SA remembers war dead


South Africa yesterday remembered its war dead at a number of civic ceremonies around the country. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu attended an annual parade in Pretoria.

Pic: The French Consul General and a gendarme lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, Johannesburg. 

The ceremonies date from soon after World War One that raged from August 1914 to 11am on November 11, 1918. After World War Two (1939-1945) the annual remembrance day came to include the dead from that conflict and in recent times the dead of all conflicts; including, in the case of South Africa, the 1960-1991 liberation struggle.

Hamish Paterson, a historian at the SA Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, said there were fairly global commemorations soon after the end of the Great War, as the 1914-1918 conflict was called at the time.

 Pic: The Transvaal Horse Artillery fires a salute to the dead.

“The two minutes of silence now kept at 11 o’clock on the closest Sunday to November 11 was proposed by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick of Jock of the Bushveld fame and implemented by King George V.

“Initially remembrances were held on the 11th, but for convenience sake, and as the freshness of the horror wore off, it was moved to the Sunday throughout the Commonwealth,” Paterson told this reporter in a 2001 interview.

He said the day was institutionalised shortly after the war and was a regular civic occurrence from about 1920 onwards, including in South Africa.

Pic: A platoon of the Transvaal Scottish on parade, Johannesburg. 

Henri Boshoff, convenor of the Pretoria remembrance told SABC TV news that it didn’t matter who died in which conflict for which side, what mattered is that “they sacrificed their life for the county and that’s why the country has to honour them.”

Sisulu said she would like to see more spectators at such events.

Pic: A veteran lays a wreath. Johannesburg.
“I’m hoping we can get a little more representation here in order to be able to honour each other, because those people who gave their lives for us have given us a very precious gift and it is important that we recognise it.”

The SA Navy’s Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Robert “Rusty” Higgs at the Cape ceremony said “Remembrance Sunday is to salute those who have walked the path ahead of us and particularly those who have paid the ultimate price, and what this is, it brings dignity to those people who had to give up their most prized possession, their lives.