This week saw a new and valued addition to the military memorabilia housed at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town when a plaque commemorating South Africa’s Victoria Cross recipients in World War One was unveiled.
The plaque is an initiative of the British High Commission in South Africa and it was unveiled by Judith Mcgregor, the British High Commissioner to South Africa. Also present was Tsepe Motumi, director general of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV).
The unveiling ceremony coincided with the ending of hostilities in what has become known as the Great War on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 at 11h00. This year also marks the centenary of the start of World War One.
Mcgregor told those present: “146 000 South Africans served during World War One in South West Africa, East Africa and faraway Europe. Their goal remained the same – to help overcome tyranny.
“Over 6 000 did not return and a further 18 000 were injured. We should also not forget the South Africans were not conscripted to the Armed Forces, they were volunteers. It is important we remember those who came to assist in a time of great need. They all showed the values of courage, loyalty and compassion we still hold so dear 100 years later.
“Today, we are here to remember those who demonstrated immense gallantry in the face of the enemy. Some paid the ultimate price. The 14 names inscribed on this memorial plaque were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military award for valour.”
She gave one example, that of Private William Faulds born in Cradock, Eastern Cape Province.
“He was awarded the Victoria Cross for immense bravery shown in the Battle of Delville Wood, which is commemorated beside us here in the Castle Arch. The battle started on the afternoon of July 14, 1916. On two separate occasions July 18 and 20, disregarding his own safety, Private Faulds ran out across the open battlefield to rescue wounded comrades. On the second occasion, he carried the wounded soldier half a mile to the dressing station while artillery fire at the time was so intense that stretcher parties considered movement onto the battlefield would have meant certain death. When the Brigade was finally relieved on July 20, only 750 of the 3 153 South Africans survived,” the High Commissioner said adding each name on the plaque was that of an “extraordinary man, each with an incredible story to tell. Their sacrifice and bravery will never be forgotten”.
The names on the plaque are Andrew Weatherby Beauchamp Proctor (VC action over north-east France August 8 to October 8, 1918), William Anderson Bloomfield (VC action August 24, 1916 at Mlali, East Africa), Frederick Charles Booth (VC action at Johannesbruck, near Sonega, German East Africa on February 12, 1917), William Frederick Faulds (VC action at Delville Wood, France on July 16 and 18, 1916), Robert Vaughn Gorle (VC action October 1, 1918 at Ledegem, Belgium), Henry Greenwood (VC action October 23 and 24 at Ovillers and Vendegues-ay-Bois, France), Percy Howard Hansen (VC action on August 9, 1915 at Scimitar Hill, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli), Reginald Frederick Johnson Hayward (VC action near Marcoing, France on December 3, 1917), William Henry Hewitt (VC action September 20, 1917 near Frezenberg, Belgium), Arthur Moore Lascelles (VC action December 3, 1917 near Marcoing, France), Oswald Austin Reid (VC action March 8 to 10, 1971 at Diyala River, north-east of Baghdad, Mesopotamia), Clement Robertson (VC action October 4, 1917 near Reutel, Belgium), John Sherwood-Kelly (VC action November 20, 1917 at Marcoing, France) and Richard Annesley West (VC action August 21, 1981 at Courcelles-le-Comte, France).
Photo: Regine Lord