Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day, is a memorial day mostly observed in the UK and some Commonwealth countries. Just in case this is all news to you South Africa is, in fact, a member of the Commonwealth. So what/who are we supposed to remember? The day has been observed since the end of World War 1 to remember the members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty.
We live in a country where we have so much of our “own” recent, and not so recent, history to celebrate, commemorate and remember… people that died fighting, not in war, but fighting for change. I saw a couple of tweets yesterday (11 November) about the relevance of a day remembering people who died in a war that had nothing directly to do with lil ol’ South Africa.
The thing about World War 1 was that it really was a world war. It might not have happened on our doorstep, but i can guarantee you that our doorsteps might look a little different if the Allies hadn’t won.
When World War I broke out in 1914, the South African government chose to join the war on the side of the Allies. General Louis Botha, the then prime minister, faced widespread Afrikaner opposition to fighting alongside Great Britain so soon after the Anglo Boer War and had to put down a revolt by some of the more militant elements before he could send an force of 67,000 troops to invade German South-West Africa (now Namibia). (wiki)
In total, more than 146,000 whites, 83,000 blacks and 2,500 Coloureds and Asians served in South African military units during the war, including 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps. (wiki)
What kills me is this: the total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed – more than 4,600 in the European theater alone.
Remembrance Day went by in South Africa with hardly a nod to those that died. So here i am, for what it’s worth, remembering them. They were a generation that had courage and bravery in excess, they went and fought a war in another country with the knowledge that they might never come back and enjoy the life they were fighting for. World War 1 has almost completely dropped out of living memory, as far as i know, the last living veteran from World War 1 died in February of this year.
If another World War broke out, and the call came for all able-bodied men & women to step forward and sign up to fight, would we? Scores of 18 – 25 year olds jumped on a boat to go and fight to protect their families and homes. Something tells me that the response would be less than overwhelming. Sacrifice isn’t something that our generation knows much of.
Justin Bieber was the top trend on Twitter on Remembrance Day.
Lest we forget.