Author Archives: Andrew Bergman

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SS Mendi Remembrance, Noordwijk, 21 February 2018

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wreath laid on behalf of the South African Legion

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


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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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Legionnaires complete Marching for Others Three-Point Challenge

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Category : Articles , News

LONDON – Members of the SA Legion UK & Europe successfully completed a Three-Point Challenge march through the streets of London on November 25 in support of the SA Legion veterans who were victims of the recent storm and floods that hit Durban on October 10. Particularly hard hit were the SA Legion flats at BESL Court in Umbilo, which lost its roof and suffered water damage to the flats and contents below.

Tribute paid to Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square (Picture: Lgr. Victor Ho)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Marching for Others team effort, organised by SA Legion England Chair Lgr. Claudio Chiste, Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen, and Lgr. Tony Povey, builds on a successful individual effort. This ‘vasbyt’ has raised £1,000 funds for fellow veterans in need, and there is still time if you wish to make a further donation here:

Tribute paid to Jan Smuts in Parliament Square (Picture: Lgr. Theo Fernandes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South African military veterans started the Three-Point Challenge by mustering at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square. They then moved on to the second point at Parliament Square, then to the third and final point at the SA Cenotaph at Richmond cemetery.

The distance covered was 19.3km and the target was to achieve this in less than three hours, excluding a few refreshment stops along the way.
In addition to military marching kit, there was also a weighted kettlebell passed around to promote teamwork and the GV feeling.

That kettlebell (Picture: Lgr. Theo Fernandes)

SA Legion UK & Europe Regional Chair, Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear: “The motto ‘Not for Ourselves but for Others’ has a deep resonance for veterans who offered themselves as trained and motivated servicemen and women. Members of the SA Legion, UK & Europe have once again shown that they pay homage to that motto by embarking on another Marching for Others event to raise awareness and much needed funds for veterans in need.

“The team embarked on a 19.3km march to raise £1,000 for much needed repairs to BESL Court, in Durban. At the successful conclusion of the march, Richmond Councillor Margaret Buter presented the team with certificates and badges for successfully completing the challenge.

Paying our respects at the graves of our SA fallen with the SA Cenotaph behind (Picture: Lgr. Victor Ho)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“An example once again for other veterans. Next year will see the SA Legion UK & Europe embark on more events to raise awareness and funds for fellow veterans.”
SA Legion Durban Chair, Lgr Rick Andries said the venture is “an excellent idea, and a wonderful experience for those who took part, to raise funds… and for us (well you know what I mean). Wow, £1,000, that translates into about R18,000… Truly amazing! It will be put to very good use. On behalf of the residents of BESL Court I thank you so very much, those affected by the recent storm will be truly grateful.”

Certificates and badges were awarded for successfully completing the Three-Point Challenge. On hand to present this award was our Guest of Honour, Margaret Buter, Councillor for Richmond. (Picture: Lgr. Victor Ho)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text: Lgr. Tony Povey for SA Legion England Branch


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Website article submission guidelines:

Category : Articles

Website article submission guidelines:

Please submit any proposed articles to the editors.

General:
Editorial: The South African Legion (UK & Europe) reserves the right to approve, edit, abridge, and/or amend any submissions before and/or after publication.
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Text:
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• Please set your spelling checker to English UK and use ‘ise’ endings to utilise, organise.
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Conclusion: You will be sent a link to your piece after publication. Please check it and report any errors that might have crept in during the editorial process (they can and do) to the editor/webmaster immediately.


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SA Legionnaires, MOTHs, Masons gather to honour SA Fallen on 11 November 2017

Category : Articles , News

RICHMOND – 11h00 on 11 November 1918 marked the end of hostilities as the guns fell silent in terms of the armistice that ended the First World War. The cream of the world’s young men, and many women, lay buried under, wounded by, or just scattered over battlefields across the globe in what was truly the First World War.

Ever since, Two Minutes’ Silence has been observed across Britain and her Commonwealth at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month; a tradition with its roots in South Africa.

On Saturday 11 November 2017, at 10h30, members of the South African Legion UK & Europe and representatives of other South African veterans’ organisations including the MOTHs (Gazala Shellhole), as well as representatives of South Africa Lodge No 6742 (Metropolitan Grand Lodge) gathered with friends and supporters at the South African Memorial Cenotaph at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of Richmond Cemetery in London to mark 99 years since the cessation of hostilities, and to honour the South African fallen.

The morning started with a characteristic London drizzle, which obligingly cleared for the ceremony. By chance, a senior veteran of the Royal Marines, bound for another remembrance ceremony he couldn’t find, homed-in on the green SA Legion berets and joined us.

As civilian guests gathered around the Cenotaph, a Guard of Honour of veterans formed-up and just before 11h00, marched past South African war graves from both World Wars to halt, pay respects, and lay wreaths at the South African Cenotaph.

Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen led all present in a moment of solemn contemplation and poignant prayer. Following the observance of Two Minutes’ Silence, the first wreath was laid on behalf of Gazala Shellhole by MOTH Shaun Kennedy.

The next wreath was laid by veteran, MOTH and Brother Neil Purdon, on behalf of the contingent from South Africa Lodge.

Finally, a wreath was laid by Lgr. Neil Taylor on behalf of the South African Legion (UK and Europe Branch).

The wreaths joined those laid on September 23 to commemorate the Battle of Square Hill.

Following the ceremony, participants moved to the ancient White Cross pub on the banks of the Thames.

There we raised a glass ‘to the fallen’.

Lest we forget.

South African Cenotaph

Wreath laid by SA Legion UK & EU

Wreath laid by MOTH Gazala Shellhole

Wreath laid by SA Lodge

Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman for SA Legion UK & Europe Branch
Pictures: Johanna Bergman


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Battle of Square Hill fallen honoured by South African Legion

RICHMOND UPON THAMES – The England Branch of the South African Legion hosted the inaugural Battle of Square Hill Parade at the South African cenotaph at London’s Richmond Cemetery on Saturday, September 23.

The inaugural parade was preceded by a dignified ceremony presided over by the Rev John McCabe in the cemetery chapel to dedicate the new flags of the SA Legion England Branch. South African Legionnaires were then joined in the parade and Act of Remembrance by representatives of the Royal British Legion (SA Branch), Royal British Legion (Gloucester), and M.O.T.H. (Gazala Shellhole).

The ceremony in the cemetery chapel presided over by the Rev John McCabe to dedicate the new flags of the SA Legion England Branch. © Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

Guest of Honour was Councillor Margaret Buter, who represented the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Councillor Buter told the SA Legion of a personal affinity with the memorial: She originally hails from Zambia where her grandfather served with the King’s African Rifles.

South African Legion England Branch Chairman, Lgr Claudio Chistè, said he was delighted at the success of this first parade, which has been a precursor to the Centenary of the Battle of Square Hill in 2018. “Today’s inaugural parade has already served to promote awareness of this important event in South African military history,” he said.

“It was an honour to be able to welcome Councillor Margaret Buter of the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, as well as so many representatives of other veterans’ organisations. As next year marks the centenary of the battle, we are already preparing to grow this annual event into one with full diplomatic and military representation. We also hope to reach out to descendants of those who fought and fell at the Battle of Square Hill, so watch this space.”

Councillor Margaret Buter, who represented the Borough of Richmond upon Thames, addresses the parade © Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

Wreath
Following the Act of Remembrance, a wreath was laid at the SA Cenotaph on behalf of the SA Legion by Lgr Iain Dunn, and a floral tribute was then laid by Shaun Kennedy of M.O.T.H. Gazala Shellhole at the grave of Natalie Opperman (1904-1988), Chairman of St. Dunstan’s (South Africa), and Knight in the Order of the the Star of South Africa (Civil) in acknowledgement for her life-long devotion to those blinded in the two World Wars. It is the highest civilian award in South Africa.

Grave in Richmond Cemetery of Natalie Opperman (1904-1988) © Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

Battle of Square Hill
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.

‘They shall grow not old…’ A wreath is laid at the SA Cenotaph on behalf of the SA Legion by Lgr Iain Dunn © Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

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”.

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.

© Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

Monument
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.

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.

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.

Grave of L/Cpl Thomas Fitchett in Richmond Cemetery. © Theo Fernandes / SA Legion UK & Europe

L/Cpl Thomas Fitchett
The horrors of the Great War are difficult for us to grasp in the modern era, an example of this is one of the men who lies in Richmond (see picture above).

L/Cpl Thomas Fitchett was wounded twice in 1916, again in 1917 and each time on being declared fit, he was returned to the front line. Then, sadly in 1918 he was severely wounded and he died from these wounds in the hospital a month later at the age of 23.

Lest we forget…

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS

By Lgr Claudio Chistè and Lgr Andrew Bergman (including research by Lgr Tom Mason) © SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved

Links to external coverage: SABC, DEFENCEWEB


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SA Legion Donates ‘Marching For Others’ funds towards Knysna Fires Relief

Tags :

Category : Articles , News , South Africa

Following successful completion of the 200km fundraising challenge by the South African Legion, two worthy causes benefited from this endeavour. The challenge is the largest multi-day marching event in the world. Held annually in the Netherlands, it is renowned for forcing individuals to pit willpower and commitment against heat, pain, and exhaustion.

Lgr Peter Dickens presenting the SA Legion funds to Knysna Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies

Two charitable causes benefited from this fundraiser, with £1,917 to be split between the South African Legion and the recent Knysna fire relief effort.England Chairman Lgr Claudio Chistè marched ±11.5 hours a day over four days (July 18-21), over various routes surrounding the city of Nijmegen near the German border, starting at 04:00 each morning. To further challenge endurance, this was conducted in marines-style military marching kit with appropriate weight throughout the event.

A short ceremony was held was held on August 28 to entrust the Mayor of Knysna, Eleanore Bouws-Spies, with £963.50 for the relief effort following the devastating fires by England President of the SA Legion, Lgr Peter Dickens – who was also officiating on behalf of the SA Legion in South Africa (the local branch is in George).

The Mayor expressed deep gratitude, commending the SA Legion and felt that this was a stand-out in terms of an individual contribution, conveying a sense of awe of the physical and endurance limits set for the ‘Marching for Others’ challenge which was undertaken. The SA Legion was commended on the effective media and marketing efforts used to extend contributions to the victim’s fund and grateful for the awareness of the Knysna fires, which had been used on international media and marketing forums. This resulted in international contributions finding their way to Knysna using crowdfunding. It was felt appropriate that the Mayor’s office would look at the list of fire victims and evaluate whether any were military veterans, earmarking these funds accordingly.

The Mayor and her team were interested to hear of the history of SA Legion, and were especially interested in activities being undertaken, ranging from parades to selfless activities such as these.

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS

March Complete… Lgr Claudio Chiste with marching partner Dutch army officer Lieutenant Bob De Kort

Chilling reminder of the havoc which these fires caused

Image Credits: Twitter/Snazo Gulwa


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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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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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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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