Dutch National Remembrance Day – SA Legion shows solidarity with Noordwijk

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.


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.


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

SA Legionnaires join parade at London Cenotaph to mark 100 years since Armistice

WHITEHALL, LONDON – Around 40 Legionnaires from around the UK and Europe joined 9,000 veterans and 10,000 civilians at the Cenotaph in London for the Remembrance Parade to mark 100 years since the armistice to end the First World War was signed.

Many who travelled to Waterloo Station used the excellent free Poppy Cab service to reach the muster point at St James’s Park. Tickets were distributed and members quickly passed through the busy but efficient Royal British Legion ticket checking process to form-up as part of Column D on Horse Guards Parade.


That this year’ s parade was of a different scale in terms of attendance became evident after the column had marched through the arch onto Whitehall. The normal position is almost directly opposite but this year the group was marched almost to Trafalgar Square to accommodate all those attending.


Once everyone was formed up in the road, a bit closer to the memorial, the service began. Large TV screens, showing the service, were provided in the road, as they have been in previous years, but unfortunately the one in front of the Legion column was not working. There was however no mistaking the moment when the two minutes’ silence began, as the cannon of the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery boomed out from Horse Guards.


Wreaths were then laid, beginning with Prince Charles on behalf of HM The Queen and followed by military leaders, politicians and High Commissioners of the Commonwealth. Once the formalities were over the mood in the column became more relaxed. Hip flasks where passed around and fellow veterans groups cheered as they began marching off, the Royal Military Police Association party receiving the time-honoured but well-intentioned boos.


The South African Legion party was expertly drilled by Lgr Brian Parry. When the time came for the march-past came, the wreath was laid by Royal British Legion South Africa Branch Chairman Lgr Peter Dickens. After performing the customary eyes left past the Cenotaph, the column wound through the roads back to Horse Guards where Princess Anne, the Princess Royal took the salute.


Back on the parade ground it was time for group photos and jokes with fellow veterans before everyone began making their way to the pub for the RBL SA Branch AGM. To emphasise the size of the Centenary event, the last of the civilian column had yet to set off by the time the veterans had marched through and were leaving the area.

Legionnaires and their families gathered at The Kings Arms in Mayfair for some well-earned refreshment and the AGM. The formal minutes are recorded elsewhere, but in his speech, Lgr Peter Dickens reminded the members that attendance at such special events is largely down to the close relationship forged with the Royal British Legion who run these events in the UK.

Text by Lgr Justin Bosanquet
Photography by Lgr Theo Fernandes and Karen Parry (please scroll down for full picture galleries)

Picture Gallery by Karen Parry:

Picture Gallery by Lgr Theo Fernandes: 

© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved


South African Veterans’ Armistice Day Parade

The Richmond Armistice Day service was held on 10 November at 10:30 at East Sheen Cemetery in London, and was attended by more than 50 people, including the South African Legion (UK & EU Branch), representatives of the MOTH, the Royal British Legion, and South Africa Lodge.

After the entrance of the banners and flags under direction of Ceremonial Officer Lgr Brian Parry, Chaplain Craig Esterhuizen opened the service with a verse from Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”.

After the hymn Be Still My Soul led by the choir of the New Apostolic Church who added their superb voices to the occasion, the lesson continued and centred around the meaningfulness of Armistice Day, being that it was 100 years ago that the accord was signed; but that peace was still a commodity in short supply in the world. The story of the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob was referred to, and an exhortation that we all fight as hard for peace, as we would for our freedom.


The service was ably supported by the choir who delivered renditions of poignant hymns such as Only Remembered, He in Whose Heart Peace Abideth and The Lord is my Light. Poems were read by Lgr Andrew Bergman, Lgr Russel Mattushek and Lgr Paul Gladwin. At the conclusion, the choir received a standing ovation from the Legionnaires in attendance.


To mark 100 years since the end of WWI, Cameron Kinnear, SA Legion UK & EU Regional Chair then unveiled a SA Legion Shield, for which the custodians of East Sheen Cemetery Chapel kindly gave permission, as well as pride of place at the apex of an arch. Its presence further cements the warm relationship that the SA Legion enjoys with Richmond Cemetery, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Lgr Stuart Robertson.


A short tea was enjoyed after the service, complete with home-made muffins provided by Gail Esterhuizen.


Wreaths were then laid at the cenotaph and a march-past with salute, received by Lgr Cameron Kinnear. A social then continued at the Mitre Pub where a typically carnivorous braai was provided by Du Toit Verster and Johan De Vries.


Text by Lgr Craig Esterhuizen and Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Lgr Theo Fernandes and Karen Parry (please scroll down for full picture galleries)

Picture Gallery by Lgr Theo Fernandes:

Picture Gallery by Karen Parry:

© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved

Battle of Square Hill Centenary Service and Parade 2018

RICHMOND UPON THAMES – The England Branch of the South African Legion hosted a remembrance service and parade to mark the centenary of the Battle of Square Hill at London’s East Sheen Cemetery in Richmond on Saturday, September 22.

The Battle of Square Hill was fought from September 19 to 21, 1918, when Cape Corps troops engaged with Turkish forces in the final months of the First World War (*see below).

To mark 100 years since this historic battle, representatives of the South African Legion (England, Scotland, and Europe Branches) gathered with representatives of the Royal British Legion (SA Branch),  SA Legion South Africa, Royal British Legion (Teddington), and M.O.T.H. (Gazala Shellhole), as well as several civilian guests – including the granddaughter of one of the fallen and her family – at the East Sheen Cemetery Chapel on the northern outskirts of London’s vast Richmond Cemetery.

Picture by Karen Parry

SA Legion Ceremonial Officer Lgr. Brian Parry directed the procession of standards into the chapel and SA Legion England Branch Chairman Russel Mattushek recited the Act of Remembrance (They shall grow not old…).

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

SA Legion Chaplain Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen then led all present in a dignified remembrance service. He pointed out the biblical significance of the location of the Battle of Square Hill, which raged in the area north-east of Jerusalem now known as the ‘West Bank’, close to where Joshua laid siege to Jericho, and also to its proximity to Megiddo, referred to in the Bible as Armageddon, prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times.

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

A tribute was also delivered in memory of the late General Johannes Jacobus (Jannie) Geldenhuys who served as Chief of the South African Defence Force between 1985 and 1990 and was Called to Higher Service on 10 September 2018. General Geldenhuys was 83.

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

Veterans and gather guests joined in prayers, hymns, and the National Anthems of South Africa and the United Kingdom, after which the standard bearers and the veterans present fell-in to march to the nearby South African cenotaph.

At the cenotaph, the Act of Remembrance was repeated, Last Post sounded, and two minutes’ silence observed.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of the SA Legion England, Scotland, and Europe Branches, the Royal British Legion (South Africa Branch) and MOTH (Gazala Shellhole).

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

* Battle of Square Hill
This year marks the milestone centenary of a historic battle which is not yet at the forefront of general consciousness in the United Kingdom. The legion playing its part to raise general awareness.

During the Battle of Square Hill in 1918, Cape Corps soldiers were able to shine in their first battle with Turkish soldiers in Palestine during the final months of the First World War.

The Turks were a mighty foe…

The nightmare that affronted Gen Allenby came in the form of Gen Mustapha Kemal or Ataturk as he was later known (founder of modern Turkey) and Gen Liman von Sanders seconded by the German High Command to their Turkish allies. This Turkish/German Army was the same one that had defeated the Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian (ANZAC) forces at Gallipoli, and thereafter marched triumphantly down Asia, conquered Damascus, and overran Syria until they reached the Holy Land.

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

Gen Allenby, with his Staff Officers mused over his problem and formulated their battle plans.


The significance of this battle was General Allenby’s military strategy to connect with Arab allies to the east of the Dead Sea, a mission that was thwarted by the enemy’s control of the Jordan crossing at Jisr ed Damieh. Captain Ivor D Difford, quartermaster of the Cape Corps wrote that Gen Allenby was “determined to strike a blow west of the Jordan, where the whole Turkish army in that area was enclosed”. To this end, the plan was to “break through the enemy’s defensive positions and create a gap for the cavalry to pass through”.

Picture by Karen Parry

During the night of 18 September 1918 the 1st Cape Corps themselves had taken 181 prisoners. Having come under “fairly persistent counter-attack” they were said to have battled with bayonets in the “strictest silence” and that they carried out orders implicitly.

Notable names mentioned in this battle were Lt. Samuelson, Sgt February and L/Cpl Thimm. The 1st Cape Corps capturing of the enemy field gun which was noted as “the first gun captured on the Palestine front during Allenby’s great push” – resulted in Lance-Corporal Thimm being promoted to Corporal.


Following the war, a monument was built in Kimberley. The gun captured at Square Hill stands there still… but of similar monuments in Johannesburg and Cape Town, nothing but promises materialised. The annual Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday parade at the Johannesburg cenotaph drew a large crowd of Cape Corps veterans and descendants for decades and was widely known as the Square Hill parade, but even that memory has now faded.

Picture by Karen Parry

The battle on that night claimed the lives of L/Cpl S Visagie and Pte S Gobey. Further casualties the next day were Pte J Jonkers, Pte G Groep and Pte D Hahman.

As legionnaires we carry the flame of remembrance…

Background of Richmond South African Cenotaph:

Following the outbreak of the First World War, South Africa, as a British Dominion, formed and mobilised the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force, as its contribution to the war effort. This force consisted of: The SA Infantry Brigade, SA Mounted Brigade, SA heavy Artillery Brigade, SA Field Artillery Regiment, SA Native Labour Corps, SA Field Ambulance unit, SA Corps of Engineers, SA Signals Company, and the SA Medical Corps – a total force of about 232 000, each one of them volunteers.

Many of our grandfathers were among them.

The SA Medical Corps provided the staff for both the South African Military Hospital in Richmond Park London, and the No 1 South African General Hospital established in France. Injured or ill soldiers from all theatres of war were transferred to Richmond for treatment and for recuperation.

Picture by Karen Parry

Altogether 39 of the South Africans who died in the SA Richmond Park Hospital were buried in the Richmond Cemetery. At the end of the First World War, the SA Hospital and the Comforts Fund Committee decided to erect a memorial to these men and to all those South Africans who had died in the war.

Sir Edwin Lutyens who designed the Whitehall Cenotaph – where thousands of ex-service personnel, including a substantial contingent of South African Legionnaires, march on Remembrance Sunday – designed this memorial and it was unveiled by General Jan Smuts in June 1921. It became a pilgrimage focus in the 1920s and 1930s.

It now has Grade II listed status and it is recorded as a building of special architectural and historic interest.

Lest we forget…


Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman
(including research by Lgr Claudio Chistè and Lgr Tom Mason)
Photography by Lgr. Victor Ho and Karen Parry
© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved


SS Mendi and Armed Forces Day, Noordwijk 2017

The centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, as well as Armed Forces Day was commemorated at Noordwijk in the Netherlands on 21 February 2017.

The ceremony began with a moving chapel service led by Rev. Andrew Gready. Short speeches were delivered by the Mayor of Noordwijk Jan Rijpstra, South African Ambassador Vusi Koloane, Lesotho Ambassador Ms Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, historian Mark Sijlmans, and myself on behalf of the South African Legion.

The service was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the gravesides of five named, and one unnamed SS Mendi casualties, whose bodies were washed-up on the Dutch coast, and now rest in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the Noordwijk General Cemetery.

The now-annual event was hosted by the South African Embassy in partnership with the Municipality of Noordwijk – who have been of amazing support in the way they have embraced ‘their’ SS Mendi casualties – and the South African Legion (EU branch).

South African dignitaries included the Ambassador, as well as Defence attaché Brig. Gen. Mac Letsholo, Chargé d’Affaires Mrs. Namhla Gigaba, and a fine delegation of embassy and consular staff.

In addition to Lesotho, the Ambassadors of Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia were also in attendance.

The Defence Attachés of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, Romania and Uganda also attended.

The Royal Netherlands Armed Forces sent several high-ranking officers from various branches. They also supplied a Guard of Honour of Dutch soldiers to perform ceremonial duties such as raising and lowering the flags. They also supplied a very competent trumpeter who played Last Post, and a piper who added much decorum to the proceedings.

Afterwards, the SA Ambassador invited guests to an informal dinner of South African food and wine in Noordwijk’s superb new sports complex.

After dinner, I was given the opportunity to say a few words. As a token of our appreciation for their continued support, I presented SA Legion Shields to the Mayor of Noordwijk, Ambassador Koloane, and Brig. Gen. Letsholo.

I also presented the Ambassador, the General, and Chargé d’Affaires Namhla Gigaba with first editions of Fred Khumalo’s just-published novel ‘Dancing the Death Drill’, that includes the sinking of the SS Mendi in its plot. I presented a further two copies to the Mayor of Noordwijk for the city’s public library.


It is incredibly heartening to see how an event that was started by the South African Legion EU Branch just three years ago has grown from a modest ceremony with a few dozen attendees to an annual remembrance embraced by the SA Embassy as well as the international diplomatic community, and attended by well over 80 people. It was just a pity it fell on a work day, which prevented more of the UK Legionnaires from attending.

It was humbling for the SA Legion to receive special mention in Ambassador Koloane’s speech, in which he thanked us ‘for keeping the memory alive’.


Andrew Bergman, Branch Chair SA Legion Europe gave the following speech:

Locoburgemeester Van Duin, your Excellency Ambassador Koloane, Brig. General Letsholo, Madame Gigaba, ladies and gentlemen, dames en heren, maNena nomaNenakhazi

In his iconic 1914 poem entitled ‘The Soldier’ English First World War poet Rupert Brooke says:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’ some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

These words by an Englishman, so loving of England, could just as easily have been penned in isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, or any of the other languages that make up South Africa’s inimitable multicultural tapestry today, by a member of the South African Native Labour Corps:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’ some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever eKoloni, kwaZulu, Mpumalanga, Lesotho, mZanzi Afrika.

Many of the men who were lost off the Isle of Wight that dark February night 100 years ago had never seen the sea before they gathered at the Green Point Track near to Cape Town harbour to board the SS Mendi. So as the sea engulfed the ship, they had little chance in the frigid waters.

The remains of those pitiful few SS Mendi casualties that the cruel sea surrendered might lie in foreign fields, but still, today, after 100 hundred years, their sacrifice does South Africa credit. Their names join those of thousands of soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice – for better or for worse – for King, Commonwealth and Country.

Nederland koos voor neutraliteit in de Eerste Wereldoorlog, maar toch waren Nederlanders niet gespaard van de vele nare neveneffecten van een oorlog dat op hoor afstand werd gevochten. Vanuit Nederland hoeft men vandaag maar een dag-ritje Ieper of een weekeindje naar Parijs te maken om de relatief – en certainement na Zuid Afrikaanse begrippen – zeer kleine geografische afstanden waarin de industriële oorlogsellende waarna te SS Mendi stoomde zich afspeelde.

Zo werd zelfs de stoffelijke resten van de Zuid Afrikaanse soldaten, gedragen door zeestromingen en aangespoeld op de Nederlandse kust. En hier in Noordwijk werd onze kameraden, geboren in de droge uitgestrekte vlaktes van Zuidelijk Afrika, of in de heuvels en bergen van KwaZulu or Umtata of Lesotho, of Botswana, uiteindelijk met respect en liefde te rusten gelegd.

Maar uit het bloed-doorweekte as van de oorlog rijzen vaak ook positieve dingen. Vandaag krijgen de leden van de South African Native Labour Corps het aandacht dat ze terecht verdienen, maar tot onlangs door ‘selectieve geschiedenis’ grotendeels ontnomen waren.

Dan, over de loop van drie jaar, tijdens het regelen van deze nu jaarlijkse herinneringsbijeenkomst, heb ik een bijzondere relatie zien bloeien tussen Gemeente Noordwijk, de Zuid Afrikaanse veteranen, en de Zuid Afrikaanse diplomatieke vertegenwoordiging. Ik ben zeer benieuwd om te zien wat daaruit ontwikkeld.

So today, on the occasion of the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, and in celebration of South African Armed Forces Day, the Europe Branch of the South African Legion of Military Veterans embrace and salute our comrades-in-arms, past, present and future.

And we remember that there is one corner of this field in Noordwijk, where Privates Leboche, Zendile, Molide, Kazimula, and Mtolo now lie, that is forever mZanzi Afrika.

Report by Andrew Bergman, images by Johanna Bergman-Badings.

The Williams brothers from South Africa

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Category : Articles , WW1


Amazing when recruitment posters such as this one, among other reasons can motivate whole families to join the war effort in South Africa.

The Williams brothers from South Africa all served in the First World War in different roles, from the army, to the air force and the Merchant Navy. Their parents Classina Cornelia and Charles Danvers Williams lived in Papendorp and then Cape Town, South Africa.

They served as: British Army, Royal Engineers, Service #520018 Sapper William Harris Williams, Air Force (RAF/RFC), Service #308006 Clarence Louis Williams, South African Services, South African Infantry , Service #2526, Private Thomas Ralph Williams – killed in action at Ypes. Merchant Navy, Danvers Nicholas Williams.

Quite extraordinary (but not uncommon) to have four brothers from the same family volunteer to go and participate in World war 1.

This is part of an Imperial War Museum initiative to capture the personal history of all the men who fought in the war, visit “Lives of the First World War”

Posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens

Benoni: 99th Commemoration of the Battle of Delville Wood

Category : Articles , WW1

About 100 Military Veterans and friends gathered at the cenotaph in Benoni on Sunday 19 July 2015 to attend the 99th Commemoration of the Battle of Delville Wood. A total of 17 wreaths were laid while 35 symbolic roses were placed by members of the public.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with photos by Sergeant Kevin Fenton.

Richmond – South African Hospital 1916 and Richmond Military Cemetary

Category : Articles , News , Newsletter , WW1


This is just to demonstrate a small piece of the work of the SA Legion-UK. Makes for a good read, so please enjoy, and consider joining us as we continue to highlight the role SA has played in conflicts around the world.


In 1916 General Smuts was put in charge of the WW1 conquest of German East Africa. The objective was to fight German forces in that colony and to capture the elusive German General von Lettow-Vorbeck.
South Africa raised a Brigade of four infantry battalions for the Western Front, in addition to 5 batteries of Heavy Artillery, a Field Ambulance, a Royal Engineers Signal Company and a General Hospital, which eventually provided the staff for both the South African Military Hospital at Richmond near London, and the No 1 South African General Hospital in France.


More than 146,000 whites, 83,000 blacks, and 2,500 people of mixed race and Asians, served in South African military units during the war, including 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps. The total South African casualties during WW1 were about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed. South Africa’s ports such as Cape Town, Durban, and Simon’s Town, were also important refuelling-stations for the British Royal Navy, helping to keep the vital sea lanes to the British Raj open. South Africans also saw action with the Cape Corps as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine.


The South African Hospital was established in Richmond Park in June 1916. In July 1918, it was amalgamated with the Richmond Military Hospital, to form the South African Military Hospital.

In order to provide care for the large number of South African troops serving in the First World War, the South African Hospital was established in Richmond Park in June 1916.


In July 1918 it was amalgamated with the Richmond Military Hospital to form the South African Military Hospital. The South African Hospital and Comforts Fund Committee decided to erect a memorial to commemorate thirty-nine South African soldiers who were buried in Richmond Cemetery, which was at that time known as ‘soldiers corner’.


The memorial carries an inscription in both English and Dutch (which was at the time a recognised official language of SA) and was unveiled by General Smuts in June 1921. The South African War Memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled by General JC Smuts in June 1921. The design derives from Lutyens’ Cenotaph in Whitehall of 1919-20. (Yes, the same one that rises to prominence on Remembrance Day in London)


After it was unveiled by General Smuts in 1921 it became the focus of South African pilgrimage throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Since then it became neglected & lay forgotten until in 1981, when the CWGC agreed to take on the maintenance of the memorial, on behalf of the South African Government. In 2012 the South African War Memorial was awarded Grade II status and was added to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. However, still very few people were at this stage even aware of its existence.


The last parade held at the memorial arrears to have been more than 70 years ago.


Recently however, Tom Mason of SA Legion-UK came across this memorial & the head stone surrounding it. On that visits there were members of the CWGC present working on the 39 South African graves & the information they provided Tom pricked his interest. There are in fact members of his Grandfather’s WW1 unit buried among the 39.


Tom brought the memorial to the attention of the SA legion-UK and then began putting together a rededication service parade, with Father Nicholas Pnematicatos, which was subsequently held at the memorial on 29 Nov 2014 by a small group on route to the AGM. SA Legion-UK has committed to placing this event on its annual calendar of events henceforth & will strive to ensure that the memorial does not once again lapse into obscurity.


An interesting find too (opposite the memorial) was the grave of Natalie Opperman, 1904-1988. She was the Chairman of St. Dunstan’s (South Africa), and had been awarded the Star of South Africa (Civil) Knight for her life long devotion to those blinded in the 2 Great Wars. It is the highest civilian award in South Africa.


I am pleased to say there was a wreath on her grave that appears to have been placed by at least one of her grandchildren & friends from the Blind Veterans-UK.


Centenary Commemoration of World War One

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Category : South Africa , WW2



Article by Charles Ross


On Sunday 28 September 2014 the Parish of St Mary’s Anglican Church, Cambridge, East London held a Celebration of Remembrance 1914 – 2014 in sacred memory of the 11 members of the Parish who gave their lives for King and Country whilst on active service during the Great War 1914 – 1918.


The service was attended by members of the South African Legion of Military Veterans, MOTH’s and Royal Air Force Association.


The tragedy of the SS Mendi – South Africa’s greatest wartime loss

Category : Articles , WW1

Collated by Peter Dickens


This is the only known image we have of the SS Mendi, the ship at the centre of South Africa’s worst military disaster and biggest single loss of South African life at war (a little more than at Delville Wood – and that’s quite staggering).


On 21 February 1917, during World War I, this chartered troopship – the SS Mendi – containing a full battalion of South African Native Labour Corps men and officers on it’s way to the western front was rammed in fog conditions in the English Channel. The SS Mendi sank in 20 minutes.

616 South Africans (607 of them black troops – mostly from rural areas around the Eastern Cape) plus thirty crew members, mostly British, died in the disaster.

The much heavier ship, the SS Darro, which rammed the Mendi had not been following safety protocols for sailing in fog conditions, and furthermore did not stop to rescue the men in the frigid February water. 
The greatest tragedy was yet to come as due to racial prejudice and the politics of the time this event was somewhat down-played through the years and not enough recognition given to these men,


for example none of the black servicemen on the SS Mendi (neither the survivors nor the dead), received medals, nor any other members of the South African Native Labour Corps,  although their white officers were decorated as a consequence of a South African Government decision. 

Monuments were not really erected to these men and their legacy was in effect scrubbed from South African history.  Except for a small unknown memorial in Port Elizabeth, little was done in South Africa until a proper and fitting memorial was finally unveiled at Avalon cemetery Soweto by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995.  
So much so was history shielded and altered that most people in South Africa still to this day do not know (or believe) that in World War One (and World War Two for that matter) – approximately 40% of the standing South African Union Defence Force – where “non-white” South Africans. 
The injustice to these men – lost valour – is something the South African Legion is working very hard to redress with annual commemorations to the disaster – both in South Africa and in the United Kingdom in February. 

To give perspective on the scale of the disaster and the loss of life and the impact to the black South African community at the time, page down through the honour roll of the South Africans who lost their lives that day, it’s quite staggering. Lest we forget.

Emslie, S. Lieutenant 
Richardson, E.H. Lieutenant 
Turner, T.K. Regimental Sergeant Major 
Botes, A.D. Staff Sergeant 
Cockrell, A. Staff Sergeant 
Botha, C.H. Colour Sergeant 
Ford, T.A. Colour Sergeant 
Knaggs, R. Colour Sergeant 
MacTavish, R.A. Colour Sergeant 
Abraham, Andries 11164 
Abrahams, Fred 11163 
Aliveni, Jim 8911 
Bade, George 9707 
Badlana, Joel 10016 
Baleni, Langeni 11098 
Banana, Nkeni 9665 
Bangani, Mxonywa 9379 
Basilie, Isaac 9170 
Bay, James 9294 
Beko, Heny 9374 
Beta, Jack 9164 
Beyulea, Windvogel 11070 
Bhay, Jim 9260 
Bikleni, Dodoka 9377 
Bokleni, Henry 7587 
Booi, John 9690 
Bovi, Mkokeli 10017 
Bungane, Freddy 11169 
Butitje 9802 
Chesa, Elijah 11170
Collis, Vimba 9650 
Dabani, Jim 9241 
Dampi, Piet 9203
Danki, Thomas 9215 
Dano, William 9265 
Dealtaha, Annaniya 9754 
Dengese, Aldum 9567 
Dinoka, Geelbooi 9780 
Ditsepo, William 9436 
Dyushani, John 10018 
Eland, Piet 11138 
Etea, Piet 11188 
Fidyoli, John 11172 
Franci, Rueben 9956
Fule, Steven 9261 
Gabaza, William 564 
Gabutloeloe, Lucas 9708 
Geina, Manie 9689 
Gigima, John 8010 
Gilweni, Jim Tom 9915 
Gobizitwana, Willie 11206 
Gqweta, Henry 9928 
Gumede, John 11216
Msiya, Lemu Galimini 9647
Gumeni, Charlie 9685 
Gwabu, Jack 9321 
Gwatyuza, Jacob 9954 
Hasbane, Jan 9147 
Hendricks, James 9943 
Hendricks, Willem 11132 
Hlangweni, Mtati 11161 
Hlatshwayo, Fishi 11126 
Hlope, Zanempi 11120 
Holoane, Francis 11171
Homelane, Willie 9289 
Jackson, Abrams 9803 
Jacobo, Isaac 9695 
Jamangile, Jim 8892 
Jantole, Joseph 8900 
Johnson, Willie 8913
Jonas, Jim 9710 
Jonas, Saluseni 9244 
Jongilanga, Pansi 9390 
Jubile, Lawrence 11045 
Kabi, Simeon 10964
Kakana, Jan 9441 
Kakele, Mac 9154 
Kale, Karl 9818 
Kali, Hamilton 10021 
Kaloto, Simon 9418 
Kana, Mali 11176 
Karishi, Change 9146 
Kashane, Jan 9176 
Kataza, John 9686 
Kazamula, Moskein 9626 
Kazamula, Simon 10931 
Kazimula, Natal 9623 
Kepisa, Jack 10374 
Kepsize, Johnson 9848 
Ketsbai, Helon 9905 
Kgadile, Kleinbooi 9820 
Kgana, Johannes 3703 
Kgatjane, Lucas 11144 
Kgobosemang, Kleinbooi 9740 
Kgosi, Isaac 9211
Kgupa, Longone 9425 
Khaile, Robinson 11173 
Khoanamutsi, Mapipe 9429 
Kholopane, Dovey 10960
Ngcobo, Vincent Pansi 9319
Kladi, John 9578 
Kleinbooi, Jack 9263 
Koalane, Josaih Walter 10896 
Kokoto, Jonas 9398 
Kolong, Kimon 9822 
Koluba, Sam 9406 
Koopman, Jan 9293 
Kopane, Jan 11048 
Kopane, Snele 9666 
Kozamula, Captain 9447 
Kula, Hlongwana 11088 
Kumalo, Magwala 11112 
Kuse, John 9785 
Kutshwayo, James Henry 5969 
Kwikanye, Jack 9290 
Lebeko, Charlie 9415 
Leboche, Abram 11056 
Lefi, Ishmael 11141 
Legoabe, Stephen 9763 
Legwale, Stephen Lucas 3274
Lekau, Alfred 9188 
Lekau, John 1256 
Lekgoli, Soloman 9728 
Lekhoto, John 1791 
Lepero, Geelbooi 9829 
Ntshangase, Dick Mqitsha 9914
Lephethe, David Job 11196 
Lesele, Corporal 9654 
Lesetja, Jan 11063 
Leshage, William 10947
Lesiba, Daniel 10369 
Lesiba, Jan 10384 
Lesiba, Joseph 9186 
Lesiba, Simon 10371 
Lesibana, Jim 10364 
Lesitja, Charlie 10373 
Lesitja, Martinus 9908 
Lesoale, Johannes 11192 
Letau, Karel 9286
Letebele, Namatshan 9748 
Letebele, Pond 9155 
Letwatwa, Lucas 9659 
Lifa, John 11247
Likgoli, David 9946 
Likgoli, Sebolai 9947 
Linganiso, Simon 10020 
Lithaba, Michele 9761 
Liwela, Frans 10951
Louw, Piet 11137 
Luhlongwana, Koni 9580
Luputini, Jacobus 9255 8
Maake, Saucepan 9142 
Mabagwana, Titi 9271 
Mabane, Mpini 9393 
Mabaso, Zula 11122 
Mabila, Charlie 9126 
Mabururu, Abraham 9125 
Macambi, Mareyama 9794 
Madikizela, Tatani 9388 
Madimetja, Jacob 10383 
Madosi, Robert 8910 
Madubanya, Jack 10365 
Madume, Botha 9124 
Madume, Frans 9189 
Madume, Jack No. 1 9174 
Madume, Jack 9408 
Madume, Jim 10949 
Madume, Kleinbooi 9185 
Madume, Mackson 9420 
Madzibana, Frans 9631 
Mafadi, Ephraim 9576 
Mafika, Daniel 9371 
Mafiliba, Mtigedwa 9243 
Magadi, Daniel 562 
Magagamela, Alison 8356 
Magaju, Hlongwana 11092 
Maggisi, Sitini 11079 
Magoba, Isaac 9195 
Magudulwana, Hlongwana 11093 
Magwegwana, Hlongwana 11105 
Mahaladi, Windvogel 11067 
Maharo, Stephen 9544 
Mahlaba, Whisky 9629 
Mahlentle, Richard 9773 
Mahloapitseng, Klaas 10965 
Mahludi, Isaac 11154 
Mahohoda, Klass 9643 
Mahutu, Canteen 9149 
Makalima, Robert 9288 
Makamba, Bloro 9198 
Makasha, Jim 3021 
Makatini, Nongqayi 9558 
Makatu, Kleinbooi 11181 
Makaye, Ndabana 11215 
Makeleni, Kimberley 9688 
Makhohe, Jan 8967 
Makilitshi, Paraffin 9117 
Makoba, Majuta 10002 
Makoe, Jack Jantji 11185 
Makole, Benjamin 9839 
Makopans, Frank 9897 
Makosana, Charles 9143 
Makudu Johannes 9898 
Makwane, Jacob 9857 
Makwatedi, Mack 9193 
Makwena, Josias 9857 
Malebogo, Jack 9427 
Malemutle, Chairlie 9119 
Malesela, Jan 10363 
Malgas, Hlanga 9932 
Mali, Mac 11069 
Maluse, Charlie 10391 
Maluse, Frans 10382 
Maluse, Lucas 10366 
Mambolo, Johannes 11065 
Mandcas, Sam 9248 
Mandubule, Dick 10027 
Mandwane, Hlatshwayo 11101
Maneka, Jack 10375 
Mangaliso, Hlongwana 11090 
Mangapela, Piet 11150 
Mange, William 9709 
Mangise, John 9669 
Mangoloane, Jacob 8997 
Mangqe, Timothy 8876 
Mangwana, Jan 9162 
Mantupsi, Jack 9426 
Manunyane, Bernard 9285 
Manzane, Ben 9635 
Mapalala, Keve 11121 
Maparana, Charlie 9136 
Maphessa, William 9563 
Mapheto, Hosiah 11066 
Maphoto, Harry 9826 
Mapulane, Sampson 9433 
March, Martinus 11135 
Marofula, Jacob 11057 
Marole, Willem 9138 
Martinus, Johannes 9295
Masade, Albert 9757 
Masaleni, Jeremiah 9927 
Maseko, Windvogel Captain 11071 
Mashali, Jameson 9411 
Masia, Dick 9432 
Masiaane, Jim 9562 
Masikela, William 9173 
Masilo, Transvaal 9782 
Masina, Taweni 9238 
Masinde, Jonas 9518 
Masindi, George 9237 
Masoling, Julius 11167 
Matebula, Piet 9358 
Mathlana, Aaron 9287 
Matjala, Richard 9798 
Matjola, Jan 9565 
Matkala, Picennin 11186 
Matlala, Johannes 11190 
Matonsi, Jaftha 9806 
Matsang, Abel 9751 
Matshana, Hezekiah 9924
Mathse, Marcus 9853 
Matshelane, Andries 9661
Matsubane, Jim 10368 
Matume, Frans 10370 
Matume, Moses 9760 
Matupu, Thousand 9133 
Mazaku, Gwavuma 9381
Mbata, Albert Nkomempunga 9913 
Mbedla, Isaac 9931 
Mbikwa, Sam 11140 
Mbiyazwe, Jim 9199 
Mbombiya, Jim 9373 
Mbuzi, Mzingele 9382 
Mcanyana, Russel Palmer 9792 
Mcitshwa. John 9768 
Mdata, Soloman 11075 
Mduna, Edward 9770 
Mdunyelwa, July 9922
Mdyogolo, Mnyeliso 9651 
Mehlomane, Silwanyana 9242 
Mekgoe, Herman 9253 
Menza, John 9658 
Mgidi, Billy 11204 
Mgingana, Koza 11099 
Mgoyoye, Petrus 9670 
Mgwena, Soloman 9784 
Mhlanga, Ndukwana 11118 
Mijana, Willie 9831 
Mkezo, Mpotyana 9394 
Mkohla, Joseph 10012 
Mkomazi, Frans 9152 
Mkomazi, Jim 9627 
Mkoni, John 9256 
Mkonvama, Daniel 9118 
Mkumguri, Jim 9736 
Mlahleki, Jail 11155 
Mlando, Hlongwana 11086 
Mlonyeni, Robert 9386 
Mncedana, Melville 7601 
Mnyeliso, Gama 9652 
Mnyikinwa, Longone 11055 
Moatse, Josiah 8991 
Mobitsela, William 9775
Modeba, Theophilus 9194 
Modikeng, Goodman 11151 
Modisane, Jan 10899 
Modise, David 9204 
Modisoatsile, George 9718
Moeata, Petrus 9783
Moeng, Sampson 9945
Maake, Joseph 9140
Mofokeng, Koos 10953
Mogalobutha, Klaas 9183
Mogorosi, Benjamin 10433
Mohale, Jacob 9177
Mohase, Vellum 9660
Mohowe, William 9128
Mokatakisa, Hendrick 10963
Mokgeleli, Aaron Jili 9333
Mokgosi, Aaron 9370
Mokgwere, Samuel 9743
Mokhali, Simon 10958
Mokhapo, Mac 9129
Molabi, Amos 9156
Molelekoa, Titus 9819
Molide, Sitebe 9267
Molife, Andries 11194
Molife, Linesa 9269
Molife, Mosmiti 9268
Molisanyane, Andries 9951
Moloi, Kleinbooi 9797
Moloi, Philip 11189
Moloyi, Mreki 9557
Moloyi, Ntikimana 9275
Molthlakane, Letsie 9838
Monahela, Edward 10959
Monamatuga, Thomas 9191
Mongologa, Joseph 9700
Monoke, Johannes 9825
Montso, Michael 11152
Monyako, Philip 9835
Monyele, Elias 9368
Morashe, Jim 9401
More, Pinefas 10434
Morolong, Walter 11178
Moshe, Moses 9132
Moshimane, Jack 10377
Mositsi, Amos 9739
Motaung, Jacob 9950
Motebang, Eliah 10962
Motela, Jack 9187
Mothei, Jan 9741
Motobi, Peter 7210
Motsoahai, Mpalakela 10957
Mpafulane, Udmund 9366
Mpatu, Simon 9437
Mpee, Johannes 9901
Mpete, Jan 9687
Mpoa, John 9721
Msesenyane, Jan 9632
Mshote, John 563
Msimango, Lubaro 9270
Msiya, Lemu Galimini 9647
Mtembu, Mswela 11109
Mtirara, John 9385
Mtolo, Sikaniso 9999
Mtombeni, Abraham 9560
Mtshotshisa, Gabayi 9939
Mudungazi, July 9638
Muhlaba, Joel 9252
Mukopo, Andries 9171
Mukotle, Fred 9168
Mulabe, Change 9440
Mulamu, David 9163
Munani, Mukale 9419
Murape, Jim 9430
Murda, Jack 11149
Mutinjwa, Daniel 9236
Mvele, Jerele Mazalemvula 9646
Mvula, Joniseni 11108
Myamana, Verandah 9622
Mzamani, Jim 9279
Mzayifana, Alfred 11207
Mzimane, Johannes 9677
Mzono, Jotama 11072
Nafufa, David 9644
Napane, Charlie 9421
Natedi, Jack 9141
Nawane, George 9698
Ncotele, Litye 9862
Ndaba, Pikiti 11128
Ndamase, Richard 9389
Ndanise, Baleni 9641
Ndeya, James 9795
Ndhluli, Jim 11060
Ndiki, Samuel 9859
Ndingi, Olifas 8893
Ndlankuhle, Nzulu 802
Ndlovu, Isaac 9529
Nduna, William 11058
Nepthale, Tsusa 11145
Ngade, Ben Elias 11061
Ngake, Enos 9749
Ngate, Canteen 9148
Ngate, Picannin 11054
Ngcenge, Durward 9771
Ngcobo, Pindela 9272
Ngcobo, Vincent Pansi 9319
Ngesi, Walter 9910
Ngqotoza, Zilandana 9653
Ngwahewa, Jan 9637
Ngwane, Jamse 9654
Nini, George 11053
Nkakuleni, Sly 9407
Nkhereanye, Lukase 5743
Nkoane, Peter 7277
Nkomandi, Konisars 9639
Nkunwana, Jack 9212
Nkwambene, Charles 9634
Nkwenkwe, John 9889
Nodolo, Squire 9772
Nokwelo, Makali 7067
Nomvaba, Charlie 9207
Nongwe, Johannes 10024
Nquza, Jabez 9202
Nsulansula, Zondo 11097
Ntabani, Picannin 9716
Ntelte, Frans 9139
Ntindili, Charlie 8891
Ntopi, Piet 11187
Ntoro, Kleinbooi 3711
Ntozake, Honono 8912
Ntshangase, Dick Mqitsha 9914
Ntshetsha, Mbalela 9383
Ntsieng, Bullar Martinus 9575
Ntsutswana,Thomas 9938
Nukula, Ben Sydney 11051
Nxazonke, Mlungu 9934
Nyambana, Konish 9636
Nyati, Samuel 9283
Nyonane, Ebenezer 11205
Nziba, John Clout 11177
Olibeng, Fanwell 9216
Olijn, Pieter 11131
Oliphant, Piet 11166
Pala, Alexander 9851
Pambili, James 11052
Papetje, Johannes 10378
Pasile, Radoma 9175
Pasoane, Amandus Aupa 11146
Pasoane, William 9850
Paulus, Dolf 11133
Payipeli, Charlie 9249
Payo, Jacob 9667
Perike, Ephraim 9599
Petela, Kleinbooi 9923
Petrus, Paul 9296
Petula, Stephen 10908
Phaladi, Bob 11046
Phiti, Tom 9179
Phohophedi, Thomas 8329
Pieters, Isaac 11162
Pietersen, Paulus 10900
Pikahila, Stephen 9793
Pinyana, Nodyiwana 8020
Pisani, Matthews 9151
Pitso, Andries 9911
Pitso, Jan 9717
Pkula, Simon 9953
Plaatje, Thomas 9657
Plaatjes, Malgas 9711
Poko, Philip 9824
Pokwane, Frans 9399
Ponyose, Koos 11059
Pugiso, David 9251
Pulana, Philemon 11047
Pule, Lazarus 9834
Pupuma, Madela 8907
Qaba, Edward 9648
Qakala, Jan 10013
Quvalele, Parafin 10022
Quzula, Charlie 10928
Qwebe, Cawood 9909
Rabatji, Jan 11064
Radelbe, James 9376
Radzaka, Jucas 9781
Rakau, Frans 11179
Rakgokong, Johannes 11062
Ramakalane, Titus 11193
Ramakhutle, Gerson 8992
Ramakoko, Modise 8990
Ramasi, Rabintoe 9746
Ramasita, Job 9902
Ramatea, Joseph 11143
Ramathodi, George 9896
Ramedekoane, Thijs 9001
Ramkosi, George 9833
Ramoho, Charlie 9130
Ramoshiela, Nicodimus 8994
Ramosole, Abel 9000
Rampomane, Aaron 11184
Rampopo, Lukas 8996
Rampunve, Jan 9733
Ramurumo, Frederick 9668
Raskane, Jan 9160
Ratilulu, Samuel 11147
Ratskogo, Gilmore 10897
Resinali, Picanin 9625
Roadway, Smith 9656
Rwairwai, Jerry 9694
Samela, Wolobile 9197
Seathlane, Selepe 10954
Sebadi, Samuel 994
Sefako, Geelbooi 8999
Sefako, Jim 9671
Segule, Smith 9122
Sekakaile, Rice 9412
Sekonyela, George 9816
Sekoro, Josiah 11142
Sekote, Stephanus 11191
Sekwidi, Jan 9779
Selami, Jim 9192
Sello, Seth 9907
Seodi, Green 9397
Sepalela, April 9417
Serewe, Jackson 9724
Setani, Style 9920
Setloko, Philemon 11180
Shebeshebe, Jack 10379
Shikamba, Jack 9445
Shiletane, Bossboy 9137
Sibalabula, Timotheus 9210
Sibalela, Jim 9240
Sibisi, Jacobus 9817
Sibizo, Edmund 11240
Sibolayi, Sampson 8993
Sifaku, Kleinbooi 10948
Sigededhla, Zachariah 9556
Sigidi, Hlongwana 11085
Sikawuleb, William 9755
Sikota, Theodore George 11202
Sikwayo, Ben 11157
Silika, Molefi 9266
Silwane, Frans 9121
Sinqana, July 11203
Siposa, Willie 9392
Sitebe, Mqobo 11107
Sitlaro, Koos 8995
Sitole, Charlie 10912
Sitole, Mgqiki 11116
Skhabi, Hermanus 11182
Skip, Jim 9428
Soka, Anderson 9892
Solani, Meji 9655
Somatshungu, Tom 9805
Somgede, William 9800
Songca, Lukakuva 8879
Stephens, George 9413
Stunga, James 9280
Suping, Abraham 9744
Suping, Johannes 11049
Swarts, Jan 11130
Swarts, Sma 11129
Tabudi, Jacob 9854
Takisi, Frank 9181
Tamasinya, Johannes 9590
Tambu, Peter 11168
Tankobong, Zachariah 9742
Tanoni, Phineas 11153
Tentata, July 11165
Thebeagae, Charlie 9753
Timpane, Billem 9745
Tiya, Percy 9706
Tlabure, Elias 11183
Tladivamutsi, Michael 11076
Tokhae, Jan 9134
Totwana, Hlongwana 11094
Tsamaya, Jacob 9246
Tsase, John 10950
Tsehlana, Jack 10372
Tshabalala, Kaysi 11102
Tshabana, Willie 9555
Tshange, Ngqakamatshe 11091
Tshekosi, Klaas 9780
Tshenene, Charlie 9860
Tshikari, Paul 11174
Tshite, Joseph 10431
Tshomolokse, Paul 9702
Tshotsha, Hlongwana 11110
Tshulo, Abram 9758
Tsule, Soloman 9434
Tube, Jackson 9259
Tumberi, Jim 9630
Tyilo, John 11198
Tywalana, Jeremiah 9649
Utuni, Frans 9776
Uziningo, Jantshi 9926
Voss, Philip 7229
Vovela, Joe 10929
Vutula, Charles 9801
Wauchope, Isaac 3276
Williams, Freddy 9714
Williams, Henry 9292
Zambezi, Hlongwana 11096
Zatu, John 9937
Zenzile, Arosi 9375
Zimuke, Mashaya 11068
Zingwana, Johannes 9640
Zinyusile, Edward 11158
Zitonga, Mongameli 8021
Zondi, Solomon Vili 9299
Zondo, Magida 11103
Zondo, Mufakabi 11114
Zondo, Pukwana 11115
Zulu, April 9247
Zwane, Sikonyana 11087
Zwane, Sukwana 11089