Category Archives: Newsletter

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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.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

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.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

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.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

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.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

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.

Video by Lgr. Victor Ho

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:


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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

 


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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


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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


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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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SA Legion Medal Parade follows RHC Carabiniers Memorial

Category : Articles , Events , News , Newsletter

A small group of Legionnaires and Moths attended the Observance at the Carabiniers Memorial, Chelsea, on the first Sunday in December, hosted by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Association (RSDGA).

The day continued with a service in the prestigious chapel at the nearby Royal Hospital, Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners, followed by an excellent curry lunch.

 

A highlight following the service, was a medal parade held in Statue Court within the hallowed precincts of the Royal Hospital, where SA Legion England branch Chair, Lgr Claudio Chistè, presented long overdue medals to two recipients.

Moth Jessie Bostock received his General Service Medal and Legionnaire Barrie Gooden received his General Service Medal and Unitas Medal.

In addition to Claudio and the recipients, SA Legion England branch Vice-Chair, Russel Mattuschek, Legionnaires Tony Povey, Dave Wiseman and Theo Fernandez, Moth Mark Samson, Old Bill General Browning shellhole, Tony Grey, RSDGA and two Chelsea pensioners, Sergeant Fred Bolwell, ex-Coldstream Guards and Corporal Tony Hunter, ex-Royal Tank Regiment also attended the parade.

It was an honour to hold the parade on such august ground which was sure to make the occasion all the more memorable for medal recipients and attendees alike.

The day ended with an opportunity to meet members of the RSDGA, Chelsea pensioners, and some Pearly Kings and Queens in the bar over a beer or two.

Moth Mark Samson, Old Bill General Browning shellhole: Lgr Claudio Chiste, SA Legion England Chair: Tony Hunter ex-Coldstream Guards: Lgr Barrie Gooden: Moth Jessie Bostock: Lgr Russel Mattuschek, SA Legion England Vice Chair: Fred Bolwell, ex-Royal Tank Regiment: Lgr Dave Wiseman: Lgr Tony Povey: Tony Grey, RSDGA

Attendance at the Observance is a privilege afforded to the SA Legion because of their South African connection. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) (Scots DG) amalgamated with the 6th Regiment of Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), who from 1899 – 1902 fought in the Second Boer War and were present at the relief of Kimberley. The RSDG are affiliated to the Natal Carbineers and through this look forward to ‘Saffa’ participation in their annual event.’

Text: Lgr. Tony Povey

Pictures: Lgr. Theo Fernandes


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SA Legion UK & Europe Inaugural Ball and Awards Dinner – 16 September 2017

Category : Articles , Events , News , Newsletter

The inaugural SA Legion UK & Europe Annual Ball & Awards dinner took place on 16 September at Cole Court, Twickenham. On arrival, we were welcomed with a glass of sherry and a chance to catch up with friends, old and new.

Entering the hall we took our places at the beautifully laid-out tables. We were welcomed by SA Legion UK and Europe Regional Chair, Lgr Cameron Kinnear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Master of Ceremonies, Lgr.Dirk Benneyworth then took control of the evening’s events, doing a fine job of keeping the attendees on their toes.

Following the excellent three-course dinner, awards were presented to those who had distinguished themselves in serving the Legion during the year.

Lgr. Theo Fernandes receives the Chairmen’s Award 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chairmen’s award: Lgr. Theo Fernandes

For the legionnaire whose conduct and action epitomise the Ethos and Credo of the SA Legion, “Not for ourselves, but for Others”.

England Chair Lgr. Claudio Chisté receives the 2017 Highest Contribution Award from Regional Chair Lgr. Cameron Kinnear.

Highest contribution award: Lgr. Claudio Chiste

Also called the “Not for ourselves but for Others” Award. For the legionnaire who made the greatest economic/fundraising contribution over the course of the year.

Home Fires award: Karen Dickens

This is for a wife who had to put up with people working all hours to get things done, a wife who has shown dedication above and beyond the call of duty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard bearer award: Lgr. Peter Gillat

Wooden spoon award: Lgr. Steve Moritz

For the legionnaire who is always joking, causing “strond” or just a character.

Shooting award: Lgr. Graeme Scott

This award goes to the SA Legion Member who was the best shot in 2016/17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certificates of appreciation: Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen, Lgr. Tony Povey, Lgr. Tino de Freitas, Lgr. Jose Lopes, Lgr. James Dow and Lgr. Andrew Bergman

As SA Legion Europe Chair Lgr Andrew Bergman was unable to attend, his acceptance speech was read in abstentia:

“Ladies, Gentlemen, Legionnaires, Friends – all protocols observed.

“On 21 February 1917, the SS Mendi sank after she was rammed by the SS Darro in mist off the Isle of Wight. It claimed the lives of more than 600 South African servicemen. Tonight, that same misty, icy stretch of water alas precludes me from joining you. However, it is a great honour to receive this certificate, and I must do so with special thanks to those Legionnaires and wives who over the years have supported our SS Mendi parades and events, both in the UK an in the Netherlands.

“A word of acknowledgement too for the sterling effort and cooperation of local authorities such as the Municipality of Noordwijk, who have opened their arms and their hearts to our fallen servicemen who now rest in their soil.

“And finally, the ongoing support of the SA Embassy and Department of Defence personnel in the UK and Europe with whom collective remembrance of the SS Mendi has served to build such valuable and lasting bridges with the SA Legion over the years.”

The raffle followed, with an array of prizes worth over £3,500, and an auction of special items, all of these having been raised by the efforts of SA Legion UK & Europe Branch Vice-Chair, Lgr Russel Mattuschek. The proceeds raised funds towards veterans in need after a great job by Cameron as auctioneer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for great South African flavoured band, M27s, to perform a selection of SA songs (suikerbossie etc) giving some members a chance to show off their langarm moves.

This event, organised by the sterling efforts of Legionnaires Russel Mattuschek, James Dow and Cameron Kinnear, has firmly established the Annual Ball as the social highlight of the SA Legion UK & Europe year and will be eagerly looked forward to next year.

Events personnel for the evening were:

MC – Dirk Benneyworth

PMC – Russel Mattuschek

Vice-PMC – Tony Povey

Sgt at Arms (Marshall) – Tino de Freitas

Standard Bearer – Jose Lopes

Text: Lgr. Tony Povey

Pictures: Lgr. Theo Fernandes


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South African Legion 100 year commemorative plaque placed on SS Mendi

Category : Newsletter , WW1

Amidst the South African Nation celebrating the success of Wayde van Niekerk’s gold in the 400m 2017 athletics World Championship in London, another milestone slipped by almost unnoticed – the laying of the commemoration plaque on the wreck of the ship which has captured the national spirit.

On February 21st 1917, a cold foggy morning at around 05:00 in the English Channel in freezing weather conditions, there loomed a recipe for a shipping disaster which was to cause barely a blip amid the chaos and carnage of World War I. However no one could anticipate the consequential impact down the years in South Africa; a moment that would embody the national spirit.

Crossing the English Channel, having sailed from South Africa to provide support for the Battle of the Somme, the troopship SS Mendi was accidentally rammed by an allied ship, Darro, causing her to sink near Southampton. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of her sinking, the South African Legion represented by the England Branch Chairman, Lgr Claudio Chiste, arranged a plaque to be placed on the wreck in memory of the 616 Southern Africans and 30 crew members who lost their lives. Claudio Chiste told the South African Legion Public Relations Officer: “

“Credit to the skipper Dave Wendes for his hospitality and for getting us there smoothly in the choppy conditions of the day, as well as to all the fellow divers who all enthusiastically contributed to the success of this initiative”.

While many in South Africa may still view the two world wars as “white man’s wars”, nothing can be further from the truth. Of all South Africans involved in World War I, almost 85,000 were of colour (almost 40%). A similar ratio stands for WWII. The contribution from SA of all races towards the world war efforts on a global stage is undeniable.

Some may view these as pressed men, forced in to the war effort; some may view them as servicemen who volunteered, but one thing is certain is that they were men. They left us with their boots on, singing the death dance, unified in their peril. The sea does not discriminate.

This South African Legion initiative to honour these men with the laying of this plaque concludes the final centenary memorial service. The South African Legion played a critical role in the build-up to the centenary having initiated memorial services at Hollybrook five years ago.

The plaque was not bolted onto the wreck, but placed there gently and will not interfere with the vessel in any way. It was placed in an appropriate position on the wreck, where it will stay and act as a lasting memorial, some 40m under water.

 

May their souls rest in peace.

 

FACTFILE
Getting there To visit the wreck site, contact Dave Wendes, who runs boat trips with his boat Wight Spirit.

To get to the launch boat in Lymington: Lymington is situated on the south coast with Southampton to the east and Bournemouth to the west.

From Royal Lymington Yacht Club follow the signposts to the seawater baths. Along the way you should see the slipway and the pontoons, which is where the boat pickup point is.

SatNav Postcode: SO41 3SE

(Royal Lymington Yacht Club, which is adjacent the pontoon)

Health Nearest re-compression chamber is Poole, Dorset
Wreck point About 10 miles south St Catherine’s Point, English Channel
Visitor information http://wightspirit.co.uk

 

By SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe Public Relations


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South African Nation-Building Commemoration

South African Nation-Building Commemoration: a tribute to three great statesmen.

To celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa, the South African Legion – England Branch, in association with the Royal British Legion – South African Branch and 133 Army Cadet Force, organised the inaugural Nation-Building Commemoration to pay tribute to three statesmen whose vision and deeds shaped modern South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi – whose statues all stand on Parliament Square in London – as great visionaries of not only South Africa, but also Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

The South African Legion led contingent gathered on Parliament Square, which is considered to be the Holy of Holies by the British people, by virtue of its location opposite the Palace of Westminster, an icon to democracy. Obtaining permission to parade at Westminster on Parliament Square was a major milestone for the South African veterans in England; a big first and a huge honour. Additionally, being at Westminster, there was the added duty and privilege to pay appropriate respects to PC Keith Palmer who was murdered at Westminster in the terror attack on 22 March 2017.

 

Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi all played a crucial role in leading South Africa to the democratic country we know today. The contribution of Mandela to the world we live in is at the forefront of our consciousness and we honour that. Perhaps less widely celebrated are the monumental roles played by Smuts and Gandhi. We have a duty to honour our heroes and to ensure their contribution to mankind is remembered.

The pieces of the puzzle leading to our democratic South Africa

In the historical timeline leading to the democratic South Africa we know today, one piece of history which might perhaps not be common knowledge, is that Smuts was instrumental in placing the ‘first piece of the puzzle’ leading to modern day South Africa, by leading the reconciliation effort between to former bitter enemies, the British and the Boers (where he served as a General), to create the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Following this landmark reconciliation, he would go on to command the British Army in East Africa during WW1, also serving in the British War Cabinet (where he played an instrumental role in founding the Royal Air Force as a distinct service). Later, in WWII, he was promoted to Field Marshall (the only South African to achieve this wartime rank), serving in the War Cabinet under Winston Churchill. He made history by being the only man to have signed both peace treaties ending WWI and WWII.

Lgr Claudio Chiste, Chairman of the England Branch of the SA Legion, summed-up the leadership trait of leading by example, coupled with the gift of forgiveness, espoused by these three statesmen. Who does not admire warmth and forgiveness of Mandela (affectionately known in South Africa by his clan-name Madiba) after serving 27 of the best years of his life in prison? Who does not admire Gandhi’s subtle power in his stance of passive resistance in the face of the world’s most feared military? Who does not admire Smuts for having personally suffered at the hands of the British (he lost two of his own children during that period, while his wife Isabella (Isie) was taken prisoner in a concentration camp) yet he forgave the British and was elevated within their circle of trust? In the case of the latter, it may not be common knowledge, but so much was this trust built-up between these two former foes that UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was himself was captured by the Boers at one point during the Boer War, was quoted as saying ‘my faith in Smuts is unbreakable’.

One of his last acts by Smuts as Prime Minister of South Africa was the establishment of the United Nations. His lifelong dedication to fighting for what he believed in, at a huge personal sacrifice and uniting mankind perhaps served as divine inspiration when he wrote the preamble to the UN Charter with the opening verse:

‘To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which, twice in our lifetime, brought untold sorrow to mankind…

Many may not be aware… but Mohandas (Mahatma) Ghandi lived in South Africa for 21 years, which for all intents and purposes would very much make him a ‘naturalised’ South African, which we could proudly claim as ‘one of our own’. As Gandhi himself said, South Africa was essential to his personal development and achievement. It was during these 21 years that this timid man who had just passed the bar exam would become the man who was to lead India to independence. On a personal level, he taught us no matter how tough life gets, there is always a positive. Each time he was imprisoned, he would say it was an ‘enrichening experience’. On a group level, he showed us that as a collective force people can be very powerful… unstoppable.

Similarly, Nelson Mandela, our first democratically elected president, took the positive from every experience and is arguably the most well-known great reconciliator of the 20th Century; certainly the most fresh in our minds. In his autobiography, part of which was written secretly in prison, he stated:

‘I was born free… free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut. Free to swim in the clean stream that runs through my village. Free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of the slow moving bulls. It was only when I learned that my childhood freedom was an illusion… that I began to hunger for it’.

Legionnaires – all military veterans for that matter – know all too well that our freedom has been hard won. By paying homage to those before us, we remember their sacrifices and honour their achievements.

 

Wreaths laid for three statesmen who brought about change with forgiveness in their hearts

In his religious service message, Minister Lgr John McCabe drew a pertinent parallel between these three great statesmen on being agents for change, and practicing forgiveness of their former foes. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s famous: ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’

General Jan Smuts said ‘History writes the word Reconciliation over all her quarrels.’

There are many definitions for leadership, but one that is favoured is that leader is influence. These men had a formidable international impact, not only while they were alive but still to this day.

For the first time, wreaths were then laid ceremoniously at the base of each statue, with the standard bearers forming a guard of honour, led from statue to statue by England President of the SA Legion Peter Dickens who acted as Parade Sargent Major. Regional Chair for UK & Europe Lgr Cameron Kinnear lead the ceremony by placing a wreath at the Mandela statue, followed by Lgr Sean Daye for Smuts, Lgr Neil Douglas for Gandhi, and Lgr Paul Konrad for PC Keith Palmer.

Mandela captured the essence of their collective legacy, as well as the ethos of the South African Legion when he said: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.’ As we say in the Legion, ‘Not for ourselves, but for others’.

Wreaths laid:

Master of Ceremonies: Lgr Claudio Chiste

Parade Sergeant Major: Lgr Peter Dickens

Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear, Regional Chairman UK & Europe – Mandela

Lgr Neil Douglas – Ghandi

Lgr Sean Daye – Smuts

Lgr Paul Konrad – PC Keith Palmer

Standard bearers: Graham Scott (IC), Lgr Craig Esterhuisen, Lgr Tony Povey, Lgr Cassandra Shaw, of MOTHs General Browning Shell hole standard bearer Leslie Shield. Special thanks to the 133 Army Cadet Force, their Officer Commanding Joe Drohan and the trumpeter Bobby Crick.

Also in attendance were Lgr Richard Poate and Lgr Robert Ansell.

 

Article for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe by Claudio Chiste`

 


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SA Legion England shooting exercise at Little Chalfont Rifle and Pistol Club

On Friday 17th March the day of the long awaited SA Legion England Branch (SA Legion Shootex) visit to Little Chalfont Rifle and Pistol Club finally arrived.

To ease into the serious bit we started off firing an air soft pistol at targets interspersed with ‘hostages’. Overall, the legionnaires acquitted themselves well in this task by successfully eliminating the hostages, with Lgr Tony Povey managing to even take out two hostages, albeit by hitting the white ‘no-shoot’ areas!

Next up we shot applications using Ruger 10/22 carbines fitted with red dot or telescopic sights. Using the red dot sight and firing with both eyes open was a real pleasure, with a veteran or two commenting “if only we’d had these back in the day”. We then shot seated, double tap per target, mag change, then two more. Shooting standing with mag changes while wearing South African defence force webbing followed.

Again two shots per target, mag change and two more per target all against the clock. The final application was the ‘log break’ in teams of two. Three mags of 25 rounds each, both firing together to break the ‘log’ in the fastest time with a 60 sec time limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the shooting awards ceremony, organiser Lgr Iain Dunn and SA Legion England Chairman Claudio Chiste presented Graeme Scott with the first prize (bottle of Glenlivet aged whisky), paving the way for the après-skiet which followed where all legionnaires exchanged their new “war stories” acquired on the range earlier.

By Lgr. Tony Povey for SA Legion England Branch


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