South Africa pays tribute to fallen World War II soldiers in Egypt


A special tribute for the South Africans who perished during the campaigns of El Alamein was held by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) during the 70th Commemoration of the battle of El Alamein in Egypt over the period of 20 and 21 October.

More than 1 200 South African soldiers, both black and white, took part in the battle over 23 October and 4 November 1942 under the old Union Defence Force banner during the second battle of El Alamein. Codenamed “Lightfoot”, it was one of the most decisive battles of World War II. The battle opened with a huge Allied artillery bombardment, followed by coordinated tank, infantry and air attacks which slowly broke down Axis resistance and ultimately sent them into a full retreat.

Currently, the El Alamein War cemetery is home to 7 200 graves of Allied, Commonwealth, Free French, Polish and Greek soldiers who participated in a series of campaigns designed to secure the control of the Mediterranean shore, the Suez Canal, Middle East oil supply and the supply route to Russia through the modern day Iran against the Axis forces, largely consisting of German and Italian forces.

In his speech delivered before 350 international guests and diplomatic corps and representatives of the governments during the South African commemoration ceremony, the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla, said that, “These fallen soldiers we honour on this day may have had reservations about being conscripted for a war far from our shores for a colonial power, but they made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of mankind.
“They fought a good battle and their blood that flows from the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile River, Lake Victoria, the Limpopo River, to uThukela River all the way to the Indian ocean, nurtures our democracies and strengthens our nations in fighting oppression and foreign dominance.
“The victory we speak of today was not for only for the people of Egypt, but for humankind and liberty for the entire world. Egypt may be at the horn of the continent and South Africa at the foot of the motherland. History such as the victory of Alamein narrows the gap between our nations that may be geographically far apart but brings us closer in pursuit of democracy, human dignity, peace and world security,” Makwetla said.

According to the Republic of South Africa’s Ambassador to Egypt, Noluthando-Mayende Sibiya, the commemoration marked a new chapter in the lives of the South Africans united in paying tribute to the soldiers who gave up their lives during the Battle of El Alamein. Mayende-Sibiya further promised to make everything possible to assist the relatives of the deceased to find the resting places of their relatives in Egypt.

At least seven wreaths were laid during the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) ceremony as an act of remembrance and to honour those soldiers who put their lives on the line for world peace during the World War II campaigns in Egypt. The proceedings were led by Makwetla and Mayende-Sibiya on behalf of the South African government.

Major General Steve Marumo led the SANDF delegation in another wreath laying ceremony on 21 October at the Heliopolis war cemetery.