History page

Visit of Delville Wood


Their Ideal is Our Legacy, Their Sacrifice Our Inspiration.


Edification of the South African Memorial

Public subscriptions were raised for the erection in Delville Wood of a National Monument to the memory of all South Africans who fell during the Great War in all theatre of operations. Its design was entrusted to Sir Herbert BAKER, one of the main architects of the Imperial War Graves Commission.

It was in a landscape of young trees and thin under growth that the South African National Monument was unveiled on the 10th October 1926 by the General JMB HERTZOG , Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Sir Percy FITZPATRICK, the Field-Marshall HAIG and the widows of the generals BOTHA and LUKIN.

Photos : SA National Museum of Military History

Description and evolution of the Memorial

Sir Herbert BAKER decided to use the southern part of the wood. His design incorporates the Delville Wood Cemetery, the National Monument and the Cross of Consecration in a north-south perspective. The road Longueval-Ginchy separates the military cemetery from the wood.

A wide avenue, flanked by two double rows of oaks lead to the great arch of the Monument which is at the highest point of the wood. The Monument faces south towards the white rows of headstones.

The arch is flanked on either side by a flint and stone semi-circular wall. The flanking walls terminates in two covered buildings, designed in reminiscence of the Summer House built by Simon Van der Stel on the slopes of Table Mountain. Originally, these buildings contained the Roll of Honour of the South African dead commemorated by this monument. These books are today in the Commemorative Museum.

This Memorial does not bear the names of any dead ; those of the South Africans dead are recorded in the same cemeteries or the same memorials, as those of the Corps and Regiments of the United Kingdom.

The Arch bears the dedicatory inscriptions in English and Afrikaans.

To the Immortal Dead from South Africa, who at the call of Duty made the Great Sacrifice on the battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe and on the Sea, this memorial is dedicated in proud and graceful recognition by their countrymen.

Aan die onsterflike, Suid-Afrikaners wat op die Slagvelde van Afrika, AsiŽ, en Europa en op See die Groot Offer op die Altaar van Plig gelÍ het, is hierdie Gedenkteken deur hul landgenote in trotse en dankbare herinnering gewy.

On angle panels, in large letters, are graven the names of the eight battle areas where South Africans fought.


In the centre, over the great arches, are the shorter inscriptions

Their ideal is our legacy.

Their Sacrifice our Inspiration

Vir ons is hul ideaal'n erfenis,

hull offer'n besieling.

Above these are the words AUX MORTS

The dome is surmonted by a bronze sculpture by Alfred TURNER, representing Castor et Pollux clasping hands in friendship over a war horseís back. This statue is a symbol of all the peoples of South Africa who are united in their determination to defend their common ideals. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick also ensured that replicas of the bronze group were erected at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and in The Company Gardens, Cape Town.

On 5th June 1952, a Stone of Remembrance was unveiled by Mrs SWALES, mother of the Major Edwin SWALES, of the South Africain Air Force, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in 1945. This altar stone is dedicated to the memory of all South Africans who fell during the Second World War.

On the 11th November 1986, The South African Commemorative Museum was unveiled by the President of the South African Republic, Mr PW BOTHA.

Renovation works of the statue of Castor and Pollux (November 2010).