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Published: November 17th 2009
I was offered the opportunity to take part in Malawi’s Remembrance Day memorial representing St John last Sunday. Malawi fought with the British troops in the first and second World Wars, as the Malawi Rifles, 1st battalion of the Kings African Rifles. In the First World War 200,000 members of the Nyasaland (the British protectorate renamed Malawi) population served, out of a total population of 1.1 million. During the Second World War almost 30,000 Malawians served in the armed forces.
The memorial I attended was one of 3 St John members were present at in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and (where I was) in Zomba. It took take place at the Zomba War memorial, a bell tower in a quiet grassed area, across a small bridge over a stream off the main road, just outside Zomba (near the central prison and Cobbe army barracks). In front of the tower up a set of stairs (decorated with flowers and plants for the memorial) is a monument in front of which we placed our wreaths. On the walls around the tower, engraved in metal are the names of all those who fell. Two flag poles on either side of the steps hold the flags for the Zomba Regiment of the Malawi Defence Force and the Malawian flag.
Myself and 4 other members of the brigade, met in Limbe and travelled to Zomba by minibus. This takes around hour and a quarter, so we left just after 7am (it takes time for the minibus to fill up), to arrive for 9am to be in plenty of time for the start of the memorial. We were seated to the left of the tower, myself (as I was placing the wreath) on the front row and the others just behind with the retired soldiers and other guests that attended.
The start of the memorial was signalled by the arrival of the guest of honour, a representative of his Excellency Dr. Bingu, the President of Malawi, the Minister for Transport and Public Works, Mr Khumbokachaloi, at 10.30 am, and the representatives from the defence force commander and inspector general of the police. Also present was the Minister of Labour Mr Yanus Mussa MP. The others placing the wreaths were representatives from; the Commonwealth ex-Service League of Malawi and other ex-Service Associations, the Chief Secretary to the Office of the President of the Cabinet, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chief Justice, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and a serving soldier and pensioner . Myself and the representative from the Red Cross, were the last to lay our wreaths and close the memorial, this was to show how these organisations helped all casualties of war, on either side, that needed aid. A brigade of the Red Lions, the Zomba Regiment of the Malawi Defence Force were present and sounded the 21 gun salute, before and after the 2 minutes silence and were the ones handing the wreaths to us. Prayers and hymn (O God, our help in ages past) were given by Catholic, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), Muslim and Army clergy. The memorial was closed by the departure of Mr Khumbokachaloi, after which members of the public could lay their own wreaths.
It is good to remember all those who fell in defence of their country and the paradox of the necessity and ultimate futility of these wars. It was especially interesting for me to see the international effect of the World Wars and the role European Empires played in the outcome.
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