Rather than start a new thread have posted here, hope nobody objects.
Delville Wood today as it has been allowed to regrow
Delville Wood after a weeks fighting.
One of the things that annoy me when reading about WW1 and Two is the overshadowing of the African participation; I know we were probably the smallest in numbers of the Empire but percentage wise a very high proportion took up arms to aid Britain.
Two actions are remembered here in SA, one during the battle of the Somme on 15 July 1916, the S.A. Infantry Brigade was ordered to clear the wood at d'Elville, north-east of the village of Longueal, France, of enemy soldiers, so as to protect the flanks of the British Brigade.
The South Africans occupied the wood without much opposition, but the problem was not so much to take the wood, than to hold it.
Despite fierce counterattacks and artillery bombardments from German divisions, the SA brigade refused to surrender. The brigade was relieved on 20 July after six days and five nights of ferocious fighting. Only 750 soldiers remained of the Brigade's 3 433 soldiers, the rest had either been killed or wounded.
The Battle of Delville Wood went down in the history of WWI as an example of supreme sacrifice and heroism and remained the most costly action the South African Brigade fought on the Western Front.
The second action was not so much a battle but an example of men knowing that they were going to die facing that death with as much bravery as any person awarded the VC
On January 16, 1917 the SS Mendi troopship sailed from Cape Town on its way to France carrying 805 black privates, 5 white officers and 17 non-commissioned officers as well as 33 crew.
On the morning of 21 February 1917, another ship, the SS Darro travelling at full speed and emitting no warning signals, rammed the SS Mendi which sank in 20 minutes. No steps were taken by the SS Darro to lower boats or rescue the survivors.
There are many stories of bravery about the men's bravery as the ship went down. One of them is that of the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha, who cried words of encouragement to the dying men.
The men sang and stamped the death dance together as the SS Mendi sank, taking with her all still on board and many who leapt into the icy waters (607 black troops along with 9 of their fellow white countrymen and all 33 crewmembers). Joseph Tshite, a schoolmaster from near Pretoria, encouraged those around him with hymns and prayers until he died. A white sergeant was supported by two black compatriots, who swam with him and found place for him on a raft.
146 000 Whites volunteered for service in WW1, while altogether 83 000 Blacks and 2000 Coloureds did service in non-combatant capacity.