Our history continued
In December 1947, the first nine rondavels and their communal ablution blocks were taken into use to accommodate the Sappers and their families that were to build the clubhouse and the luxury cottages (with individual bathrooms and hot running water) that were to follow.
Permission was granted to enshrine the S.A.E.C. Roll of Honour in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, together with the other Commonwealth Rolls (Not only Engineers) of both the 1914/18 and 1939/45 Wars. It was felt that a duplicate book should be kept in South Africa and on 3 September 1950 the designs for the Hall of Remembrance, the books resting place, at Sappersrus was approved. The 1952 Congress held on 4 May was followed by a dedication ceremony for the Hall of Remembrance and the Roll of Honour was reverently placed in the casket where it still resides today. Thereafter, every year on the first Sunday of May, an anniversary ceremony (Annual Memorial Service) is held to honour the event and remember fallen comrades. Every Sunday Morning at half past Nine a simple ceremony is performed during which a page of the roll is turned, and a short silence observed. This has been done without break and continues, every Sunday. In 1992 a second roll of honour was placed in the hall of remembrance for the Sappers who died in the internal conflict in South Africa. This book is being expanded to encompass all the Sappers who passed to higher service, on both sides of the struggle, and will be updated annually from now on.
On 9 March 1963, “Sappershoek” was officially opened as a holiday resort with Cottages and a communal hall to be the home of the Eastern Cape Branch. Several retired Sappers were accepted as semi-permanent residents. This resort was later to be converted into a retirement centre. The thought of caring for our older Sappers had been taking hold more over the past few years and in 1970 a combined committee was elected from the Sappers Association, the Gunners and the Southern Transvaal MOTHs to develop a retirement centre in Johannesburg. “Sappershaven” was officially opened as a retirement centre for the Johannesburg Sappers, in Lombardy East also a northern suburb of Johannesburg, with 120 Cottages and a communal hall. “GEM Village” was officially opened, as a joint venture retirement centre with the Gunners, in Irene in the southern suburbs of Pretoria in 1985. In 1988 “Sappersglen” was officially opened as a retirement centre for the Sappers of the Natal South Coast.
The National Board Meeting, held in November 1997 is hailed as the turning point for the Sappers Association, which had been in decline for a decade. At this meeting the Sappers Association started its transformation to its new form, that of a Foundation for the preservation of Military Engineering Culture, History and Traditions called the “Sappers Foundation”. We had to accept that certain of the projects of the old Sappers Association would not be carried forward but the Directors pledged themselves to retain as many of these as possible, to preserve the traditions and symbols and to ensure that none of our members are alienated by the change process.
In 2002 a Memorial Trust was formed to preserve the Hall of Remembrance and the Memorial Gardens into perpetuity and the Heritage Centre was built for the Sappers Foundation on the Memorial Grounds including a home for the “Sappers Heritage Collection”, overnight accommodation for visiting Sappers, and a general meeting and recreational area.
The Sapper Family
The four segments that form the parts of the Sapper Family are:
- The Sappers Foundation is the parent body of the organisation will be the focal point of membership and will be responsible for electing the chairpersons or representatives of the other section 21 companies or controlling bodies. The Foundation will be responsible for the Welfare to members, directly or via the Branches.
- The Sappers Memorial Trust will ensure the preservation of the Sappersrus Memorial and its grounds as well as the History, Culture and Traditions of the Sappers Association and the Sappers Foundation.
- The Sappers Retirement Villages will be run as separate Section 21 Company and will control and run the Retirement Centres.
- The Institute will concentrate on the preservation and development of Military Engineering Excellence through research and training in the nine military engineering disciplines.
The Sappers Memorial Trust
The Memorial and its grounds are maintained by the Foundations staff with these expenses and other costs being paid by the Trust from the trust fund and donations. The Foundation staff also supports the Page Turning by them providing the flower arranging, Accommodation, Teas, and other Facilities. The Annual Parade to honour our fallen comrades is supported by the Foundation staff by them providing Accommodation for distant Branch delegates, Meals, and other Facilities.
The Sappers Retirement Villages
The three wholly owned retirement villages have each been registered as section 21 companies and own the land on which they operate. They are functioning well, and we have seen an increase in Foundation membership as some of the non-sapper residents have now decided to become members of the ‘Sappers Foundation’.
The remaining two retirement villages in which we have an interest are run by a board onto which the Foundation elects its representatives.
All these retirement villages are surviving financially and are trying to build up a nest egg as the raising of donations and obtaining donor support is becoming more difficult each year.
The Institute for Military Engineers in Southern Africa
The aims of the Sappers Institute have been mentioned earlier, but I would like to give brief summary of the achievements since the forming of the ‘Sappers Institute ‘under the control of the Sappers Foundation.
- Four training courses in the field of humanitarian de-mining have been designed and published in a course portfolio, which was distributed to many countries in Africa and the world.
- A delegation from the United Nations Development Projects visited us in January 1999 and we were invited to register with the UN as a service provider. This registration has been confirmed.
- We managed to negotiate a small subcontract to the value of R35 000, which was our first business and a proud moment.
- A training course in De-mining Management was run for SADAC and a total of …[check with Kevin]… Soldiers from Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique were trained to set up de-mining teams in their own countries to rid Africa of its mine pollution.
- Due to lack of funding the Institute has been mothballed but may be reactivate in the not too distant future.
With the changing focus of the population at large it becomes more difficult to find people who will volunteer their time and money to help others in their time of need, but due to the dedication of a few socially minded Sappers we will continue to live up to the pledge that all Sappers make when joining the Fellowship and reaffirm at the end of each of our gatherings.
We pledge ourselves, to ease the burdens and brighten the lives of all our members, as they grow older.