Serie of Events commemorating the Union of South Africa’s engagement in the First World War will take place the 14th and 15th June in Cape Town
As part of the remembrance of the Delville Wood battle, the French Institute of South Africa, the Alliance française network, the Goethe Institut and the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation will be organising a series of events in Cape Town, on June 14 and 15 2016, to commemorate the Union of South Africa’s engagement in the First World War.
This project has obtained the “Label du Centenaire”, a French certification highlighting the most innovative and structured projects around the memory of WWI.
On Tuesday 14th June 2016, the screening of animation short films on WWI will be held at the Alliance française du Cap (155 Loop Street), at 6:30 pm.
On Wednesday 15th June, the performance of the play Devil’s Wood, directed by Sylvaine Strike (with Daniel Geddes, Thabo Rametsi & Tishiwe Ziqubu) will be held at the Cape Town French School (Hope Street Campus) at 6:00 pm.
In July 2016, South Africa will commemorate the Centenary of the WWI Battle of Delville Wood, when 3 200 troops of the South African Infantry Brigade arrived on the battlefield of Delville Wood in the department of La Somme (France). This battle became one of the deadliest Somme engagements of the First World War, in which the Union of South Africa lost almost two-thirds of the complement of its Overseas Expeditionary Force in less than a week of warfare.
The South African Union was only four years old at the beginning of WWI in 1914. As part of the British Empire, the country became attached to the Allied war effort in several military operations in Africa and the Middle East (South West Africa, South East Africa, North Africa, and in Egypt and Palestine), and in western Europe. Over 200, 000 White, African and Coloured South Africans went to fight as combatants or to labour as non-combatants on these varied fronts. Due to the political requirements of segregation, black Africans were only allowed to serve as labourers or as other unarmed auxiliary workers, and were all prohibited from bearing arms. By the end of hostilities, around 12,500 South Africans had either been killed in action or had died as a consequence of their active war service. In death they were segregated as they had been in life – black servicemen were not buried together in the same cemeteries with their white compatriots.