musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: ABW

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (1)

For quite some time I have been mulling over a return trip to Bristol, I wanted to go already in 2017 but the weather was just not amiable to a day trip so I kept on putting it off. However, by the time I was planning Liverpool I was already looking at Bristol once again. In 2015 I had been fortunate enough to be there for the Heritage Festival, so ideally I wanted to do the same once again. The closest window being the weekend of 21 and 22 of July 2018. And, just for once I was not going via Arnos Vale Cemetery but was going to strike out North West to find the Cenotaph. I had never really ventured into Bristol so had no real idea of what was out there, but it is an old city so you can bet there were some wonderful old buildings to see. 

I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads station bright and early. It had been touch and go though because the weather forecast had been for clouds and possible rain and I was not feeling very energetic when I woke up at some ungodly hour to get to Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. I will skip all that malarky and continue from where I am in Bristol.

There is one of those horrible traffic circles that I needed to navigate across, hoping to find the one branch that is Victoria Street. Unfortunately they were building a road in the middle of the street which threw my navigation off. A similar thing had happened to me when I visited Birmingham in 2015 and I suspect they are still digging and excavating there. 

The correct road selected and I was off… and then had to stop and go have a look at a church. Now I am a sucker for churches and old buildings, and I do love a good set of ruins. This one fitted all the criteria in one space. The space is called Temple Church and Gardens, and the church is really just a shell, and like the church I saw in Liverpool it too was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. After the war they excavated the shell of the building and discovered that the church was originally round. The round church was originally called Holy Cross and it was part of a monastery built here in the 1100’s by the Order of the Knights Templar. Their church was designed to look like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was enlarged between 1300 and 1450 and lost its original round shape, and became the church that is there today, or should I say the ruins of the church?  

 

The other peculiarity about the building is that the tower leans by roughly 1,6 metres from the vertical, and the top was built so as to correct the lean, but it ended up looking somewhat odd as the lean increased. Unfortunately I never knew about this and the image I took of the tower does show the lean, but it is somewhat corrected by the camera lens. 

The church and a large portion of medieval Bristol was destroyed by a raid that occurred on 24 September 1940. This area was known as “Temple” and in the medieval period it was where cloth workers lived and worked. The Guild of Weavers even had their own chapel at the church.

The churchyard around the church still has graves in it, although their legibility is very poor.  The area is now a well placed leisure space and I doubt whether anybody really knows that they may be strolling through a former churchyard.  Following this discovery it was time to continue on my way, still in Victoria Street and heading towards The Bristol Bridge across the Avon. 

Looking West (downstream)

Looking East (upstream)

There was another ruined church on the east side of the bridge but I decided to give it a miss on this occasion. If I stopped and detoured all the time I would never get to where I was going.  The green area just after the bridge is called Castle Park, and the next landmark is… a giant pineapple?

Actually the tower sticking out behind the building is the remains of St Mary-le-Port Church which was also destroyed during the bombing of 24 November 1940. The buildings around it were built for Norwich Union (facing the camera) and the Bank of England. Both buildings are apparently empty and have been the subject of a number of contested plans for redevelopment.   I cannot however comment on the pineapple, but it appears to be the work of Duncan McKellar.  

On the left side of the street is St Nicholas Church, and I had to get the shot very quickly because a large mobile crane was coming down the road and it was guaranteed to ruin any further images of the church. Maybe it was going to collect the pineapple?

I was now in High Street heading into Broad Street, and there were a number of places that caught my eye.

Broad Street was surprisingly narrow, and the Grand Hotel was really too big to even get a halfway decent pic of. 

As I descended further I felt almost hemmed in but at the end of the street was an archway that seemingly marked the end of this area. Actually, looking at it from Google Earth (centred around  51.454577°,  -2.594112°) there is a lot to see, and I suspect this is quite an old area too. Definitely worth a return trip one of these days.

Exiting out of the gate I had to turn left into Nelson Street and after a short walk could see the Cenotaph in the distance. This area had an incomplete feel about it and from what I gather had been redone not too long ago. The Cenotaph may be found at  51.454987°,  -2.596391°.

Sadly mankind has not learnt how to live in peace. I have covered the Cenotaph in more detail on allatsea.

The Fourteenth Army 1942-1945. Known as “The Forgotten Army”, they defeated the Japanese Invasion of India in 1944 and liberated Burma in 1945.

I was now moving South West through this paved area, it was very pretty but the fountains were not working which made it look bad.  Even Neptune was looking kind of parched. The day had turned out nice and sunny and it got hotter all the time.

I was now heading South towards a junction on the A38 which was more or less where I needed to be to find my next destination. In the middle of this junction stood the Marriott Hotel, and it was quite an impressive building.

The building on the left was really part of the harbour structure. I could have entered the harbour at that point but my destination was really to the right of the Marriott, so I turned to starboard. 

Queen Victoria was not amused because I needed to go to the right of her into Park Street. Behind her was the triangular shaped “College Green”, with Bristol Cathedral on the left and the City Hall to the right. I covered the Cathedral in a different post, but will mention that it was almost impossible to get the whole building in a pic because of the trees and length of the building and the sun position. The City Hall is quite an impressive structure though and it reminded me of the Royal Crescent in Bath. It too was way too big to get into a  single image.

I had to pass to the right of the building into Park Street and when I emerged I almost died when I saw what a steep hill I was facing.  What is it about Bristol and all these hills anyway?


The tower in the distance is the University of Bristol Wills Memorial Building and construction was started on it in 1915 and it was completed in 1925. The tower is 65,5 metres high, and it is a really beautiful structure and is the 3rd tallest building in Bristol.  Next to the building is the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Having arrived at this point I started to look around in dismay, my memorial was nowhere in sight! I consulted my main map and found that I had made a mistake on the small map I was using, and my memorial was still 3 blocks away! 

And there he is…

“In Memory of the Officers, Non Commissioned Officers
and Men  of the Gloucestershire Regiment,
Who gave their lives for their Sovereign,
and Country in the South African War
1899-1902″

Behind the memorial was another ornate building with a statue of King Edward VII and it was known as “CHOMBEC”, or, Centre for the History of Music in Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth.

While the building below is the  Royal West of England Academy of Art

It was time to turn around and head back down the hill to the Cathedral which was the next stop on my journey. I had achieved all my goals so far with a few bonus discoveries along the way. It was fortunately downhill from here…

I made one detour on my way down, and that was to a building I had seen on the way up. I could not investigate it too closely but it is St George’s Bristol, it was once a church but is now a concert hall.

Had I continued with the road I was on I would have come to the park on Brandon Hill where the Cabot Tower is.

I will add that to my bucket list for a return trip as their is one more Anglo Boer War Memorial I need to research. I photographed the tower at a distance in 2014, although I cannot work out where I took the photograph from. With my luck the tower would be closed on the day I visit.

I was once again at the College Green and the Cathedral was my next stop.  forwardbut

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 21/07/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:56

The Kruger House

No reading about the Boer War would be complete without mentioning Paul Kruger, and there is no doubt that he was a significant person in the history of South Africa. His house is situated in Pretoria and is now a museum, so with some spare time I decided to pop in for a visit. 

It is strange to find the residential property of a State President at street level, but from what I read this is what Paul Kruger would have preferred. If anything he was a deeply religious person, not prone to outbursts of emotion, and well loved by his friends and countrymen, and respected by his enemies. Situated in  Church Street, The house was designed by Tom Claridge and built by the builder Charles Clark during 1883-1884. Right across from the house is the magnificent Gereformeerde Kerk Pretoria (aka Paul Kruger Kerk) of 1889.

 

The house is not overly complicated, but is well built and very simple when compared to a house like Melrose House. By 1899 it was one of the few buildings in Pretoria that had electricity and a telephone, although from what I saw water borne sewerage was not on the cards. Paul Kruger and his wife lived there until he left the country in 1900. His wife remained in the house until her death in 1901. The house was bought by the Union Government in 1925 and it was restored and opened to the public in  1934, being declared a National Monument in 1936.  

Sitting Room

A lot of the furniture and fittings do come from the original house, and while it does have a bit of a cluttered old fashioned feel about it I did find it was a very personal house, not really the sort of place that you would expect a  President to live in. 

One of Paul Kruger’s offices

Dining Room

Bedroom

Bedroom


There are also two display halls: The ZAR Hall, and the Exile Hall. 

Exile Hall

The ZAR Hall has some amazing historic artefacts that pertain to the Boer War, as well as many of the awards and gifts give to the President and people of the ZAR. The Exile Hall is more about the period when Paul Kruger fled the country on board the Gelderland, and his subsequent exile in Europe. 
Also on display are an oxwagon, and his state coach.
   
Of special interest to me is the State Railway Coach which is on the premises. Sadly this wonderful old clerestory coach, with its observation platform, is not open to the public. All I could really see inside it were a conference room, sleeping berths and a small kitchen.
 
 According to the information sign, the coach was used by Paul Kruger when he was at Machadodorp and Warterval-Onder, and carried him to Lourenco Marques from where he went into exile. It was restored in 1951 and placed at the museum in 1952. 
 
A final stop in my tour was the kitchen and scullery where some sort of inkling of domestic life was on view. 
 
 
 
Paul Kruger died in Switzerland on 14 July 1904, his body being returned to South Africa and given a state funeral on 16 December 1904. He is buried with his wife and members of his family in Church Street Cemetery.
Out of curiosity, in my visit to the archives in Pretoria I found a document that may have been signed by Kruger himself, ok, he is mentioned in it. 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016
 
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 16:06

Beautiful Braamfontein

Somebody once asked “which cemetery do you consider to be “home”?” I didn’t really have to think about it because Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg is probably my “home”.   It was the second cemetery where I went to photograph war graves, and I keep on coming back to it. 

It was not the the first cemetery established in the fledgling city of Johannesburg, that honour goes to a short lived cemetery that was bounded by Bree, Diagonal and Harrison Streets. The “inhabitants” were relocated to Braamfontein Cemetery in 1897, although the grand dame of Johannesburg was established in 1888. 

I suspect that when it originally opened it must have been a dry dusty place, trees were sparse in the early Johannesburg, so these would have been planted much later, leaving the legacy of green that we have today. The cemetery is laid out along a single road that heads west towards the railway lines that ran from Braamfontein yards through to Sturrock Park.
Cemetery Plan (JHB City Parks)

Cemetery Plan (JHB City Parks)

On either side of this road the various sections are laid out. Turning right at the Dynamite Memorial,  the cemetery extends Northwards before petering out at the fence at Enoch Sontonga Ave. On either side of this short road is the  African and other “non white” sections. An extensive Anglo Boer War Plot is also found along this road.
 
At some point in our history the African section was ploughed under and all that remains now is the Enoch Sontonga Memorial and a green field.
The grave site of Enoch Sontonga

The grave site of Enoch Sontonga

The cemetery filled up very rapidly, and by 1910 the “New Cemetery” was opened, and burials in Braamfontein were scaled down. However, this the place where the founders of Johannesburg have come to rest. Within it’s walls are soldiers from the ABW, Rand Revolt, 1907 strike, WW1, WW2 and the Border War. There is a VC holder, the Foster Gang, a Titanic victim is mentioned in it, there are at least 4 baronets, a cartoonist, Edgar Wallace’s daughter, 6 unknown Indian soldiers, the writer of our national anthem, a famous artist and her family, the 1896 dynamite explosion memorial, 3 conscientious objectors, a Muslim cemetery next to a Jewish cemetery, a famous poet, a family of stone masons who made many of the monuments in it, the founder of a pasta company, and a burgher from the Boer War. And those are just the things I can think about off the top of my head. 
 
Braamfontein from the air

Braamfontein from the air

It has some magnificent artwork in it, and a collection of headstones that are still legible 100 years after they were erected. In some areas the trees have grown into each other and make some areas dark and dingy. During a storm it can be a fearsome place,  yet it can have moods that make you gasp in amazement. 
                                                                   
I have seen the early registers, and from what I can see the first person officially buried there was a little boy called John, who was buried 9 April 1888, in grave number 1. He was only 1 year, 11 months and 10 days old. The grave is close to the office, in the area set aside for “Pioneers graves”.
 
The Coffin Rest

The Coffin Rest

The cemetery has seen a lot of strife too and contains 77 Commonwealth burials from the Second World War and 11 from the First World War, with roughly 400 Boer War graves within its walls.  There is also a large Police plot where many of the casualties from the 1922 Rand Revolt are buried. And, I believe many of the miners that died in the revolt are also buried in unmarked graves along the fence. 
The Police Plot

The Police Plot

There is also an extensive Jewish area in the cemetery, which was always maintained in an immaculate condition up till recently. And in my recent explorations I have been able to see so many of the graves of the early Jewish community from Johannesburg.  
The Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish Cemetery

It is very difficult to show the cemetery in all its glory. Cemeteries are the type of places that you only visit on rare occasions, and only those who explore them can really appreciate the history and beauty inside of them. Taphophiles generally understand the nature of places like this, and Braamfontein is a very popular destination for day tours. As morbid as it sounds, there is no other place where you can experience your own mortality when in the midst of so much death.  
 Random Images
DRW © 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016, new images added 22/01/2017, added link 04/03/2018
Updated: 05/03/2018 — 07:25

Return to Heidelberg

Following my trip to Heidelberg earlier this year, I was determined to head out there again for a second look. I had missed some of the historical sites on that visit, and when the Johannesburg Photowalkers advertised a walk in Heidelberg I jumped at the chance.  Their itinerary included the Klipkerk, Methodist Church, old jail, Kloof Cemetery and a walk around the area where the Town Hall was. I was itching to go back to Kloof Cemetery and to pick up the Concentration Camp Memorial I had missed in January at the Camp Cemetery.  

We met up at the Majesteas Salon at 67 H.F. Verwoerd Street in Heidelberg and after a great brekkies headed off to the old jail.
Today the jail is home to the Suikerbosrand MOTH shellhole, but its origins are very visible in the large locks, heavy doors and extreme security. Like so many of these institutions it is very difficult to imagine what it must have been like in the days when people were incarcerated in it, but it still feels grim and foreboding, and the military artefacts do lend themselves to contributing to the atmosphere.
 
On 23 June 1902, a Veldkornet, Salomon Van As was executed by firing squad against the back wall of the jail, having been found guilty of the murder of Captain Ronald Miers  on 25 September 1901. Today the bullet holes from that execution can still be seen on a stone that has been picked out in white paint on the back wall of the building.
Coming back from the jail we passed a number of old buildings, many of which have historical significance
We walked around the town centre, stopping at the Town Hall where I was able to photograph the Triumvirate Monument In front which I had not been able to do previously. The Triumvirate Monument was designed by Hennie Potgieter and consists of a 4,5m obelisk with busts of Paul Kruger, Piet Joubert and M.W.Pretorius who were known as the Triumvirate. It  was erected in remembrance of their governance of the ZAR. 
The Town Hall is a particularly attractive building, its cornerstone being laid on 2 June 1939, having been designed by Gerhard Moerdyk. 
 
 
 
We also stopped at the very attractive Methodist Church which dates from 1895.
As well as seeing a variety of old houses, one of which was occupied by The Standard Bank of British South Africa between August 1879- December 1881.
 There are a number of old buildings in this area, one being Pistorius Geboue, dating from 1925,
The home of the Afrikaans Poet AG Visser is also close by, with a bust of him within its grounds.
Close by is the Heidelberg Volkskool which was proclaimed a national monument in 1970. The building was erected in memory of the 862 inhabitants of Heidelberg and districts who sacrificed their lives during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902).
I also discovered the pretty Parish of St Ninians Anglican Church close by,
 and the Hervormde Church in the next block.
On our way back to our vehicles, we were fortunate enough to be able to get into the grounds of the magnificent “Klipkerk” which is opposite the Town Hall.  The foundation stone for this church was laid in 1890 by Cmdt-Gen PJ Joubert. 
From there we headed off to Kloof Cemetery where I was able to add even more images to my collection from this beautiful cemetery. I was also able to photograph the Jewish Cemetery, and like so many of the cemeteries I visit, I wished that there was something written down about these spaces and their occupants, but alas, only headstones tell the tales.
Random Images.
   
   
Then it was off home, and in the back of my mind a small nagging image remained: Between the petrol price and toll fees, could this be the future of transportation in Gauteng?
DRW © 2012-2018. Images recreated 24/03/2016, added additional images 20/04/2017, link recreated 04/03/2018
Updated: 05/03/2018 — 07:22

Heidelberg Concentration Camp Cemetery

This post ties into the visit I made to Heidelberg in January 2012 but only deals with the Concentration Camp  graves in the Kloof and Camp Cemetery (aka Kampplaas). It is situated just outside Heidelberg and close to the N3 offramp. To be honest, the cemetery and concentration camp graves didn’t really leave much of an impression with me.  
 
The history of the camp may be found at http://www2.lib.uct.ac.za/mss/bccd/Histories/Heidelberg/

heidelberg_camp 005


I was led to believe that the graves were restored before these images were taken so I have no idea what condition they may have been in before.

 
 

The graves are mostly unmarked, and I do not know whether this is the original position of them or whether they are merely symbolic.

There are markers on some of the graves, but many of the markers are illegible after so many years.

I had originally missed the plaque that was on the road outside the camp (I have no idea how I missed it). but detoured to photograph it when I returned to Heidelberg in May 2012

In that visit I concentrated mostly on Kloof Cemetery which is really beautiful.

Between my original visit and this one a memorial wall had been erected with the names of the inmates of the camp that are buried in these two cemeteries.

Again it is difficult to know what graves are of victims, although if they were children and died between 1900 and 1902 the odds are quite large that they were. There are a few mounds amongst the graves and these had been “restored” so I can make the assumption that these were graves associated with the camp.

 
There are a number of scattered graves that do have illegible markers on them, but they are in the minority. In July 1901 measles struck and many of the graves probably belong to the children that died as a result of the epidemic. 
 
The irony is that this cemetery does hold a number of graves of Imperial soldiers who died during the ABW.  
 
There is also a small dedicated Jewish Cemetery at Kloof, and it did make an interesting diversion.
Strangely enough it also has a very fine collection of angels and statues that were worth photographing. There are two very impressive examples that I was amazed to find.
 
Kloof is a wonderful cemetery that holds a lot of history, and is really worth visiting, but it is in dire need of an information plaque that tells a bit more of the history of this site. All of the graves in Kloof have been photographed and may be seen at the relevant eGGSA Library page
 
Random Images of Kloof Cemetery
   
 
   
   
 
DRW © 2012-2018. Images recreated 22/03/2016, more images added 30/04/2017, links recreated 04/03/2018
Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:52

Hello Heidelberg.

I have been planning a trip down to Heidelberg for quite some time. For starters there is an ABW and Concentration Camp Cemetery to see, as well as the long closed Transport Museum that I dealt with in a previous blog entry. And while there are CWGC graves in Heidelberg, they have already been photographed so I didn’t really have anything specific in mind to find gravewise. My plan was to visit 4 cemeteries (Kloof, Camp, Rensburg and Schuins Street), although that was all time and weather dependant.  Naturally the day I went to Heidelberg there was an accident at the Crown Interchange, causing me to have to make a detour, and anybody knows that in JHB that means delays and yet more delays.
 
I finally hit Heidelberg just after 10am. My first destination being the Camp Cemetery (aka Kampplaas). It is situated just outside Heidelberg and close to the N3 offramp. To be honest, the cemetery and concentration camp graves didn’t really leave much of an impression with me.  
 
  
There are more concentration camp victims buried in the Kloof cemetery, but that was last on my list. My next cemetery of call was the Schuins Street Cemetery, which I navigated to using my untrusty GPS. Amazingly I did not end up being sent via Bloemspruit. The cemetery is on a dirt road; on one side is the Muslim Cemetery, and on the other an old African cemetery. Both have CWGC graves in them which means they date from the 1940’s, although I suspect the African cem is much older.
 
The image above is of the Muslim area of the cemetery and it is well tended and orderly.  The African cem is in a poor condition, it is very overgrown and many headstones have been lost or destroyed over the years. It is fenced, but I believe there are even more graves close by in the veld. Again I was faced with the question: what to photograph? there is just so much, but so little is actually legible, so a few panos were taken and I headed off to my next destination: Rensburg Cemetery.
 
I believe that Rensburg was named after a farmer called Van Rensburg, who, during the Boer War, failed to get out of bed to report an incident on the railway lines, so the British authorities burnt his farm and confiscated his livestock, all because he slept late! The cemetery is on the edge of town and isn’t very big, but has a very interesting mix of older graves, but for some strange reason, half of it was cleared of vegetation, while the rest was a madhouse of blackjacks.
 
 
 
Rensburg completed, I headed off to Kloof Cemetery, and of all the cems I visited in Heidelberg, this was the grand old lady. It is a magnificent cemetery, the oldest grave I found being dated 1849, and there is a mix of everything in it, from ABW right through to “modern” graves.
 
The cemetery has an Imperial soldiers plot, as well as a Burghers plot, and there are also camp graves in it; I believe that these are deaths were caused by a measles epidemic and even today the mounds are still visible over 100 years since the deaths occurred.

Imperial war grave plot

I took a lot of photographs in this cemetery, and have added them to the relevant pages on the Eggsa website, but it is worthwhile making a return visit there one day, because hindsight often reminds one of the images that you should have taken but neglected to take.

Heidelberg Burgher Memorial

Heidelberg Burgher Memorial

It was almost time to leave, and on my way out of the town I paused to grab a pic of the magnificent NG Kerk (aka The Klipkerk) that was built in 1890.
 
  
As well as the beautiful old town hall with its elaborate globe fountain out front.
 
 
And a last look down the street, and it was time to go home. 
 
 
Mission accomplished. Heidelberg is a pretty town steeped in history, it is also one of those places that is passed en route to elsewhere, which is really a pity because with a lot of research I am sure there is a lot more to see. The big drawcard is the Transport Museum, if they can get that working again then I am sure rail enthusiasts would be there like a shot.  I had an enjoyable day, and took over 560 photographs, so it was all worthwhile in the end.

I returned to Heidelberg in May 2012 and revisited the old cemetery and a number of other places in the town. Read about that visit here 

 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated and links fixed 22/03/2016, some images added 30/04/2017
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:55

Bethlehem. 16/17-11-2011

My family has ties to Port Elizabeth and Bethlehem, but it is to the latter that I can relate more. My grandparents and most of my mothers family lived there at one point. The biggest employer in the town was the South African Railways, they maintained steam engines there, and the town was conveniently placed for access to a number of regions. Sadly, when the line was electrified the first to go were the steam engines, and then one day the passenger trains stopped going there, and the town suddenly became not as important any longer. The last time I was there was in 1989, and that was for a funeral. My trip this time around was to try connect to some of my relatives and do the genealogy, and of course to visit family graves and try to make some sense of this link to my past.   
 
I was very young when we were able to visit by train, and my memories are sketchy at best, and seem to revolve around the trip on the passenger train with its wooden balcony coaches, leather upholstery and unique smell. The town doesn’t really stick out much in my mind, although there are some areas that pop up in old family photographs.  The one which I will always have a fondness for is the Athlone Castle  at Loch Athlone, as well as Pretorius Kloof where we used to go on outings. Today both are closed although the Athlone Castle was later purchased by a private owner who restored it as a private residence, and a stunning job was made of it too. 
The Athlone Castle

The Athlone Castle

Loch Athlone is no longer accessible to the public and the Kloof was closed following floods earlier in 2011.
 


Bethlehem has a lot of history to it and that history is reflected in the abundance of old buildings that still line its streets. I am sure that when my mother was young many of those buildings were being used for different purposes, although the churches still retain that sense of permanence. Bethlehem has a lot of churches, and they are magnificent. The one that dominates the town is the NG Kerk Moedergemeente that occupies almost 2 city blocks.

NG Kerk Bethlehem Moedergemeente

NG Kerk Bethlehem Moedergemeente

It’s a magnificent structure that was built in 1910 to replace an older church that had been built on this site. Equally impressive is the Town Hall which dates from 1930. On one side of the Town Hall is a small Garden of Remembrance that I have posted about separately
 
As usual the museum was not open during my visit (why does that always happen to me?), and I believe that some of artefacts in it do relate to my family.  I was also on the look out for Staffords Hill where my mother used to play as a girl, and the old family house in Ellenberger Street that we all used as a base whenever we visited Bethlehem. Looking at that same house today it seems so much smaller than I remember it. I was able to go past at least 4 houses that remnants of the family used to live in at various times and they all had this mass produced pokey look about them. 

My mother always told us how she attended the Truida Kestell school, and how she used to ride her bicycle there and back in all weather. Given how bitter the weather can be in Bethlehem I am sure it was not fun. She would probably not recognise the school today though.

 

Bethlehem Station is a mere shade of its former self. At one time there would have been dozens of steam engines hustling and bustling around goods wagons and passenger trains. Today the offices are locked, the platforms are deserted and only the occasional goods train passes through. A lethargic security guard sat on a bench on the platform and didn’t even challenge my being there. 

Main entrance to Bethlehem Station


My grandfather and one uncle were based in Bethlehem and I have old video footage of them at the station with loaded guards and mail vans attached to a main line train. 
I would have liked to spend more time at the station, but we were running out of time and I hadn’t even hit the cemeteries yet!  There are four cemeteries in Bethlehem. We visited the Muller Street Cemetery with its Boer War era graves, as well as the Morelig and Utopia Cemeteries.

Muller Street Cemetery

My family is in Morelig, and when they passed away all those years ago the cemetery was still expanding. The SADF wanted the property next to the cemetery and that prevented any further expansion. The town is home to the Engineers and quite a few NSM’s complained about the cold during their service here. I was quite pleased to find a Field Engineers Memorial outside the military base too, but photography was very difficult. I was also able to find one of our missing military graves which was a nice addition to our Border War lists.
On the morning of the second day I went walkies around town. It was almost rush hour, which in Bethlehem means that lots of large trucks start their engines and head towards Cape Town and Durban. The sad thing is that the large trucks park the town full at night and everybody gets woken up in the morning as they start their engines and head off to their destinations.  This traffic used to be all moved by rail. 
 One of the less desirable aspects of the town is how many Johannesburg inhabitants have bought houses here as “country retreats”, driving up the house prices, making accommodation very expensive for locals. During the weekend they flock to the town and cause havoc in the quiet streets with their Johannesburg driving habits. Many locals are not too pleased about this, but given that many locals have had to leave the town to find work the change in demographics is to be expected. 
 

Then it was time to go home, bad weather was forecast and you always have to take the traffic back home into account. It was a great trip, and I saw a lot and photographed even more. But looking at my maps there was so much more that I missed seeing. You cannot really judge a town by a short visit like mine, but I cannot help feeling that I was able to lay a few ghosts of mine to rest. I will probably return at some point next year for a longer visit, there is still a cemetery to visit, and I need to go find the battlefields and explore the station area and mull over the images I took because there are a lot of memories in them.

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DRW ©  2011-2019. Images recreated 20/03/2016
Updated: 08/04/2019 — 19:10

Heilbron. 16/17-11-2011

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.

Concentration Camp Memorial

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.
Portion of the Concentration Camp plot

Portion of the Concentration Camp plot

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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.

Imperial Soldiers Plot

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.

The ABW Memorial with the NG Kerk behind 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.
 

 

The Church from the side gate

The Church from the side gate

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.
 
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Updated: 08/04/2019 — 19:12

Fort Schanskop

Following my visit to Fort Klapperkop in August 2009, I decided that a visit to Fort Schanskop would also be an idea and filed it away for when I attended the Memorial Service at the SADF Wall of Remembrance in October of the year. 

 

One of four forts constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was built by Krupp of Germany and erection by HC Werner was commenced in May 1896. The fort was shaped like a pentagon and had canons placed on rotating platforms on the embankments. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 6 April 1897.

 
 The forts were surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army. The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Fort Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council. Schanskop was purchased by the Voortrekker Monument from the city council in June 2000 and was subsequently restored.
 
The whole structure is in a beautiful condition and is well maintained, but again it is let down by a lack or reasons to return. Realistically, once you have seen it you probably will never need to return. There are a number of displays inside the fort depicting life at the fort and exhibits pertinent to the ABW.
 

 

 

 
And of course there are a number of artillery pieces scattered around. 
  
 
Overall though, the fort is very similar to Klapperkop, although it does seem much smaller.
 
 
Like all of the forts around Pretoria it never heard a shot fired in anger, and as such was really just a waste of money. However, the paranoia against the “uitlanders” was very strong in the ZAR Government, and I am sure that at the time they considered it money well spent. 
 
Situated close to the Voortrekker Monument, the view is quite a good one, although there is not too much to see.  
 
 
The other two objects of interest at the fort are the Danie Theron statue, or “Piet Skiet” as we knew him. (The beret badge of the Commando’s featured a likeness of this statue of Danie Theron)
 
and there is also the “Tanganyika Trek Monument”. This is a scale model replica of the Trek monument that was inaugurated on 16 December 1954 in Tanzania to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Afrikaners who settled in what was then Tanganyika after the Anglo Boer War. 
 
 
 And that was it, time to head off home, both forts in the bag. 
 
DRW ©  2009-2019. Images recreated 08/03/2016
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 06:04

Fort Klapperkop

I have visited Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria three times. The first was when I was in primary school and we went of an outing to Pretoria and the fort was part of the experience. At that time it was still a Military Museum and I do recall climbing over the military vehicles with much enthusiasm.

My second visit happened on 30 December 2008, and the fort was closed for the Christmas break. I only got as far as the main gate. And my final visit was on 16 August 2009, which is what this retro blogpost is about 
 
 

One of four forts (Schanskop, Klapperkop, Daspoortrand and Wonderboompoort) constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 18 January 1898. Unlike Schanskop, Fort Klapperkop was surrounded by a moat. In February 1898 a Long Tom was mounted here, but removed in October 1899, its final destination being Ladysmith. The fort was equipped with electricity, heliograph, telegraph and a telephone. It was surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army.

 


The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council. Fort Schanskop was purchased by the Voortrekker Monument from the city council in June 2000 and was subsequently restored.

  
 
The fort is also home to the South African Defence Force Memorial
 

 

Like many of these old forts this one feels like it was really a waste of money, certainly the “enemy” that it was meant to protect against did not have to fight a pitched battle against it, and realistically it was more lip service to paranoia by the ZAR government than anything else.

 

 

The structure is beautifully maintained and on the day I was there I did not see too many visitors. Admittedly that could be because the access road is quite a killer! My poor little car struggled to raise itself up to the crest of the hill where the fort is.

The view of Pretoria from the fort is quite spectacular in parts, and at night it must be especially good.

 

Living in a fort like this as part of the garrison must have been very tedious, and I am sure those stationed here must have felt very frustrated by being so close but so far from the lights in the distance. the ZAR government were particularly afraid of the threat posed by uitlanders in Johannesburg and I was quite sad that you could not even see that city from the fort,

There are a number of interesting exhibits at the museum, especially artillery pieces like the “Long Tom” below

 

The weapon is a replica of the Creusot siege guns bought from France by the Boers and used extremely effectively during the Anglo Boer War.

 

Down below the battlements the rooms have been more or less restored to what they may have looked like during their occupation or house exhibits pertinent to the forts.

 

 

I could not help wondering whether the soldiers stationed her were ever chased down the hill with tar poles, or sent to weed the moat?

 
 

 

You can bet that bored soldiers were kept very busy by their superiors, for this is the nature of military service irrespective. You can bet some lazy bugger wangled himself a job operating the fumigation machine.

The problem with static defences like this is that any enemy worth his salt will go around your fort and isolate you very easily and starve you out.

 


Or will wait till nightfall and sneak up to your nice secure main gate and knock…..


The fort is an interesting place to visit, one of those really strange places that we have in South Africa which don’t quite make sense. But then we are viewing them with hindsight instead of as things were at the time when they were built. Unfortunately though, once you have seen Klapperkop there is no real reason to return, and that is a tragedy because there are only so many potential visitors.

Two other items of interest do exist at the site, the first is Class 6B- 537, formerly from the CGR and Imperial Military Railways.


When I was there she was looking very dilapidated, but was cosmetically restored not too long ago. How they got her up the hill I do not know.

The other oddity is a single decker tram (Brill?) that was in a very poor condition. I believe she may have been cosmetically restored as well.

And that was Fort Klapperkop in a nutshell, or was it a coconut shell?
 
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