Alexandria and took part in the Battle of El Alamein. In Jan 1943 he returned to South Africa and while in Potchefstroom he became very ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and was sent to Wynberg Hospital, Cape Town, to be treated and to recuperate.

Thereafter, he was sent to Saldanha Bay to work on a radio station. Back in Potchefstroom he was seconded to the Air Force as a wireless operator. This entailed going to Tempe for a conversion course from Army to Air Force procedure and training at Swartkop. He was then posted to Bulawayo, Rhodesia for first duty followed by postings to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia and then to Nchanga on the Copper Belt.  He was demobilised in 1945 in Potchefstroom.

Before leaving for the war, Syd met Olga at Holy Trinity church and kept in touch with her all through the war years.  In 1947 they married in that same church and had 54 happy years together until Olga sadly passed away in 2001. When Syd retired in 1981 he bought a caravan and he and Olga did many wonderful road trips together covering every corner of South Africa.


They had two daughters, Jennifer and Barbara as well as a son, Geoffrey who has been living in Canada since 1994.  Both daughters live in Cape Town in close proximity to their Dad who now resides at Huis Luckhoff in Mowbray.

In the year 2000 Syd and Olga made the daunting trip to Canada to spend three months with Geoff and his family. This was a huge highlight. Syd has subsequently undertaken that trip twice more. He continues to be as active as possible even though a hip replacement at age 90 left him with a leg impediment.  

He still drives a car and up until a year ago would often drive on his own out into the country to find a good coffee shop!  

Syd’s Message to the SIGNALS ASSOCIATION on the occasion of their Handing Over of Tradition event held on 1 May 2016:

“It is my wish that the next generation’s Management Committee of the Signals Association will continually try to maintain the tradition of 3 Brigade Signals Company Reunion Association by having regular annual meetings in order to sustain the camaraderie and the interest for the younger generation to emulate and to carry forward for years to come.”

Background of an ordinary member of the 3rd Brigade Signal Company Reunion Association and one of the last three remaining members as presented at the Historic Handing Over of Tradition Event held at the Italian club of Cape Town on Sunday, 1 May 2016:

Eddie Mills was born on 16 July 1919 in Molteno. After school he joined the Post Office and became a Post and Telegraph Assistant. Like most Telegraphists from the Post Office he joined the 3rd Brigade Signals Company when South Africa entered the war, and became a radio operator. He served with the Signals in East Africa, Abyssinia and North Africa.

He returned to South Africa with the 1st South African Division after taking part in The Battle of El Alamein. He was then discharged and returned to his civilian occupation in the Post Office where he later became the Superintendent of the General Post Office in Cape Town. He went on pension in 1976.

While on pension he worked for some time at a gymnasium. He was married for 65 years to Engela who passed away in 2012. He has two daughters, six grandchildren and his eleventh great grandchild is on the way.”

Background and Message from Robbie Roberts, Chairman of the SIGNALS ASSOCIATION as presented at the Historic Handing Over of Tradition Event held at the Italian club of Cape Town on Sunday, 1 May 2016:

Robbie Roberts, whilst serving as Officer Commanding of 71 Signal Unit initiated the establishment of the ‘Signals’ Association (Western Cape)’ on 2 December 2000 following a successful Open Day event held at Acacia Park Military Base on 6 May 2000 when Maj General Piet Verbeeck officiated as the functionary and when signalers from all walks of life came together after having read advertisements placed in various newspapers at the time.

One of the highlights of that event was the attendance of a group of about twelve ladies, then all in their 80’s/90’s, who gathered out of interest as they had served as members of the Special Signals Service (SSS). They incorrectly termed the ‘Secret’ Signals Service as their task during the war was to plot the position of ships sailing round the Cape coast and then, by Morse code, radio the position of enemy ships to the Castle in Cape Town for onward transmission to the allied forces in Europe.

The Association kicked off with 16 members and gradually grew annually mainly from members of 71 Signal Unit who joined. Presently, the association has 95 Members.

Although the Association has not promoted itself much over the past 15 years, the aim now is to grow steadily and make itself visible to the outside world in the hope that it can attract interest from as many former signalers or communicators possible, irrespective of whether they originate from the army, air force, naval or medical communications divisions.

The Association is proud of its 15 years of membership of the Council for Military Veterans Organisation (CMVO), particularly as it is the only registered and recognized military veteran organisation for signalers in the country.

Initially, the Association embarked on its Historic Handing Over of Tradition venture on Sunday, 1 May 2016 with concern, primarily because of the size of the event, but as it felt its obligation and close camaraderie with the 3rd Brigade Signal Company members was so great, it persevered and pursued vigorously to ensure what what was on the ground that day.

Robbie’s Message on the occasion of the Handing Over of Tradition event held on 1 May 2016:

“I am proud of the achievements of the Signals Association over the past fifteen years and it has been inspirational for me to have been part of it since the beginning.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the members of the Association and especially the management committee for their support which has made my task as Chairman easier. Thank you to those individuals who have dedicated their spare time to the affairs of the Association.

We are excited by what the future holds for the military veteran environment within South Africa so let us together help grow our fairly young organisation to the benefit of all our members. It is also our wish to continue promoting the image of the South African Corp of Signals and all who served in it. What better way in doing so than through the military veteran way!

Lastly, I pay tribute to the members of 3 Brigade Signal Company for their relentless service and suffering endured during the war and their efforts in ensuring peace not only in South Africa, but in the world. To particularly Charles Holloway and Syd Ireland, thank you for your having made me part of your group of remaining ex comrades in arms. I have been humbled at the opportunity of being able to participate in your annual reunion luncheons for the past 20 years.

All that remains for me now is to salute you in your efforts and achievements and to wish you good health and happiness for the remainder of you lives.

Whilst serving as Chairman of the Signals Association I promise that we will continue the proud tradition introduced by you 70 years ago for as long as we possibly can.”