Ex-service men and women converged on the Dickie Fritz Shellhole, in Edenvale, to remember those who fell at Sidi Rezegh.
The Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moths) gathered on Saturday, November 1, to honour the fallen.
Moth Richard Wilson said South Africa was one of the countries to send troops to Sidi Rezegh, Near Tobruk in North Africa, to fight alongside British soldiers during World War 2.
“Three days after Britain declared war on Germany, South Africa bravely, for a small country, followed suit,” said Moth Wilson.
He said the 5th South African Infantry Brigade was part of the army of the Union of South Africa during the war.
“The Brigade formed part of the country’s first infantry division and was formed on August 13, 1940. It consisted of the 1st South African Irish Regiment, 2nd Regiment Botha, 3rd Transvaal Scottish Regiment, No. 1 S.A. Armoured Car Company, 5th Field Company, SA Corps of Engineers, 11th Field Ambulance, SA Medical Corp, No 3 Mobile General Workshops, SA Technical Service Corps, 1st Brigade Signals Company and SA Corps of Signals. The troops sailed north to take their place in the battle line of freedom. Under the inspired command of Gen Dan Pienaar, South African troops proved their worth as fighting men,” said Moth Wilson.
He added that early in 1941, South African troops were sent to Egypt to stop the Italian advance into Africa.
“From civilians at home, came guns, tanks, aircraft, parcels, letters and entertainers. In the merciless desert heat, the British, Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders were annealed in the fire of war,” he said.
Some of the troops were taken prisoner and marched to barbed wire cages in concentration camps during the Sidi Rezegh campaign.
“The wounded lay uncomplaining on the hard desert terrain. Those who gave their lives in this battle found their lonely graves under the desert sand. Both bear testimony, if such is needed, to the valour and tenacity of South African fighting sons,” said Moth Wilson.
One of those who fought and was captured during that time, Moth Albert Craig, still remembers the events.
Private Craig, he was ranked, has one word to describe what he saw when he was 21 year old.
“Horrific. It was November 23, 1941, when we were captured. We were thrown into cages like animals,” said the former-Private Craig.
He said that before his capture, an incident occurred which remains in his mind.
“The fighting was carrying on and troops were falling. I was struggling to walk when one of our trucks came by. A solder who was sitting on the back stretched out his hand to help me onto the truck. We were driving slowly as our driver did not know how to drive fast. As we were driving, we came across a tank. The tank fired upon us, killing the soldier who had helped my up. He died instantly. To this day, I never knew his name,” he said.
Dickie Fritz Cottage Old Bill, Moth Leon Apicella, said the ex-service men and women gathered to remember those who gave their lives for freedom.
“We are here to pay our respect to those who paid the supreme sacrifice. We remember those who perished during the two great wars. We remember those who lost their lives in more recent conflicts. We remember those who have answered the Sunset Call since then. We will remember them,” said Moth Apicella.
On the day, the Moth Salute was observed and the national flag was lowed to half-mast. There was also a wreath laying in remembrance of the fallen servicemen.