Archives November 2021

Remembrance Day, 11 November

South Africa

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day owing to the tradition of wearing a remembrance poppy) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to honour armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919,[1] the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. In most countries, Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of First World War hostilities. Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918, in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. (“At the 11th hour” refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am.) The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.[2]

In South Africa, Remembrance Day is not a public holiday. Commemoration ceremonies are usually held on the nearest Sunday, at which the “Last Post” is played by a bugler followed by the observation of a two-minute silence. Ceremonies to mark the event in South Africa are held at the Cenotaph in Cape Town,[46] and in Pretoria at the Voortrekker Monument cenotaph and the War Memorial at the Union Buildings. Many high schools hold Remembrance Day services to honour the past pupils who died in the two World Wars and the Border war. In addition, the South African Legion of Military Veterans holds a street collection on the nearest Saturday to gather funds to assist in welfare work among military veterans.[47]

Para-Sapper Reunion, Naboomspruit, 5-6 November 2021

Tucked away in the Bushveld, a tranquil gem of a hide-away called Diamond Creek Bush Lodge played host to the first-ever Para-Sapper Reunion held on 5 & 6 November 2021. A group of para-sappers, many of whom had not seen each other for decades, had to privilege of reconnecting and reminiscing on their mutual and shared (good and bad) army experiences around a traditional and welcome bushveld fire. Sentences started with recalling’s, such as “Do you remember ….?” Although time had passed in decades since their involvement in various operations, the deep heart connections of these band of brothers were genuine, touching and inspiring.  “Manne, dis ‘n voorreg om ‘n hardekool te deel ….”[1]

Nico Beneke read a heartfelt tribute written by Eeben Barlow to his fellow sappers. He honoured and acknowledged his fellow brothers in arms, leaving their mark in the sands of Angola, the old South West Africa and Rhodesia. These sappers worked in obscurity and without public credit, making a difference in the lives around them. Barlow’s tribute honoured their sacrifice, their countless kilometres walked to clear the roads of landmines, often under heavy enemy fire; their determination and fighting spirit at Cassinga and Chitado; their blood, sweat, tears and their fortitude. Nico called all to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, with bowed heads, calling out the names of those who had paid the ultimate price and had gone before … emotion strong in their hearts and voices as the memories surfaced.

The delicious meals were sponsored, and we tucked in with relish. The gents were surprised with gifts such as a bottle of red wine, aptly named Tribute. A beautiful cap with the new para-sapper badge was individualised for each – it truly is an impressive design. Throughout the weekend, we were regaled with humorous stories of old, especially those at the international Leapfest, involving barbed wire and a soft lion toy contributing lots of laughs… 

Nico, Naomi and Johan Leech attended as Rooiplaas ambassadors. They became the custodians of,  and were entrusted with a wealth of information and photographs on the Sappers. This will be uploaded onto the Rooiplaas website in due time. Our hearts were stirred as we were welcomed with open arms into a close-knit Para-Sapper brotherhood. We feel honoured to have been a part of this unforgettable weekend.


Nico & Naomi

[1] Afrikaans song, “Hardekool” song by Adam Tas, Ricus Nel, Refentse Morake, Bok van Blerk

Eeben Barlow's tribute to the para-sappers that was read at the reunion.