Memorials

When I picked up a tourist brochure in the Northern Cape and read something about German war graves at Kakamas, my interest was piqued. The existence of German war graves implies that there must have been German troops in South Africa. I do possess a fair knowledge of German and South African history and just couldn't think what the historical event was. What were some of my countrymen doing in South Africa fighting a war and why?

Many commentators have written about the guns falling silent in Europe on 11 November 1918 and the reasons we should be remembering 100 years on. For South Africa and other African countries though, the war continued until 25 November 1918 when the Germans finally lay down their arms at Abercorn, today’s Mbala.

In November 1982, Harry Oppenheimer presided over the opening of a landmark fountain in the heart of the Sandton CBD. The fountain, located on the corner of 5th Street and Rivonia Road in front of the Sandton Civic Centre, was donated to the town by Kay Barlow in memory of her husband Charles Sydney (Punch) Barlow.

 

The 100th centenary of the end of the First World War will be celebrated this Sunday 11th November 2018. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the armistice came into effect; men still poised to fight one another were stopped in almost mid battle in France. Church bells pealed and the guns fell silent. The physical losses had been horrendous. The total number of casualties, through war, destruction, disease, revolution and famine is in reality unknown because the conflict was so widespread.

Many readers will be aware that the Joburg Cenotaph was vandalised recently. The City of Joburg's Heritage Department pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was cleaned before the hugely important National Remembrance Sunday Service on 11 November 2018. Below are before, during and after photos via The Heritage Portal and Sticky Situations.

 

Before

September was Heritage Month but here I was in October invited to spend a weekend at Kedar Heritage Lodge to join the celebrations for the unveiling of a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. Why October? Why Churchill in the Bushveld? Then I remembered. Kedar is a modern reincarnation of President Kruger’s farm and country estate, Boekenhoutfontein (meaning Beech-wood Spring). Now located in the Northwest Province, it was once a jewel in the Transvaal Republic.

On 26 July 2018 concerned stakeholders including representatives from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (Kathy Munro), the Kensington Residents Association (Isabella Pingle) and the  Johannesburg East Joint Plans committee (Andre Marais) met with Eric Itzkin, Zoleka Ntobeni, Councillor Carlos Da Rocha and Cebo Mhlongo of the City. We paid a site visit to the Bez Valley War Memorial.

On Saturday morning 16th June 2018, I attended a Johannesburg East Plans committee meeting. Our work is about heritage preservation while considering appropriate changes and new developments. Isabella Pingle, the representative of the Kensington Ratepayers and Residents Association, placed a photo before us showing the damage recently done to the Bez Valley World War I Memorial. The Memorial has effectively been destroyed despite the recent efforts of the local councillor Carlos Da Rocha and the community to clean the small park.

On the 21 January 1960 a major calamity befell the coal mine at Coalbrook, situated in the Northern Free State 21km south west of Vereeniging. 437 miners were buried alive 180 meters below the surface when an estimated 900 pillars collapsed. A major rescue effort was undertaken, unfortunately without any positive results.

This article covers the history of the coal mine, the events leading up to the disaster, the causes, the aftermath and what we find there today. 

 

In the article below, Lucille Davie recalls the tragedy of the Westdene Dam Disaster. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 20 June 2013. Davie's story was sparked by a visit by then mayor Parks Tau to various sites commemorating the loss of children. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

The passages below, taken from the City of Joburg's heritage inventory form, reveal the captivating history behind the Indian War Memorial. The three metre high sandstone memorial stands at the summit of the Observatory Ridge with majestic views over the surrounding suburbs.

 

The sculpture shows a soldier in kilt and Scottish regalia. It fits in most dramatically with its position on a rising site on the triangular ground where St Andrew’s and Ridge Road meet. Visually it is very satisfying. It may not be a great work of art, but it is certainly a fine memorial, beautifully proportioned and well executed.

 

This month it was my pleasure to visit Sappersrus. The occasion was a gathering of the tourism association of the Hartbeestpoort Dam/Magaliesberg area to meet and learn about Sappersrus and its history and attend a small memorial ceremony. We enjoyed excellent hospitality and a lunch in the well-designed lapa close to the water. I was asked to deliver a short talk on the Battle of the Somme, Delville Wood and memorialization. Our hosts were Irene Small and Ashley Williams, who run the Sappers facility and Foundation.

If you visit the High Court in Johannesburg you will notice a massive statue on the western edge along Pritchard Street. The statue commemorates the life of Captain Carl von Brandis -the 'Father of Johannesburg'. In the following article, P. J. Edginton uncovers some fascinating biographical details. The article first appeared in the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains.

In a speech given to the Sandton Historical Association in the late 1970s, Councillor Bill Hedding mentioned a very special historical site in the area - a school that managed to survive the onslaught of apartheid legislation and was connected to some of the most influential people in South Africa at the time. It also appears that part of the school is one of the few, if not the only, memorial to US President John F Kennedy in Africa.

On 19 October 1986, a Tupolov Tu-134 plane travelling from Zambia to Mozambique crashed 65km from Maputo on the South African side of the border near the town of Mbuzini. The plane was carrying Samora Machel, the President of Mozambique, as well as high ranking Mozambiquan government officials and was manned by a Soviet air crew. Of the 44 passengers, 34 including the President died in the crash.

[Originally published in April 2015] At a time when many memorials have been neglected and dozens of statues have been vandalised it is wonderful to report that the landmark South African / Anglo Boer War Memorial in Saxonwold is being restored. Scaffolding is in place and a competent contractor has been appointed.

During the past few months a number of South African university campuses have seen a spate of student protests against the presence of statues honouring our colonial past. Rightly or wrongly, these have resulted in the vandalization and removal of some of these memorials.

This is one of Johannesburg’s earliest war memorials, overlooking the site of one of the largest remount camps of the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902. Originally a memorial to the Scottish Horse which was later disbanded, that regiment was antecedent to the famous Transvaal Scottish Regiment formed in 1902, which saw service in both World Wars. It contributes to a sense of multi-cultural heritage.

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