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Webmatters : South African Memorial at Delville Wood
Rough Map of Area

South Africa

Location

Longueval is a village 11 kilometres east of Albert. The South African Memorial is east of the village and on the south side of the road from Longueval to Ginchy.

There are numerous signs indicating the route from the surrounding arterial roads.

Parking space is available in the vistors’ centre when open. Otherwise there is some parking space along the roadside at the memorial entrance opposite Delville Wood Cemetery.

 

Background

On 15th July 1916 South Africans were ordered to capture Delville Wood: at all costs. With 2nd South African Regiment leading the attack at 0615 hours the remainder of the South African Brigade took almost the entire wood within a couple of hours.

For the next six days the Brigade struggled to maintain their newly won position against determined counter-attacks and incessant German artillery fire which prevented them from withdrawing and reinforcements being able to reach them.

When finally relieved on the 20th July of 3,153 men from the Brigade who had entered the wood on 14th July 1916 only 755 came out again on the sixth day.

 

The South African Memorial

South African Memorial Delville Wood

Funds were raised by public subscription and Sir Herbert Baker one of the leading architects of the then IWGC (Now CWGC) was asked to design the memorial. He is also responsible for Delville Wood Cemetery which he incorporated into his north-south design.

It was unveiled by General James Hertzog, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa on 10th October 1926 in the presence of Field Marshal Haig and the widow of General Louis Botha.

The Arch is at the highest point in the wood and looks towards the cemetery. It is flanked by two walls each with a covered building in the style of a summer house built on Table Mountain in South Africa.

There are no names on the wall as these are recorded where necessary alongside the British on their memorials — in the case of the Somme that is Thiepval Memorial.

The dome is topped by a bronze sculpture by Alfred Turner representing the twins Castor and Pollux; the two speaking cultures of the Union — Afrikaans and English united in a common cause.

The Stone of Remembrance was added on 5th June 1952 to commemorate those South Africans who had died during the Second World War.

As you walk up towards the memorial you are flanked by oak trees grown from acorns brought from Cape Colony. It is hard to believe that when the memorial was originally unveiled the ground was an almost barren landscape.

South African Museum at Delville Wood

On 11th November 1986 the museum was opened and serves to remember the 25,000 South Africans who died during the two World Wars and Korea.

It is well worth planning your trip around its opening times. Admission is free – but donations towards the maintenance of the site are more than welcome.

Opening Times    
January CLOSED  
February, March Tuesday to Sunday 10h00-16h00
April to October Tuesday to Sunday 10h00-17h30
October, November Tuesday to Sunday 10h00-16h00
December CLOSED  

Please note that the Museum also closes for Certain South African and French holidays.

The museum has been built around a Cross of Sacrifice similar to those found in CWGC Cemeteries. It is surmounted by a Voortrekker Cross. The layout of the museum is a replica of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town.

South African Museum at Delville Wood

In March 1918 during the great German offensive the remains of the Brigade
entrenched in Marrières Wood (near Péronne). They were practically annihilated.

Inside are bronze reliefs showing the fighting in the wood and the display rooms describe the feats of arms of the South African Forces.

There is a good visitors’ centre nearby with plenty of parking space.

Toilets are also available during opening hours.

Delville Wood - HQ Location

The HQ Location marker

The wood has stone markers along the paths showing their war time names: Regent Street, Princes Street and the like. One tree — a hornbeam has its own marker declaring it as the only tree to survive the battle.

Delville Wood

The last tree — a hornbeam

Despite being filled with shrapnel it is still alive and looked after by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

In Buchanan Street to the west of the memorial you will find a further stone which marks the site of the South African’s HQ during the battle. Not far away is the perimeter of the wood and the place that the Brigade first entered the wood.

It would also have been near this place that the Highlanders made their spectacular charge.

Map of Delville Wood showing monument sites

The wood today showing the main markers and the new walk from the entrance.