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Delville Wood Day - 16 July


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Today is the 16th July, on which the Battle of Delville Wood is commemorated. From 16 to 19 July 1916, at Delville Wood (Bois du Delville near the town of Longueval) the South African 1st Brigade was involved in probably one of the bloodiest battles of the so-called Somme-Offensive. Of the 4100 officers and men of the 1st Brigade about 850 walked out of Delville Wood on 19th July. The rest were either wounded or dead. In a proportional sense, the South African casualties at Delville Wood were the worst of World War I.

I would like to dedicate this post to my grandfather, who was carried out of Delville Wood on a stretcher, wounded in three places, but alive. I include a poem based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Some sources put it that Kipling wrote the poem after news of Delville Wood reached England.

I’m also proud to mention that I served in the same regiment as my grandfather.


The garden called Gethsemane

In France near Longueval it was,

And there the people come to see

All us soldiers pass.

We used to pass – we used to pass

Or halt as it may be,

And wore our masks in case of gas

Beyond Gethsemane.

The Garden called Gethsemane

It held a pretty lass

But all the time she talked to me

I prayed that my cup may pass.

The officer sat on the chair,

The men lay on the grass,

And all the time we halted there

I prayed that my cup may pass.

It didn’t pass – it didn’t pass –

It didn’t pass from me.

I drank it when we met the gas

Beyond Gethsemane.

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Get your grandfather's medals from the First World War and give them to your kids telling them of what your family went through.

Australians are doing this now, BIG TIME, and wearing those medals with great pride from all those years ago on Anzac Day (25th April) and Remembrance Day (11th Nov) marches, now that all the old soldiers are dying away.

It is their descendants that are carrying on the tradition.

As fellow Commonwealth troops or the descendant of one of them, you'll be treated like a true blue Aussie.

Australian troops saw the same horrors and would have been in Delville Wood also, most likely.

My grandfather was in the Royal Artillery in France 1914 - 1918.

My father in the North Atlantic and Burma 1942 - 1945

My grandmother lost her brother in France in 1916.

They spent the best years of their youth so that my generation and my kids were free to live the way we choose.

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Thanks for the kind words Bob.

My one uncle has the medals, they are still in South Africa. We take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies, and i have the habit of placing some flowers at our local War memorial near Happy valley each year on Delville Wood Day.

I'm glad that Australia has such an excellent tradition of remembering the sacrifices of the guys who served in the wars, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea etc. South Africa's record is not so good. It's mostly individuals or some older regiment that keep the memories alive, the regiment (Transvaal Scottish) that my grandfather (and I years later) served in made a point of immortalising Delville Wood.

As a teacher i have an annual project that I run with my class for Remembrance Day, the support and cooperation fron kids and parents alike is wonderful. Aussies are solid people with traditions like these.



PS: Granddad and I served in a Scottish Regiment, but we are not Scottish or of Scottish descent, when Granddad and his best mate, Bert, joined up at the outbraek of war they wanted to serve in the same unit. He and Uncle Bert, (a Scotsman) somehow bamboozled a recuiting seargent to the extent that he believed that granddad Jannie (an Afrikaner) was Scottish. ;)

Due to granddad's service in the regiment I ended up there as well.

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