The central avenue of
Delville Wood Cemetery is continued across the Longueval-Ginchy
road by a grass road, in a wide clearing, running Northward into Delville
Wood; and across the clearing, at the top of a low rise, is the South
African (Delville Wood) Memorial.
This is a National Memorial to all South Africans of all theatres of war.
It is included in the database and mentioned in records of the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission by virtue of it being the only
dedicated Memorial to South Africa's commitment on the Western Front.
However, the names of their Missing are not inscribed on its walls. They
appear on Commonwealth memorials alongside the Missing of the United
Other Commonwealth nations have a dedicated National Memorial to their
Missing of the Great War on the Western Front; the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial
to the forces of India, the Vimy Memorial to the forces of Canada and the
Beaumont Hamel Memorial to the forces of Newfoundland, the
Villers-Brettonneux Memorial to the forces of Australia, the Messines
Ridge Memorial to the forces of New Zealand; one of seven Memorials on the
Western Front dedicated to New Zealanders.
Wheelchair access with some difficulty.
For further information regarding wheelchair access, please contact our
enquiries department on telephone number 01628 634221.
The Memorial is a flint and stone screen, with a shelter at each end and
in the middle an arch, surmounted by figures of a horse and two men
(representing the two races of the Union) in bronze. It was unveiled by
the widow of General Louis Botha on the 10th October 1926.
It is fitting here to refer to the outstanding facts which this Memorial
recalls: to the conquest of German South-West Africa in six months by
South African troops; to the conquest of German East Africa by a South
African Commander at the head of an Army mainly South African; and to the
great record of the South African Brigade in France and Flanders. In
Delville Wood the three Battalions employed in the capture and defence of
the Wood were all but completely destroyed. At Arras and at Passchendaele,
in April and September, 1917, they successfully overran the enemy defences.
From Gauche Wood and Marrieres Wood, in March, 1918, some 400 transport
men and details came back, and the German tribute to the rearguard
fighting of the 9th Division is well known. On Messines Ridge, in the
following month, they stopped the enemy advance by counter-attacking and
held the position until the reserves had come up. At Beaurevoir and Le
Cateau, in October, 1918, they successfully dislodged the enemy from
positions in which he was strongly posted; and on the 11th November, 1918
they were furthest East of all the British troops in France (ref Buchan:
The South African Forces in France, page 256). During the Great War, the
Union sent out on service 229,000 Officers and men. Of these, some 10,000
were killed in action or died of wounds or sickness; and their names are
written in a book kept at the Delville Wood Memorial, on the site where
their first great sacrifice was made.