Remembrance Sunday

It is worth remembering that the 2 minutes silence acknowledged around the world was in fact begun in Africa. The practice of the Remembrance Sunday silence originates in Cape Town, South Africa, where there was a two-minute silence initiated by the daily firing of the noon day gun on Signal Hill for a full year from 14 May 1918 to 14 May 1919, known as the Two Minute Silent Pause of Remembrance.

This was instituted by the then Cape Town Mayor, Sir Harry Hands, at the suggestion of councillor Robert Rutherford Brydone, on 14 May 1918, after receiving the news of the death of his son by gassing on 20 April.
Signalled by the firing of the Noon Gun on Signal Hill, one minute was a time of thanksgiving for those who had returned alive, the second minute was to remember the fallen. The city fell silent, a bugler sounded the Last Post, and the Reveille was played at the end of the pause. It was repeated daily for a full year. Newspapers described how trams, taxis and private vehicles stopped, pedestrians came to a halt and most men bared their heads. People stopped what they were doing at their places of work and sat or stood silently. This short official ceremony was a world first.
A correspondent in Cape Town cabled a description of the event to London. Within a few weeks Reuters’ agency in Cape Town received press cables from London stating that the ceremony had been adopted in two English provincial towns and later by others, including in Canada and Australia.
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick was impressed by what had happened and suggested through various channels to King George V that the 2 minute silence should be observed throughout the world and the King consented that the 2 minute silence would become part of the Remembrance Service on 11 November 1919 and each year after that.
On 11th November 1918 at 11:00 European time the Great War came to an end, officially at any rate. It was supposed to be the war which ended all wars. Sadly, it later became known as World War One. It lasted for 4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks involved over 50 countries and cost the lives of 9 million soldiers, 7 million civilians and most certainly a contributary factor to the outbreak of influenza around the world which killed between 50 and 100 million people.

However, the war in Africa continued and it is worth remembering now the role of Africa in the war because it was significant:

The first rifle shot of World War one was not fired in Europe but actually in West Africa on 7th August 1914 by L/Cpl Grunshi of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) Regiment. The German garrison in Togoland held out for just two weeks, when the campaign started on 9 August 1914 and it was over by 26 August 1914. The first campaign of the war was successfully concluded in Africa by African Regiments.

The first naval engagement between Germany and Britain was on Lake Nyasa, now Malawi, when Captain Rhoades sailed his naval craft, the HMS Gwendolen, back to his German counterpart’s harbour having heard of the out-break of the war first and blew holes in his vessel, the Hermann von Wissman, which was in bad form according the German, Captain Berndt, as it was still in dry dock at the time. He rowed out to confront Rhoades to question what he was doing since they had been drinking partners the night before. It transpired that news of the war had not reached him yet. Rhoades sat Berndt down with a whisky, explained the situation, then led away his angry prisoner of war into captivity.

The famous film “The African Queen” was based on a true story when Great Britain sent two small attack craft, HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou, to Cape Town on a ship and then up the railway line to put them on to Lake Tanganyika to challenge the Germans who had the Kingani, a larger vessel in command of the Lake. The two boats managed to capture the Kingani, renaming it the HMS Fifi.

The first major land campaign was successfully concluded with no British involvement at all when the South Africans and the Rhodesians secured victory in the German South West African Campaign. It began on 15 September 1914 and was over by 9 July 1915.

This country raised funds to assist Great Britain, and amongst them were the Angoni chiefs in the east contributing a princely sum of GBP32 and Sh1 at the time to help buy an aeroplane for the British Army. The Litunga from Barotseland thought it an honour to support King George V so raised GBP2,000 for the war effort as well and ordered his son who became Mwanawina III to march with 2,000 Lozi warriors northwards to be trained into Policemen and carriers in the defence of the territory.

The last airman to be shot down by the famous Baron von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was Second Lieutenant David Greswolde-Lewis, born and raised in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia.

A Victoria Cross was awarded to an Australian soldier, Lieutenant William Dartnell, in Kenya where he is buried.

There were 20 countries involved in the East Africa Campaign which finally ended in this country: Australia, Belgium, the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Gambia, Germany, Gold Coast (now Ghana), India (& Pakistan), Kenya, Nyasaland (now Malawi), Mozambique, Nigeria, Portugal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Uganda, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and the United Kingdom.

Whilst the guns fell silent in Europe on 11th November they continued in Africa until 13th, when General von Lettow Vorbeck’s troops were about to cross the Chambeshi river in Northern Rhodesia and the last shot of the war was almost certainly fired by a Northern Rhodesian Policeman south of the river in response to the advancing German Askari firing on them at the rubber factory. The delivery of the news of the Armistice had been delayed at a town called Broken Hill, now Kabwe, when the inhabitants received it on 11th they had a such a party it was not until the 13th that they realised no-one had sent the official message forward. General von Lettow Vorbeck was given the news of the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front on that day, firstly from information taken from a captured dispatch rider, the last prisoner of World War One, a man called Eric Pullon a civilian, and then later that same day from a note sent forward through the British front lines by Lieutenant Davey and Sergeant Rumsey of the Northern Rhodesia Police. The German General was planning to attack the rubber factory on the southern bank of the Chambeshi river the next morning.

So, at 07:30 on 14th November 1918 General von Lettow Vorbeck met with Hector Croad, the District Commissioner from Kasama, to be told that he would have to march to Abercorn, now Mbala, to lay down his arms in front of General Edwards. The man who carried the white flag to the meeting was Yoram Jia, an African originally from Nyasaland. Both Croad and Jia later worked on the Shiwa Ngandu estate made famous in the book The Africa House.

It took von Lettow 10 days to complete the journey and at 12:00 on 25th November 1918 in the pouring rain he began his unconditional evacuation from East Africa. General Edwards allowed von Lettow to keep his sword because of the honourable way he had conducted his campaign.

Given the time difference, the war in Africa lasted two weeks and two hours after the guns had fallen silent in Europe.

We will remember the 78 settlers of this country including one lady, a Jewish lad and an American listed on the Livingstone memorial at the Victoria Falls, who left their homes and gave their lives for the cause.

We will remember the 117 men of the Northern Rhodesia Police including an Australian who are listed on the police memorial in Livingstone town who died defending this country from invaders.

We will remember Hector Croad buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Mbala and Yoram Jia who carried the white flag on 14 November 1918 to bring the fighting in Africa to an end.

We will remember the servicemen buried at Kansenshi in Ndola not only people from units in this country but also from the British South Africa Police, the Royal Navy, South African Forces and one from Belgium.

We will also remember the German soldiers and their proud Askari who died and are buried in Africa.

We will remember people like Private Beattie from the Northern Rhodesian Rifles who was buried in a grave at Chinsali in 1916, unmarked officially, a piece of African granite acting as his headstone because someone will not look upon him as a war casualty. His family mourned him nonetheless and his name is recorded on the official memorial panel in Hawick, Scotland.

We will remember those affected by war like Captain Evans MC and bar, DCM, Russian Cross of St George 2nd Class, MID, from Abercorn, now Mbala, who after the war suffered from the demons which haunted him, called Ukutilimuka locally or more commonly today Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and was the cause of him being stripped of his all his bravery awards in 1923.

We will remember the 1,467 carriers from the Northern Province who died whilst serving in the British Army and the 433 who fell in this country for whom the Abercorn Memorial in Mbala is dedicated and where we in Zambia held our centenary commemoration on 25th November 2018.

We will remember and acknowledge the over one million Africans who served in many roles during that war and in subsequent conflicts around the world.



They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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