Category: Cemetery

ANZAC Day 2020

ANZAC: soldiers from the  Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Today is Anzac Day and it is probably a very subdued one given the state of the world at this point in time. It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served“. 

Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918).  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day).

ANZAC Memorial in Weymouth

The ANZAC Forces left their mark in Gallipoli, with 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand sacrificing their lives in what was a disaster from the start. However, this disaster did not ruin the fighting prowess of the ANZAC’s in future conflicts and they left their mark wherever they fought. The courage of those soldiers from the Southern Hemisphere is the stuff of legend, and in Australia and New Zealand they are commemorated with pride. 

At the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra, the following words are attributed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and they pay tribute to the Anzacs and reflects his understanding of the cost of war: 

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
 

I do not have any ANZAC ancestry, but by a quirk of fate I adopted one. Many years ago while visiting Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol I photographed the newly relaid ledger stones that were originally placed on the graves of the men buried in “Soldiers Corner”.

Unfortunately over the years some of the stones were damaged and all were removed in the 1920’s. Renewed interest in the First World War saw the stones replaced on the graves but unfortunately many were missing and irreparably damaged.  The CWGC then restored the plot in 2018 and it was unveiled later in the year. One of the newly replaced ledger stones was for Private William Walker A.I.F and it was decided that the unveiling of his new grave marker would be used as an occasion to re-open the newly restored Soldier’s Corner.   I was fortunate enough to be able to see the new plot and meet with some of his family that I had corresponded with through the Lives of the First World War project.  Pte Walker is now one of “mine” too and I have added a poppy to commemorate him at the Australian War Memorial Virtual Wall of Remembrance.

You can read about the occasion in the blogpost that I made for the unveiling

As we face a world wide pandemic it is worth remembering that many of the men and women that were in the forces would loose their lives in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and over 100 years later we are facing a similar pandemic, although so far it has not as severe as the Spanish Flu was. 

And while ANZAC Day is really about Australia and New Zealand, it is commemorated around the world in recognition of the terrible price that we pay for war, and that as veterans we are all connected irrespective of whether we are ANZAC, Canadian, British, Indian, Muslim, American or Ugandan. 

DRW © 2020. Created 25/04/2020


OTD: The Westdene Bus Disaster

On this day,  27 March 1985 it was supposed to be yet another school day for the pupils of Hoërskool Vorentoe, in fact it was supposed to be a normal day for the whole of South Africa, but the events surrounding the Westdene bus disaster changed all of that in a brief tragedy that will remain with us all forever.   The day was subdued after that, even though that was not true at Westdene Dam where divers were frantically searching for bodies and parents were standing grief stricken, knowing that their son or daughter would not be coming home on that day. 

Westdene Dam. (1500x466)

Westdene Dam. (1500×466)

The actual cause of the disaster was never really pinned down to any singular factor; the driver  never really gave an adequate explanation, there was no mechanical fault with the bus, and the weather conditions were not poor. I seem to recall that he said another car had swerved, or he had blacked out. Faced with the imminent backlash and the trauma that he had gone through too, it was no wonder that no single cause was ever found.  I won’t delve into the disaster because I was not directly involved and do not know the facts, there are others more qualified to do that. It was one of those moments in South African history that has remained in our pysche since 1985.   

Those that died in the disaster are mostly buried in Westpark cemetery in a dedicated plot close to the main gate. It is a tragic place to visit because the sheer sale of the disaster is only experienced when you are faced with seeing all of the graves together. 

In 2011 I spent some time in Westpark photographing all of the graves, sadly they were all desecrated a long time ago and never restored. I spent time hunting down the graves in the general cemetery and they too had been desecrated. Nobody has even been able to explain why this happened, and who was responsible. It was a sad pilgrimage for me, trying to match headstones with names, and seeing those names in the registers made it just a bit harder. The funeral for all of the children was held on the same day, and a sad day it was for so many people.

It took until 2007 for a memorial to be erected to the victims,  and even this has had its fair share of controversy.  

In 2014 I revisited the graves while I was down in South Africa and photographed the small photographs that were on some of the graves, one day I will match faces to names and make my own records of the disaster a little more complete. 

There are two graves that stick out for me, the first is grave number 7, where two sisters are buried together (Reinette and Linda Du Plooy) , and the grave of Caroline Brown who is buried in the general part of the cemetery in a grave that was stripped of its name like so many others.  The vandalism of the graves was not random, it was targeted, somebody went out of their way to hunt down the graves and desecrate them

It is just over 30 years since the disaster, had it not happened some of those children would have been mothers or fathers today, they would have had families of their own, and just possibly their children would have attended that same school that they had attended so many years ago. There are a lot of what if’s associated with the Westdene Bus Disaster, it was all a matter of timing. catching a different bus, or sitting upstairs or downstairs was the difference between life of death.

There were a lot of heroes on 27 March 1985, but sadly there were too many victims. May They Rest in Peace 

Images of the graves are available on eggsa. I sincerely hope that one day they get restored. 

My own page about the memorial may be found at Allatsea

DRW © 2016-2020. Originally created 27/03/2016


What was supposed to be (2)

Continuing where we left off..

When last you saw me I had bedded down for the night and it is now Friday morning. All around me is solitude. The world has come to an end? nope. It is just the coronavirus lockdown. Anyway, I am now continuing with my virtual trip around London that would have happened if a pandemic hadn’t broken out.  Theoretically either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday I would have managed to get my passport renewed and had some time to kill. Theoretically I would have either gone to the renewal office in Whitehall or had the whole day to spare. 

I did not have hard and fast plans for my 2nd free day, and my trip to Nunhead was really inter-changeable. I did however have another cemetery on my list to visit and it is an interesting one that I picked up on in 2013 and which I always wanted to return to. Between when I was there in 2013 and now the status quo has changed and I would possibly be able to get to see behind the walls of Crossbones Graveyard.   

In 2013 I had wanted to join in an evening vigil that was to take place on the 23rd of March but came down with a chest infection on the day before. I left London at the end of March so my 2nd visit never happened. Between then and now Crossbones has gained a website and it is possible to visit the site on most weekdays between 12 and 2, assuming that there are wardens to open the gates. I do not know what drew me to this site, there was just something strange about it. 

Crossbones was on my list of places to visit on this trip but alas things have gone wobbly yet again.

There were a few other choices open to me if I had free time. I could have visited any of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London, or taken in a museum or three, maybe even taken in a show or a gallery? I was considering taking a boat trip down the Thames to the Thames Barrier, but that was based on when trips were available and where they left from. 

“The Thames Barrier is a movable barrier system that is designed to prevent the floodplain of most of Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It has been operational since 1982. When needed, it is closed (raised) during high tide; at low tide it can be opened to restore the river’s flow towards the sea. Built approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) due east of the Isle of Dogs, its northern bank is in Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham and its southern bank is in the New Charlton area of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Barrier) 

The image above is by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 dated 6 February 2010 and is an 11 segment panoramic view. 

The last time I was on a boat trip on the Thames was way back in 2008 when I was in London on a business trip. I really wanted to do it again one day but never got down to it so maybe this was the opportunity? The images below are from 2008, and as you can see the weather was grey and gloomy.

As for museums, I would not mind paying a visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich again. I was not too enthralled by it last time I was there but there are a few things that I would like to relook. 

And being in Greenwich means that I will also be in spitting distance of the Cutty Sark although I would not do a repeat visit to her although would like to get some new images of her. 

Close to the ship is another remnant that I would like to experience:

This is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that links the south bank of the river with Millwall (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) on the north.  I have never ventured into the Isle of Dogs/Canary Wharf area before so this is one possible way of doing it. I could have taken the Docklands Light Rail too, but the idea of walking under the Thames is very tempting. 

The modern buildings above are part of the Isle Of Dogs developments and that is yuppie and banker clone territory. Wind back towards the 30’s and 40’s that was dockland, and ships abounded. I would really like to see what is left of the docks although may get turned away as I am not a yuppie. 

Talking about tunnels, I recently discovered another interesting artefact in London that I never really took notice of before. 

This seemingly innocuous building was part of the London Hydraulic Power Company and is the entrance to the long defunct Tower Subway. The other end was situated on Vine Street on the South Bank of the Thames.  The 410 m tunnel circular tunnel was dug through the London clay using a cast iron shield, and a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway installed  in the tunnel and from August 1870 a cable-hauled wooden carriage conveyed passengers from one end to the other.  Unfortunately this was uneconomic and the company went bankrupt by the end of the year. The tunnel was then converted to pedestrian use and one million people a year crossed under the river, paying a toll of a halfpenny. In 1897 it was sold to the London Hydraulic Power Company and closed in 1898 following the opening of Tower Bridge. Today the tunnel is used for water mains.

The structure is close to The Tower of London and while searching for the pic I came across my images from December 2014 when I went there to see the “Blood Lands and Seas of Red” installation. It was really unforgettable and when completed would have completely surrounded the Tower of London. 

Just across the road at Trinity Square is another symbolic display of red, although it is not related to either of the World Wars. 

I suspect that I would invariably gravitate towards the Thames as the day wore on, or even better headed to Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, The latter is close to three of my favourite museums: The London Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Natural History Museum.  I have dealt with all three before and they are amazing places. 

Victoria and Albert Museum entrance

London Science Museum

Natural History Museum

The three are also reasonably close to Paddington Station so I am not too far from the hotel in case I decide to limp home dejectedly after 3 days walking and rubber-necking. Actually Kensington Gardens is quite a nice area to stroll through, you can admire the Albert Memorial

Or have a look at Kensington Palace

Admittedly places like that do not really interest me, although I am sure my brother would love to see inside. I have also seen Buckingham Palace from the outside so I am 2 up on him already. 

Now that I think of it, St James’s Park is not a bad place to spend some time either. Apart from the Palace it is a nice open space to unwind in. I also need to get photographs of the South African Royal Artillery Memorial.  Unfortunately it is very difficult to photograph without having somebody else in the picture.  This image was taken in 2008 and when I was there in 2013 those 2 were still there! 

With a bit of navigation you can exit St James’s Park and head into Green Park where the wonderful Bomber Command Memorial is. I photographed it in 2013 and it was a beautiful Memorial. 

and it is not too far from the Commonwealth Memorial Gates.  I really need to do more photography around the gates though, last time around it was perfunctory work and I missed quite a few things that I needed to see. 

On the right hand back of the image above you can see the really splendid Wellington’s Arch and the area around may be seen on the map below.

For a small fee you can go to the top of the Arch and see all of the War Memorials spread around you. I won’t go into detail of them but most are listed on my War Memorials in London page on a@s. And with a bit more road crossing you can then enter Hyde Park and cut across it to one last place that I would like to take in, although there is no guarantee I will be able to get it right and may have to arrange it first. The Hyde Park’s Pet Cemetery is behind Victoria Gate Lodge, adjoining Bayswater Road (Google Earth  51.511840° -0.172403°). Last time I was here I tried to have a look at it but there were construction works in the area and I could not really get to investigate it properly. This time around who knows? It is not open to the general public, although, a special one-hour viewing can be arranged by contacting The Royal Parks. The cost is £60.00 for up to six people. Unfortunately at that price I may give it a miss. I did manage some pics through the fence in 2017 but they don’t really show anything.

I remember looking for the cemetery in 2013 and not finding it, but then I was looking in the wrong place.  Hyde Park was a pretty stark and friendless place when I was there, so maybe I will take a better look at it if I have the time. 

The Memorial in the bottom right pane is the Cavalry Memorial and I did not really photograph it too well, intending to get back later but I never did so will try remedy that this time around. Hyde Park is a big space and there is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover. Let us hope I manage to hold out and get back to my hotel for some supper and rest

However, with or without my renewal completed I would have to return to Tewkesbury on Saturday morning. Either via Evesham or Worcester. I think I will probably use the former as I can get some shopping done in Evesham at the same time. After all, I still have to get to work on the Monday. However, I created this virtual trip on the day when I was supposed to be in London. Instead we are all having to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at this moment in time I have no idea when the renewal will play out and I will be able to relook the destinations I have marked in this post. All I can do is hope that we all get through this as soon as possible and that life can return to something resembling normal again.

DRW © 2020. Created 27/03/2020