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Armed Forces Day Parade in Woking: 24 June 2017

Wreath laying party at attention

 

Lgr Theo Fernandes laying a wreath on behalf of the SA Legion

 

Shipmate Rod Fraser delivering the Exhortation. SA Legion standing to attention in the background

 

 

Naval cadets leading the march past

 

SA Legion in the march past

 

Standards in position

The Woking Armed Forces and Veterans Annual Parade was held on June 24th. Led by the Woking Branch of The Royal Naval Association and this year’s event commemorated, in particular the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (known by sailors as the Jenny Wrens). The parade marched through the town to Jubilee Square, where there was a short service, wreath-laying at the Woking War Memorial, and a march past taken by the Woking Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Graham and Mrs Sarah Cundy.

The Mayor receiving wreath

The South African Legion England Branch & the RBL South African Branch have a long standing relationship with the Woking Branch Royal Naval Association, and it’s one of the highlights of our calendar to take part in the parade. This year the SA Legion was represented by Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear (Regional Chair), Lgr Claudio Chistè (England Branch Chair), Lgr Theo Fernandes (who laid the wreath on behalf of the branch), Lgr Justin Bosanquet and Lgr Lesley Ferrando.

 

One of the WW2 veteran’s long SA connection

After the parade, refreshments were served at the Woking Railway Club; this provided an opportunity to for fellow veterans to catch up and mingle, many of whom served in WWII. Amongst others; interestingly, one of the oldest veterans in attendance, Woking resident Bill Moore (93), had a strong southern African connection!

Lgr Lesley Ferando with Bill Moore

Bill was born in Dunoon, Scotland and served during WWII in 138 (Special Duties) Squadron of the Royal Air Force,  which was later assigned to Bomber Command operating under No. 3 Group. He was based at RAF Stradishall and RAF Tempsford. He flew Westland Lysander planes into occupied territories to place or recovery agents and equipment. The Lysander was favoured because of its exceptional short-field performance which enabled clandestine missions using small, unprepared airstrips. Bill tells some interesting stories about some of the agents and resistance members they dropped off and pick up – among them four young men who went on to become prime ministers of France! Bill’s squadron was also the first to begin dropping food to the Dutch to alleviate the terrible famine in the occupied country during the winter of 1944 – 1945. By the end of the war 138 Squadron were stationed at RAF Tuddenham in Suffolk, and from there flew to pick up prisoners of war and return them home.

Throughout his service during the war, Bill earned an impressive array of medals – including the French National Order of the Legion of Honour and the RAF Air Crew Europe Star (“France and Germany”). Other medals include the RAF 1939-1945 Star (“Bomber Command”); RAF Defence Medal; and RAF War Medal. Bill has a long connection with Africa, which draws him to the SA legionnaires – he went out to Rhodesia after the war and spent 50 years there, at times involved in building infrastructure. He tells an amusing story of turning an airfield into a racecourse in only a few days for a Royal Visit by the late Queen Mother – although as he remembered with a smile the wind sock had to stay up! Bill returned to the UK some 14 years ago. The most important thing to him is his family, and he’s fortunate to have a number of them reasonably nearby. His oldest great-grandchild is in his mid-twenties, and the youngest is just 15 months old. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to talk to Bill and hear a little more of his life story, an unexpected benefit of taking part in the parade.

 

Article written by Lgr Lesley Ferrando, with photo images by Lgr Justin Busanquet and Shauna Fernandes

 


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Marching For Others

Nijmegen, Netherlands Vierdaagse
The largest and most important walking/marching event on Earth.

~Walk 30 miles a day for 4 days, the last Tuesday in July, since 1909

Starting as a military event in 1909, the 4 Day Nijmegen March expanded annually and included civilians to the point they outnumbered the military 8:1 and to the extent that a limit on the maximum number of marchers (45,000) needed to be imposed since the event was at full capacity. The Nijmegen march is very popular worldwide and citizens of 60 countries attend to march individually each year with over a dozen militaries represented in marching teams.

Previous march in action: The American hero of 2009, Major Green… independent marcher recovered from leg wounds in Iraq. Here he is cheered on by 2 Dutch soldiers right behind me. This is the only march of its kind where uniformed personnel can do something together like this in a supportive, festive environment. All focused on the same goal… crossing the finishing line… not easy in boots! Source:http://nijmegenmarchhowto.weebly.com/military.html

 

In a previous march: US 173rd Airborne Marching Team taking a break​.
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On 18th July 2017, Legionnaire Claudio Chistè, Chairman of the South African Legion England Branch, will embark on the first leg of a 4-day 200km march as one of 47,000 participants in the International Four Days March in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

During the march Claudio Chistè will be wearing the coveted SA Legion green beret

The motto of the SA Legion of Military Veterans is ‘Not for Ourselves, but for Others’. This is epitomised by Claudio in undertaking this march to raise funds for two causes close to his heart – supporting those affected by the dreadful Knysna Fires and contributing to a fund so that the SA Legion can assist SA Military Veterans in UK who have fallen on hard times. To raise awareness of these causes, Claudio will represent all South African Veterans on the march by wearing his distinctive green SA Legion beret and displaying an SA flag on his back pack.

The fires wreaked havoc Source: BBC (Sphiwe Hobasi/@mrcow_man

Funds are desperately required to assist the 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the greater Knysna area who were displaced by the devastating fires which raged for several days, many of those losing everything as the wind driven fires destroyed over 1,000 homes and damaged a further 385.

Informal settlements and suburbs were affected alike

The runaway fires destroyed homes and possessions indiscriminately, regardless of whether they were humble or grand, with everyone being affected. Those from the poorest areas will not have had the benefit of insurance to help them start again and are desperately in need of assistance. Claudio’s aim is to raise £2,000.00 with 50% of this sum going equally towards each need (any surplus funds would go to the SA Legion).

To support these worthy causes and make a difference, go to the following link https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/knysnafireandsouthafricanlegionuk


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Founders Day 2017 – The Royal Hospital Chelsea

Founders Day – The Royal Hospital Chelsea

After his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 which ended his attempt to regain the English Crown following the execution of his father, Charles II was hidden from the searching Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House by Colonel William Careless. This day is remembered in English Tradition as Oak Apple Day and the Royal Oak is a popular pub name to this day. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II made Colonel Careless a Gentleman of the Privy Council and granted him the new name of Carlos which is Spanish for Charles. A gilded statue of Charles II, by Grinling Gibbons in 1676, stands in the centre of Figure Court at the Royal Hospital. It is engraved in honour of Colonel William Carlos with the words, ‘Soldier in the Civil War, protector of King Charles II at Boscobel after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. God, by the overshadowing of an oak, did preserve our Royal founder from the hands of his enemies’.

In 1681, Charles II issued a Royal Warrant authorising the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to ‘care for those broken by age or war’. This was modelled on the ‘Hotel des Invalids’ in Paris and was finished and opened after his death in 1692 with 476 inmates. Today with modernised accommodation it is able to house 327 Chelsea In-Pensioners and is currently home to just under 300 of these Military Veterans, the oldest being 102 and the youngest 67. To be admitted, the requirements are to be a former NCO or soldier in the British Army with either an Army Service or War Disability Pension which must be surrendered to the hospital, or to be the recipient of the Victoria Cross or George Cross. Applicants must have no dependents and be able to self-care and live in one of the Long wards. Officers are eligible provided they have served at least 12 years in the ranks before being commissioned. There is an Infirmary for In-Pensioners who become unable to look after themselves. The value of surrendered pensions is insufficient to cover the cost per pensioner so the hospital is supported by ‘Grant-in-Aid’ from the Ministry of Defence. The In-Pensioners’ familiar and iconic red tunics are worn inside the hospital and on ceremonial occasions, while a blue tunic is worn when the pensioners are outside the hospital precincts. They also now admit female soldiers as In-Pensioners.

Every year, Founders Day at the Royal Hospital is celebrated with all Chelsea Pensioners who are able to do so, on parade. The day gives them the opportunity to invite family and friends to an open day. Through the good offices of John Rochester, Heritage Manager at the Royal Hospital, SA Legion were offered tickets and Legionnaires Claudio Chistè and Tony Povey joined the 3500 invited guests at the parade and review by the His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex.

 

The day started with the band of the Irish Guards playing in Figure Court at the heart of the Royal Hospital followed by the parade of the In-Pensioners. The Parade Sergeant Major handed over the Parade to the Parade Commander and the Sovereign’s Mace was marched onto Parade. The Mace was presented to the Hospital in 2002 as, prior to this, it had no colours. The bowl of the Mace is decorated with acorns to reflect the events of Oak Apple Day.

The Pensioners were formed up into four Guards with those less mobile seated behind them. They were then inspected by His Royal Highness the Duke of Wessex, Honorary Colonel in ‘A’ (London Scottish) Company of the London Regiment, who took the time to address many of the Veterans on Parade. After this the In-Pensioners marched past by Guards and reformed opposite the Saluting Point.

His Royal Highness addressed the Parade with a  response by the Governor, General Sir Redmond Watt, who then called for three cheers for ‘Our pious Founder’, three cheers for Her Majesty the Queen and finally three cheers for His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex. A Fanfare was sounded by the members of the Band of the Irish Guards who were positioned along the roof of the colonnade and following the National Anthem, the Saluting Party departed and the Pensioners were dismissed.

We managed to arrange a photo op with a Lance Bombardier and a Trooper of Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, who are the Queen’s ceremonial Saluting Battery before retiring to the marquee for some well-earned refreshment and a chance to buy Quartermaster Sergeant John Rochester a welcome beer.

A perfect example of pomp and circumstance as only the British can do it and a privilege to attend.

 

Lgr Tony Povey


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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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HMS Sheffield – Sunk 4th May 1982, Falklands War

HMS Sheffield (D80) was a 4100 ton Type 42 destroyer, launched on 10th June 1971 and commissioned on 16th February 1975. She was the second Royal navy ship to bear this name.

An explosion during construction killed two workers, and the damaged section of hull was replaced with another section from an identical design, but in a twist of fate this ship (Hercules) was being built for the Argentine Navy.

HMS Sheffield was part of task Force 317 sent to the Falklands during the Falklands War. On the 4th May 1982 she was struck by an Exocet air-launched missile fired from an Argentinian Navy Super Etendard aircraft. She sank on the 10th May 1982.

On the morning of the 4th may HMS Sheffield was at defence readiness, and one of 3 Type 42 Destroyers operating as a Anti-Submarine Patrol for the Task Force. The other two Type 42 destroyers were Glasgow and Coventry. The Argentinian type 209 Submarine, which was the model originally slated to replace the South African Navy Daphne class submarines, was deemed to be a serious threat.

HMS Glasgow (D88), one of the other Type 42 destroyers, detected two Argentinian Super-Etendard aircraft over 70km away and issued the warning code word “Handbrake” to all ships in the Task Force. In another twist of fate, HMS SHeffield had previously assessed the Exocet threat as over-rated, and assessed this new threat as another false alarm.

As a result HMS Sheffield did not go to Action Stations, launch chaff or conduct any other readiness actions. Captain James Salt was not informed of the reported threat.

Communications with HMS Sheffield were suddenly interrupted. The Exocet missile fired from a ‘point-blank’ range of 6 miles by Captain Augusto Bedacarratz hit HMS Sheffield amidships, creating a 15ft by 4ft hole in the ship’s starboard side. The crew had less than 20 seconds warning. A second missile missed the target. In yet a third twist of fate, it was later concluded by a Board of Enquiry that the warhead did not detonate. This is disputed by members of the crew, and a subsequent re-evaluation in 2015 concluded that the warhead had indeed detonated by using advanced analysis tools which were not available in 1982.

HMS Sheffield was now ablaze, and certain ship systems had been knocked offline, and one of the systems affected was the ventilation. The water main was also damaged, resulting in the fire mechanisms from operating at their full capability, thus effectively sealing the fate of the ship.

Captain Salt ordered that the ship be abandoned due to concern over the fires reaching the Sea Dart magazine. As the crew prepared to leave the ship, they sang Life of Brian “Always look on the Bright Side.”

For the next six days not only were systems evaluated for salvage, but damage control attempted to shore the hull breach. HMS Yarmouth, a Rothsay Class Frigate similar in design to the SA Navy’s President Class took the ship in tow.

However the sea state during the tow caused further flooding and HMS Sheffield finally sank on the 10th May 1982.

As a result of the attack, 20 members of her complement of 281 were lost, most of them asphyxiated. A further 26 were injured.

Discussion points about the the superstructure and the aluminum content having a lower melting point than steel were incorrect, as her superstructure was entirely steel. There was also a shift in the Royal Navy away from nylon and synthetic fabrics that melted onto the skin, causing more severe burns.

SAS President Kruger survivor Cameron Kirk Kinnear with HMS Sheffield survivor Chris Purcell

Chris Purcell’s account of the incident.

Further reading:

The Narrative of the Attack

Official MOD Report

(First posted on the SAS President Kruger website)

 

 

 

 


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World War 2 Medals

Category : WW2

Understanding your Grandfather’s (or Fathers’) World War 2 medals.

This is the standard set received by many South Africans who fought in both the North/East African theatre of operations and the Italian campaign. These are in the correct order of precedence and from left to right they are:

1. The 1939 – 1945 Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in any theatre of operations during WW2. The ribbon shows arms of service – Navy (dark blue), Army (red) and Air Force (light blue).

2. The Africa Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in African theatre of operations. The ribbon is distinguished by the “Sahara” sand colour).

3. The Italy Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth combatants who fought in the Italy theatre of operations (distinguished by ribbon in the colours of the Italian flag).

4. The Defence Medal – campaign medal awarded for both Operational and non-Operational service during WW2 to British and Commonwealth service personnel (and civilians involved in Service to armed forces). The ribbon is symbolic of the air attacks on green land of UK and the Black out is shown by the two thin black lines.

5. The War Medal 1939-1945 – campaign medal for British and Commonwealth personnel who had served full-time in the Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The medal ribbon is distinguished by the colours of the British Union Flag/Jack.

6. The Africa Service Medal – a South African campaign medal for service during the Second World War, which was awarded to members of the South African Union Defence Forces, the South African Police and the South African Railways Police who served during WW2. The ribbon represents the Two Oaths taken (red tab for Africa Service Oath and the later General Service Oath) and the green and gold colours of South Africa.

Have a look at your Grandfather’s or Dad’s medals (or your Mum/ Grandmother’s) and see if they are in the right order and which of these six medals you now recognise.

Note: This is a very complex field and the intention is to show the basic outline, each of the medals has rather extensive qualifying criteria.

Posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens


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SS Mendi – England Centenary Commemoration 2017

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Category : Articles , WW1

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The centenary parade to mark the loss of the SS Mendi was held at Southampton’s Hollybrook Cemetery on the 20st of February. The site memorialises 2000 soldiers who died at sea and have no grave – that includes 600 of  the 616 casualties from the Mendi – fittingly honoured near the memorial to the great British WW1 soldier Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener.

Respect was also shown in the dignitaries from the host nation who attended -Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was joined by the HRH Princess Royal, Princess Anne and her husband Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Lawrence; the Chief of the South African Navy Vice-Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane; and the Minister for the Middle East and Africa, Tobias Ellwood.

Ceremonial duties were performed by a guard of honour and band of the South African Navy while all four arms of service stood guard around the memorial cross.

In paying tribute Mr Radebe drew on the words of the South Africa poet SEK Mqhayi: “Somebody has to die, so that something can be built, somebody has to serve so that others can live.” The profound meaning in these words did not go unnoticed, touching an emotional chord amongst the entourage of descendents of the Mendi crew who were in attendance, amongst which was Siboniso Makaye, whose grandfather was one of the crew members, Private Ndabana Makaye. Siboniso’s own father died when he was only four, he had grown up hearing about his grandfather’s fate from his grandmother who had raised him.

 

“Africa is saying it is well with our souls for these heroes. Today Africa is here” are the words  of Navy chaplain Captain (Rev) Lulamile Ngesi, who paraphrased the words of a prominent American lawyer who lost four of his children when their ship sank.

 

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when the piper from the South African Medical Services played the lament -a haunting version of the old hymn Abide With Me

Tribute to our heroes of the past, bond with the current

After paying tribute to heroes of ‘forgotten valour’, veterans enjoyed the chance to meet current serving members of the SANDF, who undertook the ceremonial duties during the centenary. To conclude this momentous day the opportunity granted to meet the Officer Commanding of the South African frigate, SAS AMATOLA, Captain Roux on board the ship in Portsmouth harbour.   Plaques were exchanged and stories swapped – a fitting end to an historic day of remembrance for those lost at sea.
Legion role in Centenary build-up

It was encouraging to see the culmination of everyone’s effort in this auspicious moment, with the SA Legion playing a significant role in the build-up to this year’s centenary (since SA Legion initiated this memorial service at Hollybrook five years ago). This year, although not run by the Legion, the following Legionnaires contributed: Wreaths were laid by Mr Cameron Kirk Kinnear, Regional Chairman of the SA Legion UK & Europe at Hollybrook (with England Branch Chairman, Mr Claudio Chiste laying a wreath at Milton cemetery on the Friday). It is perhaps fitting that both are naval veterans and Cameron is a survivor of the sinking of the SAS PRESIDENT KRUGER (affectionately known as the “PK”).

Also in attendance were Legionnaires Justin Bosanquet, Graeme Scott, Theo Fernandes, Tony Povey, Jose Lopes, Tino de Freitas, Craig Esterhuizen and Grant Harrison.

 

Article written by Lgr Claudio Chiste and Lgr Justin Bosanquet with images by Lgr Theo Fernandes, CWGC and final image by Lgr Claudio Chiste.


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Commonwealth Day Parade 2017

 

LONDON, 13 March 2017 –Mother Nature clearly smiles on the Commonwealth. On Monday, for (about) the fourth year in a row, the remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony at the Commonwealth Memorial Gates in Green Park, was blessed with (uncharacteristic for London) a mild sunny spring day.

Lr. Theo Fernandes and I met-up at the venue, well ahead of time. He was armed with his customary camera, which he would only surrender (temporarily) later, in order to perform some (even) more important duties.

The Senior Guest of Honour this year was the Ooni of Ife (Nigeria), His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, who arrived with his entourage in imperial style with heralds and pages.

The organiser told me proudly that this year, the South African Government would be represented by H. E. Ms Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the SA National Assembly. Mrs Mbete arrived shortly after His Majesty, resplendent in traditional Zulu costume (she originally hails from Durban). Theo and I were introduced to her briefly beforehand, as we were the only South African veterans present, and we were treated to a proper meet-and-greet afterwards.

After a short opening address, a Gurkha bugler sounded Last Post, followed by two minutes’ silence. After the ‘Rouse’, a Ghurkha piper played the lament, and Guests of Honour were called by name to lay wreaths.

The first wreath was laid on behalf of HRH the Prince of Wales. Next, out of deference to his 98 years, the representative of the Burma Star Association, followed by the Ooni of Ife, and then Mrs Mbete on behalf of South Africa.

When the turn came for the South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch), the wreath of poppies was laid by Lr. Theo Fernandes (aka The Porra) – a committee decision in acknowledgement of Theo’s loyal attendance of the event (6+ years), and his unfailing support for the Branch and his fellow Legionnaires.

Afterwards, guests retired to a marquee where the London Indian community had provided a light curry lunch. We were interviewed by a Sikh documentary-maker and the Sikh TV Channel.

When Mrs Mbete left a short while later, we accompanied her to her car, and enjoyed speaking to her as she waited for the diplomatic Mercedes. She was clearly pleased and surprised to encounter fellow South Africans at such an auspicious event.

Theo and I also met with the Lord Lieutenant of London, leading representatives of the Sikh regiments and community, the Rear-Admiral representing HM Armed Forces and Defence Attaches from Canada and New Zealand.

An interesting meeting was one with the President of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel. His Association are putting-up a memorial to RAF Bomber Command air and ground crew, and want to include the South African names. So watch this space.

Article for the South African Legion by Andrew Bergman

Pictures by Theo Fernandes and (very occasionally) Andrew Bergman


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SS Mendi and Armed Forces Day, Noordwijk 2017

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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.

Dominoes

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.


  • -

Ex ZIPRA fighter regrets downing Rhodesian Viscounts

 

By Shine Moyo, Special Correspondent

Mapotos: A former member of the Zimbabwe People’s Liberation Army (ZIPRA) who was part of the gang that shot down tow Air Rhodesia Vickers Viscount planes in 1978 and 1979 says he regrets the two incidents which resulted in the death of 107 people.

Nkululeko Norman Mabhena (61) told Zimbo today.com this week, just before the commemorations to mark the 38th year of the downing of the second Viscount (Umniati) in February 8th, 1979 that he regrets the two incidents – which he was both involved in – and that the whole war effort was not worth it.

“With age and looking at what has become of this country, i can say the whole war effort was not worth it. I personally regret the incidents. In hindsight, I realise that I should not have been involved in these acts in the first place…. acts that resulted in more than 100 innocent people losing their lives, but that is what war is like, young people are used to do stupid things… I was young and I was used, when I look at what we were fighting, I realised that this is not it. It makes me very sad,” Mabhena said.

 

Mabhena and other members of ZIPRA shot down two Air Rhodesia civilian planes – the first one on September 3rd 1978 and the second one in February 1979 killing 48 and 59 people respectively. It was these acts – together with the torching of the fuel tanks in Salisbury (now Harare), aldo done by ZIPRA – that contributed to forcing the white minority government of Ian Smith to agree to give up power. However, people like Mahbena now regret having fought int he war in the first place after witnessing the wanton destruction that Robert Mugabe and his government have done to the independant ZXimbabwe. Zimbo Today was able to to talk to Mabhena at Matopos National park, the venue of President Mugabe’s lavish 93rd birthday bash, where he has gone with other war veterans to protest against the event that is planned to take place there later this month.

(Republished with permission from the Editor of Zimbo Today.)

 

 

 


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