How is World War One relevant to us today?

By Timothy Boyd, Andrew Ingle and Simon Du Plessis

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  1. How is World War 1 remembered today?                                                       Every November villages, towns and cities have a memorial towards the men and woman who had died in the war.

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We remember World War I as a dirty, very unhealthy war and was mainly fought in the trenches, but it was fought on many other fronts including the air and water.

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  1. What role do memorials, statues and poppies play?

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A typical example of a memorial is the Cenotaph in London. It was originally a temporary structure but soon became permanent after the soldiers marched past it and looked at it with respect. Senior officers saluted the Cenotaph. It soon became a place where family members came to grief after their loved ones had been killed in battle.

A poppy represents loss and sorrow, both sombre representations. Importantly it allows us to remember all those lost in battle, it’s a time when we can stop and reflect on the true heroic actions that were taken by our country men and women, those that fought for us.

In summary, they help us to ignore the world around us at that moment and just think, remember and appreciate what those soldiers and nurses fought for.

  1. Why is it important for us to commemorate the First World War in South Africa?

It is to remember the men who had sacrificed themselves for the freedom of South Africa and the world. But the whites were sent to fight in the fronts and the blacks were used as logistic support.

The Battle of Delville Wood went down in the history of WWI as an example of supreme sacrifice and heroism and remained the most costly action the South African Brigade fought on the Western Front.
-The Sinking of the SS Mendi – “Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do … you are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers … Swazis, Pondos, Basotho … so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegaais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies.”

– reputed to be the last words of Rev Wauchope Dyobha on the sinking ship SS Mend

On the 21 of February 1917 the SS Mendi was struck almost in two and sunk killing a total of 607 black South Africans.

  1. What is being done around the world specifically to commemorate the First World War?

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In England: They are planting 800,246 poppies around the Tower of London, one for each British fatality in the war. YS Crawford Butler planted the first on the 17th of July.

In Australia: The Australian War Memorial Committee decided to redevelop their World War One exhibition.

In Belgium: To honour both the military and civilian victims and to include a citizen focus in the commemorations, the government has chosen three highly symbolic locations, each reflecting different aspects of the war: Liège, Ypres (Ieper) and Brussels to hold their own respective ceremonies.

In New Zealand: A First World War memorial plaque is being put together for a Marae complex in Kennedy Bay, Coromandel.

In Canada: A ceremony was held at the National War Memorial and then continued at the Canadian War Museum. Also, in Halifax, all the lights were shut off at all major landmarks.