While some African countries seem to be moving away from 11 November as the day to remember those who died making the(ir) world a better place such as Nigeria and Egypt, South Africa seems to be adding days.
That we have a one-two minute silence on 11 November was thanks to South Africa’s own Percy Fitzpatrick. In the past, the day tended to focus mostly on the Western Front of World War 1 and South Africa’s involvement in World War 2, in particular North Africa and Italy. Today, the East Africa campaign of 1939-1942 is getting greater recognition while South Africa’s involvement in the campaign of the same name of 1914-1918 remains relatively glossed over in the public domain. Today, 11 November, in line with the more integrated South Africa, is more inclusive in its remembrance across the armed forces of the republic.
In addition to 11 November, we have:
20 February – Mendi Day when the 600+ souls who perished when the SS Mendi was sunk, or as I prefer to think of it Labour Day, commemorating all South African labour who served, survived and died during the First World War.
20 September – Battle of Square Hill when the Cape Corps suffered huge losses in helping the Allies gain a victory in the Middle East in 1918.
And then we have not quite a day, but the figure of Jopie Fourie who symbolises the rebellion and opposition to the British Empire.
I’ve written about these in various articles, but more recently, in response to someone reading one of my articles, I have come to realise another date in the military calendar:
20 July – commemorating South Africa’s losses at Delville Wood in 1916. Whilst this has been the feature of 11 November public commemoration until recently, it has been a feature of military commemoration for some years. Now, 20 July is becoming more well known as this 2018 article shows, at least in Pretoria.
Publications: The end of the war in Africa
Remembering the war dead ; Some thoughts on African war burials