Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital Celebrates Day of Remembrance
On 11 November 2011, a Day of Remembrance was held to honour the World War II servicemen and veterans who initiated the fundraising and building of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in the early 1950's. Military dignitaries in regiment uniforms gathered at the hospital, where a ceremony was held to pay tribute to these heroes. On 11 November 1918, the Germans signed the Armistice Agreement to end World War I at 11:00 that day - this is also internationally celebrated as Poppy Day. Guns on the Western Front in France and Flanders fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. The two minutes of silence will in thanksgiving for those who survived and to remember the fallen.
Colin Eglin, who served with the Sixth South African Armoured Division in Italy during World War II, will also be present at this special Day of Remembrance. In his autobiography, "Crossing the Borders of Power - The Memoirs of Colin Eglin," he mentions the discussions that took place among the South African soldiers in 1945, whilst in Italy waiting to be repatriated to South Africa. Colin says, "The dominant view was that there should be a memorial, but that this should be a 'living' one that served the community, not merely a monumental structure. The servicemen, in overwhelming numbers, volunteered to donate two days' pay towards what was to become the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital."
In 1945, it was suggested that a children's hospital be built as a memorial to those who had contributed by sacrifice, suffering and service in World War II. As it was felt that children had been the innocent victims of the war, the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital was devoted to the relief of the suffering of children. The building of the Hospital commenced in 1953 under the guidance of the South African Red Cross Society at a cost of R1,6million. The public donated an amount of R476 000 and the rest was provided by the Cape Provincial Administration, now called the Western Cape Government.
In 1956, the ownership of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital was handed over to the Western Cape Government: Health, which covers the Hospital's operational costs.
In front of the Hospital's main entrance is a bronze statue of Peter Pan, which was donated by Mr Vyvyen Watson - a World War II veteran and chairman of the Red Cross Hospital Building Committee, during the building phase of the Hospital in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The statue is in memory of Mr Watson's four year old son Peter, who passed away of diphtheria at a time when there was no specialist children's hospital. Peter's legacy has lived on through this memorial and through his sister who is a dedicated volunteer at the Hospital.
Theuns Botha, Western Cape Health Minister, said: "Western Cape provincial government is proud to have South Africa's only dedicated children's hospital as one of our four central hospitals. The hospital plays a vital role as the 'end of referral chain' for large areas of the country. It delivers a significant service to patients from other provinces, and other African countries. The various single site services that make this hospital unique is that it is the national paediatric liver transplant centre, the provincial centre for paediatric cardiac surgery, kidney transplants and heart transplants and it has the only dedicated paediatric burns unit in southern Africa. The hospital is funded via Provincial Equitable Share (PES), National Tertiary Services Grant (NTSG) & Health Professions Teaching and Development Grant (HPTDG). The current year budget for this hospital is R523-million out of a R13, 395 billion provincial health budget."
Dr Lungi Linda, Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital CEO, said: "The Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital had relatively humble beginnings when it opened its doors in 1956, but today it is a cornerstone of paediatric healthcare and the only stand alone, specialised hospital dedicated entirely to children in southern Africa. It is South Africa's leading centre for post graduate specialised paediatric medical and surgical training. We owe it to the South African Second World War Soldiers who committed themselves that when they return home to South Africa they would create a place of healing in honour of their fallen comrades. Therefore the hospital was devoted to the relief of the suffering of children as they were the innocent victims of the war.11 November is a day to be remembered. This is the day to be celebrated."