Remembrance Sunday marked in Joburg

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pretoria - Former soldiers and Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo will lead a memorial service and wreath-laying at the Cenotaph today as South Africa joins the rest of the world in marking Remembrance Sunday.

This year is the 90th Remembrance Sunday, which is observed internationally in memory of those who have lost their lives in war, reports

The ceremony in Johannesburg, held annually at the Cenotaph, is the main South African commemoration. The Cenotaph is in Harrison Street, in the inner city.

Eric Itzkin, organiser of the event said Remembrance Sunday honours all South Africans who made the supreme sacrifice for their country in wars and conflict, including the struggle for democracy.

"In supporting the overall themes of unification and nation-building, it is important to acknowledge sacrifices made by heroes and combatants of all races and communities."

As this year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in South Africa, the focus of Remembrance Sunday will be the Indian contribution in wars and conflict.

Masondo, the Patron-in-Chief of the event, is expected to preside over Sunday's ceremony, at 2pm.

It will start with a march by military bands and veterans supported by the South African National Defence Force. This will be followed by an inter-faith service led by Pastor Gerrie Lubbe, the Chief Executive of the Desmond Tutu Diversity Trust.

Then there will be a sombre wreath-laying ceremony, with wreaths laid by senior defence force officials, veterans' organisations, civic dignitaries, diplomatic representatives, youth groups and the 1860 Foundation.

To accommodate those who cannot be at the ceremony because of age or infirmity, it will be broadcast live on SAFM so that they can still participate, even if not physically.

Remembrance Sunday is always on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the closest Sunday to 11 November. Variously known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans' Day, 11 November marks the end of World War l, the Great War. Armistice came at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

Initially a Commonwealth day in memory of the First World War, it has grown around the world to be an observance of all people who have lost their lives in all wars and armed conflicts.

India's role in the Anglo Boer War is often ignored, although it contributed more soldiers and ambulance workers than any other British colony. The sub-continent was also a major source of supplies such as horses, helmets, blankets and tents for the British army.

One of the most well-known contributions came from the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps, even though they served for less than two months.

Led by Gandhi, then a lawyer practising in Durban, the Indian community in Natal offered to raise and pay for an ambulance corps to help the National Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The offer was initially refused, but accepted when the British faced severe and mounting injuries and casualties.

The Natal Indian Ambulance Corps comprised 300 free Indians and 800 indentured labourers sent by their employers. They were non-combatants, rather taking injured people from the battlefield to get medical care.

They were not expected to work under fire, but frequently did while serving at famous battles such as Spionkop.

The theme of Joburg's commemorations in 2009 was the unification of military veterans in South Africa, brought together under the banner of the South African National Military Veterans Association. A different theme is chosen every year.