This re-issue of “Pyramids and Poppies” coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the formation of the First SA Brigade, in August 1915. The book tells the very personal story of the Brigade on the Western Front during the Great War 1914–1918: “The war to end all wars”. On this “front of all fronts”, as it was called by the millions of men who lived and died in the mud of trench warfare, South Africans were present. Nearly four and a half thousand men of the South African Brigade were never to return.
John Buchan rated the 1st SA Brigade ‘to have had no superior and not many equals’. Yet, since Buchan wrote “The South African Forces in France in 1920”, no book has been written that covers the whole spectrum of the 1st SA Brigade in the First World War.
“Pyramids and Poppies” updates and expands Buchan’s work with a wealth of new material which includes many hitherto unknown photographs and drawings. These are enhanced with previously unpublished personal accounts by the men of the South African Brigade, which the author has been fortunate enough to access. They bring the reader face to face with the frontline and battlefield realities. The exploits of the Brigade went far beyond the normal expectations from a single Brigade on the Western Front.
The huge casualties suffered at Delville Wood were a first. It brought home the real tragedy of the First World War experience to the people of South Africa and made Delville Wood the most famous battle fought by South Africans. Because of this, history has tended to overlook other places and events that were, for the South African Brigade, of far greater significance in terms of achievement and sacrifice. In the broad sweep of the conflict, Delville Wood must take its place as a modest part of the courage of the Springboks, who fought from Libya to France and Belgium. The actions at Halazin and Agagia are covered, as is Delville Wood, and so too are Butte de Warlencourt, Arras, Fampoux, Third Ypes, the crowning achievement at Marrieres Wood, Messines, Meteren, Beaurevoir, The Crossing of the River Selle and Hestrud.
Through the deserts of North Africa and stinking mud of Flanders bursts the bravery and compassion of men who offered themselves in innocence as volunteers and learned the cruel indifference of war waged, by armchair generals.
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PYRAMIDS AND POPPIES The !st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders 1915-1919
This is the first complete history of one of the Great War’s finest fighting units since John Buchan’s classic account in 1920. Buchan rated the South African Brigade to have ‘no superiors and few equals’ and this handsomely illustrated volume amply bears out that acolade, relating the Brigade’s gallant service at Delville Wood on the Somme, as well as in the Middle East and elsewhere on the western front that cost the Brigade nearly four and a half thousand dead.
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