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.
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.