Since I first started photographing memorials I have been of the opinion that war memorials on the East Rand are really wasted. The only exception to the rule was the former Brakpan Roll of Honour that was claimed by the Cosy Corner MOTH Shelhole in Brakpan.
The latest in extinct war memorials was found by a correspondent; William Martinson, who kindly sent me images of what is left of what may have been a memorial erected by a MOTH shellhole in Springs.
The clue here is an inscription that is left on the structure.
Naturally I wanted to know more, so have mailed off my contact in the area to see whether he can shed any light on it. There is a Honey tank in Springs and she does not seem to have a a context in the place where she is now (being stripped while nobody is looking), and I could not help wondering if she was not the gate guard from there. I did a blogpost on her recently, and this may be part of the puzzle.
The next question is: just where is this structure. It took me some time but eventually I found it on Google earth. The co-ordinates are roughly -26.246636°, 28.429237°.
I was very curious about the area that the derelict is in, from GE you can see a large parklike area with lots of trees shaped like a cross. You can see the trees in the image below, the white arrow points to the derelict.
The cemetery can just be seen in the top centre of the image. Historical images on GE date back to 2008 and it appears as if it was a wreck even then. My own thoughts were: “Why build a war memorial there anyway?” From a 2017 perspective it makes no sense, but immediately after the 1st world war it was a totally different story, the memorial being erected in the 1930’s. The other derelict war memorial in Springs pretty much sums it up. A change in demographics, less money for maintenance and more for mercs, a culture of neglect for history and the never ending quest to cut costs so that the suits will have more to spend on salary increases in spite of them never earning one in the first place.
Many years ago the MOTH was a thriving organisation, with shellholes in most cities, but the decline in their membership, and a policy of declining former national servicemen membership really put the nail in the coffin. Witness the closure of the former headquarters in Johannesburg and the abandonment of the war memorial in “Remembrance Square”
Whatever the reason for the state of this structure, had the inscription not remained it would really have been worth ignoring, but the words “Mutual Help, Comradeship and Sound Memory” really are a farce in this case.
My thanks must go to William Martinson for his images. He also sent me a link to the Artefacts site that has an entry on the memorial. The link also provides an answer to the cross shaped trees in Olympia Park. It is a pity that no images have surfaced that could show how this structure looked when it was originally inaugurated, perhaps the answer is in the local library in Springs? assuming one exists in the first place.
I am hoping that somebody will be able to add to the history of the structure. If you do have any information I would love to hear from you.
My contact had the following to say: “I managed to track down that this structure was a cenotaph and garden of remembrance for the Springs Dugout of the MOTHs during the early 30s. There are no longer any Shellholes in Springs. The last one to close was Mudhook which was situated diagonally across the road of the new Springs Civic Centre. The Shellholes in Spings were Mudhook, Black Cat and Seven Seas. We have the Bell from Seven Seas Shellhole at Cosy Corner, There are supposedly two field guns standing close to the public swimming pool that used to stand next to the wall of Remembrance,I will make a plan and go and check it out. The park as far as I know is called Olympia Park.”
The monument also featured in an article about illegal dumping in the Springs Advertiser of 6 August 2015.
So there we have it in a nutshell. The MOTH shellholes closed down and the memorial was left behind. The field guns? who knows. I have not forgotten this memorial though and will keep an eye open. Somewhere out there must be an image of some information.
© DRW 2017, created 02/07/2017, updated 07/07/2017, 18/07/2017