On the 16th of November I went down to Bethlehem to rediscover some of my roots, and along the way I passed the sleepy little town of Heilbron. It’s almost midway between Bethlehem and Johannesburg and has a wonderful old cemetery and an equally impressive ABW memorial. I visited the cemetery on my way to Bethlehem and on my return, and that alone made my trip worthwhile. I was sent images of the Concentration Camp Memorial on a previous occasion, but now need to relook those.
The cemetery is simple to find, it is literally the first place you pass on your left hand side as you turn onto Langemark Street. Its not too small, and has a Concentration Camp plot, and an Imperial Soldiers plot too.
According to the plaque on the memorial, 781 women and children lost their lives in the camp. I do not know whether the cement slabs are actual graves or symbolic ones, but given that a number of memorials are on individual graves it is possible that the former is the case.
The Imperial Soldiers plot has roughly 42 individual headstones as well as a standard SA War Graves Board monument similar to the one found at Braamfontein, Burghershoop and Primrose. The plot is loosely fenced and well tended, although I suspect that the graves had been redone recently in line with the other Imperial Soldier graves.
The memorial lists the names of of soldiers who were originally buried at Kromellenboog, Wolvehoek, and Heilbron. They were subsequently reburied in this cemetery. There are other interesting ABW era graves in the cemetery and I suspect a few Burghers may have found their way here too.
On my way home from Bethlehem I stopped at the Riemland Museum which was closed, and then discovered the Heilbron Anglo Boer War Memorial. What really made this one even better was the stunning NG Kerk Heilborn Moedergemeente Church behind it. Its a magnificent building in an immaculate condition, but unfortunately its cornerstone evaded me so I was not able to put a date to it.
As usual the sun was in the wrong spot to get a very clear image of the church and memorial, but the memorial is an attractive one and contains the names of Burghers who lost their lives in the ABW, presumably from this district.
It is not easy to cap seeing something like this when you pass through a small town. The museum looked like a fascinating place to. A tantalising plaque explained that “This stone was unveiled by J Festenstein, President Heilbron Hebrew Congregation. 3 January 1912.” The Titanic was almost completed by then.
Heilbron was definitely a historical place, I am just curious what else could have been hiding in that small sleepy town. Next time I am going to go do some research first and take a bit more time to see what may be hidden away from the passer-thru. I do have to try find out where the Concentration Camp was situated, and I really need to date that church.