Rendez-vous at South African National Memorial and Museum
Delville Wood is well known in South African military history; it represents the national symbol for bravery and sacrifice as the 1st South African Infantry Brigade accomplished one of the finest feats of arms of the First World War here, in July 1916.
On 15th July 1916, the brigade, comprising 121 officers and 3032 men, received orders to take the wood "at all costs". For five nights and six days, the South Africans fought against various units of the 4th German Army Corps.
Outnumbered, and being fought against from three sides they were almost decimated but managed to hold on and fight back, sometimes resulting to hand to hand fighting, until most of the woods had been captured.
When they were relieved on the 20th July, only 142 men came out of the woods unscathed, eventually 780 men from the South African Brigade assembled. Ravaged by the fighting in 1916, the woods were replanted in the 1920’s and restructured to house the South African National Memorial.
It was decided that the woods would forever stay the burial ground of the soldiers who still lay there.The site is dedicated to all South Africans who fell during the wars of the 20th Century, in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.Each year, in July, a commemorative ceremony is held in Delville Wood.
South African National Memorial Public subscriptions were raised for the erection of a National Memorial in Delville Wood for the South Africans who fell in all theatres of war during the Great War.
It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker, one of the principal architects of the Imperial War Graves Commission, and was inaugurated on the 10th October 1926. A wide avenue, bordered by a double row of Oak trees, leads up to the memorial’s Great Arch, which faces south towards the rows of white headstones.
The monument bears inscriptions in English and Afrikaans, and a bronze statue stands on the top. This statue, by Alfred Turner, represents Castor and Pollux leading a war horse and clasping hands in sign of friendship. It symbolises the union of all people of South Africa in their determination to defend their common ideals.
South African National Museum Inaugurated on 11th November 1986 by the President of the South African Republic, the museum was built around the Cross of Sacrifice.
The museum commemorates the 25,000 South African volunteers, men and women of all races and religions who fell during the two great wars and during the Korean War.
The concept of the museum was inspired by the Castle of Good Hope, first European fortification erected in South Africa.