I live with a husband who is fanatical about football and I work with a man who is fanatical about football – the beautiful game.
Ask either of them about The English Premier League , Spanish LaLiga, or the European Champions League or the Orange Africa Cup of Nations being held right now on South African soil, and they will tell you anything you might want to know about the game. They’ve memorised the teams, the results, the scores, the players, the yellow cards, the coaches and the history.
So here we were, dressed in our Bafana Bafana support gear heading off to the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday. Reminiscent of 2010 – the Orange Africa Cup of Nations once again highlighted the spirit of our people. It was great to be among the throngs of South Africans singing, dancing and blowing vuvuzelas all the way into the stadium with the high hopes of Bafana Bafana winning.
Now we may not have won our way into the semi-finals yesterday but throughout the match South Africans of every social standing, culture and colour stood together behind our national team. We were not black, Indian, coloured or white – we were one people standing together as South African’s.
Once again I could not help thinking as I stood shoulder to shoulder with other South Africans that we want most to believe in ourselves. We want to stand proud with whom we are – no longer defined by colour but by whom we represent – the people of South Africa.
My school years hold few fond memories for me. In fact when I was sent away to full term boarding at the tender age of twelve, I ran away. This resulted in my desperate parents sending me to the Holy Cross Convent (HCC) in Kokstad as a day scholar for my senior years. In hindsight, I realise how privileged I was to have spent my high school years at the HCC. There were only ten of us in my class which resulted in each of us receiving private tuition from the very dedicated Catholic nuns. Sadly, the senior section of the Holy Cross Convent was forced to close not long after I matriculated.
In 2001 three South African supporters climbed on a plane heading for Austria, namely Guy, Di and
Candice Smith. Our middle son Paul had been selected to row in the World Under 23 Nations Cup in Linz-
Ottensheim in the men’s lightweight coxless four. The team at that time consisted of Sizwe (Lawrence)
Ndlovu, who had decided to dye his hair blonde and was fondly nick-named Top Deck – after the chocolate.
Rod MacDonald, Tony Paladin and Paul Smith and were coached by Tim Hutton. So there we were, eight
South Africans representing our country among a host of nations.
With Cop 17 having been hosted in South Africa last year, Di loved this story of an unsung hero of a different kind which she read in a brochure called Historic Characters of Cradock. (Copyright Alan McComb 1999) She had asked that I put this story onto her blog on her behalf.
It’s an inspiring story, so if you enjoy it, please pass it on.
By guest blogger – Calvern Kuziyamisa
“Jackie” the Baboon served with the 1st S.A Infantry Brigade all through their service in France and survived Delville Wood.
At least one charming story came out of the horrific carnage of the First World War. This concerns Jackie, the only baboon to serve in uniform with the British Forces in France. His story is best told in Ian Uys’s book “ Delville Wood”. The 3rd SAI Regiment’s mascot “Jackie” was a baboon which belonged to Pte Albert Marr, 26, a Pretoria plumber. When he was mobilised Pte Marr was allowed to keep his pet, which later accompanied him to France.
Before reaching France the South African Brigade was diverted to Egypt to help the British against the Turks and the Senussi tribes threatening the Suez Canal. One of the battles took place at Agagia and the South Africans sustained substantial causalities. Private Marr was shot in his right shoulder. His pet baboon, Jackie, attempted to do what he could to comfort the prostrate Marr and licked his wound until stretcher-bearers arrived.
At first Jackie’s presence in the regiment had been ignored, but he was so well-behaved and had such an impressive bearing that he was officially adopted as the 3rd SAI mascot. He was taken on the strength of the regiment and when in England was provided with a special uniform and cap, complete with buttons and regimental badges. He became a comrade, rather than pet, of all ranks. Jackie drew rations like any other soldier and drilled and marched with them. Private Marr and Jackie both survived the Battle of Delville Wood and we let Ian Uys take Jackie’s story further.
Private Albert Marr and Jackie returned to the front in November 1916 and survived the later fighting at Arras, Ypres and Paschendale. Jackie proved extremely useful in front lines. The friendly baboon entertained the men to relieve the boredom and stalemate of trench warfare. At night he accompanied Marr on guard duty and was particularly useful because of his keen eyesight and acute hearing. He would give early warning of enemy movements or impending attacks with a series of short, sharp barks and he would tug Marr’s tunic.
Jackie wore his uniform with panache and would light a cigarette for a “pal”. He always saluted any officers passing on their rounds. Jackie went “over the top” with regiment in all heavy fighting they were engaged in and shared all the privations of the ordinary soldier in the muddy shell holes and trenches on the Western front.
Peter Digby, honorary curator of the Transvaal Scottish Regimental Museum, wrote of Jackie’s further experience in his article, The Mascot who went over the top.
After the German advance in April 1918, the South African Brigade was being heavily shelled as they retreated to Rinningholst. Jackie was seen frantically trying to build a wall of stones around himself, to serve as additional protection from the flying shrapnel from the shells that were bursting all around. In this he was merely copying the actions of the soldiers he had seen going through similar motions. The wall was never completed. A jagged piece of shrapnel wounded him in the arm and another in the leg.
At first Jackie refused to be evacuated by the stretcher bearers trying vainly to continue with his wall, hobbling around in excruciating pain, on the bloody stump that had been his leg.
“The incredible story is best told in the words of Lieut. Col RN Woodsend of the royal Army Medical Corps who wrote of the incident as follows: “It was a pathetic sight; the little fellow carried by his keeper, lay moaning in pain, the man crying his eyes out in sympathy. “ You must do something for him, he saved my life in Egypt. He nursed me through dysentery.” The baboon was badly wounded, the left leg hanging with a shred of muscle, another jagged wound in his right arm.”
“We decided to give the patient chloroform and dress his wounds. If he died under anaesthetic perhaps it would be the best thing. As I have never given anaesthetic to such a patient before, I thought it would be the most likely result. However, he lapped up the chloroform as if it had been whiskey, and was well under in a remarkably short time. It was a simple matter to amputate the leg with scissors and I cleaned the wounds and dressed them as well as I could.
He came round as quickly as he went under. The problem was what to do with him. This was soon settled by his keeper: “He is on the strength.” So duly labelled, number, name, ATS injection, nature of injuries, etc, he was taken to the road and sent by ambulance to the casualty clearing-station. It was several days before I could visit the CCS. “Oh yes” said the commanding officer. “He was pretty bad when he arrived, but we put him to bed and that night when I was doing rounds he sat up in the bed to salute me.
He went down to the base hospital the next day.”
This Hospital was on the French coast and it was a common sight to see Jackie frolicking on the beach with other patients.
With the war drawing to a close, it was the end of active service for Albert and Jackie. They received much publicity such as The Times. September 28th saw two friends at Inkermann Barracks, on the occasion of the 2nd SAI Reserve Battalion’s sport day.
During the course of the afternoon, Major General Sir HT Lukin KCB, DSO, who had commanded the SA Brigade in France, introduced Jackie as the mascot of the 3rd SAI. Private Marr went round the ring of curious onlookers and collected funds for the Red Cross. “Jackie had many other momentous occasions of a similar nature to look back on – surely his proudest moment came with his participation in the Lord Mayor’s Day procession of the right Honourable Sir Horace Brooks-Marshall, the then Mayor of London. In the printed programme of the order of Procession of Saturday, 9 November 1918, appears the following note: “77mm German Gun captured by SA troops, with Jackie the baboon (twice wounded in action)”. So from that vantage point, Jackie rode through the streets like royalty and saw London.
“From early September to 14 February 1919, Jackie & Private Marr had been lent to the Red Cross by the War office and the South African Government for the purpose of collecting money for the sick and wounded soldiers. Between them they raised over R2 000-00. At one Red Cross fete in Leicester, for example, Jackie charged 25c for a handshake and 50c for a kiss. Much of the money the pair made was from postcards depicting Jackie and Private Marr, which were sold.
On 5 May 1919, Jackie and Albert were on the last leg of their long journey home to Pretoria and Cheshire Farm, Villeria. That day, Jackie dined at Johannesburg’s Park Station Restaurant. Sitting on a chair next to Albert, he demolished the excellent fare provided him by the buffet. As a reporter on the spot wrote: “Jackie is endowed with a lot of intelligence. He has an affectionate countenance and seems to understand all Marr says” – “Now shake hands with the gentleman” and there was no hesitation about doing it.
Jackie had been officially discharged at Maitland Dispersal Camp, Cape Town on 26 April. On his Arm he wore one gold wound stripe and three blue service chevrons indicating three years’ frontline service. At Maitland he received the usual parchment discharge paper, a military pension, plus a “Civil Employment Form for the Discharged Soldiers, which had been filled in signed and witnessed like any other such document.”
“After their arrival home, Jackie was again feted and the centre of attention on the occasion of the Peace parade to officially welcome back the 1st Brigade on Church Square, Pretoria, on 31 July 1919, where he received the Pretoria Citizen’s Service Medal.
“Jackie was able to live out his days in peaceful retirement. To have gone to war was one thing, but to actually return home was quite another. Life on the Farm continued until his death on 22 May 1921, the day after the fire destroyed the Marr home – the shock perhaps was too much for Jackie, an unconscious reminder of the war. He was buried in an unmarked grave on Cheshire Farm, Villeria.
Thus died loveable Jackie, an unsung hero, yet he made a unique contribution to the tapestry of South African military history.