Lest we for­get

Talk of the Town - - Business Forum - ROB KNOWLES

THE Battle of Delville Wood (July 15 to Septem­ber 3 1916) marks a very spe­cial pe­riod in South African mil­i­tary his­tory when 2 500 South Africans were killed, their blood­ied bod­ies hav­ing to be buried at the site af­ter the battle as trans­port­ing them home was im­pos­si­ble.

They are re­mem­bered each year on or near July 16.

Ac­cord­ing to writer Su­san Eras­mus, “…In just four days be­tween July 15 and 19, the SA Bri­gade num­ber­ing only 3,150 men, at­tached to the 9th Scot­tish Divi­sion, lost 766 men with the dead out­num­ber­ing the wounded four to one. At the height of the Battle of Delville Wood, en­emy ar­tillery fire reached 400 shells a minute.”

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble for South Africans to­day to un­der­stand the fear these soldiers, black and white, must have felt as en­emy ar­tillery pounded their trenches at a rate of about eight shells per sec­ond. Know­ing that there was no re­lief, the only op­tion was to fight. But the en­emy was largely hid­den and too far away to make any rea­son­able charge against them (al­though that, in fact, did hap­pen).

Last Sun­day saw the Moths (Mem­o­rable Order of the Tin Hats) meet at the Port Al­fred Shell Hole to com­mem­o­rate the brave men who died dur­ing that fate­ful en­counter, a de­ci­sive battle of World War 1, the Great War that was sup­posed to be the war to end all wars. Yet, just over 20 years later the world was again em­broiled in a war where more lives were lost to battle.

There are no old soldiers from the First World War alive to­day, and those cur­rent mem­bers of the Moths who even fought in World War 2 are now at least in their late 80s, so the gen­eral feel­ing among those in at­ten­dance was that the tra­di­tion of com­mem­o­ra­tion might die within the next decade.

Mark Schroeder opened the pro­ceed­ings by giv­ing a brief in­tro­duc­tion to the battle that took so many lives.

“Of the young men who en­listed in the army to fight the Ger­mans in 1914, none were at Delville Wood. That was be­cause all of them had been killed in the first two years of the war,” said Schroeder.

Rev­erend Des Spence­ley then gave a short ad­dress high­light­ing that these soldiers gave their lives in order to en­sure the safety of those back home.

As the Last Post was blown and heads where bowed in soul­ful re­mem­brance, Jon Pi­eters read out the names of the 98 South African soldiers who died on the first day of battle. Reveille saw the re-rais­ing of the Moth colours and the cer­e­mony end.

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them nor the years con­demn. At the go­ing down of the sun and in the morn­ing, we will re­mem­ber them” – For the Fallen, a poem by Lau­rence Binyon.

Pic­ture: ROB KNOWLES

WE WILL RE­MEM­BER THEM: Rev­ered Des Spence­ley gave an ad­dress to the Moths and the pub­lic re­gard­ing the soldiers who died at Delville Wood in the First World War, at the Port Al­fred Moths Shell Hole on Sun­day

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