SA Legion UK&EU Formal Mess Ball and Annual Awards Dinner 2018

SOUTHGATE, LONDON – The second Formal Mess Ball of the South African Legion UK & Europe Branch was held on Saturday 22nd September 2018 at the Southgate Masonic Centre in London.

The purpose of the ball was primarily to entertain and treat our partners, who don’t always participate in the Legion events during the year. It was also a super opportunity for veterans and a like-minded crowd to get together, have a few laughs, a good old natter, and have fun.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

It was especially good to welcome some friends who we haven’t seen for a while, as well as guests from South Africa and other veterans’ organisations including the Royal British Legion South Africa Branch.

Guests were greeted with a glass of bubbly, and rubbed-shoulders in the Centre’s cosy pub before dinner.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

SA Legion England Branch Vice-Chair Lgr. Stuart Roberson acted as PMC for the evening, and the standards were paraded-in under direction of ceremonial officer Lgr. Brian Parry.

After the formal opening, the ceremonial officer pointed out to the PMC that the Chairmen of the Regions various Branches were ‘improperly dressed’. The PMC then presented the Chairmen with their respective Collars of Office with their distinctive ribbons reflecting the colours of the South African Flag.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Lgr. Dirk Benneyworth then took the floor as Master of Ceremonies in what was to be a fun night for all. The refectory of the Centre provided excellent cuisine and service. Live music with a distinctly South African flavour made the evening extra special.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

After dinner following the formal toasts, it was a fitting occasion for the presentation of our annual awards and certificates of appreciation. The sheer number of recipients this year reflects an encouraging degree of engagement and support throughout the spectrum of SA Legion activities.

The highlight of the evening was the raffle. The table groaned with even more prizes than there were guests, and everyone went home with something. The grand prize of a flat-screen TV was scooped-up by a lucky guest from the Royal British Legion.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Most importantly, the raffle raised essential funds which will be used for the support of South African veterans.

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Following the success of last year’s event, the Mess Ball promises to be an annual highlight of SA Legion activity, so be sure to watch this space for announcements. The 2019 edition is already being discussed!

Picture by Lgr. Theo Fernandes

Bravo Zulu to SA Legion England Branch Chair, Lgr. Russel Mattushek and his team for the superb organisation.

Video by Lgr. Victor Ho

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS

Text by Lgr Andrew Bergman
Photography by Lgr. Theo Fernandes and Lgr. Victor Ho (scroll down for full picture galleries)
© 2018 SA Legion UK & Europe All Rights Reserved

Photo Gallery Lgr. Theo Fernandes:

Photo Gallery Lgr. Victor Ho:


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

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

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

Picture by Karen Parry

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

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

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

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

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

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

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

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

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

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

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

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

The Turks were a mighty foe…

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

Picture by Lgr. Victor Ho

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

Strategy

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

Picture by Karen Parry

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

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

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.

Picture by Karen Parry

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

As legionnaires we carry the flame of remembrance…

Background of Richmond South African Cenotaph:

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

Many of our grandfathers were among them.

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

Picture by Karen Parry

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

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

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

Lest we forget…

NOT FOR OURSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS

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

 


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


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.


Savate day was remembered by the 32 Battalion Veterans Association yesterday at a large ceremony was held at the 32 Battalion remembrance tree, which is now located the Voortrekker Monument outside Pretoria.

South African Legion representatives were at the ceremony to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brother veterans from 32 Battalion.

21 May is the only date marked by 32 Battalion as a general Remembrance Day for all those who had fallen while serving in the battalion. The name “Savate” is a reference to a major FAPLA base 75km (47 miles) inside Angola on the Cubango River. It was at this battle at Savate (operation Tiro A Tiro) where the battalion suffered the highest number of casualties.

Of the 150 men who died while fighting with 32 Battalion, 15 were killed in action during the Savate-attack in May 1980, the battalion’s heaviest casualties in a single engagement. Radio intercepts later indicated that FAPLA had 558 dead and wounded.

Long may the sacrifices of these men who have fought and died for South Africa be remembered – regardless of the politics of the time, then and now.

Images courtesy of the 32 Battalion Association and Demetri Friend. Posted for the South African Legion by Peter Dickens.

 


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