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SS Mendi Remembrance, Portsmouth UK

PORTSMOUTH, UK – In a week in which we commemorate South African naval and maritime losses, two events took place in Portsmouth.

On Monday 18 February wreaths were laid to commemorate HMSAS Southern Floe and the SAS President Kruger.

Cameron Kinnear, Chair of the UK & Europe Region of the SA Legion pays his respects.

On the 21st,  South Africa’s Armed Forces Day, wreaths were laid at Milton Cemetery to commemorate the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi.

Milton Cemetery is the resting place of nine of the dead. A further five are dispersed on the southern coast of the UK, one lies in France and five (or possibly six) in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

Standards were paraded, commanded by Portsmouth stalwart Chris Purcell. The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Lee Mason opened the service with a short retelling of the incident, and underlined the commitment that the City of Portsmouth has undertaken to commemorate the men of the Mendi.

A poem entitled The Sinking of the SS Mendi was read by a cadet from B Company, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Army Cadet Force.

The Act of Remembrance was led by Reverend Marcus Collie.

After the Last Post and Reveille, wreaths were laid by a number of attendees, including Mayor Mason and the South African High Commissioner Ms Nomatemba Tambo.

It was noted that the CWGC had completed work to replace the shared headstones with one headstone per man.

In this image from the 2013 ceremony the headstones can be seen to be memorialising more than one man, and the area is not as well kept as today.

After the Milton Ceremony, the focus then moved to The Point in Old Portsmouth, an iconic part of the city that overlooks the busy harbour of Portsmouth.

The Lord Mayor welcomed the attendees, and then her Excellency Ms Nomatemba Tambo made a short but eloquent speech and thanked all for continuing to commemorate and honour the men of the Mendi.

Her Excellency Ms Nomatemba Tambo

The stone was then unveiled. At the request of the High Commissioner, Mayor Mason read the inscription to the assembled guests.

The guests then attending an art exhibition at the Portsmouth Cathedral. The exhibition included a painting of the SS Mendi.

 

February – The Three Ships Commemorations include:

  • WW1: SS Mendi, which lead to 616 South Africans and 30 crew who lost their lives at sea, in South Africa’s biggest naval loss in history.
  • WW2: HMSAS Southern Floe, was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with one survivor, Stoker C J Jones.
  • Post-WW2: SAS President Kruger, President-class Type 12 frigate which sank in 1982 with the loss of 16 lives after colliding with her replenishment oiler, SAS Tafelberg, in the South Atlantic.
  • This day also marks South African Armed Forces Day.

 


SS Mendi Remembrance, Noordwijk, The Netherlands

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Category : Articles , News , Newsletter , WW1

NOORDWIJK, ZUID-HOLLAND – In a dignified ceremony in Noodwijk in the Netherlands today, 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) were fittingly commemorated.

In the annals of South Africa’s military history, 21 February 1917 is a dark day. It marks the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi after it collided with the SS Daro off the Isle of Wight, with the loss of 616 South African servicemen, 607 of them members of the South African Native Labour Corps: Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Swazi, and Tswana. The names on the SS Mendi Roll of Honour are still reflected in Southern African society.

H. E. the South African Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr Vusi Koloane

Today, the anniversary of the SS Mendi disaster is aptly the day on which South Africa remembers all her fallen soldiers and in particular this tragic event. Across the country, parades and ceremonies will be held to commemorate those South Africans who paid the ultimate price in wars across the globe.

SA Legion Europe Branch Chairman Lgr Andrew Bergman

SA Deputy Military Attache Lt Col Andrew Mafololo and H. E. the South African Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr Vusi Koloane lay a wreath of proteas on behalf of the Republic of South Africa

Lest we forget!

Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Johanna Bergman Badings 

 


Carabiniers remembered at Kimberly Gate, Chelsea

LONDON – On Sunday 2 December the South African Legion England Branch once again joined the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Association for an Observance at the Carabiniers Memorial, Chelsea.

The memorial remembers the fallen of the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) who gave their lives during the South African War 1899 – 1902 (Second Anglo-Boer War). The Carabiniers were part of the cavalry division under Major-General Sir JDP French which led the charge through Boer General Piet Cronje’s lines to relieve the siege of Kimberley on 15 February 1900.

It is because of this connection that the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Association welcome the presence of the South African Legion at their annual Observance. Following a short service, wreaths were laid by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys), the South African Legion and the Moths of Gazala Shellhole.

We then adjourned to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for a service in the magnificent Wren Chapel followed by drinks and a traditional curry lunch in the Chelsea Pensioners Club. The sense of history was palpable inside this famous home of the Chelsea Pensioners which has cared for British Army veterans since 1692. It was an honour to rub shoulders with these grand old men and women in their distinctive red frock coats and a day to remember for all.

Text by Lgr Tony Povey
Photography by Lgr Theo Fernandes (full picture gallery below)

© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved


SA Legionnaires join parade at London Cenotaph to mark 100 years since Armistice

WHITEHALL, LONDON – Around 40 Legionnaires from around the UK and Europe joined 9,000 veterans and 10,000 civilians at the Cenotaph in London for the Remembrance Parade to mark 100 years since the armistice to end the First World War was signed.

Many who travelled to Waterloo Station used the excellent free Poppy Cab service to reach the muster point at St James’s Park. Tickets were distributed and members quickly passed through the busy but efficient Royal British Legion ticket checking process to form-up as part of Column D on Horse Guards Parade.

Muster

That this year’ s parade was of a different scale in terms of attendance became evident after the column had marched through the arch onto Whitehall. The normal position is almost directly opposite but this year the group was marched almost to Trafalgar Square to accommodate all those attending.

 

Once everyone was formed up in the road, a bit closer to the memorial, the service began. Large TV screens, showing the service, were provided in the road, as they have been in previous years, but unfortunately the one in front of the Legion column was not working. There was however no mistaking the moment when the two minutes’ silence began, as the cannon of the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery boomed out from Horse Guards.

Remembrance

Wreaths were then laid, beginning with Prince Charles on behalf of HM The Queen and followed by military leaders, politicians and High Commissioners of the Commonwealth. Once the formalities were over the mood in the column became more relaxed. Hip flasks where passed around and fellow veterans groups cheered as they began marching off, the Royal Military Police Association party receiving the time-honoured but well-intentioned boos.

 

The South African Legion party was expertly drilled by Lgr Brian Parry. When the time came for the march-past came, the wreath was laid by Royal British Legion South Africa Branch Chairman Lgr Peter Dickens. After performing the customary eyes left past the Cenotaph, the column wound through the roads back to Horse Guards where Princess Anne, the Princess Royal took the salute.

AGM

Back on the parade ground it was time for group photos and jokes with fellow veterans before everyone began making their way to the pub for the RBL SA Branch AGM. To emphasise the size of the Centenary event, the last of the civilian column had yet to set off by the time the veterans had marched through and were leaving the area.

Legionnaires and their families gathered at The Kings Arms in Mayfair for some well-earned refreshment and the AGM. The formal minutes are recorded elsewhere, but in his speech, Lgr Peter Dickens reminded the members that attendance at such special events is largely down to the close relationship forged with the Royal British Legion who run these events in the UK.

Text by Lgr Justin Bosanquet
Photography by Lgr Theo Fernandes and Karen Parry (please scroll down for full picture galleries)

Picture Gallery by Karen Parry:

Picture Gallery by Lgr Theo Fernandes: 

© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved

 


South African Veterans’ Armistice Day Parade

The Richmond Armistice Day service was held on 10 November at 10:30 at East Sheen Cemetery in London, and was attended by more than 50 people, including the South African Legion (UK & EU Branch), representatives of the MOTH, the Royal British Legion, and South Africa Lodge.

After the entrance of the banners and flags under direction of Ceremonial Officer Lgr Brian Parry, Chaplain Craig Esterhuizen opened the service with a verse from Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”.

After the hymn Be Still My Soul led by the choir of the New Apostolic Church who added their superb voices to the occasion, the lesson continued and centred around the meaningfulness of Armistice Day, being that it was 100 years ago that the accord was signed; but that peace was still a commodity in short supply in the world. The story of the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob was referred to, and an exhortation that we all fight as hard for peace, as we would for our freedom.

 

The service was ably supported by the choir who delivered renditions of poignant hymns such as Only Remembered, He in Whose Heart Peace Abideth and The Lord is my Light. Poems were read by Lgr Andrew Bergman, Lgr Russel Mattushek and Lgr Paul Gladwin. At the conclusion, the choir received a standing ovation from the Legionnaires in attendance.

 

To mark 100 years since the end of WWI, Cameron Kinnear, SA Legion UK & EU Regional Chair then unveiled a SA Legion Shield, for which the custodians of East Sheen Cemetery Chapel kindly gave permission, as well as pride of place at the apex of an arch. Its presence further cements the warm relationship that the SA Legion enjoys with Richmond Cemetery, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Lgr Stuart Robertson.

 

A short tea was enjoyed after the service, complete with home-made muffins provided by Gail Esterhuizen.

 

Wreaths were then laid at the cenotaph and a march-past with salute, received by Lgr Cameron Kinnear. A social then continued at the Mitre Pub where a typically carnivorous braai was provided by Du Toit Verster and Johan De Vries.

 

Text by Lgr Craig Esterhuizen and Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Lgr Theo Fernandes and Karen Parry (please scroll down for full picture galleries)

Picture Gallery by Lgr Theo Fernandes:

Picture Gallery by Karen Parry:

© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved


SA Legion UK & EU Formal Mess Ball and Annual Awards Dinner 2018

SOUTHGATE, LONDON – The second Formal Mess Ball of the South African Legion UK & Europe Branch was held on Saturday 22nd September 2018 at the Southgate Masonic Centre in London.

The purpose of the ball was primarily to entertain and treat our partners, who don’t always participate in the Legion events during the year. It was also a super opportunity for veterans and a like-minded crowd to get together, have a few laughs, a good old natter, and have fun.

It was especially good to welcome some friends who we haven’t seen for a while, as well as guests from South Africa and other veterans’ organisations including the Royal British Legion South Africa Branch.

Guests were greeted with a glass of bubbly, and rubbed-shoulders in the Centre’s cosy pub before dinner.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

SA Legion England Branch Vice-Chair Lgr. Stuart Roberson acted as PMC for the evening, and the standards were paraded-in under direction of ceremonial officer Lgr. Brian Parry.

After the formal opening, the ceremonial officer pointed out to the PMC that the Chairmen of the Regions various Branches were ‘improperly dressed’. The PMC then presented the Chairmen with their respective Collars of Office with their distinctive ribbons reflecting the colours of the South African Flag.

Lgr. Dirk Benneyworth then took the floor as Master of Ceremonies in what was to be a fun night for all. The refectory of the Centre provided excellent cuisine and service. Live music with a distinctly South African flavour made the evening extra special.

After dinner following the formal toasts, it was a fitting occasion for the presentation of our annual awards and certificates of appreciation. The sheer number of recipients this year reflects an encouraging degree of engagement and support throughout the spectrum of SA Legion activities.

The highlight of the evening was the raffle. The table groaned with even more prizes than there were guests, and everyone went home with something. The grand prize of a flat-screen TV was scooped-up by a lucky guest from the Royal British Legion.

Most importantly, the raffle raised essential funds which will be used for the support of South African veterans.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Following the success of last year’s event, the Mess Ball promises to be an annual highlight of SA Legion activity, so be sure to watch this space for announcements. The 2019 edition is already being discussed!

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Bravo Zulu to SA Legion England Branch Chair, Lgr. Russel Mattushek and his team for the superb organisation.

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS

Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Lgr. Theo Fernandes and Lgr. Victor Ho (scroll down for full picture galleries)
© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved

Photo Gallery Lgr. Theo Fernandes:

Photo Gallery Lgr. Victor Ho:


Airborne March, Arnhem, the Netherlands, 2018

On Saturday 1 September 2018, the 72nd edition of the Airborne March (Airborne Wandeltocht) took place in Oosterbeek, the site of many of the Operation Market Garden airborne landings just to the west of Arnhem in the Netherlands. It is the largest one-day commemorative march in the world and has taken place yearly on the first Saturday of September, since 1947.

The Airborne March is organised to remember the Battle of Arnhem which took place in 1944 and this year, it was marched by 32,809 participants from more than 20 different nationalities, one of whom was Lgr Charlie Wessels, who participated wearing her South African Legion colours and representing the Europe Branch. It’s the third time she has participated.

Participants represent all ages and backgrounds

The distances vary from 10 – 40 kilometres and the event is attended by people of all ages and backgrounds, including veterans, living relatives, soldiers, cadets and civilians, paying their respects. All routes start and end at the sports park Hartenstein in Oosterbeek.

The revenue from the march is used to enable veterans and their next of kin to come to the Netherlands and attend the commemorations in and around Arnhem.

Wreaths laid at the Airborne Cemetery in Oosterbeek

The atmosphere during the whole day can only be described as incredible. Marchers form up and register in the sports park before being ‘lead out’ past the Airborne Museum by one of the more than 30 Music Corps, who take part in the event.

Along the route there are stands selling refreshments, volunteers who assist with First Aid and general morale along the way and marchers (from all walks of life who join in on foot or in wheelchairs) who freely chat with each other and who all end up feeling like your ‘Brothers in Arms’.

The Cross of Sacrifice of the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission at the Airborne
Cemetery in Oosterbeek

The marching routes lead past the most important wartime locations in Oosterbeek, including the Airborne Cemetery, where over 1,700 British and Polish soldiers are buried. As jovial as the march is along the way, the atmosphere once you enter the Airborne Cemetery is in stark contrast and changes to quiet and respectful.

The local population in Oosterbeek make a real effort to let all participants and visitors feel welcome. They decorate the streets and the Pegasus flag flies proudly on each mast outside the homes. They even provide for snacks and water along the route and sit outside their homes to cheer the marchers on.

The distance you choose to march and the weight you carry, are all down to personal choice, it’s not a competition.

Regardless how far you chose to march, marching up that final hill in Oosterbeek before entering the festivities of the high street, takes some gritting of teeth. The happy tunes from the Music Corps leading the marchers back through the gates to collect their medals at the sport park and the cheering of the crowds, are quite overwhelming.

The author of this piece, Lgr Charlie Wessels
‘flying the flag’ for the SA Legion
at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek

As you approach the final part of the route… you march past the Airborne Museum and see the Para Veterans sitting in the front row with their beers, proudly looking on at the marchers by. Suddenly you realise again why you are there, taking part in this march and paying your respects. The pain from the weight of your bergen/daysack digging in to your shoulders and hips and the aching muscles of someone who has not tabbed (in far too long!!!) suddenly disappear… These veterans represent all of those… who gave their tomorrow… so that we could have our today…

Cheers to all who have taken part in this march over the past 72 years and especially, to those we are marching for.

We will remember them.

The 73rd edition of the Airborne March will take place on 7 September 2019

 © South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch) 2018

Text and pictures: Lgr Charlie Wessels

 


Delville Wood Remembrance Service and Parade 14 July 2018, East Sheen Cemetery, Richmond, London

RICHMOND-UPON-THAMES – On the morning of Saturday 14 July 2018, the South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch) in association with MOTH (Gazala Shellhole) hosted the very well-attended Delville Wood Remembrance Parade at East Sheen Cemetery in Richmond, London.

The Legion and MOTH contingents were swelled by members and standard bearers of the Royal British Legion (South Africa Branch and Teddington Branch), MOTH (General Browning Shellhole) as well as the Master and several Freemasons from the London-based South Africa Lodge No. 6742 (UGLE), supported by several family and friends.

We gathered at the cemetery chapel to remember the 229,000 South Africans who volunteered for World War 1, paying tribute to 2,500 who perished in the Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916), the single biggest South African military loss on the battlefield.

The Standards were paraded into the chapel and Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen led a dignified remembrance service of prayer, reflection, and hymns, with poems and contributions read and recited by representatives of all organisations present.

Video footage of the service by Lgr. Theo Fernandes:

 

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karin Parry, and Johanna Bergman:

Parade
Under the expert direction of Ceremonial Officer Lgr. Brian Parry, veterans fell-in behind the gathered Standards and a piper from the London Scottish Regiment (aka the ‘Cockney Jocks’) and marched in quick time to the nearby South African Cenotaph in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the vast civilian and military cemetery.

Standards were dipped in salute as the bugler sounded Last Post following the Act of Remembrance.

As the piper sounded a poignant lament, wreaths were laid by the SA Legion England, Scotland, and Europe Branches, MOTH Gazala Shellhole, and South Africa Lodge.

SA Legion Scotland Branch Chair Lgr. Cary Hendricks, resplendent in full Murray of Atholl Highland kit then took the salute on behalf of the Regional Exco.

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karin Parry, and Johanna Bergman:

Social
We then proceeded to the The Mitre in Richmond for several cold pints, and super braai in the beer garden catered by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Lgr. Dutoit Verster, and Lgr. Johan de Vries. Legionnaires, MOTHs, and Masons mingled and seemed to have imported South African summer weather to Richmond.

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes and Karin Parry

Bravo Zulu to all involved (far too numerous to name).

© South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch) 2018
Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman
Video: Lgr. Theo Fernandes
Photography: Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karen Parry, Johanna Bergman


Last Post Ceremony, Menin Gate, Ypres

Every evening at 20:00 sharp, ever since 1928, the solemn and stirringly beautiful Last Post ceremony has been performed under the Menin Gate at Ypres that commemorates the many thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the bloody battles of the Ypres Salient during First World War. On the walls of the memorial are inscribed the names of 54,395 soldiers – including South Africans – who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found.

On 12 and 13 May, Ypres hosted the Kattenstoet (Cats Parade), a festive local carnival themed on cats, which was an extra attraction on this weekend.

South African Legion (Europe Branch) Chairman Lgr. Andrew Bergman arrived with his wife Johanna on Saturday evening and attended the Last Post Ceremony as a ‘dry run’ to recce the lay of the land. An advance email to the Last Post Association in anticipation of our visit yielded and invitation to lay a wreath, as well as the possibility (at the discretion of the Master of Ceremonies on the day) to deliver the Oration or Epitaph with an official delegation the following day.

Reinforcements arrive

On Sunday, Lgr. Dave Wiseman and Lgr. Clint Olivier crossed the Channel and arrived in Ypres in time for the Cats Parade. We then got together – dressed in our parade kit – at a café opposite the Menin gate, where we were treated like minor celebrities.

We then moved to the Menin Gate, where the Master of Ceremonies asked Lgr. Bergman to deliver the Oration during the ceremony. Then a pleasant surprise: MOTH Alex Cromarty happened to be in the area touring with his family, which swelled our ‘band of brothers’ to four.

Our wreath-laying party fell-in three-abreast under orders of the Master of Ceremonies. Behind us were schoolgirls from Scotland and England, students from East Anglia University, and ancestors of the fallen, all waiting to pay their floral respects.

Opposite us, the Rochdale Festival Chorus gathered to provide musical accompaniment.

By now there was no more room under the vast arch of the gate itself, and spectators were spilling out into the approaching road on both sides.

“They shall grow not old…”

The sizable crowd fell silent when the buglers of the Last Post Association took-up their positions at the eastern end of the gate. Then, at 19:58, the buglers sounded the Rouse. On a signal from the Master of Ceremonies, Lgr. Bergman marched to the centre of the hushed arch, turned to face the buglers, and recited the Oration: “They shall grow not old…”

A minutes’ silence followed, and then in perfect unison, the buglers sounded the mournful Last Post. There were not many dry eyes in the house.

First to lay wreaths were the Mayor of Ypres and the Mayor of Singen, a German city that is twinned with Ypres. Both had been formally introduced to the South African Legion delegation at the start of proceedings.

Forward march!

We were the next wreath-laying party, and while we haven’t done much marching together, we did ok – the pictures show that our dressing never wavered, we kept perfect step.

The buglers then sounded Reveille to signal the end of the ceremony.

 

After the ceremony was over, it was time for networking. Legionnaires spoke to a Colonel (in civvies and ‘off duty’) from the Belgian Special Forces, and we mingled a while with the other wreath-layers in the afterglow of the dignified and solemn ceremony we’d all shared.

So after a successful round of shoulder-rubbing with the Great and the Good of Ypres and beyond, three Legionnaires and Johanna – who had resolutely defended her plumb photographic position from several assaults on both flanks to produce a superb photographic and video record – followed the city walls southwards to have supper at Brasserie Kazematten, which is established in the ancient casemates within the fortifications of Ypres. Many of the original features are retained. The staff treated us like kings and it proved a fitting end to a memorable day of remembrance and fellowship.

© South African Legion (Europe Branch)
Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman
Pictures and video: Johanna Bergman


Visit to the Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham – 13 April 2018

Wow what a day out it was! As everyone arrived, they were processed at Reception and taken off in groups to the coffee shop and then, with all 19 together, it was off to the AFV Wing where S.Sgt. Tony Martin was on hand to take us around the armoured fighting vehicles on view from across the world, explaining their history, strengths and weaknesses. This was followed by an explanation of the development of anti-tank ammunition developed in response to the continued improvements in armour, some of the characteristics of which were still on the secret list. For some, memories were invoked of the dark days of their youth spent in South African Ratels doing battle with T55s in Angola.

Picture: Flt. Lt. Max Lewis

Next stop was the Artillery Hall to be shown examples of the development of guns from early muzzle-loading cannon to today’s sophisticated artillery able of striking to within 35m of targets up to 37km away, including an example of our own G4. Rob Rice couldn’t contain himself when he saw the 25-pounder, jumping into the gun-layers seat peeled back the years to his days in the Rhodesian Artillery during the Rhodesian Bush War. Rob Cooke is the artificer responsible for keeping all of these guns in working order and his enthusiasm was as infectious as his knowledge was deep.

Then it was on to the Light Weapons Armoury where Lt. Col. (Ret) John Starling regaled us with humorous stories of the development and deployment of small arms while demonstrating his encyclopaedic knowledge of the weapons and ammunition under his care. He voiced his disdain for some forces’ procurement officers whose criteria, it appeared, was based more on how sexy a weapon looked than how effective it would be in their operating environment. Then, like kids let loose in a sweet shop, we were invited to take down and handle any of the 1,000 or so weapons that filled the three rooms. Many made a beeline for the rifles we’d trained on back in the day and the expression of glee on Brian Parry’s face as he cradled an MAG was a delight to behold.

SA Legion Regional Chair (UK & Europe) Lgr. Cameron Kinnear, (left) with our host and the strong SA Legion contingent

Time passed too quickly and lunch in the Officers Mess beckoned where we found that a three-star General and his entourage had occupied our table! Never mind, no-one was going to ask him to move, and we were soon settled behind an excellent lunch with conversation buzzing about what we’d seen and heard.

A memorable day for all in great company. Many thanks to our host, Flt. Lt. Max Lewis, for making this visit possible.

Report by Lgr. Tony Povey


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