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South Africa in WWI
The Somme
U.S. Army Model 1913 Cavalry Saber
Origins of WWI
Second Battle of Ypres
South Africa in WWI
British Infantry in WWI

Remembering South Africa’s participation in World War I: The battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of SS Mendi

by Herman Warden

South Africa entered World War I as a divided society; which results in the commemoration becoming more complex than in a unified society. During the Apartheid era, the battle of Delville Wood was celebrated as South Africa’s ‘finest hour’ in World War I. However, in the minds of black South Africans commemorating South African participation in World War I the sinking of the SS Mendi stands out. In post-Apartheid South Africa, the SS Mendi seems to have surpassed the battle of Delville Wood as South Africa’s most celebrated sacrifice in World War I. The aim of this paper is to determine how South Africans commemorate their participation in World War I, with specific reference to the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of SS Mendi. A brief overview of the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of the SS Mendi will be given. Thereafter, it will be determined how the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of the SS Mendi were commemorated historically. Lastly, the paper will explore how both these events are presently commemorated in South Africa.

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Tragedy on the Somme

by Del Kostka

The River Somme meanders through the picturesque French region of Picardy. Flowing past gently rolling hills and green country meadows, the river’s natural beauty belies a tragedy and horror that unfolded along its banks in the summer of 1916 when two great armies fought to the brink of annihilation over a landscape that neither considered strategically significant. Indeed, few places on earth have come to symbolize useless bloodshed and the futility of war more than the Somme. The story of the Somme really begins in August of 1914 during the opening days of the First World War. Great Britain entered the war with an extremely small but highly efficient professional army of 250,000 troops.[1]

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The U.S. Army Model 1913 Cavalry Saber
by Bob Seals

For some 159 years, United States Army used an edged sword, the saber, as the primary weapon for mounted troops. Whether called light horse, dragoon, or cavalry, the Army cavalry trooper on horseback carried a saber, with which to engage the various foes of our republic. The last issued Army saber in a long line, the model 1913 saber, became popularly known as "The Patton Saber," after then Second Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., who it is commonly believed was somehow responsible for the design and adoption of the new saber, during that very same year. Over the years, some authors, and historians, have questioned the veracity of conventional historical wisdom in naming the model 1913 saber "The Patton Saber," since, after all, how much influence could a lowly Second Lieutenant have had in the U.S. Army's procurement of a new weapon?[2]

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Origins of World War One
by Edward J. Langer

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Archduke Ferdinand was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Gavrilo Princip was a member of the Serbian terrorist organization known as the Black Hand, a group who sought to separate Bosnia-Herzegovina from the Austrian-Hungary Empire and join it with Serbia (Servia).

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The Second Battle of Ypres
by James J. Warrick

By the morning of April 22, 1915, Private Percy Kingsley, assigned to the Canadian Expeditionary Forces 5th Battalion, 2nd Brigade had been living in the trenches along the salient at Ypres for seven days. A young man from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada, he was part of the first nineteen men from his town to volunteer for service in Europe. He had not slept in days given the horrendous conditions in the trenches, often sleeping on “a grave containing a number of dead Germans”.[1] The horror was only beginning and in a matter of hours, he would bear witness to a new type of warfare unlike any seen to date.

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Remembering South Africa’s participation in World War I
by Herman Warden

South Africa entered World War I as a divided society; which results in the commemoration becoming more complex than in a unified society. During the Apartheid era, the battle of Delville Wood was celebrated as South Africa’s ‘finest hour’ in World War I. However, in the minds of black South Africans commemorating South African participation in World War I the sinking of the SS Mendi stands out. In post-Apartheid South Africa, the SS Mendi seems to have surpassed the battle of Delville Wood as South Africa’s most celebrated sacrifice in World War I. The aim of this paper is to determine how South Africans commemorate their participation in World War I, with specific reference to the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of SS Mendi. A brief overview of the battle of Delville Wood and the sinking of the SS Mendi will be given.

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The Evolution of British Infantry tactics in World War One
by Roger Daene

World War One on the Western Front is often times depicted as a series of senseless battles where infantry ran across open fields only to be slaughtered by machinegun and artillery fire. The popular conception is that there were little innovations in tactics. Wilhelm Balck, a German division commander, had written many articles and manuals on tactics before the Great War.[1] He said, “Bullets quickly write new tactics.” After the Battle of the Marne in 1914 and the subsequent German retreat, the war on the western front became more of a positional war rather than a war of maneuver. The goal of the Allies and the Germans was to penetrate the enemy’s main defense lines and exploit any breakthrough. The goal would be hard to attain because of the unique nature of warfare in World War One.

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