SA Legion Medal Parade – Military Museum JHB

I recently had the good fortune to happen upon the Military Museum in Johannesburg. 
I’d been eager to see the 61 Mech memorial needle and of course the Lomba bell, centrepiece of what is known as the Hind memorial, so named because of the one significant loss by Charlie Squadron during the destruction of FAPLA’s 49th Brigade on 3 October 1987.

During my visit to the museum I noticed a bunch of oaks turning up in jackets and ties. 
Turned out I just happened to be there during an SA Legion medal parade. There were at least 100 medals being awarded by Godfrey Giles and Demetri Friend, among other Legion heavyweights.

What a privilege to sit in on this remarkable event in which families of national servicemen from three decades ago got a tiny sense of the commitment their men made for our nation.

The opening speeches left me in no doubt as to the immense value that such events mean to families and veterans alike. The pride of a grand daughter or the reflected honour of a veterans son cannot be overstated. And, of course, the state sponsored jewellery will be passed down the generations, a tangible connection to a lost era of significant sacrifice.

Another valuable lesson from the experience was the restatement by the Legion’s president of the value for every one of us to get involved at some level, to support fellow brothers in arms, to break bread (or braai) occasionally with guys who did what you did. 
This does not necessarily mean monetary involvement but rather emotional support or even more valuable… Just a bit of your time. 
We were apparently three quarters of a million boys conscripted, just a fraction of that number coming together have the power to make a huge difference as a collective force. 
The dominee at 32 Battalion Savate day parade at Voortrekker monument recommended we look out for our brothers and encouraged us to “give them a hug”. Sometimes that’s a literal hug, but sometimes that’s just a bit of support to see them address some uphill challenge (not tomorrow’s comrades marathon – I mean uphill challenges that last more than a day).

I feel richer for giving some of my time to these things. Encourage your veteran pals to get a little more involved. 
We only have each other.

Salute and respect. 
Dave Mannall
“Not for ourselves …”


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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