The Royal British Legion South African Branch
The Royal British Legion - South African Branch, part of the National Branches District did their standard dedication ceremony during the VE Day celebrations and well as parade and commemoration in recognition of VE Day and the British, Commonwealth and specifically the South African sacrifice in the liberation of Europe during World War 2. The occasion also marked the anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino which was a key-pin battle in the Liberation of Europe - and whose anniversary coincidentally falls on VE day. Again, Allied, British, Commonwealth - including South African - sacrifice in the Italy Campaign where remembered.
The ceremony took place at the East Sheen Chapel in Richmond on the 10 May 2015 and started at 11am. After the church service and standard dedication all the standards present where paraded to the South African Cenotaph located inside the Richmond cemetery at "the commonwealth soldiers corner" for a wreath laying ceremony. Thereafter all adjourned to The Royal British Legion Twickenham Branch's Club for a light lunch and refreshments.
The Royal British Legion Standard dedication was joined in ceremony with Standards and Standard Bearers from The Royal British Legion National Branches District, The Royal British Legion Twickenham Branch, The Royal Naval Association, The Fleet Air Arm Association, The Submariners Association, The South African Legion and The Legion of Frontiersmen. The service was conducted by Reverend Nicholas Pnematicatos and the charge of the Standard was conducted by John Clark on behalf of the Royal British Legion. The Dignitaries invited and who laid wreath on behalf of their organisations where the military Attache' from The New Zealand Defence Force Lt Cdr Ian Andrew, Colonel David Blum MBE President of The Italy Star Association, Colonel Douglas Hobson - South African Army Armoured Corps, Mr David Street - The Royal British Legion - National Branches District, Mr John Evans - Royal Naval Association Woking Branch, Mr John Evans Royal British Legion Twickenham Branch, Mr Stuart Robertson - Royal British Legion South African Branch, Mr Paul Duncan - South African Legion. The occasion was also supported by Riders from The Royal British Legion Riders Branch, The Legion of Frontiersmen and members of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats.
Invited speakers included Mr Peter Dickens - Chairman of The Royal British Legion South African Branch and Mr Tom Mason. The essence of the speeches sought to enlighten the audience as to the significance of the Richmond and it's South African Cenotaph to Victory in Europe, and how it was appropriate that a Royal British Legion Standard for a South African branch be dedicated there. The Royal British Legion and South African Legion's roots go back a long way and both extend to an inaugural meeting of British Empire Services League (now the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League) held in Cape Town South Africa on the 21st February 1921. The attendance of Field Marshal Earl Haig and General the Rt Hon. Jan Smuts as founders of the BESL was no coincidence - both The Royal British Legion and it's South African counterpart stem from this special relationship and vision shared by both men. In Richmond, a South African Military Hospital was established during the First World War, Jan Smuts later inaugurated a South African Cenotaph in the cemetery located near the Hospital. This Cenotaph which became a location for regular pilgrimages for South African veterans after the Second World War.
Over the years the hospital was demolished and the monument and South African contribution in Richmond were gradually forgotten about. During South Africa's years of international isolation it fell into complete obscurity - both in the United Kingdom and in South Africa. The Royal British Legion South African Branch was able to re-establish the historic roots and rededicated the Cenotaph in November 2014. The South African National Defence Force were notified of the oversight and the monument is now listed as a significant South African Military Memorial. Buried next to the Cenotaph in "soldiers corner" are South African servicemen who gave their lives to the liberation of Europe. It was apt that a new Royal British Legion Standard for a South African branch be dedicated at this location to their memory, and highly appropriate that it was done on the 70th anniversary of VE day.