Campaign hopes to gather public input on details of black South Africans, including more than 338 from the Northern Cape, who served during World War I
A LARGE-scale campaign has been launched this week to gather details of black South Africans, including more than 338 from the Northern Cape, who served during World War I.
The campaign hopes to gather public input to help fill in the missing pieces of these men’s lives who until now have not received any recognition for their sacrifice.
Over the course of the war, thousands of black South Africans enlisted for non-combatant duties, serving in various labour units including the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, the Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport, the Military Labour Bureau and the Military Labour Corps.
Unlike the South African Native Labour Contingent, which would serve in Europe and is well known for its connection to the SS Mendi, these men were recruited and served on African soil.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), an organisation that honours 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars has identified more than 1 600 members of the South African labour units.
Liz Woodfield, director of information and communications for the CWGC, commented that more than a century after the war ended, not all the names of those lost from the ranks of the labour units have been recorded in remembrance. “We are looking at changing that, so that they can be honoured by name and their stories told.
“Should one of these names be a close relative or someone you knew in the community we are calling for any surviving members of family or friends to come forward. You can reach out either by e-mail: [email protected] or by sending a SMS with your name and contact details to 40720,” she added.
The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation has supported the CWGC on this remembrance project. The Foundation’s CEO, Piyushi Kotecha, said: “We know that collectively, these labour units made an essential contribution to the British war effort – not by carrying arms but by feeding and supplying the front lines and keeping armies in the field. The hope is that this project will bring healing and restore the dignity of these fallen and forgotten black South African soldiers.”
The names of those listed in the Northern Cape include: