A very notable South African hero. The highest award gained by a Black South African soldier in the Second World War was the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) awarded to a stretcher-bearer, Lucas Majozi (1916-1969).
The DCM was the second highest British award for gallantry after the Victoria Cross. It was awarded to Lucas Majozi for the great bravery that he displayed during the epic battle of El Alamein which commenced on 23 October 1942 when the British 8th Army under command of General B L Montgomery attacked the German/Italian forces under command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The 1st South African Division played a spearhead role. It had to breach the German minefield which had been sown with more than half a million mines. The 1/2 FFB, soon after the battle began, was pinned down in the minefield by German machine gun and artillery fire. The regiment suffered very severe casualties. Throughout the night of 23 October, the stretcher-bearers worked under heavy enemy fire, tending to the wounded and evacuating them from the battlefield. For the purpose of this article, the citation given to Lucas Majozi, NMC, for the DCM is given below: No N 17525 Cpl Lucas Majozi, NMC, a Zulu from Zastron, Orange Free State att. FFB – Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The citation to the Award says:
‘On the night of October 23-24, Majozi accompanied his company into action as a stretcher-bearer. In the later stages of the action when he was within 100 yards of the enemy and under heavy fire, he thought nothing of his personal safety and continued to evacuate casualties assisted by co-bearers.
He was then wounded by shrapnel, but he continued evacuating the wounded. Told by a medical corporal to go back to the regimental aid post, he replied that there were many wounded men still in the minefield.
He went back, and with the assistance of other stretcher-bearers, he brought back more wounded. After his co-bearer had become a casualty, he did not waver, but carried wounded men back alone on his back to the aid post.
When he was eventually told by the Company Commander to go back, he smilingly refused and remained on duty, working incessantly till he collapsed next morning through sheer exhaustion, stiffness, and loss of blood. His extreme devotion to duty and gallant conduct under continuous enemy fire throughout the night saved the lives of many wounded men who would otherwise have died through loss of blood or possible further wounds.’
At a parade in Egypt after the battle, the commander of the 1st South African Division, Major-General Daniel Hermanus Pienaar (popularly known as Dan Pienaar) said of Lucas Majozi: ‘This soldier did most magnificent and brave things. With a number of bullets in his body he returned time after time into a veritable hell of machine gun fire to pull out wounded men. He is a man of whom South Africa can well be proud. He is a credit to his country.’
After the war, Majozi returned to the town of his birth, Zastron. In 1948 he joined the South African Police (SAP), attaining the rank of sergeant. He died in 1969. The South African National Museum of Military History is in possession of both this portrait by the famous artist, Neville Lewis and his medal group.