The Department of Military Veterans (DMV), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), international diplomats and groups, as well as military veterans around South Africa remembered the 101st anniversary of the Battle of Delville Wood in WW I at the weekend.
Memorial services were held in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town as well as many towns around the country, such as Port Alfred. The Pretoria memorial was held in Burgers’ Park, with the sentries posted by the Pretoria Regiment, a Reserve Force unit, which has performed this duty for the last 30 years. The regiment also provided the bugler and the piper for the service. The SANDF Band (SA Medical Health Service) provided music.
M.C. Marina Valentine described the sacrifice of the1st South African Infantry Brigade in taking and holding Delville Wood, part of the great Somme Offensive, while Colonel (SAAF) Addie Burt gave the benediction and in his remarks, read from the diary of a soldier who had fought at the Wood. He spoke of how the brigade commander, Brigadier-General Henry Lukin, had spoken to the survivors, praising their valour and expressing sorrow for their losses. This was also Burt’s last memorial service before retiring.
Representatives of the DMV, the four services of the SANDF, the French and German military attaches, the representative of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as well as numerous veterans organisations, led by the CMVO, SA Legion and MOTH, laid wreaths. New veterans’ groups also participated, including one representing the Khoisan Nation.
Following last year’s large centenary events, both in South Africa and abroad, the memorial service was a quiet remembrance which, as Colonel Burt reminded those present, was held so the sacrifice of these soldiers should not be forgotten.