Home News Proposed memorial to honour black South Africans who died in WWI

Proposed memorial to honour black South Africans who died in WWI

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is proposing the creation of a new memorial honouring servicemen, which comprises black and coloured South African men who lost their lives during the First World War.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is proposing the creation of a new memorial honouring black South Africans who lost their lives in the First World War. Picture: Supplied

THE COMMONWEALTH War Graves Commission (CWGC) is proposing the creation of a new memorial honouring servicemen, which comprises black and coloured South African men who lost their lives during the First World War (1914-1918).

These men served under the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport, the Military Labour Bureau and the Military Labour Corps.

The proposed memorial will bear the names of more than 1,600 servicemen who lost their lives during the First World War and until now have not formally been commemorated. The list includes 338 names of enlisted men who came from the Northern Cape.

The names of these men came to light following extensive research in South Africa’s National Archives. They served with a variety of units including the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, 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 went to war in Africa.

“Believed to be buried either in South Africa or elsewhere on the African continent, this memorial will be a permanent reminder of their sacrifice, while providing space for additional names should more come to light in the future,” the commission said in a statement.

“Without the vital contribution of these men to transport and labour, the war in Africa could not have been fought. Yet this story is not well known, despite its enormous cost in lives.

“The aim is to encourage broad engagement with this lesser-known aspect of South Africa’s participation in the First World War and to introduce this historic period to a younger generation of South Africans.”

Before the memorial can be commissioned the CWGC is inviting members of the public and other interested and affected parties to comment on the application online at www.chand.co.za/the-know-how/#projects_review

The monument, if approved by Heritage Western Cape, will be erected in the Company Gardens in close proximity to the historical Old Granary building, home of The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

“Should you or your organisation have any comments or queries regarding this project or the documentation, or if you would like to participate in the process and be notified of further opportunities to provide comment, please ensure that you register as an I&AP in writing and/or provide written comment/object by not later than November 25 2021.”

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