Category Archives: poetry

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:

  1. South African High Commissioner, Her Excellency Ms Nomatemba Tambo
  2. Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lee Mason
  3. Brigadier General Rariabu, South African High Commission
  4. Commander Dreelan, representing The Royal Navy
  5. Councillor Darren Sanders, on behalf of the Leader of Portsmouth City Council
  6. Councillor Stephen Morgan MP, MP for Portsmouth South
  7. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Mr Julian Evans
  8. South African Womens Forum, Ms Marie Costa
  9. Honorary Freeman Syd Rapson
  10. South African Legion, Mr Cameron Kinnear

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.

Congratulations to Lydia Mellor and team for the superbly run events.


What is a Poppy?

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Category : Articles , poetry , WW1

The poem was written by a Grade 11 learner, Jessica Hepburn who lives in Johannesburg, and forwarded to the Chairman of the Kimberley Branch of the Legion.

Good to see that the younger generation are aware of the significance of the “Poppy”.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Lgr Charles Ross


Poetry – ISANDLAWANA

Category : Articles , News , poetry

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Nkosi, we scream,
And I taste the thunder
Of our feet.

Nkosi! And brandish high
Our bloody assegays.
Nkosi…

He stands, 
The Great Bull-Elephant
And raises his hand.

The White-Mother
Sent us boys
Who still stumble.

Boys to fight men,
We will humble
Their pride.

Raise high
My Impies,
Your assegays,

Let us make
The English Mothers
Cry in their huts!

Let us take back
The place
Of Shaka’s Stand!

Nkosi! 
But the boy
I killed did cry.

He had eyes
Pale and watery blue
And he gripped my hand.

My blade in him
And he gripped
My hand.

And parted those 
Pale strange lips
As if he did not understand.

He did not undertand,
Nkosi, I saw in his eyes
They told him lies.

His hand was hot on mine
And his blood was hotter
His breath rushed out.

He did not believe
We were sharing
His death, this kiss.

So tonight, Nkosi,
On my mat
I lie with my woman;

And tonight
In the shelter of her moon-eyes
I too will cry.

Maria Manuela Cardiga


Poppy Day

Poppy Day is the major fund raising event of the South African Legion of Military Veterans and takes place on either the Saturday prior to Remembrance Day or on the previous Saturday, ie the first Saturday of November.

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IN FLANDERS FIELDS by Lt Col John McCrae

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders’ Fields.

Lt Col John McCrae unfortunately did not survive the war, on January 28, 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne, McCrae died of pneumonia. He was buried the following day in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of Wimereux Cemetery, with full military honours.

Currently Poppy Day only takes place in a number of centres, ie Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth.

 


In Flanders Fields

by Lt Col McCrae, MD:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
 
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
 
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.”

In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds.

Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict.

The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.

McCrae was moved to the medical corps and stationed in Boulogne, France, in June 1915 where he was named lieutenant-colonel in charge of medicine at the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital.

He was promoted to the acting rank of Colonel on January 13, 1918, and named Consulting Physician to the British Armies in France.

The years of war had worn McCrae down, however. He contracted pneumonia that same day, and later came down with cerebral meningitis.

On January 28, he died at the military hospital in Wimereux and was buried there with full military honours.

An Afrikaans translation:

In Vlaandere se Velde

In Vlaand’re wieg papawers sag
Tussen kruise, grag op grag,
As bakens; en deur dit alles deur
Die lewerikke tjilpend in dapper vlug,
Skaars hoorbaar bo die grofgeskut van bomme.Ons is die Dooies.
Dae gelede het ons geleef
die dagbreek en sonsondergloed beleef. Was bemind en was verlief,
nou lê ons in Vlaandere se velde.Veg voort my Kind met alle mag;
neem uit my hand die lig,
met krag moet jul die fakkel dra, met eer. Wie durf Ons dood verloën, onteer –
ons sal steeds dwaal, ons sal nie slaap, solank papawers groei in Vlaandere se velde.

Translated into Afrikaans by Hendrik Neethling and Walter E. Vice as a collaboration on behalf of the Legion, as arranged and ready by Karen Dickens at the Centenary Service of the South Africans at the Somme and the Battle of Delville Wood, held at Thiepval Memorial in France on 10th July 2016