Knysna councillor is an authority on World War I
Among the many decorated veterans who took part in the memorial service in Knysna on Sunday 11 November, known as Poppy Day, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of the “Great War”, was Knysna councillor Ian Uys.
In 1973, Uys’ first book For Valour detailed the biographies of all South Africans who won the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest decoration for bravery in the face of the enemy. He found that the first SA recipient, Joseph Crowe, who won the VC during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, was born and raised in Uitenhage, Uys’ hometown.
He researched and met the families of 15 South African World War I VC recipients, among them Manny Faulds who was awarded the VC at the famous Battle of Delville Wood. Uys was asked as a committee member of the SA Military History Society to interview survivors of the battle. As a border war veteran who had been awarded the De Wet Decoration, Uys was accepted by the elderly men. He spoke with and tape-recorded the experiences of many of these men, who took him to their hearts, and their pubs on occasion!
These men are all long gone, but their stories live on in five books which Uys subsequently wrote on Delville Wood, the first being published in 1983. Uys visited Delville Wood and the battlefields in France and Belgium on many occasions, the most noteworthy being with the state president’s entourage for the opening of the museum there.
Of the many compliments Uys received, he said, the one he enjoyed the most was when flying home with former president PW Botha, the president invited a Delville Wood veteran, Colonel Victor Wepener DSO, to join the elite group in first class. The old veteran declined and said he preferred sitting with his friend Ian.
Uys’ late wife Barbara proudly wore her grandfather’s medals which he had earned in France. They will now be passed on to his great-grandson, together with his biography. In this way, he will be remembered as will the millions of others who served in that war. –
Local councillor Ian Uys (right) and his dearly departed wife Barbara, who proudly wore her grandfather’s medals which he earned in France.