Commemorating the 75th Battle of Arnhem

Commemorating the 75th Battle of Arnhem

The South African Legion – United Kingdom and Europe are planning a Tour to Commemorate the 75th Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, Netherlands over the period 20th to the 22nd of September 2019.

The SA Legion will participate in multiple events over this period, laying of flowers and wreaths, public events, standard bearing, march, parachute drop, services, music requiem, tattoo, and many more.

 


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


SS Mendi Remembrance, Noordwijk, 21 February 2018

At 11 am on Wednesday February 21 2018, the South African Ambassador to The Hague, HE Vusi (Bruce) Koloane, His Worship The Mayor of Noordwijk, Alderman Jan Rypstra, under the guidance of programme director, Deputy-Mayor Gerben van Duin, joined with the ambassadors of several countries, and the military attachés of several more, and representatives of the South African Legion and other veterans, at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the General Cemetery in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, on the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi*.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lgr. Andrew Bergman addresses the event on behalf of the South African Legion

The Dutch Armed Forces provided a Guard of Honour, a brass band, and several pipers to add colour to a dignified event. Rev. Andrew Gready led the service with hymns in the cemetery hall, before conducting the wreath-laying at the graveside. South African Deputy Military attaché, Lt Col Andrew Mafofololo orated the Act of Remembrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South African Deputy Military attaché, Lt Col Andrew Mafofololo and the South African Ambassador to The Hague, HE Vusi (Bruce) Koloane lay a wreath on behalf of South Africa

In his speech, the South African Ambassador to The Hague, HE Vusi (Bruce) Koloane specifically acknowledged the contribution of the SA Legion to “keeping the flame of remembrance for the SS Mendi alive“. After the service, the South African Embassy hosted a delicious lunch of South African food and wine at the ultra-modern Noordwijk Sports Centre.

* On 21 February 1917, the SS Mendi, a troop ship out of Cape Town carrying 823 men of the 5th Battalion South African Native Labour Corps bound for Le Havre in France was rammed by the Daro in thick fog in the English Channel of the Isle of Wight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South African Deputy Military attaché, Lt Col Andrew Mafofololo orates the Act of Remembrance

They were travelling to support the war effort, in particular Britain and her allies, who were running out of people and supplies.

The SS Mendi sank quickly with the loss of more than 600 South African servicemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wreath laid on behalf of the South African Legion

In 2012, February 21 was proclaimed as the day to observe Armed Forces Day annually.

Since 2014, an annual remembrance and wreath-laying service has been held at the gravesides of Privates Sitebe Molife, Natal Kazimula, Abram Leboche, Arosi Zenzile, and Sikaniso Mtolo, who lie buried in the picturesque seaside town of Noordwijk in the Netherlands. They all perished when the SS Mendi sank, and their bodies were washed-up on the (neutral) Dutch coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For South African Legion Europe Branch
Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman (Chairman SA Legion Europe Branch)
Pictures: Johanna Bergman-Badings