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Delville Wood Cemetery

South African War Dead Honoured through New Technology

27 November 2013

The vast contribution made by South African servicemen and women during the two world wars are revealed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission through its use of the latest mobile phone technology.

The initiative is part of a drive by the Commission to ensure that those who died, and in particular the lesser known contributions made by South Africans, are never forgotten.

During the two world wars, South Africans from all sections of society, made a vital contribution to allied victory. More than 21,000 of them died. The stories of some of these men and women will be told using the latest smartphone technology at the cemeteries and memorials around the globe where they are buried and commemorated. Two of the latest sites to benefit from this initiative are the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, UK and Delville Wood Cemetery in France.

Using new interactive panels - combined with a QR or Quick Response barcode - the Commission is able to reveal the stories of men like The Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha and the tragic loss of the SS Mendi, on which 616 South Africans died. The Reverend Dyobha is reported to have calmed the men as the ship sank.

Click here to access the story of Isaac Wauchope Dyobha

The SS Mendi left Cape Town on 25 January 1917, carrying the last contingent of the South African Native Labour Corps destined for France. In dense fog on the night of 21 February, the vessel was struck by another ship and sank within 25 minutes. Many of those who died on board the SS Mendi are commemorated by the Commission at the Southampton (Hollybrook) Memorial in the United Kingdom.

Delville Wood Cemetery, near the site of the South African National Memorial at Delville Wood in France, also features these new information panels.

Click here to access the story of Delville Wood Cemetery

The South African Infantry Brigade attacked Delville Wood in July 1916 as part of the Battle of the Somme. The brigade initially made strong gains before being checked by stiff German resistance. Surrounded on three sides and ordered to hold the wood 'at all costs', the South Africans fought without relief for six days. When they were finally relieved, their ammunition completely spent, only 755 men from a force of 3,153 were left standing.

These two locations are among 500 worldwide where the Commission is installing this new form of information panel. A further 16 panels are planned for cemeteries in South Africa and Namibia.


Click here to read the full Media Release