Category Archives: Commonwealth

Three Ships Commemoration honours South Africans who perished ‘In Waters Deep’ *

RICHMOND UPON THAMES – On Saturday 22 February, Legionnaires from the South African Legion of Military Veterans (UK and Europe), the Royal British Legion, and representatives of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH) gathered at Richmond’s East Sheen cemetery for the annual Three Ships Commemoration. We also commemorated and gave thanks for the courage and dedication of the SA Medical Corps.

Following the chapel service, the company, led by the piper, marched with standards to the nearby South African Cenotaph, where the SA Legion, MOTH General Browning and Gazala Shellholes, and a contingent from the Countess Mountbatten’s Own Legion of Frontiersmen laid wreaths, accompanied by standard-bearers from the Royal British Legion.

Last Post

SS Mendi

At 5 am on 21 February 1917, in thick fog about 10 nautical miles (19 km) south of St. Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company cargo ship Darro accidentally rammed SS Mendi’s starboard quarter, breaching her forward hold.

Darro ,an 11,484 GRT ship, almost three times the size of the Mendi, survived the collision but Mendi sank, killing 616 Southern Africans (607 of them black troops) and 30 crew.

The chapel service was led by Lgr Cameron Kinnear, SAL UK & EU Regional Chair and himself a survivor of sinking of the SAS President Kruger

An interpreter, Isaac Williams Wauchope, who had previously served as a Minister in the Congregational Native Church of Fort Beaufort and Blinkwater, is reported to have calmed the panicked men by raising his arms aloft and crying out in a loud voice: “Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do…you are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers…Swazis, Pondos, Basotho…so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies.”

HMSAS Southern Floe

On 11 February 1941, HMSAS Southern Floe, was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with a sole survivor, Stoker C J Jones. A passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – Stoker Jones was all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

SAS President Kruger

SAS President Kruger was the first of three President-class Type 12 frigates built in the UK for the South African Navy during the 1960s.

The ship spent most of her career training and made visits to foreign ports in Africa, Western Europe and the United States. In the late 1960s, she was modernised and equipped to operate a helicopter.

Lgr Cameron Kinnear, SAL UK & EU Regional Chair
and himself a survivor of sinking of the SAS President Kruger

In the mid-1970s, President Kruger played a minor role in the Angolan Civil War as a part of South African operations against the communists. The ship was placed in reserve in 1977, but was recommissioned in 1980. On the morning of 18 February 1982, President Kruger was conducting anti-submarine exercises, when her replenishment oiler, SAS Tafelberg, impacted President Kruger on her port side at 03:55.

SA Legion England Chair Lgr Russel Mattushek

The impact tore a large hole in her side and killed 13 of the 15 men sleeping near the point of collision. The ship took on a large list and the captain ordered “abandon ship” at 04:32. The exercise was immediately terminated and the other ships present began rescue operations. More ships, both military and civilian, began arriving after dawn, as did aircraft from the South African Air Force. A total of 177 crewmen of the 193 aboard were rescued, one of them our Regional Chairman for United Kingdom and Europe, Lgr Cameron Kinnear.

SA Legion Ceremonial Officer Lgr Brain Parry

Accordingly, this commemoration is personally very poignant and sobering for many of us.

Following the event, the Royal British Legion in Teddington once again made us most welcome for a traditional braai and social.

Eyes Right!

* In Waters Deep
By Eileen Mahoney

In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
There young hearts sleep… beneath the wave…
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.

‘Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer
On certain spot and think. “He’s there.”
But you can to the ocean go…
See whitecaps marching row on row;
Know one for him will always ride…
In and out… with every tide.

And when your span of life is passed,
He’ll meet you at the “Captain’s Mast.”
And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who’ll come home no more,
Can dry their tears and pray for these
Who rest beneath the heaving seas…

For stars that shine and winds that blow
And whitecaps marching row on row.
And they can never lonely be
For when they lived… they chose the sea.

Lest we forget

Main text by Lgr Simon McIlwaine

Photography by Lgr Victor Ho




SS Mendi Remembrance & Wreath Laying, Noordwijk, the Netherlands

NOORDWIJK, ZUID-HOLLAND – In what has become an annual event embraced by the South African Embassies in The Hague and Brussels as well as the municipality of the city of Noodwijk, a ceremony honoured the fallen South African servicemen of the SS Mendi (at least five of whom lie buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of  Noordwijk General Cemetery), as well as all fallen South African servicemen and women.

Following a welcome address by South African Deputy Military Attaché, Lt. Col. A Mafofololo, Rev. Andrew Taylor led a dignified service of remembrance, which included a reading by Zeb Ngobese of the poem in isiXhosa Ukutshona Kukamendi (The Sinking of the Mendi) by S.E.K. Mqhayi (see below).

Ms Olitha Lebelo, Counsellor Political at the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Ms Olitha Lebelo, Counsellor Political at the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa to the Kingdom of the Netherlands greeted diplomats, dignitaries, and military attachés from several countries including Great Britain and the USA.

US and British military attachés with Ms Olitha Lebelo

In his address, SA Legion EU Branch Chair, Lgr Andrew Bergman highlighted that “on the 103rd anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, and in celebration of South African Armed Forces Day, we also commemorate 25 years of democratic defence – 25 years during which the South African National Defence Force has already built-up a track record of distinguished service, especially as part of international peacekeeping missions in Africa.

Lgr Andrew Bergman, SA Legion EU Branch Chair

“This is something of which all South Africans can justifiably feel proud, but such a record of distinguished service always comes at a price, so that once again the 21st Century has already sadly seen South African soldiers who have fallen on a foreign field,” he pointed out.

The gathering was also addressed by local Noordwijk historian Mark Sijlmans who has done extensive research and helped to identify the SS Mendi casualties who lie in his city’s general cemetery.

After the service, pipers, a band, and a bugler from the Dutch Armed Forces accompanied a wreath laying at the SS Mendi graves by the Mayor on Noodwijk, Alderman Wendy Verkleij, Ms Olitha Lebelo and Lt. Col. A Mafofololo on behalf of the Republic of South Africa, Lgr Bergman on behalf of the SA Legion, and several of the military attachés present.

Last Post was sounded followed by two minutes’ silence, and the National Anthems of the Netherlands and South Africa.

Following the event at the cemetery, the South African Embassy hosted an informal lunch with South African wine at Noordwijk’s modern sports centre.

Lgr Andrew Bergman, Ms Olitha Lebelo, and Lt. Col. A Mafofololo

Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Johanna Bergman Badings


Local news coverage: Burgemeester Verkleij legt krans bij herdenking gezonken SS Mendi.


UKUTSHONA KUKAMENDI
S.E.K. Mqhayi
(See English translation below)

Ewe, le nto kakade yinto yaloo nto.
Thina, nto zaziyo, asothukanga nto;
Sibona kamhlope, sithi bekumelwe,
Sitheth’engqondweni, sithi kufanelwe;
Xa bekungenjalo bekungayi kulunga.
Ngoko ke, Sotase! Kwaqal’ukulunga!
Le nqanaw’, umendi, namhla yendisile,
Na’ligazi lethu lisikhonzisile!

Asinithenganga ngazo izicengo;
Asinithenganga ngayo imibengo;
Bekungenganzuzo zimakhwezikhwezi,
Bekungenganzuzo ingangeenkwenkwezi.
Sikwatsho nakuni, bafel’eAfrika,
KwelaseJamani yaseMpumalanga,
NelaseJamani yaseNtshonalanga.
Bekungembek’eninayo kuKumkani,
Bekungentobeko yenu kwiBritani.

Mhla nashiy’ ikhaya sithethile nani,
Mhla nashiy’iintsapo salathile kuni,
Mhla sabamb’izandla, mhla kwamanz’amehlo.
Mhla balil’oonyoko, bangqukrulek’ooyihlo,
Mhla nazishiy’ezi ntaba zakowenu,
Nayinikel’imiv’imilmb’ezwe lenu
Asitshongo na kuni, midak’ akowethu,
Ukuthi “Kwelo zwe nilidini lethu?”

Ngesibinge ngantonina ke kade?
Idini lomzi liyintonina ke kade?
Asingamathol’amaduna omzina?
Asizizithandwa zesizwe kade na?
Ngoku kuthethe ke siyendelisela,
Sibhekis’ezantsi, sihlahla indlela.
AsinguHabheli na idini lomhlaba?
AsinguMesiya na elasezulwini?

Thuthuzelekani ngoko, zinkedama!
Thuthuzelekani ngoko, bafazana!
Kuf’omnye kade mini kwakhiw’ omnye;
Kukhonza mnye kade’ ze kuphil’ abanye;
Ngala mazwi sithi, thuthuzelekani,
Ngokwenjenje kwethu sithi, yakhekani.
Lithatheni eli qhalo labadala,
Kuba bathi: “Akuhlanga lungehlanga!

Awu! Zaf’int’ezinkulu zeAfrika!
Isindiwe le nqanawa, ‘de yazika,
Kwaf’amakhalipha, amafa nankosi,
Agazi lithetha kwiNkosi yeeNkosi.
Ukufa kwawo kunomvuzo nomvuka
Ndinga ndingema nawo ngomhla wovuko,
Ndingqame njengomnye osebenzileyo,
Ndikhanye njengomso oqaqambileyo.
Makube njalo!



THE SINKING OF THE MENDI
S.E.K. Mqhayi

Yes, this thing flows as a normal thing from that.
The thing we know is not scared of that;
We say, things have happened as they should have,
Within our brains we say: it should have been so;
If it hadn’t been so, nothing would have come right.
You see Sotase, things came right when the Mendi sank!
Our blood on that ship turned things around,
It served to make us known through the world!

The British didn’t buy us with begging;
They didn’t seduce us with long strips of meat;
They didn’t bribe us with things as high as the stars,
They didn’t bribe us with profits.
We say unto those who died, you were Africans,
Those who died in the country of the rising sun,
Those who died in the country of the setting sun,
You didn’t die out of subservience for the king,
Nor because you wanted to kowtow to Britain.
On the day you left home, we talked,
On the day you left, we promised to look after your families,
On this day we shook hands, our eyes were wet.
On this day mothers cried, you fathers sobbed,
On this day you left the mountains of your birth,
You left the rivers of our country behind
We said to you, going there as dark-skinned men,
We said: “You are our sacrifice from here.”

Could we have sacrificed anything more precious?
What did it mean to sacrifice a village?
Was it not giving the bull calves of your homestead?
Sending those very ones who loved you as a nation?
We’re talking deep now; we have added our voice,
Proudly we are part of those opening the road to freedom.
In the way Abel was the sacrifice of the earth?
In the way the Messiah was the sacrifice of heaven?

Be consoled, all you orphans!
Be consoled, all you young widows!
Somebody has to die, so that something can be built;
Somebody has to serve, so that others can live;
With these words we say: be consoled,
This is how we build ourselves, as ourselves.
Remember the saying of the old people:
“Nothing comes down, without coming down.”

Awu! The finest of Africa was busy dying!
The ship couldn’t carry its precious cargo,
It was echoing into the inner circles,
Their brave blood faced the King of Kings.
Their deaths had a purpose for all of us
How I wish I could be with them,
How I wish I could stand with them on resurrection day,
How I wish I could sparkle with them like the morning star.
Let it be so!

Translated from isiXhosa by Antjie Krog




Carpane – 75th Anniversary of the Grappa Massacres

The two small wooden crosses next to the Legion Wreath were laid on behalf of the Kinnear Family.

Operation Piave

In the period of the 20th to the 29th September 1944 a number of massacres and reprisals (Operation Piave) took place in the Grappa region of Italy when the Axis forces attempted to quell the partisan activity.

Although the total number has never been ascertained, it is calculated that over 300 people were murdered and an unknown number deported.

In the town of Carpane a court of sorts convened and passed judgement on captured partisans.

On the 21st September an unknown young Italian was shot.

On the 23rd September Giuseppe Mocellin and Luigi Ferraris were shot.

On the 24th Virgilio Versa, Filippo Bianchin, Pietro Boaria, Federico Fiorese, Matteo Gheno, Alfredo Tosin and Antonio Bellò, and two allied prisoners were shot.

On the same day, David Baillie, J.L.S. Fourie and Gear Munsiff Dar are shot in Campo Solagna (Monte Grappa).

On Tuesday 26th September in the (now) Avenue of Martyrs in the town of Bassano del Grappa 31 partisans were hanged from trees and left for the inhabitants to see.

26th September 1944
4th October 2019

In the afternoon of the same day another group of partisans were shot in Carpane. These men were second-lieutenant Angelo Alberto Bosio, second-lieutenant Angelo Valle and 14 Allied soldiers, one of who remains unidentified.

Roll of Honour – Allied Soldiers

These names are listed on the roadside memorial in Carpane.

CHAMBERS, A. G.

BUSH, F

MIRAMAT, S

SMITH, A. M.

DUNNE, W. G.

KINNEAR, R S
Rank:Gunner
Service No:53513
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:27
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference I. A. 8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Susan Kinnear; husband of Adelaide R. H. Kinnear, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.

KINNEAR, W J 
Rank: Private
Service No:27529
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:29
Regiment/Service:Transvaal Scottish, S.A. Forces 2nd Bn.
Grave Reference I. A. 10.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Francina S. Kinnear; husband of Maria E. Kinnear, of Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa.

BUYS, S
Rank:Signaller
Service No:117010
Date of Death:Between 26/09/1944 and 27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Corps of Signals
Grave Reference I. B. 2.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY

KING, C N
Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:12225
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Die Middelandse Regiment, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 14.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY

CHAMBERS, F E
Rank:Private
Service No:93978
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:24
Regiment/Service:Natal Mounted Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Arthur W. and Cornelia M. Chambers, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.

CRONJE, L N
Rank:Lance Bombardier
Service No:105306
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:21
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Cronje, of Ficksburg, Orange Free State. South Africa.

FLACK, B R
Rank:Gunner
Service No:144020V
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:32
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery 2 Field Regt.
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Brian V. H. and Maude E. Flack, of Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

HORNE, C. H.

WHEELWRIGHT, D D
Rank: Corporal
Service No:11607
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:41
Regiment/Service:Kaffrarian Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 9.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Guy and Lilian Wheelwright; husband of Viola Wheelwright, of Lusikisiki, Cape Province, South Africa.


BOTES, A
Rank: Private
Service No:28077
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service: Rand Light Infantry, S.A.
Grave Reference I. B. 1.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY

AN UNIDENTIFIED ALLIED SOLDIER

Gianna Giglioli, the wife of Angelo Vale refused to be sent to work in Germany and demanded she share her husband’s fate.

The Axis obliged and shot her too. 

Angelo Vale and his wife, Gianna Giglioli and child.

When her body was examined she was found to be four months pregnant.


Every year the inhabitants of the region hold a memorial service to commemorate this event.

It was only in 2008 that an Italian researcher, Sonia Residori, managed to uncover the identities of the Allied soldiers.

During research into the Italian Campaign the Regional Chair of the SAL, Cameron Kinnear, noted that two of these soldiers were named Kinnear, and he started corresponding with Sonia Residori.

As a result an invitation was extended to Lgr Kinnear and his wife to attend the 75th Anniversary of the massacres, to be held on the 5th October 2019.

It must be noted that the Kinnears were very warmly welcomed and treated exceptionally well during their stay in the region.

After a church service led by a senior church official from the region, short ceremonies were held at the main memorial and at the spots were the shootings took place. The entire town and the main road through the area was stopped, and the attendees progressed to the various spots in a sombre yet fraternal mood.

At the spot where the Allied soldiers were shot Lgr Kinnear laid not only a wreath from the SAL, but also small crosses were laid for the two Kinnears.

After the wreath laying services were completed, a local hall was filled to overflowing to hear the speeches presented by Mayor Ferazzoli, the Researcher Sonia Residori and Cameron Kinnear, Regional Chair of the SAL England and Europe.

All of the surrounding towns were represented by their Mayors in support of the Mayor of Valbretta / Carpane, Luca Ferazzoli.

The parade was led by Ottorino Bombieri, Chair of the National Partisans Association (ANPI) with support from the Chair of the National Association of Combatants and Veterans of Valbretta, Ermanno Bombieri and the President of the ANPI of Bassano, Gianandrea Borsato. Representatives of the Services were also present.

Lgr Kinnear was ably assisted by Prof Paola Fachinello who kindly provided translations.

Link to Carpane Roll of Honour

Media


This article includes information obtained from the Research and Articles compiled by Sonia Residori.

She has not only compiled detailed records of these events, pursued and enabled the identification of the South African soldiers, but was also involved in the tracking down of the German Officer in charge of the Bassano del Grappa “Avenue of Martyrs” executions, Karl Franz Tausch.

Sonia Residori – Tireless Researcher.
“I am very proud to carry on the values of resistance and anti-fascism. My cousin was killed by the Germans in Marostica, near Bassano del Grappa. He was a partisan. An uncle – for me as father – was a military man and was deported and spent two years in a concentration camp in Germany and suffered hunger and beatings. For me it is a duty to remember all those men who have been killed because I was born free! Your presence today was important: you reaffirmed the fraternity, today as yesterday.”


Warsaw Airlift, Battle of Square Hill commemorated in Richmond

RICHMOND UPON THAMES – On Saturday 15 September, Legionnaires from the South African Legion of Military Veterans (UK and Europe), the Royal British Legion (SA Branch), were joined by delegations from the Polish Embassy, the Polish Airmen’s Association UK, and M.O.T.H. (Gazala Shellhole), to commemorate the 75th anniversary and honour the memories and sacrifice of the Allied airmen who participated in the Warsaw Airlift, where from 4 August to early September 1944, 205 Group RAF at Foggia, Italy, under the command of Maj Gen James (Jimmy) Thom Durrant, flew 196 11-hour night sorties from Brindisi and Foggia in Italy with B-24 Liberators, to drop supplies to the Polish Uprising in Warsaw.

An RAF B-24 Liberator (Picture: SAAF Museum)

The occasion further served to remember the Battle of Square Hill*, fought in Palestine from September 19 to 21, 1918, when Cape Corps troops engaged with Ottoman Turkish forces in what were to be the final months of the First World War.

The service took place in the chapel at Richmond’s East Sheen cemetery, and the opportunity was also taken to dedicate a new Standard for the SA Legion Europe Branch. Standards of the South African Legion (UK), the Royal British Legion (SA Branch), and the Polish Airmen’s Association UK, all formed part of the standard party.

Service

The service was conducted by SA Legion Chaplain, Lgr Craig Esterhuizen. He emphasised from the beginning of his address that the Warsaw Airlift was a humanitarian mission, not a strategic one. The pilots knew they were not going to change the course of the war for the Allies, but they were acting to prevent starvation and the annihilation of Warsaw’s population and the Polish Home Army.

Indeed, these brave pilots were denied flyover rights over Russian-held territory and were fired upon by their Russian allies if they strayed into their airspace. The 2,600-km round trip from their Italian bases at Celone and Brindisi was fraught with danger and at least 360 airmen and 41 British, Polish, South African, and US-crewed aircraft were lost. As Padre Esterhuizen said, it was indeed an act of love and sacrifice to participate in such a mission.

After the Padre’s address, a poem which honours the Cape Coloured soldiers who fought so bravely at Square Hill was read by Anja De Vries **.

A dark and haunting poem honouring the wartime sacrifices made by Poland *** was read, followed by the singing of the South African, British and Polish national anthems. The singing effort was greatly helped by the choir.

Parade

After the service, the legionnaires and standard bearers, led by a piper marched to the South African Cenotaph for a wreath-laying ceremony.

As the piper played the poignant Flowers of the Forest lament, wreaths were laid by Col Norbert Czerniak, Polish Deputy Defence, Military, Naval, and Air Attaché to the UK, Arthur Bildziuk, Chairman of the Polish Airmen’s Association UK, and SA Legion Chaplain, Lgr Craig Esterhuizen for the South African Legion UK & EU.

Col Norbert Czerniak, Polish Deputy Defence, Military, Naval, and Air Attaché
lays a wreath on behalf of the Polish Embassy
Arthur Bildziuk, Chairman of the Polish Airmen’s Association UK lays a wreath

A medal parade was then held to present the Pro Patria Medal (PPM), Southern Africa Medal (SAM), and General Service Medal (GSM) for service during and after the Border War to two Legionnaires.

Polish Deputy Defence Attaché, Col Czerniak, was then invited to join Lgr Cameron Kinnear to take the salute as the standards and legionnaires marched past the cenotaph.

Social

After the formalities ended, a social was held at the Royal British Legion Club in Teddington, where Lgr Lee Greed ensured no one went thirsty and Lgr Johan De Vries provided his superb boerewors rolls.

Nou gaan ons BRAAI!

* Battle of Square Hill
This year marks the milestone centenary of a historic battle which is not yet at the forefront of general consciousness in the United Kingdom. The legion playing its part to raise general awareness.

During the Battle of Square Hill in 1918, Cape Corps soldiers were able to shine in their first battle with Turkish soldiers in Palestine during the final months of the First World War.

The Turks were a mighty foe…

The nightmare that affronted Gen Allenby came in the form of Gen Mustapha Kemal or Ataturk as he was later known (founder of modern Turkey) and Gen Liman von Sanders seconded by the German High Command to their Turkish allies. This Turkish/German Army was the same one that had defeated the Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian (ANZAC) forces at Gallipoli, and thereafter marched triumphantly down Asia, conquered Damascus, and overran Syria until they reached the Holy Land.

Gen Allenby, with his Staff Officers mused over his problem and formulated their battle plans.

Strategy

The significance of this battle was General Allenby’s military strategy to connect with Arab allies to the east of the Dead Sea, a mission that was thwarted by the enemy’s control of the Jordan crossing at Jisr ed Damieh. Captain Ivor D Difford, quartermaster of the Cape Corps wrote that Gen Allenby was “determined to strike a blow west of the Jordan, where the whole Turkish army in that area was enclosed”. To this end, the plan was to “break through the enemy’s defensive positions and create a gap for the cavalry to pass through”.

During the night of 18 September 1918 the 1st Cape Corps themselves had taken 181 prisoners. Having come under “fairly persistent counter-attack” they were said to have battled with bayonets in the “strictest silence” and that they carried out orders implicitly.

Notable names mentioned in this battle were Lt. Samuelson, Sgt February and L/Cpl Thimm. The 1st Cape Corps capturing of the enemy field gun which was noted as “the first gun captured on the Palestine front during Allenby’s great push” – resulted in Lance-Corporal Thimm being promoted to Corporal.

Monument

Following the war, a monument was built in Kimberley. The gun captured at Square Hill stands there still… but of similar monuments in Johannesburg and Cape Town, nothing but promises materialised. The annual Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday parade at the Johannesburg cenotaph drew a large crowd of Cape Corps veterans and descendants for decades and was widely known as the Square Hill parade, but even that memory has now faded.

The battle on that night claimed the lives of L/Cpl S Visagie and Pte S Gobey. Further casualties the next day were Pte J Jonkers, Pte G Groep and Pte D Hahman.

As legionnaires we carry the flame of remembrance…


** Once upon a time, a battle was fought in a Biblical land.

With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press on,
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
The army corps advances.

A great victory was won and their general was proud.

Remember the splendid South African victory at “Square Hill”

A Cape Corps helped break through to Damascus


*** By Józef Szczepański – 1944

We are waiting for you, red plague

you will be salvation welcomed with revulsion

we are waiting for you, our eternal enemy

bloody murderer of so many of our brethren

Your red, victorious army has been lying at the bright feet

 of burning Warsaw and is feeding its soul with bloody pain

of a handful of madmen who are dying in the ruins.


Background of Richmond South African Cenotaph:

Following the outbreak of the First World War, South Africa, as a British Dominion, formed and mobilised the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force, as its contribution to the war effort. This force consisted of: The SA Infantry Brigade, SA Mounted Brigade, SA heavy Artillery Brigade, SA Field Artillery Regiment, SA Native Labour Corps, SA Field Ambulance unit, SA Corps of Engineers, SA Signals Company, and the SA Medical Corps – a total force of about 232 000, each one of them volunteers.

Many of our grandfathers were among them.

The SA Medical Corps provided the staff for both the South African Military Hospital in Richmond Park London, and the No 1 South African General Hospital established in France. Injured or ill soldiers from all theatres of war were transferred to Richmond for treatment and for recuperation.

Altogether 39 of the South Africans who died in the SA Richmond Park Hospital were buried in the Richmond Cemetery. At the end of the First World War, the SA Hospital and the Comforts Fund Committee decided to erect a memorial to these men and to all those South Africans who had died in the war.

Sir Edwin Lutyens who designed the Whitehall Cenotaph – where thousands of ex-service personnel, including a substantial contingent of South African Legionnaires, march on Remembrance Sunday – designed this memorial and it was unveiled by General Jan Smuts in June 1921. It became a pilgrimage focus in the 1920s and 1930s.

It now has Grade II listed status and it is recorded as a building of special architectural and historic interest.


Article: Report by Lgr Justin Bosanquet / background information SA Legion
Photography: Lgr Victor Ho and Karen Parry

Contact us for further information


Battle of Delville Wood remembered in Richmond

RICHMOND-ON-THAMES – The South African Legion gathered again at the South African Cenotaph in East Sheen cemetery in Richmond, London, to commemorate the Battle of Delville Wood in humble remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during this critical part of the battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916.

Our friends from the General Browning and Gazala Shellholes joined us again this year as well as members of the Countess of Mountbatten’s Own Frontiersmen.

Also rendering support were two standard bearers from the Teddington Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Padre Lgr Chris Esterhuizen welcomed us all to the service and the Standards, including the South African and British flags were piped in by a piper of the London Scottish Regiment.

The column is piped towards the South African Cenotaph (Picture: Karen Parry)

We were also extremely fortunate to have the help of the choir of the New Apostolic Church of Camberley in attendance and their voices lifted the singing to wonderful heights.

Standards followed by veterans (Picture: Karen Parry)

After a very moving service from the Padre, two poems written shortly after the battle were read out and the service was concluded.

The veterans then fell-in and were piped from the chapel to the South African Cenotaph, where there was a wreath laying ceremony. Bugler Robbie Crick, ex of the Royal Artillery played Last Post.

SA Legion England Branch Chair Lgr. Russel Mattushek (Picture: Karen Parry)

The salute for the march past was taken by SA Legion Regional Chair Lgr Cameron Kinnear.

We then decamped to the clubhouse of the Teddington branch of the RBL for a well-earned beer or two.

SA Legion England Branch Vice-Chair and event convenor
Lgr Stuart Robertson (Picture: Karen Parry)

We were as always generously hosted by Lee Greed of the RBL Teddington. Braai master Johann DeVries ably helped by Legionnaire Theo Fernandes ensured that none went hungry.

We were also able to raise money for the SA Legion via a raffle.

A wonderful and moving parade in all, and we look forward to welcoming more guests and friends in the years ahead to help raise awareness and remembrance of the fallen of South Africa.

Text by Lgr Stuart Robertson
Photography by Karen Parry


Dutch National Remembrance Day – SA Legion shows solidarity with Noordwijk

NOORDWIJK, THE NETHERLANDS  –  Every year on 4 May, the Kingdom of the Netherlands marks its national Dodenherdenking (remembrance day), to commemorate civilians and soldiers who were executed or fell in WWII and subsequent conflicts.

The date is a moment to pause and reflect on the civil liberties that the Dutch enjoy today – freedom that they realise and respect was hard-won and should never be taken for granted.

Across the country, local school children place flowers on the many war graves scattered far and wide, in local cemeteries as well as those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These include many South Africans, especially airmen, as it was necessary for the RAF bombers to overfly the Netherlands on their way to and from raids on Germany. Especially on their return routes, many bombers succumbed to FLAK and fighter damage, and crashed into the Dutch polders.

National remembrance

In addition to a central nationally televised event on Dam Square in Amsterdam, attended by the royal family and heads of government, simultaneous events are held in towns and cities across the country, where two minutes’ silence is observed at 20h00.

Though neutral during the First World War, the Netherlands was not spared from hosting the casualties of a war that was fought within earshot.

Six casualties of the SS Medi (troop ship sank off Isle of Wight on 21 Feb 1917 with the loss of 616 souls) lie in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the General Cemetery of Noordwijk, just north of The Hague in the Netherlands, among ranks of mainly Royal Navy personnel whose bodies, like those of the SS Mendi casualties, were washed-up on the Dutch coast.

Noordwijk

Over the past six years, the municipality and Aldermen of Noordwijk have been of constant support to the SA Legion and the South African Embassy in The Hague with regard to our annual SS Mendi remembrance service and parade now held each 21 February at the Noordwijk cemetery. A strong bond has developed between South Africa, and this picturesque town on the Dutch coast that has so loyally nurtured the graves of Private Abraham Leboche, Private Arosi Zendile, Private Sitebe Molide, Private Natal Kazimula, and Private Sikaniso Mtolo, for more than 100 years.

It is therefore only fitting that the South African Legion Europe Branch shows its solidarity with Noordwijk as the town remembers those who fought and died for its freedom.

This year, the South African contingent was significant, first at a remembrance service in the Maria Ter Zee church, followed by a dignified silent march, past the war graves in the general cemetery, to the Noordwijk war memorial nearby.

There, the South African Ambassador to The Netherlands, H. E. Mr. Bruce Koloane, and Lgr. Andrew Bergman, Chairman of the SA Legion Europe Branch, joined local dignitaries and veterans in laying wreaths after two minutes’ silence was observed.

Liberation

The following day, 5 May, is observed across the Netherlands as Bevrijdingsdag, marking the liberation of the Netherlands from the German occupation as WWII drew to a close.

It’s a day celebrated with much gusto (and Heineken and Grolsch), but not before having first acknowledged and paused to reflect that the freedom the country enjoys was achieved at the cost of many brave lives.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them…

Caption of featured photo above: These are four of the SS Mendi graves in Noordwijk. The town’s school children placed flowers at every one of the WWI and WWII Resistance, Allied and Commonwealth war graves, as they do each year.

Text and picture by Lgr Andrew Bergman


Commonwealth Memorial Parade 2019

COMMONWEALTH MEMORIAL GATES, LONDON – The 2019 Commonwealth Memorial Parade on Monday 11 March was particularly well attended by the South African Legion UK & Europe Branch.

Several Legionnaires, some with partners, mustered at Hyde Park Corner, to rub shoulders with military attachés, representatives of armed forces from across the Commonwealth, serving and retired members of the British Armed Forces of Commonwealth origin and ancestry, as well as delegations from the High Commissions of a multitude of Commonwealth member states.

The South African Legion delegation met in bright sunshine at 10:00 ahead of the parade (Spring has certainly sprung, but don’t stow your greatcoat quite yet). Logistics dispatches should note that all South Africans were uncharacteristically on time! This might have had something to do with the fact that some Legionnaires were under ‘spousal supervision’, which clearly ensured strict discipline.

We were soon introduced to the new Military Attaché to the South African High Commission in London, Brig Gen E Ramabu, with whom the South African Legion is already building a strong relationship of mutual cooperation.

Those Legionnaires who have attended regularly over the past few years were able to renew old stalwart acquaintances.

‘They shall grow not old’

A dignified service followed. Gurkha bugler sounded Last Post, followed by two minutes’ silence. After the bugle ‘Short Reveille’ or ‘Rouse’, a Ghurkha piper played the lament, and Guests of Honour were called by name to lay wreaths.

South African Military Attaché , Brig Gen E Ramabu, lays a wreath on behalf of the South African High Commission


Lgr Jose Lopes lays a wreath on behalf of the South African Legion

Jai Hind!

After the parade, guests adjourned to a nearby marquee for super refreshments and delicious snacks, provided as always by London’s Indian community.

Gesondheid!

Several of the South African Legion contingent subsequently repaired to a nearby pub to appropriately consider a successful day, and an appropriate ‘flying of the flag’ for both South Africa and the Legion.

 

Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman

Photography:

Lgr Theo Fernandes

Lgr Victor Ho