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REMEMBRANCE DAY COMMEMORATION SPEECH DELIVERED BY CAPE TOWN MAYOR, GEORDIN HILL-LEWIS<p><img src="" alt="" style="margin:5px;" />​</p><p>On Friday, I had the great honour of attending a Remembrance Day service at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Rondebosch. While many of us are aware that the Hospital is a living war memorial, it was very meaningful for me to stop and reflect on how it came to be. South Africa entered World War II just three days after Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939.</p><p> At the time, the South African army numbered only 5 300 regulars, with an additional 15 000 men in the Active Citizen Force, a reservist corps which mostly provided training to volunteers in peace time.  Thousands of young men volunteered to fight, many of them teenagers.<br></p><p> I'm not sure any of us can imagine what it must have been like – without social media and the internet, without cellphones and video calling, in a world that was much more mysterious and unknowable – for 18-year-old men to board ships in Cape Town harbour to sail to North Africa and Europe to fight Nazis and fascists, knowing there was a good chance they would not return.</p><p> Over the past few days, I have really tried to imagine what it must have been like boarding a ship in Cape Town harbour as a mere boy, not sure if I was ever going to come back and see this mountain again.  I am not sure we will ever again know bravery on such a scale, and I pray that we won't have to.</p><p>Those men — and we have three of them with us today, which I will say more about later — were to witness the most brutal excesses of humanity, man's terrifying capacity for evil. </p><p> They experienced the horrors of war. Many of them were particularly affected by the terror that beset the most vulnerable members of society – the children who were injured, became sick, or died in violence. They saw the pain of mothers holding the lifeless bodies of children, and young people disabled for the rest of their lives.</p><p> Fortunately for us, some of these young men did return. And when they did, some of them had a vision to create a facility that would alleviate the suffering they witnessed on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa.</p><p> They decided to create a children's hospital that would look after children who were ill and infirm. Doing so, they felt, would be a meaningful way to honour those of their comrades who did not return. They donated portions of their salaries to the project.  Their vision was made manifest in what we see today – a world-class childrens' hospital which services more than 250 000 children each year, most of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds.</p><p> They come from all parts of South Africa and even from other African countries. Today, Red Cross is a cornerstone of paediatric healthcare on the African continent. The memory of fallen heroes is further honoured by the exceptional research that is conducted at this hospital, the world-class training in paediatric clinical disciplines, as well as active outreach and support programmes at other health facilities.</p><p> What stands out for me about the Red Cross story is what it shows about the spirit and values of the young men who stand at its centre.</p><p>They did not say, after returning from the War, that they had performed enough service for a lifetime. Although this was undoubtedly true. Rather, they continued to serve. They knew the importance of fighting for freedom and justice, and for doing what one can to alleviate the suffering of one's fellow man. They knew that each of us has a role to play in making our world incrementally better, kinder, and fairer. </p><p> Many of them went on to live lives of extraordinary service in politics, business, civil service, and through charitable organisations like the MOTHs and the SA Legion.</p><p>Today, I would like to especially honour three of these extraordinary men, who are with us.  We are joined by Oom William van Wyk, who is the only surviving member of the South African Cape Corps. At 99 years old, he is also the oldest surviving World War II veteran in the country. </p><p> I am very grateful that Oom William was willing to make the journey down to Cape Town from Kimberley to mark this occasion with us. Oom William joined the Union army in July 1941 at the age of 18 as a full-time service volunteer. He sailed to North Africa where the Corps fought on key battlegrounds including the Siege of Tobruk and the Battle of El Alamein. He fought in North Africa for over a year before returning to South Africa.</p><p>Oom William and the Cape Corps returned to the front lines shortly thereafter, this time as part of the 6<sup>th</sup> South African Armoured Division, to continue the fight against fascism in Italy. </p><p> During the battle of Monte Cassino near Rome, Oom William faced a harrowing ordeal as the Allies were pushed back several times up a hill and forced to garrison in a monastery. It was an intense battle that the Germans were winning, and Oom William was separated from his unit.</p><p>Unsure of where his comrades were, he simply joined another unit and continued fighting. His family in Kimberley, however, were notified that he was missing in action. They did not find out he was alive until several months later. </p><p> Oom William, you honour us with your presence here today. Dankie vir al wat u gedoen het om vryheid in ons wêreld te beskerm.</p><p>Next, I welcome Mr Jackson Human. Mr Human is the last veteran still alive from the Indian Malay Corps and the second oldest veteran in South Africa at 98 years old. He served in a transportation unit in North Africa. Mr Human's presence here today is in fact a pleasant surprise. When sending out invitations for this event, my office searched high and low for the country's last living veterans. On Friday, Mr August from the Cape Corps reached out to say his organisation had recently discovered a new veteran whose history they were still getting to know. </p><p> Mr Human, I am delighted that you were able to join us today and that the veterans associations are now able to record and document your history so that future generations can recognise your extraordinary life. I also want to recognise Mr Walter Brewis who has joined us this morning. Mr Brewis is now 97 years old.</p><p>Mr Brewis joined the South African Army in June 1944 as a 19-year-old lad. After basic training, he was flown in a Douglas C-47 Skytrain (known as a "Dakota") to Cairo. From there, he sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to the south of Italy. </p><p> The base camp for new arrivals for South African troops in Italy was in Santa Barbara, a small mining town near Florence. As the young men arrived, they were greeted by disappointed-looking, battle-hardened veterans, who were concerned to see how young the new recruits were.</p><p>Mr Brewis served for a year as a lorry driver, doing the important and often grim work of "mopping up" the battlefields of Italy, finally bringing the war to a close. </p><p> Ladies and gentlemen, We have in our midst three gentlemen who are, so far as we can ascertain, the last three combat veterans of WW II alive in South Africa. We are profoundly honoured by their presence.</p><p> May we please be upstanding to honour them now. As Mayor, and as the grandson of a World War II serviceman, Gwyn Hill-Lewis, whose name I carry as my middle name, I am extremely proud to be able to stand here, at Cape Town's own cenotaph, to honour the great men and women who died in World War I, World War II, and other wars in which the freedom and the security of the world was at stake.</p><p> These men and women died in defence of our ideals and it is fitting that we honour their memory. But we must also think of what we can do today so that their sacrifice was not in vain.  What can we do, so that we never again have to witness the worst of human nature?</p><p> Earlier this year, the world watched in horror as war broke out in Europe once again, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since then we have heard the threat of escalation, and even the explicit threat of the use of weapons too horrific to contemplate.  Many thousands of people have died and many more have had their homes destroyed and their lives torn apart.</p><p> In my view, the memory of those we stand here today to remember should instil in us a sense of duty to stand up for what is right and just.</p><p>Even if those in South Africa who have a responsibility to take a stand refuse to do so, here in the City of Cape Town we continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they suffer under Russian imperialist expansionism and state terrorism. </p><p> We have not only demonstrated this symbolically, by lighting up our City Hall in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, for example, but we have also taken concrete steps such as explicitly requestion that entry be barred for a superyacht owned by an oligarch who enables the regime. As far as we know, the yacht no longer plans to come to Cape Town.</p><p> We call on Russia to cease fire and start negotiating peace. We keep in our minds all people everywhere living under conditions of conflict and war, and pray for peace and safety. Having spent the last few minutes speaking mostly about World War II, I would like to end with an often-recited poem from World War I, the armistice of which we recall this weekend.</p><p> For me, the poppy is not just a symbol of what has been lost, but what still stands to be lost. It is a reminder that there are still things in the world for which we have a duty to fight.</p><p> <em>In Flanders fields the poppies blow</em></p><p><em>Between the crosses, row on row,</em></p><p><em>                  That mark our place; and in the sky</em></p><p><em>                 The larks, still bravely singing, fly</em></p><p><em>Scarce heard amid the guns below.</em></p><p><em> </em><em>We are the Dead. Short days ago</em></p><p><em>We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,</em></p><p><em>   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,</em></p><p><em>    In Flanders fields.</em></p><p><em> </em><em>Take up our quarrel with the foe:</em></p><p><em>To you from failing hands we throw</em></p><p><em>   The torch; be yours to hold it high.</em></p><p><em>     If ye break faith with us who die</em></p><p><em>We shall not sleep, though poppies grow</em></p><p><em>   In Flanders fields.</em></p><p> (John McCrae, <em>In Flanders Fields</em>, 1915)</p><p><span style="text-align:right;">May we never forget their bravery. And may we never fail to stand up to bullies.</span></p><p> Thank you. </p><p> <strong>En</strong><strong>d</strong></p><p><br></p>2022-11-12T22:00:00ZGP0|#1d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70;L0|#01d539e44-7c8c-4646-887d-386dc1d95d70|City news;GTSet|#62efe227-07aa-45e7-944c-ceebacca891dGP0|#34f4df81-9990-40ab-8213-8383ea5bee8b;L0|#034f4df81-9990-40ab-8213-8383ea5bee8b|event;GTSet|#2e3de6c1-9951-4747-8f53-470629a399bb10

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