ious Meetings 5

Salisbury (Sarum) Probus Club

Sarum Probus Club is an organisation for retired men living in the Salisbury Area.


Previous Meetings 2024


Salisbury Rugby and Spitfire Fame -


Our club member Alan Frener treated us to a fascinating and moving story of Salisbury fame. As a longstanding coach of Salisbury Rugby Club he and his team of youngsters were able to welcome Richard Hill, member of the 2003 World Champion team, to their Salisbury clubhouse. Hilly hails from Salisbury and is still a frequent visitor to the club.

The second claim to fame is the, until recently, untold story of the secret Spitfire factories in the City and its surroundings.

The Club was specially delighted to welcome as a guest Norman Parker, author of “Secret Spitfires Memorial”

The original home of Spitfire development and manufacture was Southampton. However, after the first devastating air attacks in September 1940 it was decided to disperse Spitfire production. Salisbury became the biggest of several places of secret, dispersed production.

Factory number one was next to Salisbury Rugby Ground. It is now marked out by the Spitfire Memorial just next to Castle Road.

There were factory sites all over town hidden in innocuous buildings . Each factory worked autonomously producing complete planes. In total about 2500 Spitfires were produced by Salisbury factories. Alan’s presentation included a wealth of video interviews of those who had played a part in this highly secretive operation. Husband and wife would not know for years that each worked in different branches of this secret operation.




The True Story of the African Queen

On April 12th 2024 the club was delighted to welcome back Kevin Prentice as speaker. Kevin has grown up in Kenya and has been a professional salvage diver. He treated us, in effect, to three stories, skilfully interwoven.

There was first a brief sketch of German East Africa at the outbreak of WW I, surrounded by British and Belgian colonies and blockaded by the British Navy.

Background and Early Strategy: Von Lettow-Vorbeck, a seasoned military officer with experience in China and German Southwest Africa, took command of the German colonial forces in East Africa (modern-day Tanzania, Burundi, and parts of Mozambique) in 1914. His forces were relatively small, consisting of a few thousand German officers and a larger number of Askari (African soldiers loyal to Germany). These he taught German to overcome the linguistic divisions of African tribes and turned them into a formidable fighting force.

The Germans had established a strong naval presence on lake Tanganyika with armed ships, including the notorious gunboat Graf von Götzen.

The British Plan: The British plan to take control of Lake Tanganyika involved an extraordinary and audacious feat of engineering and military planning. Spearheaded by the eccentric British officer Geoffrey Spicer-Simson and under the command of the Royal Navy, the mission was to transport two small gunboats, HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou, from Britain to South Africa and then overland through the jungle to Lake Tanganyika—a journey of over 10,000 miles.

The Overland Journey: The transportation of the boats was a Herculean task. After arriving in South Africa, the boats were transported by train and ox-cart through some of the most challenging terrain on the continent, including dense forests and mountains. The British contingent consisted of 28men and 60 tons with a train more than a mile long. The task also required hundreds of local labourers, many of them local women who fetched and carried the enormous amounts of water needed for the steam engines.

Combat on the Lake: Once deployed on the lake in late 1915, Mimi and Toutou quickly made an impact. In a series of daring raids and engagements, they managed to sink the German ship Kingani in December 1915, and another, the Hedwig von Wissmann, in February 1916.

Graf von Götzen, built in 1913, was the most powerful of three vessels the German Empire used to control Lake Tanganyika during the early part of the First World War. Her captain had her scuttled on 26 July 1916 in Katabe Bay during the German retreat from Kigoma.

Refloated, refurbished and renamed MV Liemba, she is now the oldest “operating” passenger ship in the world. It's been sailing between Kigoma, Tanzania and Mpulungu, Zambia, since 1915. Kevin was able to visit her.

End of the Campaign: Despite the spectacular British feat on the lake Lettow-Vorbeck’s campaign continued even after the armistice in Europe on November 11, 1918. He finally surrendered on November 25, 1918, upon receiving news of the armistice from British forces, making his East African campaign one of the last to conclude in World War I.

Fictionalisation: The author C S Forester picked up the extraordinary story of the boat transport and naval engagements and turned it into a novel. This he revised and republished twice.

In 1951 the book was adapted for the film directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel. Ever since many stories abound as to where the film was shot and where the boat dramatized in the film has ended up.

Kevin convinced us that most of the “water scenes” were not shot in Wareham river but rather in the studio. The boat used in the film was bought and restored by a German enthusiast. It is now in the USA.








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