Lest we forget
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express Article, 4 November 2013


They knew that peace was imminent. But still, the generals ordered one last attack “to teach the Germans a final lesson.”


One minute before the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918, a young American soldier by the name of Private Henry Gunter was struck during an assault on a machine gun position. “Almost as he fell,” his divisional record stated, “the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed.” World War I was over. It had been the biggest war in the history of the world. And the bloodiest by far. And Henry Gunter was officially the last man that fell.


The war memorial at Mossel Bay.


Almost nobody remembers Henry Gunter’s senseless death anymore. But the day when the guns fell silent has never been forgotten. In the Commonwealth we call it Remembrance Day, Poppy Day or Armistice Day. A day set aside to remember the members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty. This day also serves as a remembrance day for all our countrymen who died in WWII and in the Border War.


In Mossel Bay I stood a long time before the big sandstone monument that nobody notices anymore. I was moved to deep sadness as I slowly read the names of all the boys who never came home again. Their blood bought freedom – a priceless gift that I received at no cost. I still knew a few WWI veterans, but I never paused to thank a single one of them. And now they are all dead.


Let us not make the same mistake again. Monday is Remembrance Day. Let us remember to thank all the veterans we still know while we still know them.


"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." – Cynthia Ozick