On Sunday 3 June I attended the annual wreath laying service at the SADF Wall of Remembrance at the Voortrekker Monument. This is the 4th time I have attended the service, and the second time I have laid a wreath on behalf of the South African War Graves Project. The wall was officially unveiled on the 25th of October 2009, and has grown from strength to strength. Almost 100 wreaths were laid on Sunday, with representatives from a variety of countries, including Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, and quite a few European Nations. This time around, we had a representative from the South African Government in the form of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who laid a wreath.
The good thing about this wall is that it has become almost a living memorial as more names are added to it. SAWGP has been instrumental in finding many of the names that are being added, and when you compare the list at the wall to that at Fort Klapperkop there is a big difference. Sadly, we still struggle with the issue of information that is missing, or incomplete or just not available, and many names are merely surnames with “FNU” on them; “First Name Unknown”.
The complex at the VTM also houses the 32 Battalion Tree of Honour, as well as the 31/201 Battalion Memorial. It is also going to become the home of the “EBO 4” who’s remains are to be repatriated in the immediate future. And, a separate wall with niches for SADF or ex-SADF members who wish to be interred there.
The one interesting addition has been 4 plaques that list the recipients of the Honoris Crux, Van Riebeeeck Medal, and the Louw Wepener Medal. This is the only place in South Africa where they are commemorated. The small group of 3 medals that I have does not compare to the groupings I saw amongst some of those men.
The one thing that always strikes me when I attend these services is the people who attend. Many of the events where casualties occur happened before 1994, and many of the parents of those names on the wall are long gone. Today it is their children, or siblings, and occasionally a parent. This wall should have happened 20 years ago, to help bring closure to many of those people. I suppose though, the so called “Freedom Park” was supposed to help, but given the hostility from that place and its “management” I don’t think we would want our dead to be remembered there.
After nearly 100 wreaths, it was time to go home, or, at least to stop and have lunch before heading off to my next destination. In a few days time the wreaths would have withered, and the birds will be less nervous, and maybe a cleaner will guide his broom around the edge of the wall, the only thing left behind will be that long list of names, and the reflective marble, and the solitary memorial to the Unknown Soldier.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the Morning.
We Will Remember Them.
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016