Author Archives: Cameron Kinnear

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The Death of Staff Van Rooyen

The Death of Staff Van Rooyen

Graham Du Toit of Facebook Honour Roll fame wrote :
“FOR THEM THE LAST POST HAS SOUNDED – 16 Aug 1988: 78458197PE Staff Sergeant Gideon van Rooyen from 2 Special Service Battalion was killed when his Armoured Car overturned at the Rooisloot Training Area. He was 26”

To most this is just another entry in Graham’s daily record. For many of us Medic Veterans or fellow ranks who read these entries we realize that we were there, often first on the scene. We were the kid that stepped into the drama and took responsibility. To me it was my first serious blooding in the field as an Ops Medic after the experiences of A&E in the East Rand Townships. When I read this excerpt it didn’t bring back any fresh memory because this is the one incident that is never far from the surface. Most are thankfully hidden deep in the psyche or forgotten. They may yet bleed out from the pen.

Tuesday 16th August was a regular hot and red-dust day on the firing range at Rooisloot training ground nearby 2 Special Service Battalion in Zeerust. 2nd phase training was ongoing for D Squadron, the Squadron I would accompany to the Border later in the year. Young men training on the big guns; 90mm, assorted incendiaries and the .50 Browning. I was alone on duty and expecting an incident. There was a lot of scope for injury and worse amongst these kids. My stomach was tight at the prospect and from dawn to dusk my temper was short. Perhaps another hand mangled by a piece of old ordnance picked up by a foolish troopie or a secondary detonation from a shell inside a turret. God forbid there should be a fatality.

My Glasgow sense of humour had failed after two weeks on duty in this dust bowl amid an atmosphere of severe discipline and presbyterian fatalism.

“58 Juliet-58 Juliet / 30 Alpha oor…..medic….” The alarm call came across the radio as I sat daydreaming and deafened on the range. But for the noise and burning wrecks of targets in the distance this could have been a pleasant spot to sit and view Springbok and Kudu or just scratch your balls. It may be just that almost 30 years on. I was rushed away in a Samil 20 to the area where driver training was ongoing further into the Marico bush. It had taken some time to locate the incident. Why had nobody stepped in yet ?

The Eland 90 lay on its turret on a 45 degree slope with a group of troops huddled up the slope directing us in. The facts remain unclear to this day but it would appear that the driver stalled on an incline, allegedly kicked in the back for his poor performance, and the Noddy slid back and tipped down the slope. A fatal kick. One complete roll with Van Rooyen unable to duck into the turret and then a partial roll coming to rest at an angle with just enough space to crawl under the turret. I was under the Eland after a sprint down the hill, pausing only to check I still had the adrenaline, solu-cortef, sosegon and drip stuffed into my pockets. The bare minimum required which already appeared optimistic. I was soon covered in leaking fuel that had mingled with the smell of Staff Van Rooyen’s vomit and the red dust. I can still recall that odour. He was half out of the Commanders hatch and crushed beyond recognition. After a swift assessment and an attempt to find an airway to clear, more from habit than any hope of saving him, it was now time to concentrate on saving myself. Not for the last time. And not under fire.

Here lay what remained of a Zeerust legend, a very popular man. A legend on the rugby ground and in the Mess Bar. Death had probably been instant and he was now beyond the call of his pregnant wife waiting at home. It was their wedding anniversary. I had viewed him as an old and experienced hand, physically imposing, balding and wise beyond my ken. In reality he was a young man of 26. I was aged 20 but there may as well have been another 20 years between us in terms of the experience of war, life, death and the machinery of war.

There was nothing to be done except haul myself to safety. The driver had struggled free and departed the scene. My medical bag sat useless at the top of the slope.

Waiting at a safe distance was his friend, Lt ???. My words to him sound daft now but my Afrikaans was limited and all I could say to him was “hy is dood…..baie dood”. He couldn’t stop himself and, despite the danger, ran down the slope to confirm that his close friend was beyond my help, tears flowing. The incident didn’t affect me that afternoon and I ate a hearty meal after finishing my stint at the range. There was hardly a pause and I was back on the evening’s night firing exercise. The Marico sunset was stunning and reliable as ever. We might yet have a war to catch up with if the recent peace failed. It came for us in April 1989.

Years later I reflected that one more roll or twitch of that Noddy car and I would have been dead, or a stray spark could have seriously ruined my good looks. I puzzled over fact that I had ran in while others stood like statues. It wasn’t bravery, it was the result of conditioning and a sense of responsibility thrust upon my young shoulders. It would have been bravery if I had paused to consider the consequences and still ran in. But I was just plain stupid.

This incident was a minute echo of earlier conflicts, Boer and the World Wars, and the attrition of training and battle on a young generation. 1988 had been a grim year for 2SSB with nine members lost, ranging from the Caleque attack to accidents at Rooisloot and deaths on the road trip home for a weekend pass.

Nobody ran in – but the cry went out, not for the last time – “Medic !! Where is that fucking soutie medic ?”

Author: B.J. Taylor – April 2018

 


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The Legion and Albie Gotze’s Legion d’Honneur

Category : Articles

At a ceremony held in Cape Town on the 13th February 2018, the Ambassador of France to South Africa, his excellency Christophe Farnaud, bestowed the signet of Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight in the Legion of Honour), on one of the last surviving South African D-Day veterans, General Albert (Albie) Götze. It had been a long journey getting Albie his Légion d’Honneur and the South African Legion played a key role as part of the team which made this honour possible.

So how is it that Albie Götze has been awarded France’s highest honour and how did it come about? In a nutshell, the French government decided that all World War 2 ‘Allied’ veterans (who took part in the D-Day landings and liberation of France should be given their highest honour for military and civil merit, the Légion d’honneur and they announced this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014 as a special thank you those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War. Albie, as a young South African Air Force pilot was seconded to the Royal Air Force and he took part in D-Day operations flying a Spitfire doing beach sweeps and patrols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture: Karen Dickens

Albie Götze’s story is something else; he was born in January 1923 in Prieska, a tiny town on the south bank of the Orange River, South Africa’s Northern Cape. In mid-1942 he volunteered to take part in World War 2 and joined the South African Air Force and subsequently was selected for fighter pilot training.

After he finished flying training he was sent to the Middle East where he was seconded to the Royal Air Force and joined up with RAF No.127 Spitfire squadron in April 1944.

In April 1944, the squadron moved to England in preparation for Operation Overlord where it was assigned to 132 Wing (Norwegian) of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and operated as a UK defence unit. They flew patrols and bomber escorts to mainland Europe as well as some fighter-bomber work. During this time Götze was involved with shooting down four German V-1 flying bombs.

127 Squadron arrived at North Weald on 23 April 1944, where it was equipped with the Spitfire IX. Operations began flying fighter bomber missions over France on 19th May 1944. The squadron played its part in the D-Day landings and subsequent days, and Albie and his colleagues found themselves flying sweeps of the landing beaches, escorting bombers, armed recces and dive bombing specific targets.

On 21st August 1944 127 Squadron moved to the European continent where it flew fighter-bomber missions from various airfields in France, Belgium and Holland, eventually basing itself at B.60 Grimbergen, in Belgium. Albie flew his last Spitfire mission for 127 Squadron from B.60 on the 03 August 1944.

Later in August 1944, owing to the high attrition and demand for pilots flying Hawker Typhoons, Albie was transferred to RAF No.137 squadron flying this notorious Typhoon ground attack aircraft. In Typhoons he participated in Operation Market Garden and other Rhine crossing operations.

137 Squadron always operated at low altitude (‘on the deck’) and was mainly employed to attack targets such as armour, anti-aircraft installations, specific buildings, transports and enemy personnel. For this reason, flying in the Typhoon squadron was dangerous and high risk. The losses were extreme and hence replacement pilots were usually filled with volunteers. Albie’s aircraft was hit on occasions and he made a few crash landings with damaged aircraft.

After the war Albie participated as a navigator in the Berlin Airlift of 1949 where they flew around the clock supply flights from West Germany – for which he recently received a campaign medal from a grateful Royal Air Force and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

In 1951 Albie completed a combat tour with SAAF No. 2 squadron to Korea as part of a US Air Force formation where he flew P-51 Mustangs, and he has again received recent honours and thanks from the South Korean government for his involvement in the Korean War.

Albie had a long and successful career in the SAAF, serving in South West Africa during the Border War and ended with the rank of Brigadier General. He was responsible for the introduction and implementation of the South African air defence system with the underground head station at Devon. He was also responsible for the system to be fully computerised.

Albie was also the personal secretary of the State President of South Africa for 4 years and he retired from the Air Force in 1978.

Getting Albie his due recognition and his Légion d’honneur from the French government for his participation in Operation Overlord was also a journey in its own right and as South African Legion we played a central and pivot role in securing this honour for General Gotze.

It started when Tinus Le Roux, a renowned SAAF historian and filmmaker, contacted Lgr Peter Dickens and asked if the South African Legion in the United Kingdom and Europe could follow up on Albie’s Légion d’honneur application which he had assisted Albie with, there had been no response on the application for some months and they were concerned. Quick to the mark Lgr. Cameron Kinnear who in turn engaged Lorie Coffey at Project 71, a veteran’s charity in the UK, to look I into the matter.

Indeed there had been an administrative oversight and Albie’s Légion d’honneur application was kick-started again by the South African Legion, and finally Project 71 was able to get a Légion d’honneur issued by the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, her Excellency Sylvie Bermann.

With a Légion d’honneur finally in hand, and in South Africa, Lgr Peter Dickens then contacted Philip Weyers from the South African Air Force Association (SAAFA) to arrange a suitable medal parade for a handover, Philip and SAAFA were able to engage the French embassy in South Africa, who very keenly agreed to undertake the official presentation to General Gotze.

After all the ceremonies and official presentations were done, the French invited all to attend a small lunch, it later turned out that the French Ambassador to South Africa, his excellency Christophe Farnaud, was a keen modeller of aircraft and had built Typhoon models as a child. The Ambassador stayed to the end of the lunch to see a print of a painting of a Typhoon by the late Derrick Dickens presented to Albie in appreciation by Lgr Peter Dickens. Looking at the painting Albie opened up with all sorts of harrowing tales of fighting and flying in a Typhoon much to delight of the Ambassador and the remaining guests and journalists.

It was a journey, and highly rewarding, the right man received the right recognition and it was awarded in the right way. It is a journey that we as Legionnaires stand by our motto ‘not for ourselves, but for others’ and we are proud to have played a role.

Image copyright, Karen Dickens, references attributed to Dean Wingrin and Tinus Le Roux.


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SS Mendi – The Untold Stories

The story of the Mendi is rightfully being told after years of silence, but the full story is not yet in the public domain.

On 9 March 1917, the South African House of Assembly rose as a symbol of respect for the fallen troops in the SS Mendi, which sank on the 21st February 1917 with the loss of 616 South African lives.

Prime Minister Louis Botha addressed the house and relayed the details of the ship’s sinking. The Minister went on to announce the names of the White men who had lost their lives or survived. For the Black men that had passed away, the Minister outlined the arrangements that were to be made to contact their families and inform them of the tragedy. His statement to the House read as follows:

“It has never happened in the history of South Africa, Mr Speaker, that in one moment, by one fell swoop, such a lot of people have perished, and, Mr Speaker, I think that where people have died in the way that they have done, it is our duty to remember that where people have come forward of their own accord, of their own free will… and what they have done will rebound to their everlasting credit.”

The House carried forth an unopposed motion to make a sincere expression of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased officers, non-commissioned officers and natives in their mourning.

References:

Clothier, N. Black Valour. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1987. 

World War 1”, South African History Online

While 616 South African Servicemen died in the incident, a further 30 lives were lost when the crew, who by all accounts were heroic in their attempts to save the ship and the passengers, also succumbed to drowning or being entombed in the ship.

The Memorial at Holly Brook in Southampton and the graves at Milton in Portsmouth are well known, and thanks to the SA Legion’s European Branch and Andrew Bergman, those interred at Noordwijk Cemetery are also accorded recognition and honours.

Less well known is the grave of Thomas Monamatunyu at Wimereux Cemetery in France, or the communal grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Equally forgotten by most is the grave of Jabez Nguza in Hastings Cemetery, or the grave of Willie Tshabana in East Dean.

On the 18th of February, the anniversary of the SAS President Kruger sinking, I commemorated the day and honoured those lost. However, I also decided it would be fitting to visit the lonely graves of those in the far flung cemeteries, so my family gathered the wreaths and set off.

The grave of Jabez Nquza, Hasting Cemetery.

What first struck us was that the grave of Jabez Nguza is not forgotten. A fresh posey of flowers was placed at the foot of the grave, and the site itself is stunning. The Commonwealth Graves Commission’s work in remembering the Fallen is outstanding.

We then placed a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of the SAS President Kruger and her crew, and acknowledged HMSAS Southern Floe.

We set off for the village of East Dean, and found in a typical English Country churchyard a grave, slightly at an odd angle, alone on one side of the graveyard, but certainly not forgotten. Flowers, two wooden crosses and a South African Flag were evidence that his grave was not forgotten. If you read many current accounts of the Mendi dead, you will probably not see this grave mentioned.

We paid our respects, chatted to a local who promised he was in their thoughts, and she thanked us for being there.

We then arrived at the village of Littlehampton, the site of the common grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Once again we found signs that they were not forgotten, and we left Littlehampton infused with the knowledge that these men are appreciated and acknowledged by the communities they now find themselves. I also found flowers and tokens at other South African graves in those cemeteries.

We also visited the church at Newtimber, where a memorial to “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” is to be found. The origin of this plaque is a story for another day, as I have been invited to the church to hear the story.

On the 24th February the SA Legion UK & Europe will gather at the Richmond Cenotaph with Legionnaires, friends, family and other veterans to commemorate the Three Ships at a formal service and parade. The SS Mendi is representative of the Naval dead of World War 1, and we commemorate HMSAS Southern Floe as representative of the naval dead of World War Two, as well as the SAS President Kruger, as the post-war representative.

Report for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe, by Lgr Cameron Kinnear. Images by Brody Kinnear


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Capt Dean Sprouting

On Thursday 8 February, the Repatriation of Captain Dean Sprouting of Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland took place.

The aircraft carrying his remains landed at RAF Brize Norton from where the cortege set off for Oxford, pausing at the Repatriation Memorial Garden in Carterton, where an act of remembrance took place.

Among the standards on parade were those of the Royal British Legion – South African Branch carried by Lgr Graeme McArdle and the SA Legion UK & Europe carried by Lgr Tony Povey.

Article by Tony Povey for the SA Legion UK & Europe


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Raising Funds for Veterans in Need – Marching for Others: Three-Point Challenge

The Event link is here.

The recent storm and floods that hit Durban on October 10 caused extensive damage, not least to the SA Legion flats at BESL Court in Umbilo, which suffered the loss of their roof and water damage to the flats and contents below. BESL Court is home to some of our less fortunate brother veterans who now need help to put their lives back together. The South African Legion UK & Europe is on standby to play its part in contributing to the relief efforts. Building on a successful individual effort, Marching For Others march earlier this year, the Legion will this time embark on a group route march with this ‘vasbyt’ raising funds for fellow veterans in need.

Military veterans are invited to join us on Sunday November 25 to take part in the Marching For Others: Three-Point Challenge as we march from South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, via Parliament Square to the SA Cenotaph at East Sheen cemetery. We are aiming to raise £1,000, with all participants encouraged to obtain sponsorship from family and friends to reach a minimum donation of £50,00 each.  The good news is you don’t have to participate to donate, anyone may make a donation to the Marching For Others: Three Point Challenge crowdfunding site via the link below.

The distance to be covered will be 8 miles and the target is to achieve this in less than three hours’ walking time, excluding a few stops along the way to imbibe some liquid fuel. Along the route, three historically significant South African landmarks will be covered. Point 1: South African High Commission, Trafalgar Square; Point 2: Statues of Mandela, Smuts, and Gandhi at Parliament Square; Point 3: South African War Memorial (Richmond Cenotaph).

Refreshment stops will be included along the way. There will be a braai at the end to recharge the inner man and swap ‘war stories’, evoking the ‘GV’ feelings within us.

Dress is to be Legion beret, black polo/T-shirt, brown military trousers and brown boots or suitable military walking shoes (see photo). For those who would like them, black SA Legion polo shirts embroidered with the SA Legion logo, are available at £30.00 each. A portion of this cost will go towards our target (further details to be provided once participation is confirmed).  Should we exceed our fundraising target, surplus funds will go towards SA Legion UK & Europe projects.

This is an opportunity to enjoy a healthy day out and have some fun while assisting our brother veterans in need by giving life to our motto: Not for Ourselves, but for Others.

SA Legion England Chair Claudio Chistè (left), wearing the appropriate marching kit, standing beside Army paratroopers.

Join Us!

To sign up and confirm your participation, please email Tony Povey: poveymail@gmail.com


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Fundraising Target reached in the March for Others

The South African Legion conquered the 101st Four Days March Njimegen, the Netherlands; the largest multiple day marching event in the world. England Chairman Lgr Claudio Chiste` completed the 200km challenge over 4 days in military marching kit to raise funds for the South African Legion, with amazing support and encouragement from the South African Legion UK & Europe.

The history of this march started in 1909 (being based in Nijmegen since 1916), in order to maintain the operational marching capability of the Dutch Army. Foreign groups were only being allowed to enroll later in 1928. To date, the event hosts delegations from more than 60 countries, both military and civilian, with this year seeing a total of 47,000 registrations (with 38,000 finishing).

During the march there is a range of elements: humidity, temperature, rain, heat, cold, which after 11.5 hours of daily marching negatively affects the cleanliness of your socks and footwear. Blisters are a given as uphill, downhill or uneven paths; gravel, concrete, dirt or cobblestones can all contribute. There are certain medical check points every 10km; however blisters could strike at any time, for which you should be educated in first aid blister draining and patching in order to make it through the day. Incorrect foot care could result in being sidelined with a foot infection.

The worst thing you can do is ‘tough it out’ and soldier on… This might work on final stretch of the last  day… however doing this on day 1-3 may create a sidelining injury, such as no skin left on your heel.

Blisters will happen at some point during the training or event.

Each 10km there was a 15min break to rest the legs (elevate to promote blood circulation) and hydrate. Lgr Claudio Chiste`, alongside his marching partner Bob, an officer in the Dutch Army.Each day typically ended at circa 23:30 (bed time), with a 02:00 wake-up in order to have breakfast at 02:20 and be ready to leave camp fully kitted for 03:30 to be in time for the 04:00 marching start time (max 3 hours sleep for the four nights of the march). The event was well organised; despite the days which were either extremely hot or rainy proving challenging for participants, the local population helped keep spirits lifted with offerings of refreshments and the blaring sound of Dutch folk music.

23:00 visit to the sick bay for the medics to treat the blisters. (After a day of solid rain on Day 3, 7 blisters suddenly appeared.)

The South African national flag proudly adorns the “end of course” souvenir wall (alongside that of Austria, USA and Australia)

 

The fundraising target of £2,000 was surpassed. Approximately half of these funds will go to the SA Legion UK & Europe to contribute to the fund which will assist mostly UK-based vets in need, with the remaining funds to be directed to assist the victims of the recent Knysna fires.

Legionnaires are encouraged to follow this example, taking on meaningful projects or challenges to raise funds.

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT OTHERS


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Armed Forces Day Parade in Woking: 24 June 2017

Wreath laying party at attention

 

Lgr Theo Fernandes laying a wreath on behalf of the SA Legion

 

Shipmate Rod Fraser delivering the Exhortation. SA Legion standing to attention in the background

 

 

Naval cadets leading the march past

 

SA Legion in the march past

 

Standards in position

The Woking Armed Forces and Veterans Annual Parade was held on June 24th. Led by the Woking Branch of The Royal Naval Association and this year’s event commemorated, in particular the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (known by sailors as the Jenny Wrens). The parade marched through the town to Jubilee Square, where there was a short service, wreath-laying at the Woking War Memorial, and a march past taken by the Woking Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Graham and Mrs Sarah Cundy.

The Mayor receiving wreath

The South African Legion England Branch & the RBL South African Branch have a long standing relationship with the Woking Branch Royal Naval Association, and it’s one of the highlights of our calendar to take part in the parade. This year the SA Legion was represented by Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear (Regional Chair), Lgr Claudio Chistè (England Branch Chair), Lgr Theo Fernandes (who laid the wreath on behalf of the branch), Lgr Justin Bosanquet and Lgr Lesley Ferrando.

 

One of the WW2 veteran’s long SA connection

After the parade, refreshments were served at the Woking Railway Club; this provided an opportunity to for fellow veterans to catch up and mingle, many of whom served in WWII. Amongst others; interestingly, one of the oldest veterans in attendance, Woking resident Bill Moore (93), had a strong southern African connection!

Lgr Lesley Ferando with Bill Moore

Bill was born in Dunoon, Scotland and served during WWII in 138 (Special Duties) Squadron of the Royal Air Force,  which was later assigned to Bomber Command operating under No. 3 Group. He was based at RAF Stradishall and RAF Tempsford. He flew Westland Lysander planes into occupied territories to place or recovery agents and equipment. The Lysander was favoured because of its exceptional short-field performance which enabled clandestine missions using small, unprepared airstrips. Bill tells some interesting stories about some of the agents and resistance members they dropped off and pick up – among them four young men who went on to become prime ministers of France! Bill’s squadron was also the first to begin dropping food to the Dutch to alleviate the terrible famine in the occupied country during the winter of 1944 – 1945. By the end of the war 138 Squadron were stationed at RAF Tuddenham in Suffolk, and from there flew to pick up prisoners of war and return them home.

Throughout his service during the war, Bill earned an impressive array of medals – including the French National Order of the Legion of Honour and the RAF Air Crew Europe Star (“France and Germany”). Other medals include the RAF 1939-1945 Star (“Bomber Command”); RAF Defence Medal; and RAF War Medal. Bill has a long connection with Africa, which draws him to the SA legionnaires – he went out to Rhodesia after the war and spent 50 years there, at times involved in building infrastructure. He tells an amusing story of turning an airfield into a racecourse in only a few days for a Royal Visit by the late Queen Mother – although as he remembered with a smile the wind sock had to stay up! Bill returned to the UK some 14 years ago. The most important thing to him is his family, and he’s fortunate to have a number of them reasonably nearby. His oldest great-grandchild is in his mid-twenties, and the youngest is just 15 months old. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to talk to Bill and hear a little more of his life story, an unexpected benefit of taking part in the parade.

 

Article written by Lgr Lesley Ferrando, with photo images by Lgr Justin Busanquet and Shauna Fernandes

 


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Marching For Others

Nijmegen, Netherlands Vierdaagse
The largest and most important walking/marching event on Earth.

~Walk 30 miles a day for 4 days, the last Tuesday in July, since 1909

Starting as a military event in 1909, the 4 Day Nijmegen March expanded annually and included civilians to the point they outnumbered the military 8:1 and to the extent that a limit on the maximum number of marchers (45,000) needed to be imposed since the event was at full capacity. The Nijmegen march is very popular worldwide and citizens of 60 countries attend to march individually each year with over a dozen militaries represented in marching teams.

Previous march in action: The American hero of 2009, Major Green… independent marcher recovered from leg wounds in Iraq. Here he is cheered on by 2 Dutch soldiers right behind me. This is the only march of its kind where uniformed personnel can do something together like this in a supportive, festive environment. All focused on the same goal… crossing the finishing line… not easy in boots! Source:http://nijmegenmarchhowto.weebly.com/military.html

In a previous march: US 173rd Airborne Marching Team taking a break​.
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On 18th July 2017, Legionnaire Claudio Chistè, Chairman of the South African Legion England Branch, will embark on the first leg of a 4-day 200km march as one of 47,000 participants in the International Four Days March in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

During the march Claudio Chistè will be wearing the coveted SA Legion green beret

The motto of the SA Legion of Military Veterans is ‘Not for Ourselves, but for Others’. This is epitomised by Claudio in undertaking this march to raise funds for two causes close to his heart – supporting those affected by the dreadful Knysna Fires and contributing to a fund so that the SA Legion can assist SA Military Veterans in UK who have fallen on hard times. To raise awareness of these causes, Claudio will represent all South African Veterans on the march by wearing his distinctive green SA Legion beret and displaying an SA flag on his back pack.

The fires wreaked havoc Source: BBC (Sphiwe Hobasi/@mrcow_man

Funds are desperately required to assist the 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the greater Knysna area who were displaced by the devastating fires which raged for several days, many of those losing everything as the wind driven fires destroyed over 1,000 homes and damaged a further 385.

Informal settlements and suburbs were affected alike

The runaway fires destroyed homes and possessions indiscriminately, regardless of whether they were humble or grand, with everyone being affected. Those from the poorest areas will not have had the benefit of insurance to help them start again and are desperately in need of assistance. Claudio’s aim is to raise £2,000.00 with 50% of this sum going equally towards each need (any surplus funds would go to the SA Legion).

To support these worthy causes and make a difference, go to the following link https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/knysnafireandsouthafricanlegionuk


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South African Nation-Building Commemoration

South African Nation-Building Commemoration: a tribute to three great statesmen.

To celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa, the South African Legion – England Branch, in association with the Royal British Legion – South African Branch and 133 Army Cadet Force, organised the inaugural Nation-Building Commemoration to pay tribute to three statesmen whose vision and deeds shaped modern South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi – whose statues all stand on Parliament Square in London – as great visionaries of not only South Africa, but also Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

The South African Legion led contingent gathered on Parliament Square, which is considered to be the Holy of Holies by the British people, by virtue of its location opposite the Palace of Westminster, an icon to democracy. Obtaining permission to parade at Westminster on Parliament Square was a major milestone for the South African veterans in England; a big first and a huge honour. Additionally, being at Westminster, there was the added duty and privilege to pay appropriate respects to PC Keith Palmer who was murdered at Westminster in the terror attack on 22 March 2017.

 

Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi all played a crucial role in leading South Africa to the democratic country we know today. The contribution of Mandela to the world we live in is at the forefront of our consciousness and we honour that. Perhaps less widely celebrated are the monumental roles played by Smuts and Gandhi. We have a duty to honour our heroes and to ensure their contribution to mankind is remembered.

The pieces of the puzzle leading to our democratic South Africa

In the historical timeline leading to the democratic South Africa we know today, one piece of history which might perhaps not be common knowledge, is that Smuts was instrumental in placing the ‘first piece of the puzzle’ leading to modern day South Africa, by leading the reconciliation effort between to former bitter enemies, the British and the Boers (where he served as a General), to create the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Following this landmark reconciliation, he would go on to command the British Army in East Africa during WW1, also serving in the British War Cabinet (where he played an instrumental role in founding the Royal Air Force as a distinct service). Later, in WWII, he was promoted to Field Marshall (the only South African to achieve this wartime rank), serving in the War Cabinet under Winston Churchill. He made history by being the only man to have signed both peace treaties ending WWI and WWII.

Lgr Claudio Chiste, Chairman of the England Branch of the SA Legion, summed-up the leadership trait of leading by example, coupled with the gift of forgiveness, espoused by these three statesmen. Who does not admire warmth and forgiveness of Mandela (affectionately known in South Africa by his clan-name Madiba) after serving 27 of the best years of his life in prison? Who does not admire Gandhi’s subtle power in his stance of passive resistance in the face of the world’s most feared military? Who does not admire Smuts for having personally suffered at the hands of the British (he lost two of his own children during that period, while his wife Isabella (Isie) was taken prisoner in a concentration camp) yet he forgave the British and was elevated within their circle of trust? In the case of the latter, it may not be common knowledge, but so much was this trust built-up between these two former foes that UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was himself was captured by the Boers at one point during the Boer War, was quoted as saying ‘my faith in Smuts is unbreakable’.

One of his last acts by Smuts as Prime Minister of South Africa was the establishment of the United Nations. His lifelong dedication to fighting for what he believed in, at a huge personal sacrifice and uniting mankind perhaps served as divine inspiration when he wrote the preamble to the UN Charter with the opening verse:

‘To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which, twice in our lifetime, brought untold sorrow to mankind…

Many may not be aware… but Mohandas (Mahatma) Ghandi lived in South Africa for 21 years, which for all intents and purposes would very much make him a ‘naturalised’ South African, which we could proudly claim as ‘one of our own’. As Gandhi himself said, South Africa was essential to his personal development and achievement. It was during these 21 years that this timid man who had just passed the bar exam would become the man who was to lead India to independence. On a personal level, he taught us no matter how tough life gets, there is always a positive. Each time he was imprisoned, he would say it was an ‘enrichening experience’. On a group level, he showed us that as a collective force people can be very powerful… unstoppable.

Similarly, Nelson Mandela, our first democratically elected president, took the positive from every experience and is arguably the most well-known great reconciliator of the 20th Century; certainly the most fresh in our minds. In his autobiography, part of which was written secretly in prison, he stated:

‘I was born free… free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut. Free to swim in the clean stream that runs through my village. Free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of the slow moving bulls. It was only when I learned that my childhood freedom was an illusion… that I began to hunger for it’.

Legionnaires – all military veterans for that matter – know all too well that our freedom has been hard won. By paying homage to those before us, we remember their sacrifices and honour their achievements.

 

Wreaths laid for three statesmen who brought about change with forgiveness in their hearts

In his religious service message, Minister Lgr John McCabe drew a pertinent parallel between these three great statesmen on being agents for change, and practicing forgiveness of their former foes. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s famous: ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’

General Jan Smuts said ‘History writes the word Reconciliation over all her quarrels.’

There are many definitions for leadership, but one that is favoured is that leader is influence. These men had a formidable international impact, not only while they were alive but still to this day.

For the first time, wreaths were then laid ceremoniously at the base of each statue, with the standard bearers forming a guard of honour, led from statue to statue by England President of the SA Legion Peter Dickens who acted as Parade Sargent Major. Regional Chair for UK & Europe Lgr Cameron Kinnear lead the ceremony by placing a wreath at the Mandela statue, followed by Lgr Sean Daye for Smuts, Lgr Neil Douglas for Gandhi, and Lgr Paul Konrad for PC Keith Palmer.

Mandela captured the essence of their collective legacy, as well as the ethos of the South African Legion when he said: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.’ As we say in the Legion, ‘Not for ourselves, but for others’.

Wreaths laid:

Master of Ceremonies: Lgr Claudio Chiste

Parade Sergeant Major: Lgr Peter Dickens

Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear, Regional Chairman UK & Europe – Mandela

Lgr Neil Douglas – Ghandi

Lgr Sean Daye – Smuts

Lgr Paul Konrad – PC Keith Palmer

Standard bearers: Graham Scott (IC), Lgr Craig Esterhuisen, Lgr Tony Povey, Lgr Cassandra Shaw, of MOTHs General Browning Shell hole standard bearer Leslie Shield. Special thanks to the 133 Army Cadet Force, their Officer Commanding Joe Drohan and the trumpeter Bobby Crick.

Also in attendance were Lgr Richard Poate and Lgr Robert Ansell.

 

Article for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe by Claudio Chiste`

 


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SA Legion presents shield to RBL Clapham Club at Q2 2017 meeting

Category : Articles

Another quarterly committee meeting (11th/03), another productive session with new plans in the pipeline, the most imminent being the upcoming inaugural Nation-building Commemoration, to coincide with Freedom Day.

The now traditional quarterly social, followed the committee meeting held at the Royal British Legion (RBL) Clapham Club. This was the first time we held our quarterly meeting at this venue, with the RBL Clapham club chairman expressing his gratitude at being presented with the SA Legion shield and told us that it would find a home on their wall to hang proudly.

Lgr Peter Dickens (second from right) with the rest of the Branch committee and members present RBL Clapham Club Chairman Lenny Deadman (centre) with an SA Legion shield in attendance

 

Informal team huddle with the Social well underway


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13:00 SA Legion England Branch Christm... @ RBL Club Teddington
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09:30 Three Ships Parade @ Richmond Cenotaph
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