South Africans Commonwealth War Casualties buried across the World – Part One

 

South Africans participated in almost every theatre of war during both the First and Second World Wars. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Data Base 7 290 (includes 607 unknown) First World War casualties and 9 986 (includes 84 unknown) Second World War casualties are buried in 1 207 cemeteries while 2 959 First World War and 2 005 Second World War casualties are commemorated on 48 memorials.

With South Africans having served far and wide it is not surprising that you would find single or small group graves in cemeteries across the world. Here are some of those cemeteries where one or a very small group of South Africans are buried.

EL ALIA WAR CEMETERY, ALGIERS

Allied troops made a series of landings on the Algerian coast in early November 1942. From there, they swept east into Tunisia, where the North African campaign came to an end in May 1943 with the surrender of the Axis forces.

The cemetery was originally an Allied war cemetery, but was taken over as a civilian cemetery by the municipal authorities when most of the non-Commonwealth war graves were moved to other burial places.

El Alia Cemetery now contains 368 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. Eight war graves of other nationalities remain in the Commonwealth plot and there are also 15 non-war graves, mostly of merchant seamen whose deaths were not due to war service.

Lieutenant Charles Cross, South African Air Force, who died on 12 June 1943 is buried in this cemetery.

 

La Reunion Cemetery

LA REUNION WAR CEMETERY, ALGIERS

Allied troops made a series of landings on the Algerian coast in early November 1942. From there, they swept east into Tunisia, where the North African campaign came to an end in May 1943 with the surrender of the Axis forces.

Bejaia (formerly Bougie) was the landing place of the 36th Infantry Brigade Group on 11 November 1942.

La Reunion War Cemetery contains 211 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

Second Lieutenant C. H. G. Ruddle, South African Air Force, who died on 21 January 1944, is buried in this cemetery.

 

LE PETIT LAC CEMETERY, ALGIERS

Allied troops made a series of landings on the Algerian coast in early November 1942. From there, they swept east into Tunisia, where the North African campaign came to an end in May 1943 with the surrender of the Axis forces.

The assault landings in the harbour at Oran failed, with heavy casualties, but landings east and west of the port were successful.

Le Petit Lac Cemetery contains 200 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 50 of them unidentified, and ten war graves of other nationalities. There are also 14 non-war burials, all of merchant seamen whose deaths were not due to war service.

The cemetery also contains ten First World War burials which were brought here from Oran (Tamashouet) Cemetery in 1959. These include seven casualties of the Lincolnshire Yeomanry, who died as a result of a submarine attack on the transport ‘Mercian’ in November 1915.

South Africans buried in this cemetery are:

Captain Philip Cohen, South African Medical Corps and Lieutenant Denis Oswa Bilse, 216 Squadron Royal Air Force. Both were killed on 03 June 1944.

Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Lgr Charles Ross based on information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Casualty Data Base and photos of the cemeteries by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission


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