Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 98th commemoration of the Battle of Delville Wood


“It is very moving to be here with you on this special occasion of the annual Memorial Service of the Battle of Delville Wood.
“This ceremony is even more symbolic and significant as it marks the beginning of the Centenary of the First World War and it also coincides with the 20th Anniversary of our freedom in South Africa.
“We have gathered here today to remember our countrymen who volunteered their services and sacrificed their lives.
“They travelled far from their homes to a strange and foreign land, under unbearable conditions to support Europe when they were needed back home in the cause of freedom.
“The blood shed by these gallant men has cemented the solid relations that exist between our two countries.
“This annual commemoration affirms the deep relations that exist between us. Through this commemoration we re-commit ourselves to pursue this relation. It is one of the key anchors in our relations with France.
“Delville Wood therefore occupies a particular place in South African military history and represents a national symbol of courage and sacrifice.
“This display of courage and sacrifice is still a characteristic feature of our National Defence Force. Military men and women of our country still heed calls for help in our very own African continent.
“The presence of senior officers who flew all the way from South Africa to commemorate this event bears testimony to the South African government’s commitment towards ensuring the memory of those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the name of freedom will be carried forward.
“As we commemorate the 98th Anniversary of the Battle of Delville Wood, we will not only commemorate the lives of South Africans who perished on foreign soil during the First World War but will also remember those South Africans who fought and died in other wars for the liberation of various countries in Africa and Europe.
“We also remember those who took part in the liberation struggle of South Africa.
“This commemoration will always remind us of our past as we progress as a nation towards building a better life for all.
“This Memorial also represents the strong ties our two countries enjoy such as shared interests in world peace and stability.
“The First World War was meant to be the war to end all wars, unfortunately it was followed by the Second World War. As we confront the challenges of the world today, we must draw lessons from this experience, so that never again should we allow war to bring suffering, and destroy human lives. Through the loss of so many lives, we are reminded that we must look for solutions to spare precious lives.
“Mr Minister, we constantly engage France to secure its continued commitment in Africa through collaboration with the African Union, in particular in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping in various parts of our continent. Our objective is to strengthen French support for the African Agenda, including the promotion of sustainable social and economic development in the continent.
“We are here today, on behalf of the government, to honour the memories of these gallant men, their sacrifice and determination against all odds remains an inspiration to us.
“Our inspiration is anchored by the fact that we also achieved our own liberation 20 years ago. As with you, our freedom was won through the efforts and sacrifices of our people, reinforced by those outside our country, including many activists here in France, who shared our vision of freedom and democracy.
“Mr Minister, allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the Mayor, Mr Fournier and the people of Longueval and the neighbouring villages for supporting us on this day and dedicating their quality time to commemorate with us our fallen heroes.
“As a nation we will forever be grateful as we can see that their sacrifice is not forgotten even almost after hundred years.
“May the sacrifices that were made in this forest by young soldiers from our countries, unite our peoples in a common commitment to freedom, to dignity and to the development of all mankind.
“Merci! Merci beacoup!”