Author Archives: Andrew Bergman

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Delville Wood Remembrance Service and Parade 14 July 2018, East Sheen Cemetery, Richmond, London

RICHMOND-UPON-THAMES – On the morning of Saturday 14 July 2018, the South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch) in association with MOTH (Gazala Shellhole) hosted the very well-attended Delville Wood Remembrance Parade at East Sheen Cemetery in Richmond, London.

The Legion and MOTH contingents were swelled by members and standard bearers of the Royal British Legion (South Africa Branch and Teddington Branch), MOTH (General Browning Shellhole) as well as the Master and several Freemasons from the London-based South Africa Lodge No. 6742 (UGLE), supported by several family and friends.

We gathered at the cemetery chapel to remember the 229,000 South Africans who volunteered for World War 1, paying tribute to 2,500 who perished in the Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916), the single biggest South African military loss on the battlefield.

The Standards were paraded into the chapel and Lgr. Craig Esterhuizen led a dignified remembrance service of prayer, reflection, and hymns, with poems and contributions read and recited by representatives of all organisations present.

Video footage of the service by Lgr. Theo Fernandes:

 

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karin Parry, and Johanna Bergman:

Parade
Under the expert direction of Ceremonial Officer Lgr. Brian Parry, veterans fell-in behind the gathered Standards and a piper from the London Scottish Regiment (aka the ‘Cockney Jocks’) and marched in quick time to the nearby South African Cenotaph in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the vast civilian and military cemetery.

Standards were dipped in salute as the bugler sounded Last Post following the Act of Remembrance.

As the piper sounded a poignant lament, wreaths were laid by the SA Legion England, Scotland, and Europe Branches, MOTH Gazala Shellhole, and South Africa Lodge.

SA Legion Scotland Branch Chair Lgr. Cary Hendricks, resplendent in full Murray of Atholl Highland kit then took the salute on behalf of the Regional Exco.

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karin Parry, and Johanna Bergman:

Social
We then proceeded to the The Mitre in Richmond for several cold pints, and super braai in the beer garden catered by Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Lgr. Dutoit Verster, and Lgr. Johan de Vries. Legionnaires, MOTHs, and Masons mingled and seemed to have imported South African summer weather to Richmond.

Pictures by Lgr. Theo Fernandes and Karin Parry

Bravo Zulu to all involved (far too numerous to name).

© South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch) 2018
Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman
Video: Lgr. Theo Fernandes
Photography: Lgr. Theo Fernandes, Karen Parry, Johanna Bergman


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Last Post Ceremony, Menin Gate, Ypres

Every evening at 20:00 sharp, ever since 1928, the solemn and stirringly beautiful Last Post ceremony has been performed under the Menin Gate at Ypres that commemorates the many thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the bloody battles of the Ypres Salient during First World War. On the walls of the memorial are inscribed the names of 54,395 soldiers – including South Africans – who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found.

On 12 and 13 May, Ypres hosted the Kattenstoet (Cats Parade), a festive local carnival themed on cats, which was an extra attraction on this weekend.

South African Legion (Europe Branch) Chairman Lgr. Andrew Bergman arrived with his wife Johanna on Saturday evening and attended the Last Post Ceremony as a ‘dry run’ to recce the lay of the land. An advance email to the Last Post Association in anticipation of our visit yielded and invitation to lay a wreath, as well as the possibility (at the discretion of the Master of Ceremonies on the day) to deliver the Oration or Epitaph with an official delegation the following day.

Reinforcements arrive

On Sunday, Lgr. Dave Wiseman and Lgr. Clint Olivier crossed the Channel and arrived in Ypres in time for the Cats Parade. We then got together – dressed in our parade kit – at a café opposite the Menin gate, where we were treated like minor celebrities.

We then moved to the Menin Gate, where the Master of Ceremonies asked Lgr. Bergman to deliver the Oration during the ceremony. Then a pleasant surprise: MOTH Alex Cromarty happened to be in the area touring with his family, which swelled our ‘band of brothers’ to four.

Our wreath-laying party fell-in three-abreast under orders of the Master of Ceremonies. Behind us were schoolgirls from Scotland and England, students from East Anglia University, and ancestors of the fallen, all waiting to pay their floral respects.

Opposite us, the Rochdale Festival Chorus gathered to provide musical accompaniment.

By now there was no more room under the vast arch of the gate itself, and spectators were spilling out into the approaching road on both sides.

“They shall grow not old…”

The sizable crowd fell silent when the buglers of the Last Post Association took-up their positions at the eastern end of the gate. Then, at 19:58, the buglers sounded the Rouse. On a signal from the Master of Ceremonies, Lgr. Bergman marched to the centre of the hushed arch, turned to face the buglers, and recited the Oration: “They shall grow not old…”

A minutes’ silence followed, and then in perfect unison, the buglers sounded the mournful Last Post. There were not many dry eyes in the house.

First to lay wreaths were the Mayor of Ypres and the Mayor of Singen, a German city that is twinned with Ypres. Both had been formally introduced to the South African Legion delegation at the start of proceedings.

Forward march!

We were the next wreath-laying party, and while we haven’t done much marching together, we did ok – the pictures show that our dressing never wavered, we kept perfect step.

The buglers then sounded Reveille to signal the end of the ceremony.

 

After the ceremony was over, it was time for networking. Legionnaires spoke to a Colonel (in civvies and ‘off duty’) from the Belgian Special Forces, and we mingled a while with the other wreath-layers in the afterglow of the dignified and solemn ceremony we’d all shared.

So after a successful round of shoulder-rubbing with the Great and the Good of Ypres and beyond, three Legionnaires and Johanna – who had resolutely defended her plumb photographic position from several assaults on both flanks to produce a superb photographic and video record – followed the city walls southwards to have supper at Brasserie Kazematten, which is established in the ancient casemates within the fortifications of Ypres. Many of the original features are retained. The staff treated us like kings and it proved a fitting end to a memorable day of remembrance and fellowship.

© South African Legion (Europe Branch)
Text: Lgr. Andrew Bergman
Pictures and video: Johanna Bergman


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Visit to the Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham – 13 April 2018

Wow what a day out it was! As everyone arrived, they were processed at Reception and taken off in groups to the coffee shop and then, with all 19 together, it was off to the AFV Wing where S.Sgt. Tony Martin was on hand to take us around the armoured fighting vehicles on view from across the world, explaining their history, strengths and weaknesses. This was followed by an explanation of the development of anti-tank ammunition developed in response to the continued improvements in armour, some of the characteristics of which were still on the secret list. For some, memories were invoked of the dark days of their youth spent in South African Ratels doing battle with T55s in Angola.

Picture: Flt. Lt. Max Lewis

Next stop was the Artillery Hall to be shown examples of the development of guns from early muzzle-loading cannon to today’s sophisticated artillery able of striking to within 35m of targets up to 37km away, including an example of our own G4. Rob Rice couldn’t contain himself when he saw the 25-pounder, jumping into the gun-layers seat peeled back the years to his days in the Rhodesian Artillery during the Rhodesian Bush War. Rob Cooke is the artificer responsible for keeping all of these guns in working order and his enthusiasm was as infectious as his knowledge was deep.

Then it was on to the Light Weapons Armoury where Lt. Col. (Ret) John Starling regaled us with humorous stories of the development and deployment of small arms while demonstrating his encyclopaedic knowledge of the weapons and ammunition under his care. He voiced his disdain for some forces’ procurement officers whose criteria, it appeared, was based more on how sexy a weapon looked than how effective it would be in their operating environment. Then, like kids let loose in a sweet shop, we were invited to take down and handle any of the 1,000 or so weapons that filled the three rooms. Many made a beeline for the rifles we’d trained on back in the day and the expression of glee on Brian Parry’s face as he cradled an MAG was a delight to behold.

SA Legion Regional Chair (UK & Europe) Lgr. Cameron Kinnear, (left) with our host and the strong SA Legion contingent

Time passed too quickly and lunch in the Officers Mess beckoned where we found that a three-star General and his entourage had occupied our table! Never mind, no-one was going to ask him to move, and we were soon settled behind an excellent lunch with conversation buzzing about what we’d seen and heard.

A memorable day for all in great company. Many thanks to our host, Flt. Lt. Max Lewis, for making this visit possible.

Report by Lgr. Tony Povey


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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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Category : Articles

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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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