Longueval, Somme

Mémorial national sud-africain. © Carcharoth - GNU Free Documentation License

The South African National Memorial (Mémorial national sud-africain) and Museum in Longueval pay tribute to the South African soldiers who underwent their baptism of fire in Delville Wood...

Seizing Delville Wood (also known as Devil Wood) - a battlefield, memorial, museum and cemetery - was a sine-qua-non for troops to move eastward. That was what the South African troops were asked to do. They met their baptism of fire on that western front from 15 to 20 July 1916. The nightmare began when they were cut off from the rearguard and came under fierce artillery fire - as many as 400 shots a minute - with only makeshift shelters for cover. When the time came to relieve them, only 143 of the brigade's 3,200 men emerged from the trenches unscathed. Longueval is also home to New Zealand's memorial. It was on 15 September 1916 that New Zealand's tank-backed division set out from its bases (between Longueval and Fourcaux Wood - or High Wood) towards its objective, Flers, which it reached later that same day. The 47th London division captured High Wood on 15 September.

The South African National Memorial (Mémorial national sud-africain) Delville Wood, where the South African Infantry Brigade fought in July 1916, spans 63 hectares. The South African Government bought it in 1920 to build its National Memorial. The monument was inaugurated in 1926. It stands at the end of an avenue lined by oak trees grown from South African acorns. The memorial, which consists of a cenotaph (empty tomb) and a triumphal arch, was designed by Herbert Baker. The two typically colonial houses, in Baker's words, symbolise South Africa's two white races, and the semi-circular wall represents the bulwark of civilisation. Alfred Turner sculpted the bronze piece surmounting the arch, depicting Kastor and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri in Greek mythology) holding a spirited horse. Kastor and Polydeuces were the sons of Leda and Zeus. The first was mortal, the second immortal. Their relationship was such, however, that, when Kastor died, Polydeuces persuaded Zeus to unite them in eternity. The underlying message is that two completely different people can share the same destiny. This, the sculptor says, mirrors the camaraderie between South Africa's English and Dutch brothers in arms. British and Boer South Africans had been at war with each other only a few years before, but lay down their lives for the British Commonwealth fighting against a common enemy. This monument was inaugurated on 10 October 1926 by the widow of Louis Botha, the president who unified the country after the 1899-1902 Boer War between Dutch and British settlers in South Africa.
The South African National Museum (Musée national sud-africain)
The Museum was built behind the monument and around the Cross of Consecration, and inaugurated in 1986. It is a replica of Cape Fort and commemorates South Africa's contribution to WWI (on Europe's western front and in Germany's African colonies), WWII, the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949) and the Korean War (1950-1953). Useful Information: The South African National Memorial and Museum (Musée et Mémorial national sud-africain) 5, route de Ginchy 80360 Longueval, France Phone +33 (0) 322 850 217 Fax +33 (0) 322 857 999 Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 3.45 pm from 1 February to 10 November, and from 10.00 am to 5.45 pm from 1 April to 14 October. Somme Tourist Board (Comité du Tourisme de la Somme) 21 rue Ernest-Cauvin 80000 Amiens, France Phone +33 (0) 322 712 271 Fax +33 (0) 322 712 269 e-mail: The Somme Tourist Board will be happy to provide any information you might require about the Somme battlefields and Circuit du Souvenir (remembrance events, directions, transport, private and group tours, helicopter flights, accommodation, etc.). CDT also publishes a series of Memorial Tourism brochures.

  • The South African National Museum (Musée National Sud-africain). Photo: SGA/DMPA - JP Le Padellec

  • The South African National Memorial (Mémorial national sud-africain). Photo: SGA/DMPA - JP Le Padellec

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    Practical information


    5 route Ginchy 80360
    03 22 85 02 17

    Weekly opening hours

    Ouvert du 1 février au 10 novembre, tous les jours sauf le lundi, de 10h à 15h45 ( du 1er avril au 14 octobre de 10h à 17h45).