Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC):

Call for information to help tell stories of SA’s forgotten WWI heroes

Dear Sir/Madam

Hope you are keeping well.

A large-scale campaign was launched this week, to gather details of black South Africans who served during World War One.  The campaign hopes to gather public and historians’ inputs, to help fill in the missing pieces of these men’s lives who until now have not received any recognition for their sacrifice by name.

Over the course of the War, thousands of black South Africans enlisted for non-combatant duties serving in various labour units including the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport, the Military Labour Bureau and the Military Labour Corps. Unlike the South African Native Labour Contingent, which would serve in Europe and is well known for its connection to the SS Mendi, these men were recruited and served on African soil.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), an organisation that honours 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars has identified more than 1 600 members of the South African labour units and yet more than a century after the War ended, not all the names of those lost from the ranks of the labour units have been recorded in remembrance. The CWGC are looking at changing that, so that they can be honoured by name and their stories told.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation supports the CWGC on this remembrance project as they know that collectively, these labour units made an essential contribution to the British war effort – not by carrying arms but by feeding and supplying the front lines and keeping armies in the field.

And by receiving as much information as possible CWGC hopes that this project will bring healing and restore the dignity of these fallen and forgotten black South African soldiers.

So we call on all museums and history societies that could have any form of information to please reach out.

Please contact me via email.

Regards, Kareemah Bester

Account Manager

HWB Communications.