In 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent to end the First World War (1914-1918), the largest global man-made catastrophe known until that time.
The ‘war to end all wars’ cost the lives of a total of 8 634 300 soldiers. Twenty years later, the Second World War (1939-1945) saw the loss of 24 517 000 combatants’ lives.
In addition to these statistics, millions of civilians died during both conflicts.
As a comparatively young country which permitted only a small segment of its population to bear arms, South Africa nevertheless made significant contributions to the Allied causes in both world wars and in the Korean War (1950-3).
In the First World War, 245 419 South Africans of all races volunteered for military service; during the Second World War, 342 692 South African men and women of every race came forward; and in the Korean War, 826 men saw service with No 2 Squadron, South African Air Force while ten officers of the South African Armoured Corps served with the British Army.
Many South African war graves lie far from home, in Namibia, in France and Belgium, in Tanzania, Ethiopia, the Middle East, Italy, Korea and elsewhere.
Closer to home, we should remember the many South Africans who died in the conflicts on our borders and in the Liberation Struggle of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
As yet, there are no reliable figures for these casualties, but what is important is that they all contributed to building our country as we know it today.
They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn them
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM