Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph (2017)

On Sunday, 12 November 2017, the City of Cape Town hosted their annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in Heerengracht.

Before the Parade

When I arrived at the venue on Sunday morning, a large marquee with numerous rows of chairs had been set up in front of the Cenotaph, and the guard of honor were doing a final rehearsal of their march-on and march-off. In the distance, I could hear the Cape Field Artillery Pipes and Drums tuning up, with the wail of the pipes and the thumping of the drums echoing between the tall buildings of the city centre.

The men and women of the SA Navy Band in their brilliant whites were setting up their instruments behind the marquee. The new Director of Music of the Navy Band is Lieutenant Lindela Madikizela, who has taken over the baton from Commander Kenny Leibbrandt. On the other side of the road, the musicians of the SA Army Band Western Cape in their distinctive scarlet uniforms were warming up their instruments; they would be leading the troops on parade in a little while.

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Remembrance Day at the Red Cross Hospital (2017)

On Friday, 10 November 2017, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (see the RCWMCH Facebook page) in Rondebosch held their annual Remembrance Day service. As in previous years, I went together with fellow photographer/writer Glynnis who is responsible for publishing the Pinelands Muse together with her husband Max.

This moving and beautiful ceremony is organised by the Children’s Hospital Trust, a non-profit public benefit organisation that was established as the fundraising arm of the Hospital. Charitable donations received from generous members of the public allow the Trust to upgrade the Hospital’s buildings and equipment and to develop its professional staff. The Trust prides itself on the fact that 100% of all donations actually goes to such improvements, with not a single cent being spent on administrative costs.

Each year, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, Remembrance Day services are held across the world, to mark the moment when German soldiers signed the Armistice Agreement that ended the Great War on 11 November 1918, after four years of continuous and terrible warfare. In 1919, King George V dedicated Remembrance Day to the memory of all those members of the armed forces who had been killed during World War I. It has since become a special memorial day to honour all those who have died in armed conflict around the world since the Great War of 1914-1918.

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Commemorating the Battle of El Alamein: 75 Years On (2017)

On a sunny and hot Sunday, 29 October 2017, I made my way to the Castle of Good Hope in central Cape Town to take some photographs at the 75th Annual Commemoration Service of the Second Battle of El Alamein. As in previous years, the service was organised by the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, the Cape Western Provincial Dugout of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHs) and the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DODMV).

I had only attended this parade twice before – once in 2010, and a second time in 2015. I still remember how completely out of my depth I had felt in 2010, because it was only the second military parade that I had ever attended (the first had been the Battle of Square Hill Commemoration Service of September 2010).

At the time, I didn’t have a clue how these parades worked, and I didn’t know where I was allowed to stand, how close I was permitted to get to the action, and what was going to happen when. I had no idea who was who. And I was still learning how to use my camera (I had just bought my very first DSLR, the Canon 550D) and how to take photographs at these kinds of events; I didn’t know what would work, how to compose and frame shots for best effect, how to anticipate and time the shot correctly, or what settings to use.

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Annual War Commemoration Service at the Bellville Cenotaph (2017)

On Sunday, 20 August 2017, the Annual War Commemoration Service was held at the Civic Centre in Voortrekker Road, Bellville. It was arranged by the Bomb Alley Shellhole (BASH) of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats, in conjunction with Sub-Council 5.

I had never attended this parade before. Apparently, it is a fairly recent event, and has only been going for 4 to 5 years. A couple of friendly chaps from the Signals Association had sent me an invitation, so this time I knew about it beforehand. When I arrived, I was pleased to see some familiar friendly faces. One of my favourite parts of these events is re-connecting with friends and acquaintances, catching up with each other’s lives, and getting to know new people. 🙂

Before the event began, I walked over to the cenotaph for a closer look, as I hadn’t seen this one before. I was told that it had only recently been moved to its current location, directly in front of the entrance to the Bellville Civic Centre. In previous years, it had stood a few metres to the left, on a patch of grass crossed by a footpath. Its present location, right in front of the giant imposing clock tower (whose clock, sadly, is no longer working), is clearly far more suitable for parades. It also meant that the chairs for the dignitaries and invited guests could be set up underneath the awning, at the main entrance to the Civic Centre – providing much-appreciated shade on this pleasantly warm day.

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Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph (2016)

On Sunday, 13 November 2016, the annual Remembrance Day service was held at the Cenotaph in Adderley Street, central Cape Town. It was a warm day, with a slight breeze fluttering the flags and a bit of cloud cover keeping us pleasantly cool. As I recall, it had been very blustery the day before (the wind can be seriously pumping on the Foreshore in November!), so we were very lucky. (A brief summary of the event was broadcast on SABC News).

My first stop was at the four ceremonial guns of Cape Field Artillery, which had been set up on the median in Heerengracht, just on the side of the Coen Steytler roundabout. They were facing down the road, pointing towards the harbour. The gun crews were getting ready, making sure their uniforms were neat and tidy, and checking the guns. These 25-pounder GV1 guns are regularly fired on ceremonial occasions, such as the Opening of Parliament and 21 gun salutes for visiting heads of state, among others. During the Remembrance Day service, they fire during the Last Post and Reveille – even if you know it’s going to BANG, it’ll still make you jump!

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Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph (2015)

A beautiful Remembrance Day service was held at the Cenotaph in the middle of Heerengracht Street in central Cape Town, on Sunday, the 8th of November 2015 – this being the closest Sunday to Remembrance Day, which actually falls on the 11th of November each year. (A little summary of the event was broadcast on SABC News).

The last time I had attended the Remembrance Day service here was five years earlier, in 2010 (see: Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph (2010)), just after we had done the Big Walk, which happened to be held that very same morning. It had been a mad rush to make it through to town in time. I was rather looking forward to this year’s service and wanted to get a closer look at the recently relocated Cenotaph, which is the focal point of this annual event.

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Remembering the Second Battle of El Alamein (2015)

On Sunday 25 October 2015, the Castle of Good Hope in central Cape Town hosted the 73rd anniversary commemoration service of the Second Battle of El Alamein. This annual service was organised by the Cape Town Highlanders regiment, the Cape Western Provincial Dugout of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHS), and the Department of Military Veterans.

Tourists who happened to visit the Castle that morning for a guided tour looked on with much curiosity, as the atmosphere suddenly became quite solemn and the service began. The SA Army Band Western Cape, with WO2 Jerome Mecloen conducting, had been playing some beautiful background music to set the scene. During the service, the Army Band and the Drums and Pipes of the Cape Town Highlanders together played the beautiful and melancholic “Highland Cathedral” and “Amazing Grace”.

One of the 25-pounder guns of the Cape Field Artillery’s saluting troop stood on the front parade ground, facing several rows of chairs that had been set up in the shelter of the colonnade. Captain John Manning of the Cape Town Rifles (Dukes) regiment welcomed the invited guests, participants and visitors to the event, and explained the protocol.

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Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph (2010)

On Sunday, 14 November 2010, the annual Remembrance Day service and wreath-laying ceremony was held at the cenotaph in the City Centre. That year, the cenotaph was still located right outside the central train station. It was the first time that I attended this event; my task was to take photographs for the Defence Reserves Provincial Office of the Western Cape, and to write an article about it on my blog.

All the wreaths are laid out on brilliantly white tablecloths, and the VIPs, guests and participants are assembling in the large tent in the background

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The Cape Town Highlanders commemorate the Second Battle of El Alamein (2010)

On Sunday, 24 October 2010, the Cape Town Highlanders regiment, whose headquarters are at the back of the Castle of Good Hope in central Cape Town, held their annual commemorations of the Second Battle of El Alamein.

The service began around 10h45, with the sentries and flag orderlies marching through the archway and taking up their positions on the front parade ground. A sentry stood at each of the corners of the small memorial, as the Drums and Pipes of the Cape Town Highlanders, followed by the colourful MOTHs banners and a column of MOTHs members from various shellholes around the Western Cape, entered the courtyard. The MOTHs banners lined up on one side, facing the shaded colonnade, where the dignitaries and invited guests were sitting.

MOTHs padre Errol Sadler gave a scripture reading and led the gathering in prayer and the singing of hymns, which were accompanied by the SA Army Band Western Cape (at the time, under the baton of Major Martin Chandler). This was followed by the playing of the Last Post by one of the trumpeters (I believe it was now-Captain Vernon Michels, who now leads the Band), as the SA National Flag and the MOTHs banners were lowered. This traditionally leads into the Two Minutes’ Silence, at the end of which the uplifting Reveille is trumpeted. And then it was time for the wreaths and floral tributes to be laid at the memorial.
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Commemorating the Battle of Square Hill (2010)

On Sunday, 19 September 2010, a commemoration service and wreath laying ceremony took place at the Castle of Good Hope to honour the First Battalion of the Cape Corps, which had fought against the Turks during the Battle of Square Hill in Palestine on 19 September 1918.

This particular parade was memorable for me for several reasons: it was the first military parade I had ever attended; I remember how out of my depth I felt at the time, as I knew nothing of military parades, had never heard of the Cape Corps, and had no idea what the Battle of Square Hill was all about, where it took place, or why we were commemorating it here in South Africa. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that, during World War I, the fighting was not confined to the trenches of France and Belgium in Western Europe – it extended to all the way into the Middle East! Clearly, I should have paid more attention in History lessons at school!

It has always bugged me in the back of my mind that I had never taken the time to read up about it and write an article. So I decided to do some online reading to fill in the gaps.

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