Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
South African Memorial at Delville Wood. Photos: Talana Museum

Who Owns the Site of the Delville Wood Battlefield Today? South Africa does. South Africa owns 63 hectares of France… writes Pam Mc Fadden from Talana Museum in Dundee, SA.

Following the war, Delville Wood was purchased by the author of Jock of the Bushveld and other stories and politician, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, and presented to South Africa.

This was followed by the standard French policy of repurchasing the land for one franc and granting South Africa the land in perpetuity for memorial purposes.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
Taken 20 years ago at the site
Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
South African memorial

The memorial – in the shape of the 5-pointed star of the Castle of Cape Town – was funded by public subscription.


Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
Aerial view of the South African memorial

Among those involved in organising the memorial was General Henry Lukin, who was appointed Deputy Chair of the Delville Wood Memorial Committee in July 1921. Gen Lukin had been in command of the South African forces during this battle.

Oak trees line the approach to the memorial.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
The inner courtyard of the museum complex

These were grown from acorns from Stellenbosch – oaks had been brought to SA by French Huguenots and were then taken back to France to plant a double row on either side of the lawns leading to the memorial, where the grass was mowed in strips like a cricket pitch.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
The reliefs that decorate the museum. The South African forces holding the wood.

On the site is the memorial and museum and the wood which has regrown. But despite all the trees, not a single bird is ever heard chirping here.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
The South African memorial in Delville Wood and remains of the trenches

Amongst the trees, the remains of the trenches are still visible and many of them have a signpost with the name of the trench. The trenches were all named for streets in the cities of the countries whose troops fought in that battle.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
DELVILLE WOOD CEMETERY: This cemetery is the third-largest in the Somme battlefield area. It is the final resting place of more than 5,500 servicemen of the First World War, of whom over 3,500 remain unidentified.

South African forces used the English place names in Longueval and Delville Wood, as they were more meaningful than French terms. The streets of London (Rotten Row, Regent Street, Bond Street)), Glasgow (Buchanan Street, Campbell Street), Edinburgh (Regent Street, King Street) and Cape Town (Strand Street).

On my first visit to Delville wood 20 years ago, walking the long walk from the entrance up the immaculate lawns to the memorial and then through the remains of the trenches all named for streets of capital cities of the countries whose troops fought in that battle- is a memory and a mental photograph that will never fade.

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today
Delville Wood cemetery.

Join us at Talana Museum in Dundee 15-17 July for a commemorative weekend of this iconic battle as we remember the men who did their duty and held the wood “at all costs.”

Who owns the site of the Delville Wood battlefield today

Source: Talana Museum