South Africans at Delville Wood, Somme, July 1916

South Africans at Delville Wood, Somme, July 1916

The South African National Memorial is at Delville Wood because it was the site of the gallant action of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade from 15th-21st July 1916, where despite losses of two-thirds, it captured and then held the wood against determined German artillery and counter-attacks. "The six days and five nights on which the South Africans held the most difficult post on the British front, a corner of death on which the enemy fire was concentrated at all hours from all sides... constitute an epoch of terror and glory scarcely equaled in the campaign." John Buchan - The South African forces in France. The South African Brigade in France had other hard battles - at the Butte de Warlencourt on 12th October 1916, Arras and the Fampoux debacle in April 1917, and the last stand against the German Spring Offensive at Marrieres Wood on 23rd March 1918 - but for sheer doggedness, Delville Wood is the battle that is revered. (The CWGC remembers 11,352 South African First World War casualties.) There is an excellent website at which lists all the men present at the rollcall on 14th July, and the equally impressive gives much more information, usually including an image of each soldiers record card. (I've also included British soldiers from 64th Field Company R.E. and 28th Brigade Machine Gun Company, who fought alongside the South African Brigade.)

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  • Profile picture for Harold Lawrence Sumner

    Born 1885

    British Army Second Lieutenant South African Infantry

    British Army Captain Royal Fusiliers

    South African Services 3677 Corporal 4th South African Infantry M.M. for Delville Wood

  • Profile picture for Muns Visser

    Born 1896

    South African Services 7350 Private 1st South African Infantry