Delville Wood Memorial Wall to be unveiled on Wednesday

President Jacob Zuma is expected to unveil the Delville Wood Memorial Wall in France on Wednesday.

The Department of Public Works built the Delville Wood Memorial in remembrance of the fallen soldiers, who served and died during the two World Wars. Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has been invited by President Zuma to attend the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Delville Wood, as well as the unveiling of the Memorial Wall.

The wall includes the names of black and coloured South African soldiers, who served and died during the wars but whose participation was never recognised until now. The South African National Memorial Wall is situated in the north of France, some 170 kilometres from Paris.

The Department of Public Works, as the custodian of State immovable assets, was responsible for the renovation and extension of the wall. The department is also responsible for the refurbishment and transformation of the Delville Wood Memorial. The renovation of the wall came after a resolution by the South African Mission in Paris in 2014 to reflect the unbiased and authentic role played by black South Africans in the war.

Previously, the role of black South Africans who took part in the wars was diminished from the memorial because their remains were buried elsewhere in France. During the apartheid era, the black soldiers were regarded as unfit for combat like their white counterparts. The original war memorial was erected in 1920 when the South African government purchased 63 hectares of land in Delville Wood.

To commemorate and honour the sacrifices of black South African soldiers, the South African National War Memorial and Museum in Delville Wood was erected and inaugurated in 1926.

In 1952, an altar stone was added to commemorate South African soldiers, who died during World War II in various theatres of war.

The latest renovation project to transform the memorial was a joint intergovernmental initiative by the Departments of Public Works, Arts and Culture and International Relations and Cooperation. The renovations cost R49 million.

Source: Government Communication and information System