Amongst the list of graves to photograph are the easy ones, and the difficult ones. The difficulty may be because of distance, safety, locked gates, no directions and all manner of reasons. My mission for today was to photograph two graves in two seperate cemeteries; one at the Nanscol Colliery Cemetery near Vanderbijlpark, and the other closer by in Grasmere. Had I done my homework I would have been able to nail both of these on my trip back from Bethlehem, but I enjoy these outings occasionally because it keeps away cabin fever.
Nanscol was about 70 kilos away and for once my GPS didn’t take me on the run around. In fact it was just a bit further from my turning point for the Bethlehem trip. The problem with finding graves that date from the 1940’s is that there is no real idea as to the context of the grave. What was in this area when this particular soldier died? All information I have is that his parents lived in Evaton.
The cemetery is an odd one. It is divided roughly into 4 pieces. The original cemetery where my grave was, is in one corner, a newish cemetery is in the opposite corner, and a densely populated section is rapidly extending towards the road. It is all lumped together under the name “Noordvaal Cemetery”. Fortunately my soldier was easy to find and I then set out to do some exploring.
Like so many cemeteries, there is no context as to when or where things started, or whether there is a particular theme to the burials. I was hoping to find at least one Border War grave amongst them, and was not disappointed.
Unfortunately, shortly after I started exploring, a funeral procession arrived, as did an excavator. I don’t really like hanging around while a funeral is taking place so finished off my pics and grabbed my gear and left. Sometimes trying to explain what I do becomes difficult and I would rather leave with my pics and head elsewhere. It was a pity as I would have liked to explore the other area where the funeral was taking place. Still, my mission was concluded so all that was left was to head off to Grasmere.
Alarm bells were ringing when I did the preliminary research on Grasmere. It sits on the periphery of an informal settlement just off the Grasmere tollplaza on the N1. My Google Earth view was of a stretch of veldt with no formal roads or anything. It did not seem like a big cemetery either, but I was not too sure what I would find when I got there. My small car is not really meant for bundu bashing, but I managed to find the correct sand road and spotted the headstones in the distance. The onlookers looked curiously at this strange yellow thing rattling past but didn’t really do anything else, leaving me to find the headstone.
The headstone I was after was a civilian stone and not a CWGC stone so it did not stand out. However, there were a lot of toppled stones here, in fact the cemetery was not in a very good condition at all. My intention was to grab the pic, grab a few panoramas and then head for the hills. I found the stone easily enough and fortunately it was still erect, then I moved across the rows, taking pics as best I could of the stones that were no longer upright, but flat on the ground.
Luckily most were face up. There are easily over 100 graves here, but so many have no identification on any longer. Again I was left wondering, why was this cemetery here? who lived around here? and more importantly, why isn’t this fenced off and better taken care of? Again answers are not forthcoming from the graves so I grabbed my pics and bundu bashed out of there.
Two more World War 2 soldiers have come home, as has one Border War casualty. Those are great stats in the grave hunting business, and by the time I got home I was suitably chuffed.
Tomorrow? possibly Kagiso and Azaadville. I hear the former has a heroes acre.
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated 20/03/2016, links recreated 03/03/2018