Thank you for coming on parade, I really appreciate the effort been made to remember the South African fallen … here in London on Armistice Day … an occasion you will all agree I am sure is well overdue.
To give context of why we are here I would like to bring up two stories, both involve Saffa’s and both give us a sense of time and place.
Forgive me if I read an abridge version from two very poignant memoirs. One from a South African who had just survived Deville Wood in France in 1916 and the other is from a South African who survived an air attack during Ops Modular in Angola in 1987.
The first memoir by Lance Corporal Frederick Charles Lee, the only surviving NCO in his company to come out the wood.
We are a couple of miles behind the firing line now, having just come out of the Deville Wood. After five days of absolute awfulness poor Angus Brown, my pal, died of wounds after about three hours awful suffering. He had both feet blown off by a shell. I wish to let Mrs and Mr Brown know this. I saw him a little while after he was hit. He was quite conscious and showed real grit. He even asked me for a cigarette. I gave him a drink of water, and the only complaint he made at that time was “My God, Fred, the pain is awful “. With that I ran down to the dressing station and got the doctor to give me some Morphine. When I got back Angus had been moved, and by the time I found him he was just about finished’
Just 70 years later, Cpl Dave Mannall, who stands here today, is a poignant reminder, and here is his memoir from a Mig attack on his convoy deep in Angola in 1987. Retarded bombs were dropped by overflying Migs on the South African Ratel Fighting Vehicles below, in the aftermath – years later – Dave writes the following:
Frik De Jager … Frikkie’s – died from multiple shrapnel injuries before the helicopters arrived .. his death was extremely hard for us boys, especially amongst the troops who’d been with him since basic training begun 21 months before. Learning of a comrades death in the battlefield is hard, but watching that death slowly unfold over eight hours took a far greater toll on our morale, especially for the Troopers who had lived closely him at 2 Special Services Battalion and for all of us who had become brothers in arms with him during our year in 61 Mech.
Although separated by 70 years, both these brave South Africans – Angus Brown and Frik De Jager share a bond. They both died in excruiciating circumstances, brought about by combat and the ‘fog of war’. They both died on foreign soil. They also both died with their Brothers in attendance, sharing their pain and experience with them. They both died in the arms of men would have gladly given their lives for them instead … and that is a very special bond indeed.
That bond of brotherhood stretches in countless names from Frikkie all the way to Angus, before and after. It is a bond that we share, and it’s a bond that is never broken.
Neither Frikkie nor Angus were decorated for exceptional deeds, nor where many of the thousands of names of South Africans who are immortalised in monuments all over the world – BUT to US, who understand the BOND – and what it REALLY means – they are our HEROES, and it is our solemn duty – NEVER to FORGET them.
Lest we forget