Delville Wood Centenary Service July 2016
Below is an account by Bruce Jenkins, class of 1972, who attended the Delville Wood Centenary Service in France.
Attending the Centenary Service, commemorating Delville Wood was indeed a unique and moving experience. All the speakers including our State President, paid homage to those South Africans killed at Delville Wood and indeed, all of our countrymen who lost their lives in the The Great War.
The wreath laying ceremony, allowed all who attended, to lay wreaths alongside those of South Africa, France, Australia, New Zealand and the Indian Army. Durban High School and DHS Foundation Trust representing all Old Boys were mentioned by name during the ceremony and I placed two wreaths honouring the twelve DHS Men who fell at Delville Wood and indeed the total of eighty-five who lost their lives in WW1. Maritzburg College, Hilton College and St Johns Jhb, were also represented and also laid wreaths to their Old Boys.
Following the service, the Maritzburg College Tour group under the leadership of Matthew Marwick invited me to join them in the Delville Wood Cemetery. There, the College boys first set about finding the graves of the two DHS Old Boys, Second Lieutenant Charles T. K. Letchford and Private Henry M. Deeley around whose graves the group gathered and Matthew invited me to say a few words in their honour. This simple gesture of the College Boys finding these graves was indicative of the wonderful relationship College and DHS have had for the past 150 years and was a very moving experience.
The College group then sought and found the grave of their Old Collegian, Lance Cpl. Ernest F. B. Brockwell.
At his graveside, a short but very moving ceremony was performed which culminated in the singing of the College song and laying of bashers and a College shirt together with two letters. The manner in which this tribute was lead by the three attending Teachers from College was wonderful to witness.
As documented in The DHS Story 1866-1966 by Hubert D. Jennings, “Schools” (and College’s), War Cry, of Qubolwayo / Jimalayo Ji, was commonly used and recognized as uniquely identifiable by the South African Brigade during WW1. Unforgettably, the College group entered Delville Wood and after being reminded by Dylan Lośer, one of the Teachers, that this group was the most College men who had been in Delville Wood for 100 years, the Boys and Masters then proceeded to give the College War Cry. As the sound reverberated through Delville Wood. It echoed South Africa’s history. Both past and present and the future. Represented by this group of inspirational teachers and young men of all population groups. A marvelous, magical moment.
College’s homage to their Old Collegian buried at Delville Wood, inspired me. And I spent the next week finding and documenting either the graves, or names on memorials (where no known grave exists), of fifty-three DHS Old Boys. This journey took me across the length and breath of northern France and on into Belgium. A pilgrimage, through beautiful country side , saturated with incredibly haunting evidence of the staggering loss of life this conflict caused. Monuments and Graveyards, inspirational, beautiful, peaceful.
Where I found fifty-three names ,each of whom made me feel both very proud and humble.
School paid a precious price.
Let us never forget.