Remembrance Service at Lyttelton

Remembrance Service at Lyttelton


During October 2015 the Saints Presbyterian Church approached the National Headquarters of the South African Legion of Military Veterans for assistance in planning their 2015 Remembrance Day Service. It was referred to the Public Relations portfolio and I contacted the church and got involved. One of the request was the provision of 200 Poppies, which the Pretoria branch obliged. Saints Presbyterian Church made a donation to the Legion.
Today, Sunday 08 November, Lgr Charles Ross and his wife Rina attended the Remembrance Day Service in the Saints Presbyterian Church in Lyttelton. Every member of the congregation attending the moving service conducted by Reverend Zolani Makalima received a Poppy on arrival.

Following the normal service the Remembrance Day part of the service commenced with the background to Remembrance Day. During this mentioned was made of the South African Legion of Military Veterans, who provided the Poppies, and the very important work currently being done by the Legion. This was followed with the reading of the poem “In Flanders Fields” and a address by Lgr Charles Ross on the importance of Remembrance Day post the Second World War.

The congregation was then called to Remembrance followed by the sounding (playing) of the Last Post on an electric guitar (this was a first for me, and obviously for many of the congregation), 2 minutes silence and the Reveille (a recording). The congregation was called upon to place flowers on a rugged cross covered with mesh wire, symbolizing the barbed wire of the First World War. This was a very interesting way of remembrance. Lgr Ross placed a flower on behalf of the South African Legion of Military Veterans.

The service concluded with the church choir singing the hymn “Plea for Africa”.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Lgr Charles Ross with photos by Rina Ross.

Cullinan Military Cemetery


During World War 2 the Zonderwater area near Cullinan became a major assemble and training area for the troops of the Union Defence Force preparing for participation in the war “up North”.
The village of Cullinan serves the Premier Diamond mine. During the Second World War the Union Defence Force occupied virtually the whole village as the command structure for the adjoining Zonderwater troop concentration and training complex.

This is still evident on the hills surrounding Cullinan where some of the Regiments packed their Regimental badges in stones.

Midway through the war the largest prisoner of war camp for Italians captured in East and North Africa was established at Zonderwater and this is the site of a large Italian war cemetery, now situated within the Zonderwater prison grounds. The Italian Prisoner of War cemetery is maintained in immaculate condition and an annual memorial service is held on the first Sunday of November. The cemetery also houses a small museum where article made by the prisoners of war are exhibited.

The Cullinan Military Cemetery is on the outskirts of the town and 102 Commonwealth war casualties are buried in the cemetery. The cemetery is the responsibility of the South African Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The casualties buried in the cemetery comprises 54 members of the South African Native Military Corps, 18 members of the African Pioneer Corps (HCT) mainly from Basutoland (Lesotho) and Bechuanaland (Botswana), 15 members of the Cape Corps, 14 members of the South African Indian and Malay Corps and 1 member from the Essential Services Protection Corps.

A single Commonwealth war casualty is buried in the Cullinan (Premier Mine) Cemetery adjacent to the Military cemetery.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Lgr Charles Ross with photos by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Cullinan Heritage Society.

Battle of Gideon Namibia

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BATTLE OFGIBEONNAMIBIACommemorating the centenary of The Great War 1914 – 1918 and the South African campaign in what is now Namibia. This week we remember the centenary of the Battle of Gibeon during the German South West African campaign.

This is the Gibeon Station Cemetery where the Allied and German casualties are buried and commemorated. The site is jointly maintained by the South African Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the German Kriegsgraberfursorge in Namibia.

There are 33 Allied casualties buried in the cemetery:
20 members of the Natal Light Horse.
3 members of the 1st Mounted Rifles (Natal Carbineers).
3 members of the 5th Mounted Rifles (Imperial Light Horse).
1 member from each of the following Regiments/Units:
4th Infantry (1st eastern Rifles).
4th Mounted Rifles (Umvoti Mounted Rifles).
Military Magistrate.
South African Medical Corps.
South African Military Constabulary.
South African Mounted Rifles.
South African Service Corps.

A number of German casualties are also commemorated in the cemetery.

April 28th, 1915 – Battle of Gibeon, Defeat for Germans in South West Africa

By the standards of the Western Front, the battles that occurred between the South Africans and the Germans in German South West Africa were minuscule skirmishes. But these firefights, often between only a couple score of horsemen on each side, determined the fate of a vast area of Africa one and a half times larger than the entire mainland German Empire.

60,000 South African Union troops had invaded German South West Africa after a previous failed incursion, and a Boer rebellion at home, in 1914. The army was led by General Louis Botha, the current Prime Minister, and Jan Smuts, a future one. interestingly, both men were Afrikaaners and had led Boer commandos against the British during the Second Boer War. The two split their command, Botha leading his troops to the north while Smuts concentrated on the south. Botha concentrated his men for a push towards the German colonial capital of Windhuk.

All that faced this massive invasion was force of around 3,000 German colonial soldiers, bolstered by local colonist militia. The Germans depended on mobility and surprise to even the odds, using hit-and-run attacks and ambushes. 700, with two guns, stood in the way of Botha’s column, which consisted of 14,500 rapidly moving cavalry. A Captain Kleist commanded the Germans. He had been ordered to make a fighting retreat and hold back the South Africans wherever possible, and to escort fleeing columns of German farmers and their cattle. The South African 9th Cavalry Brigade caught up to the Germans in the village of Kabus, driving them out and capturing the farmers. The South African cavalry stayed planted in Kabus for the meanwhile.

Kleist decided to try and lure the South Africans into a trap. He dispatched 150 men back towards Kabus, to draw out the foes, while he and the rest of the force waited in ambush along the road to hit the pursuers. On the 23rd a group of German horsemen burst into the town, shooting their guns into the air wild-west style. The South Africans, rudely interrupted at breakfast, gave chase, but they gave up soon and the trap could not be sprung. Kleist decided to rest for a few days. He vastly underestimated the swiftness and experience of his enemies.

In the next couple of days the Union cavalry discovered an uncut German telephone line near the town. They hooked up their telephone and listened in to the Germans discussing the situation with the “Englanders”. The Germans planned to retreat by train in the village of Gibeon. The South Africans devised a scheme to blow the railroad tracks and capture the whole German force.

At night the South Africans rode towards Gibeon and blew up a stretch of the railroad tracks. Kleist’s men woke up to the noise and deployed around the train, in two drainage ditches that offered excellent cover. The Union cavalry that thundered in did not see the ditches, and when a German machine gun opened up it delivered withering fire. The Germans killed 24 South Africans, and wounded or captured about a hundred.

However, when dawn came, Kleist refused to abandon the train, even though it was useless without the rails. Over the night the South Africans had entirely encircled the position. Suddenly seeing the desperate situation, Kleist ordered a retreat. The Union horsemen galloped in. The Germans fell back hurriedly, turning occasionally to make a stand, but their resistance collapsed quickly in the face of overwhelming force. Sections of Kleists command did manage to escape, but they lost twelve dead, eleven wounded, and 180 taken prisoner. This represented a hefty part of the German forces in South West Africa. There would be no more resistance on the route to Windhoek.

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

Battle of Trekkopje

Yesterday marked the centenary of the Battle of Trekkopje, a railway station some 75 kilometres from Swakopmund in Namibia, between the German and Allied Forces. The Allied Forces comprised mainly of Union Defence Force troops.It was one of the most important battles of the German South West African campaign of the First World War as after the battle the German forces went on the defensive until the surrender on 09 July 1915 North of Otavi. A memorial just outside Otavi marks the spot where the German forces offered their surrender which was later accepted by General Lois Botha. The Allied Forces included the following units:
2nd Regiment Transvaal Scottish
Kimberly Regiment
Witwatersrand Rifle
1st Rhodesia Regiment
Number 1 Squadron RNAS Armoured Car Division
South African Telephone & Postal Corps.Nine members of the Union Defence Force are buried in the Trekkopje Cemetery:
Captain F. Harrison. 7th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Lieutenant W. M. Cameron. 8th Infantry (Transvaal Scottish).
Lieutenant F. Hollingsworth. Rhodesia Regiment.
Lance Corporal T. A Cameron. 7th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Lance Corporal D. A. Filer. 7th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Lance Corporal J. R. Wells. 7Th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Private W. E. Anderson. 7th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Private A. Lambie. 7th Infantry (Kimberley Regiment).
Private G. S. Reid. 8th Infantry (Transvaal Scottish).
There are also three German graves in the cemetery.

During a visit in January 2012 Alan Pateman-Jones, the then Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission labelled the cemetery the “most isolated cemetery in the Commission’s care”.

The Escarpment Shellhole of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH) planned a commemoration event over the weekend of 24 to 26 April 2015.

The South African Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is in the process of erecting new road signs indicating the cemetery as well as a visitor’s information panel at the cemetery.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with photos by Charles Ross, the South African War Graves Project, McGregor Museum Kimberley and Google – Christian Stowasser.

Image by Michael St Maur Sheil

Article here

Lancaster W4888

On a remote location in the Netherland’s the South African national flag permanently flutters proudly next to the Canadian, British and Dutch national flags – held high in grateful recognition of the sacrifice to liberate the country during World War 2 and to commemorate a special memorial and site.

Recently the South African Legion representative in Europe, Andrew Bergman, was invited to join the SANDF Attache’ to Belgium, Colonel Maryna Fondse, to remember a very special South African.

This is the re-dedication ceremony of the plaque for the memorial of Lancaster W4888 which was attacked by a German night fighter and crashed on 5 May 1943 on its return from a bombing raid on Dortmund with the loss of six of the seven crew.

The South African connection is the pilot, Nicholas James Stanford (RAF 80378) who was born in South Africa in 1915 and enlisted in 1941 in Salisbury, Rhodesia. After his training he arrived at 101 Squadron and flew several operations.

The re-dedication of the plaque, occurred in Workum (Vriesland) in the Netherlands today under the auspices of Workumer Verzetsmonument on the 16 April 2015.

A beautiful protea wreath was supplied by Colonel Fondse – and was laid in a joint ceremony with Andrew Bergman – it really did South Africa proud and it was an immeasurable honour for us to be able to participate in such a fitting and decorous ceremony.

It is also most heartening to see the way that the town of Workum has ‘embraced’ this sad episode in their history, and continue to honour our fallen airmen “who fought for freedom and justice”.

The clearly deep impression it all made on the men’s relatives – in the knowledge that the ultimate price paid by their ancestor is not forgotten – was pure gold!

This is just some of the fantastic work been by the SANDF Defence attache to Belgium/Brussels EU – and to Colonel Maryna Fondse and her team and our sincere thanks must go. On days like this it makes us all eternally proud to be Legionnaires.

Here’s the link

Story for the South African Legion by Peter Dickens with contributions from Andrew Bergman

Dar Es Salaam Cemetery

The East African campaign of the First World War which started on 05 August 1914 when troops from the Uganda attacked German boast on Lake Victoria. This was soon followed up by an assault on the radio stations by the ships from the Royal Navy on 08 August 1914.Dar es Salaam was the capital of German East Africa, modern day Tanzania, and soon became the focal point for the Commonwealth Forces with the establishment of the General Headquarters there and later the No 3 East Africa Stationary Hospital. It was also the primary port of entry for supplies and the evacuation of the wounded.

At the start of the East African campaign the South African forces were involved in the German South West African, modern day Namibia, which ended on 09 July 1915. By 1916 South African forces were deployed, along with Indian and other Commonwealth forces, in the East African campaign. The war in German East Africa ended 25 November 1918.

DAR ES SALAAM WAR CEMETERY was created in 1968 when the 660 First World War graves at Dar Es Salaam (Ocean Road) Cemetery had to be moved to facilitate the construction of a new road. As the burials in the former African Christian, Non-Christian and Mohammedan plots had not been marked individually, they were reburied in collective graves, each marked by a screen wall memorial. (Memorial Gardens “B”, “C” and “D”). During the early 1970s, a further 1,000 graves were brought into this site from cemeteries all over Tanzania, where maintenance could no longer be assured.

Dar es Salaam War Cemetery now contains 1,764 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 60 of them unidentified. The 112 war graves of other nationalities, the majority of them Belgian and German, all date from the First World War.

A total of 612 identified and 3 unidentified South African casualties from the First World War are commemorated in the cemetery. Of this 280 are South African Infantry, 88 are South African Horse, 73 are South African Service Corps, 54 are Cape Corps, 27 are South African Medical Corps, 16 are Rhodesian Regiment, 15 are South African Field Artillery. 11 are South African Rifles, 7 are South African Native Labour Corps, 6 each are British South Africa Police and South African Veterinary Service, 5 each are South African Engineers and South African Mounted Brigade, 3 each from the South African Motor Cycle Corps and South African Pioneers, 2 each are Northern Rhodesian Police, South African Indian Bearer Corps, South African Mounted Engineers, South African Mounted Rifles and South African Water Supply Corps, 1 each are Northern Rhodesian Regiment, Northern Rhodesian Native Regiment, Camp Commandant, South African Intelligence Corps, South African Road Corps and South African Special Service Company.

The cemetery also contains the DAR ES SALAAM HINDU CREMATION MEMORIAL which commemorates 14 Indian servicemen whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.

The DAR ES SALAAM BRITISH AND INDIAN MEMORIAL which stands within Dar es Salaam War Cemetery, commemorates by name more than 1,500 officers and men who died in East Africa during and after January 1917 (the advance to the Rufiji river) who have no known grave. The memorial was moved from a site elsewhere in the township and re-sited in Memorial Garden A. The earlier casualties are commemorated by a similar memorial at Nairobi, Kenya.

During the Second World War, Tanzania saw the creation of several transit camps within its borders for Commonwealth forces moving to and from the Middle East and India. There are 41 graves from the Second World War, 7 of them unidentified. 34 of these are South African of which 16 are casualties from the South African Air Force.

The cemetery is maintained by the East African Office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with photos by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Eric Horace Johnson

It is with sadness again that we announcethatWW2SAAF fighter pilot Eric Johnson passed away earlier this month on 6 April 2015 at the near age of 97. Another one of our finest SouthAfricanWW2 heroes has slipped from this world to touch the face of God.R.I.P. Eric and condolences to his family and friends. We will remember him.Eric Horace Johnson joined the South African Air Force in 1941 and qualified as a fighter pilot. He was sent to the Middle East and did operational service with No. 5 Fighter Squadron in North Africa.

He participated in the Alamein battles of 1942 and the subsequent push where the Germans were eventually defeated in North Africa by mid 1943. Flying Tomahawk and Kittyhawk aircraft, their squadron did various duties including protection/defensive sorties to own troops, bomber escorts, armed recces, ground attack sorties and others.

Eric had an eventful combat tour. At one stage he was shot down, wounded and hospitalised. For the remainder of the war Eric was involved with pilot training in the Middle East, Italy and South Africa.

After the war Eric had a long and successful career as an Industrial Chemist until his retirement in 1984.

Visit his tribute web page.

Thanks to Tinus Le Roux and Eric’s family for the notification and provision of Eric’s photographs and references.

Palmietkuil South War Cemetery and Memorial

PALMIETKUIL SOUTH WAR CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL, SPRINGS, SOUTH AFRICAThis possible the closest cemetery in South Africa to the cemeteries found along the Western Front in France and Belgium. It is surrounded by trees and away from the everyday noise which makes the cemetery peaceful and quiet. A place to sit down and enjoy the tranquillity. Only time when this is disrupted is during planting and harvesting times.

The compounds of the gold mine on Palmietkuil Farm were taken over by the Union Defence Force at the outbreak of Second World War and used as the main training centre of the Native Military Corps. The centre was served by its own hospital. The headgear of the mine was recently demolished.

The cemetery contains 217 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, all of the South African Army. Of the 217 burials in the cemetery 3 are from the Essential Services Protection Corps and the rest all from the Native Military Corps.

Within the cemetery is the Palmietkuil South War Cemetery Memorial, which commemorates 122 members of the South African Forces who died during the 1939-1945 War and who lie buried in different parts of South Africa in graves which could not be maintained. Of the 122 commemorated on the memorial 7 are from the Cape Corps, 7 from the Indian and Malay Corps, 4 from the Essential Services Protection Corps, 1 from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps while the rest are all members of the Native Military Corps.

The names are engraved on panels affixed to the Memorial Wall erected behind the Cross of Sacrifice in this cemetery. It bears the inscription, in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Southern Sotho:


The cemetery is maintained by the South African Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who intends, now that the water problem seem to have been resolved, upgrading the cemetery to the normal CWGC standard.

Story compiled for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with photos by Martin Blake of the South African Legion Motorcycle Club.

Three Ships Service 2015


Some more great work from the South African Legion – Port Elizabeth branch – annual Three Ships Service in PE, in recognition of the three ships lost in February with the loss of so many South Africans – The SS Mendi, the MHSAS Southern Floe and SAS President Kruger.


The Annual Three Ships Service was once again held at the St Paul’s Church, Tucker Street, Parson’s Hill PE on the 22 February 2015. The Service was conducted by the Reverend Marc Barth, the Rector of St Paul’s. The Rev Barth has graciously agreed to become the Chaplain for the Legion in Port Elizabeth, replacing the Rev Fr P F Vietri CO who has been transferred to Bloemfontein by his church.

Some 80 Legionnaires, MOTH, Sea Cadet,RAFA/SAAFA, Naval Officer Association, Royal Society, St John Ambulance members and other Friends of the Legion attended the service.

A further coincidence of note was that Mrs Lesley Moore, the granddaughter of CPO MacTavish, a member of the SS Mendi crew who went down with the ship, was among us to pay her respects on the day.

After the Processional Hymn and the welcome, Lgr Brian Klopper (Chairman) read the Legion Prayer – which incidentally he composed!

Thereafter followed the Lesson by Legionnaire Wolfaardt.

Lgr Declan Brennan gave an excellent address, his theme embraced 3 ships which has permeated our history from the time of Jan van Riebeek who arrived with 3 ships; the battle of Muizenberg in which three Royal Navy ships took part, and so on up to the three ships involved in the SAS President Kruger tragic sinking in 1982. The address was enjoyed by the congregation and informative to them as well.

At that point our visitor from the United Kingdom, Mr Nick Ward, rose to give a 10 minute address on his archaeological work on the SS Mendi. Mr Ward has taken a keen interest in the SS Mendi tragedy for some 7 years and flew from London to attend our service. He will shortly be publishing a book titles “SS Mendi – The Long Voyage Home” wherein he recounted not only the story of the sinking but also some of the unhappy decisions by both the UK and South African Governments of that time. We were grateful to him for his flying visit and we thank him for his input.

The Three Candles of Remembrance were lit by three senior SA Sea Cadets from the Port Elizabeth Training Ship Lanherne. The Memorium was performed by Lgr Tertia Morton after which the Service ended with the Recessional Hymn.

Much good harmony and camaraderie was enjoyed in the Church Hall courtesy of the Church Ladies, who put on their usual excellent spread – Thank you ladies and to all those involved with the planning and execution of this annual event.

Article for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross based on the article by Waldie Bartie.

The photos used in this article were taken by Mr Mike Rands of St Paul’s Church

Pretoria Medal Presentation Ceremony

PRETORIA MEDAL PRESENTATION CEREMONYSaturday 14 March 2015 the Pretoria Branch of the South African Legion of Military Veterans hosted the first Medal Presentation Ceremony in Pretoria. The ceremony took place at the GEM Village Irene in Centurion.

Following the opening and welcome address by the Chairman of the Pretoria Branch, Charles Ross, 10 Pro Patria Medals, 5 Southern Africa Medals, 10 General Service Medals, 1 Unitas Medal and 1 Good Service Medal was presented to 16 recipients by Lieutenant General (Ret) Raymond Holtzhausen, SSA, SD, SM, MMM. The General also presented an Air Force Cross Certificate, Pro Patria Certificate and a Troue Diens Medalje: 30 Jaar Certificate to recipients who had previously received their decorations and medals, but not the certificates.

This was followed by a very inspirational address by General Holtzhausen and refreshments prepared by the ladies of the GEM Village while a few beers were enjoyed and many stories recalled.

The photos show General Holtzhausen presenting Pro Patria, Southern African, General Service, Unitas and Good Service Medals.

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