The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
The following is an updated post on Private John McCallum on the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of World War 1. John McCallum was a member of the ‘Natal McCallum’s’ of South Africa.
On the 11th of November (Remembrance Day) last year, ten minutes before 11 o’ clock in the morning, I stood quietly in front of the Great War Cenotaph in Gardiner Street to remember all those Durbanites who perished in World War 1 and 2. The following Sunday evening the MOTHS (Memorial Order of the Tin Hats) had planned a march by and ceremony to commemorate the date, but this grey Durban morning I was alone, except for the company of several city pigeons. At exactly 11 o’ clock. I thoughtfully placed a bunch of white lilies upon the breast of the bronze soldier who lies supine on a sandstone altar, covered by his trench coat and war helmet.
Among the remembered dead and whose name is inscribed on a bronze tablet at the foot of the memorial is one Private John McCallum who died of his wounds on the 11th of August 1918, aged 22. His remains lie buried in the Caestre Military Cemetery, grave memorial Ref- I P 7, in France.
John McCallum – Born 1896. His Father was James Niven McCallum and his Mother was Helen Jane McCallum nee’ McAndrew. John attended Glenwood High School, as well as Durban High School from the year 1909, completing in 1913 aged 17. Residence ‘Kincraig’ Hillside Road, Seaview, Durban.
John served in World War 1 as a Private (Regimental No. 14310) in the 4th South African Infantry (South African Scottish Regiment). In France the 4th SAI served as the South African Brigade, a Group within the 9th Scottish Division. As a result of the large number of casualties within the 3rd SAI, the 3rd regiment was disbanded on the 18 February 1918, and on the 24 April 1918 the remaining 3 regiments (1st SAI/ 2nd SAI and 4th SAI) were amalgamated following further heavy casualties. The South Africans were then termed the South African Composite Regiment until the end of the war.
On the 5th of August 1918 the South African Composite Regiment was back in action having taken up positions along the Meteren Becque and Le Waton front. The village of Meteren having been captured two weeks before on the 19th July by the 9th Scottish Division and the SACR. The following 2 week period was a relatively quiet period, mostly punctuated with patrols along the Becque. It was during this time, before the 18th of August when the South African lines were heavily shelled by German Artillery, that Pvt. John McCallum was killed on the 11th of August 1918, only 3 months before Armistice was declared.
(below) John’s headstone in the Caestre Military Cemetery.
While researching John McCallum, I took myself off to his old school (Glenwood High School) and was kindly escorted to their World War 1 and 2 memorial. On the way, I walked past several dozen plush-cheeked, polite and well-turned out scholars, certainly not much younger than Private John McCallum when he sailed from Port Natal for France.
John and his sacrifice is not forgotten – for each year on the 11th of November, pupils and staff gather to remember.