Commemorating the Dead

The Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission was established in 1917, during the First World War, to commemorate those who lost their lives serving with British and Empire forces. Over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, graves were marked with Commission headstones, while memorials were constructed to honour those with no known grave or who had been lost at sea.

The remains of 19 of those South Africans who lost their lives on 21 February 1917 were recovered and buried in cemeteries and local churchyards. Today their graves can be found in many places along the coastlines on either side of the English Channel, including at Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery, Littlehampton, Hastings, East Dean, CWGC Wimereux Communal Cemetery in France, and CWGC Noordwijk General Cemetery in the Netherlands.


The Hollybrook Memorial

Nearly 600 members of the SANLC are commemorated on the CWGC Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, designed by T. Newham and unveiled by Sir William Robertson on 10 December 1930. It commemorates by name almost 1,900 servicemen and women of Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports or other vessels torpedoed or mined in home waters. The memorial also bears the names of those who were lost or buried at sea, or who died at home but whose bodies could not be recovered for burial.

Almost one third of the names on the memorial are those of officers and men of the South African Native Labour Corps.

Alongside their names is that of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War and Britain’s most famous soldier when he died on 5 June 1916, after HMS Hampshire was mined and sunk off Scapa Flow, Orkney.

All those named on the memorial are commemorated in the same way: equal in death, despite their differing experiences in life.