Servicemen remembered 70 years after the end of WWII


WWII has been over for seven decades, yet the soldiers who fought in history’s biggest war have been remembered at Remembrance Day services throughout South Africa.

Services were held throughout South Africa, as well as the main one, which was broadcast live by the SABC, at the Cenotaph in Johannesburg.

This year the theme at the Johannesburg event was liberation at the end of WWII, notably of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and the sermon was given jointly by Reverend Quentin Smith and Rabbi Yossy Goldman.

Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau said the 94th memorial service remembers South Africans who fought against Italian Fascism and German Nazism. At least 342 000 South Africans volunteered for service during the war – and 38 000 are listed as casualties. Although many lie far from home in cemeteries in Tobruk in Libya, El Alamein in Egypt and Italy, Tau said the government had listed all the names of these fallen heroes at Freedom Park in Pretoria to ensure that they are not forgotten.

South African troops fought in East Africa (Abyssinia, today Ethiopia); Madagascar; against the famous Field Marshall Rommel in North Africa as well as Italy and even in the Pacific against Japan. The South African Air Force played an important role in training Allied pilots as well as in fighting over North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Eastern Europe, with assistance to the Polish Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

Remembrance Day is epitomised in the traditional two minutes’ silence, which originated in South Africa and was proposed by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. The first minute is to give thanks for those who survived; the second is in memory of the fallen.

At the Pretoria and Johannesburg ceremonies, wreaths were laid by military attaches from both World War ll Allied and former enemy countries. The US, Britain and France were represented as well as Japan and Germany. Officials of the City of Johannesburg, serving members of the military and veterans also laid wreaths in tribute to the fallen.

Other memorials to commemorate the sacrifices of South Africans during wars and the struggle for democracy were held in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Kimberley and smaller venues including Matatiele, Hermanus, Louis Trichardt and Underberg. South African veteran associations also took part in Remembrance Day memorials in London, Glasgow, Stockholm, Sweden as well as in Australia and New Zealand.