Remembrance Day – Lest We Forget


11 November 1918, a day that will be remembered for a long time still. On this day at 11AM the fighting stopped.
The first World War broke out in 1914, 105 years ago. It was the first true Global War, where fighting took place from the icy waters of the South Atlantic to the deserts of the Middle East, from the coasts of China and Turkey to the simmering heat of East Africa, from the highest peaks of the Alps to the trenches of Western Europe.
Over 71 million (71 497 467) soldiers fought in the war, and where every country suffered the loss of loved ones.
Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day.
It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918.
A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.
There is also Remembrance Sunday every year, which falls on the second Sunday in November.
On this day, there are usually ceremonies at war memorials, cenotaphs and churches throughout the country, as well as abroad.
The anniversary is used to remember all the people who have died in wars – not just World War One. The first two-minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am.
This was one year after the end of World War One.
He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.
South Africa is no different when it comes to remembering the Fallen. The Moths commemorated Armistace day at the Makumbura Shellhole near Kruik. The parade started before 11AM. It was a very emotional affair. People laid wreaths for those that they would like to remember. It was also the first time that a wreath was laid for our own Regimental Sergeant Major Aart Reedijk.
The ‘war to end all wars’ cost the lives of a total of 8 634 300 soldiers. Twenty years later, the Second World War (1939-1945) saw the loss of 24 517 000 combatants’ lives. In addition to these statistics, millions of civilians died during both conflicts.
As a comparatively young country which permitted only a small segment of its population to bear arms, South Africa nevertheless made significant contributions to the Allied causes in both world wars and in the Korean War (1950-3). In the First World War, 245 419 South Africans of all races volunteered for military service; during the Second World War, 342 692 South African men and women of every race came forward; and in the Korean War, 826 men saw service with No 2 Squadron, South African Air Force while ten officers of the South African Armoured Corps served with the British Army. Will we remember them?
Ideas of silent remembrance for those who died for their country emerged around the world at the time of the First World War. The horrendous slaughter of that war and the grieving it caused sent shockwaves around the world. When the war took a turn for the worse in 1918, many areas in South Africa called for a halt of activity at midday to ‘…direct the minds of the people to the tremendous issues which are being fought out on the Western Front’. The Mayor of Cape Town, Sir Harry Hands, declared this policy official on 14 May 1918 and, on 14 December 1918, following the signing of the armistice in November, an impressive public display of remembrance was observed in Cape Town. At the firing of the midday gun, traffic came to a halt, all hats were raised and the public stood in silence as the Last Post and Reveille sounded through the streets.
The implementation of the ‘Two Minute Silence’, traditionally held throughout the British Empire (now the Commonwealth of Nations), has its roots in South Africa. It was the proposal by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, well-known South African philanthropist, author and politician, which was acted upon. Fitzpatrick had been deeply affected by the loss of his son, Nugent, in France in December 1917. In commemoration of the Armistice, he appealed to King George V for a two-minute pause to be observed annually throughout the Empire at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: one minute in remembrance of the fallen in war; and one minute in gratitude for those who survived. Fitzpatrick had access to the King, who was moved by the idea.
After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the observance of Remembrance Day has also embraced silent remembrance of all those who have died in conflict since the First World War. As South Africans unite as one nation, we should use 11 November to remember the 12 452 South African casualties suffered in the First World War, the 38 208 casualties suffered in the Second World War, and the 34 pilots killed in the Korean War. Many war graves to South Africans lie far from home, in Namibia, in France and Belgium, in Tanzania, Ethiopia, the Middle East, Italy, Korea and elsewhere.
Closer to home, we should remember the many South Africans who died in the conflicts on our borders and in the Liberation Struggle of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
As yet, there are no reliable figures for these casualties, but what is important is that they all contributed to building our country as we know it today.
As the soldier’s prayer states,
And when you go home tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow we gave our today
Our gift was great, but you must now give a greater gift
We died. Now you must nobly live
To complete the plan
And make man brother unto man.
The Remembrance Prayer:
They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn them
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning


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