A service to mark Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day, was held on Sunday morning, 13 November 2022 in Hermanus, to pay tribute to the members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
The sound of a lone bugler playing the Last Post, the South African flag slowly being lowered to half mast, the observation of two minutes’ silence at 11:00 and the solemn laying of numerous wreaths, deeply moved onlookers at the Cenotaph War Memorial at the old Harbour.
The Cenotaph War Memorial was built in 1929 to commemorate the 11 volunteers from Hermanus who never returned after the war.
Interesting to note that Hermanus had the highest level of volunteering per size of population in the British Empire during World War I.
Overstrand was especially honoured to have a World War II female veteran present at the wreath-laying ceremony. Ena Burnett enlisted in the British Army in January 1944 and was part of the logistics surrounding the D-Day landings. Her job was to manage the loading and shipping of ammunition to the frontlines. Ena is a MOTH and lives in Kleinmond.
Legionnaire Peter Dickens said she is a national treasure, both here and in the UK, “one of small grouping of very special people and it is our privilege to have her here today”.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey Saayman, former commanding officer of the Regiment Westelike Provincie (now Jan Smuts Regiment), encouraged those present to remember the dead by living life. “Never forget the price of freedom as cost of peace is very higher than the causes of war”.
He also shared some snippets about Hermanus’ rich history with WWI and WWII, viz the two-minute silence in remembrance observed worldwide that originated in Cape Town during WW1. The two-minute silence ritual, calling Cape Town to attention by the firing of the Noon Gun, continued throughout World War 2, and the entire city came to a standstill every single day.
Hermanus also had a connection with General Jan Smuts. Besides him been being the Colonel in Chief of Regiment Westelike Provincie (now re-named the General Jan Smuts Regiment), present at the event on Sunday and having the freedom of the Overstrand, his sister, Bebas Smuts, served as Mayor of Hermanus during the Second World War from 1941 to 1946. During the war, Hermanus was a radar station and actively involved in the war effort.
Other war heroes included Victoria Cross winner, Lance Corporal William Henry Hewitt, whose ashes were scattered at sea off the cliffs at Gearing’s Point and Roger Bushell whose grandparents and parents used to live in Hermanus. He led the famous Great Escape from the German prisoner of war camp and a film ‘The Great Escape’ followed many years later. Hermanus High School has a trophy for the highest achieving learner named after him.
Having laid a wreath on behalf of the Overstrand community, Overstrand Executive Mayor, Dr Annelie Rabie said according to one source, the reason for WW1 can be summarised by the acronym M-A-I-N (militarism, alliances, imperialism, nationalism). “Perhaps it is as true now as it was then,” she said.
In South African today we are also fighting a war that is leaving millions wounded or ill: poverty, unemployment, and inequality – Overstrand is not spared this reality either.
Mayor Rabie emphasised that history will judge people and events. There seems to be consensus that the three most important lessons learned from WWI are:
1. exhaust diplomacy before using force
2. war is always unpredictable
3. history should be remembered.
As is customary, Regiment Jan Smuts holder of the Freedom of the Overstrand, lent military colour to this occasion that was organised by the Seagull Shellhole, the local unit of the Memorable Order of the Tin Hats (MOTH’s). The Mayor thanked all who were involved in arranging the event.
Major Mditshwa of the South African National Defence Force – Second in Command General Jan Smuts Regiment, Legionnaire Peter Dickens, Honorary President of the South African Legion UK and Europe branch, Overstrand Mayor Annelie Rabie and Fire Chief Lester Smith obo Overstrand Protection Services, WW II Veteran, 97-year old Moth Ena Burnett who enlisted in the British Army in 1944 and participated in Operation Overload of MOTH Battledress Shellhole, Moth Shaun Booth of MOTH Western Cape Dugout, Moth Peter Goldie of MOTH Seagull Shellhole, Moth Tammy Lawrance of MOTH Tommy Rendel VC Shellhole, Moth Norman Sander of MOTH Cyber Shellhole, Moth Ellis of MOTH Cape Winelands MMA (Motorcycle Association), Moth Llewellen Tillman of MOTH Hermanus Motor Cycle Association, Moth Esme Hounsom of MOTH Women Association, Noël Greeff of RLI (Rand Light Infantry) Regiment Association, Moth Deon van den Berg of 31/201 Battalion Regiment Association, Marthie Visser of the South African Air Force Association, Robby Abrahamse of the Royal Navy Association, Stick Commander Jaco of the Cape Canopy of Paratroopers, Samantha Jackson on behalf of Dave Jackson of Boland Airborne Canopy, Road Captain Marius of the Airborne Riders Motorcycle Association, Platoon Commander Pretorius of the Dogs of War Motorcycle Association, Karen Dickens of the Royal British Legion, Antonie de Klerk and Danielle Fourie of the National Sea Rescue Institute, Peter Dagg of the Hermanus Lodge 7015 of Free Masons, Basil Haman, Founder and Honoury Member of the Hermanus Old Boys, Hermanus 1st Sea-Scouts Group Leader Nicole du Plooy, SA Sea Cadets, TS Birkenhead Lt Noël Dreyer, Marli Snyman and Ryan Ingles from Hermanus High School and Divan Brand and Zoe van Asperen from Hermanus Primary participated in the wreath-laying ceremony.
Members of the public were also given an opportunity to pay their last respect by placing a rose at the foot of the cenotaph.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
– John McCrae