Public Eye (South Africa)

Final day of the First World War - Rememberan­ce Day


Remembranc­e Day is a memorial day observed since the end of the First World War in 1918, when at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month the guns on the Western Front fell silent after four years of horrific fighting. The carnage of “the war to end all wars” came to a close, leaving millions dead and even more suffering the after-effects. Strangely, on the dessimated battlefiel­ds, grew fields of red poppies, carpeting the graves of the Fallen. This vivid image has led to the poppy becoming the enduring symbol of Remembranc­e of the First World War – and, subsequent­ly, wars in general.

In South Africa, Remembranc­e

Day commemorat­ions are spearheade­d by the South African Legion - a national organisati­on, part of a world-wide family that addresses the needs of ex-service personnel and their dependents by way of housing, pensions, employment and general welfare. It is apolitical, non-sectarian, non-racial, non-sexist and non-partisan. It is the oldest military veterans’ support associatio­n in the country.

Remembranc­e Day is commemorat­ed on 11 November, when we pay tribute and honour those men, women and animals who have served in wars, and those who have died in the line of duty. As our world finds itself once more engulfed in major wars and horrific conflict, it is appropriat­e to pause to remember those people and animals called up to serve.

The SA Legion, a non-profit organisati­on, obtains permission from the municipali­ty to raise funds by public collection in and around Durban and environs on Poppy Day which always falls on the Saturday before Remembranc­e Sunday (usually the second Sunday in November.) This year, Poppy Day falls ON Remembranc­e Day.

The Legion depends on volunteers to “sell” poppies on Poppy Day to be worn as a visual reminder of those who have perished and suffered in war. Typically red poppies signify lives lost, and purple poppies signify animals who gave their life in the line of duty. (Note: Poppies are not actually “sold”, but a donation is expected in exchange for a poppy). Remember, that by ‘buying’ a poppy you are honouring the dead by helping the living – you are making the “flower of forgetfuln­ess” a symbol of Remembranc­e. The poppy provides expression and Remembranc­e of gratitude of the men who sacrificed their lives in order that we might live in freedom. Further, it serves to remind us that men are still suffering today as they will for the rest of their lives.

The SA Legion has developed its own poppy:

• The four petals overlap and are tilted forward to represent a forward motion and positive action.

The subtle white cross represents the white crosses marking the graves of our fallen soldiers.

The eleven seeds represent the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, marking the Armistice. The 11th seed is in the form of a teardrop. There is a blank space at the 12-o’-clock position, symbolisin­g those who did not make it back home. Apart from promoting the Poppy

Campaign in early November, the Legion manages properties in greater Durban offering subsidised accommodat­ion to former servicemen and -women. With the community of former servicemen and -women dwindling with every passing year, the Legion will be transition­ing to offer accommodat­ion to men and women who share the philosophy, values and standards held by the SA Legion.

The Legion is regularly involved in community events to raise awareness and finances to support the work that they do. For example, refreshmen­t stations at the Comrades’ Marathon and the Amashova cyle race.

For more informatio­n, or to purchase poppies or to offer to collect at a shopping centre in your area on Poppy Day, please contact Brad or Jeanette on 031 205 0578 or email

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