musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: East Rand

A Honey of a Tank

A few years back, in 2011 I did the rounds of the usual haunts, hunting down plinthed and preserved tanks, there were three models that fell into my research, namely Crusaders, Shermans and M3 Stuarts. This post deal with one Stuart in particular.  I will not go into the history of these M3’s, suffice to say they were popularly referred to as “Honey’s”.

This vehicle I photographed in 2011 while visiting the Roll of Honour at the Cosy Corner MOTH Shellhole in Brakpan.

The history of this particular vehicle is not known, but it is likely that she was a gate guard at a former MOTH Shellhole somewhere in the Springs area and she is currently situated at Google Earth co-ordinates: -26.252307°,  28.446881°. This is a former park, but sadly it is more of the remains of a park. The tank when I photographed her was not a total wreck yet.

Those open doors at the back set off alarm bells in my mind when I saw her, sooner or later somebody was going to get in there and remove parts off her engine, assuming that it had not been done already.

Wind forward to 2017, and Joe Borain from Cosy Corner went to see whether she was still intact or not. rumours were that she was not looking good.  I will post the images more or less in the the same order as the “before (2011)” images.

As you can see, the engine compartment has had lots of attention from the scrap metal thieves.

It also appears as if the open viewing slits have been used to “post rubbish” into. It is only a matter of time before they get organised enough to go after her tracks and idlers. The scrap metal industry is not averse to assisting those who decide to remove steel from monuments and memorials. Remember, watched a whole collection of steam locomotives systematically stripped by illicit scrap thieves in 2010. Anything can happen.

What can be done? According to Joe site has been fenced, although he did manage to get in. And, a local garage was supposedly keeping an eye on her too. But, what really needs to happen is they need to weld the front viewing ports and rear engine doors shut. And ideally get her moved from the spot where she is now. Who does she belong to? probably the SANDF, and getting permission to move her will be quite a rigmarole. Springs city council were supposed to have renovated the derelict war memorial by mid 2015 and that too stalled so there is not much hope of help from them. But the way things are, one day that honey of a tank will be no more. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 08/01/2016. 2017 Images are by Joe Borain and are used with permission.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:43

East Rand Cemeteries

There are a number of cemeteries on the East Rand that I haven’t visited, mainly because I don’t usually have a reason to go into that area. One of the reasons for my excursion on 2 January 2013 was an ongoing search for a grave of a soldier that was buried on the East Rand. Unfortunately we have no date, or positive location, but we have been trying to exclude a few places in our search.  
 
First on the list was Rietfontein Cemetery. This small African cem is not associated with the hospital of the same name that I had obsessed over late last year, in fact if you didn’t know it existed you would miss it altogether. The weather wasn’t great that day, it was grey and cold and damp and the cem was covered in long grass, making gravehunting difficult. Graves date from the 40’s and 50-‘s and there was a small Coloured and Asian area. The cem has also been called “Brickfields Road”, but the sign did read Rietfontein. 
  
 
It was obvious that we would not find our missing grave here so headed off to the next destination: Elsburg. Situated in Wadeville, this smallish cem has CWGC graves in it, as well as a large African area. It is in a reasonable condition, but many things about it are puzzling. 
 
It is difficult to know what this cem was originally, or whether it was a farm cemetery that was expanded. The oldest grave I saw was dated 1905, and there were at least 3 rows of graves without headstones that were very similar to those I had seen in some of the Concentration Camp cems. Vandalism has taken its toll though, and not too long ago there was a crime problem here. This cemetery does not have a good reputation. 

Sadly the only Angel I saw had been toppled, and many of the older headstones were not in too good a condition. Our missing grave was not here either, so I headed off to South Park Cem.
 
This cemetery became famous because this is where Chris Hani is buried. I always thought it was small cem, but I was surprised to see how big it was when I arrived. Of immediate interest was the SADF plot which has 21 graves in it. 
 
There were at least two funerals being held while I was there so I was not able to investigate the one area, but from what I could see this cemetery is rapidly filling up. It was also in a very good condition, and I could see workers  actively busy, even on this the second day of the new year. The grave of Chris Hani I found by accident, and again I had to ask the question; had he been alive today, what would have have said about the corruption, nepotism and incompetence of those in charge? His murder nearly plunged South Africa into a bloodbath.
I did a quick walk around, but there weren’t many artistic headstones that appealed to me, if anything this cem is very similar to West Park in that it has many graves, but very little character. Cemeteries often mirror the society that they are a part of, and the older they are, the more character that they have. South Park has not reached that point yet. I also noted that it had been renamed to Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park. 
 
That concluded my first gravehunting session of the new year, and I was off home. I was able to find one previously unknown grave which made it worthwhile, and I am happy to add 3 more cemeteries to my list. My next expedition? I don’t know, but it could be that the next time I report back from a cemetery it may be in another country. 
 
And, just to remind me of what was going to happen at the end of February….
 
 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:40

East Rand Excursion. Benoni and environs.

My 2012 gravehunting season started with a major expedition planned for the 10th of January. The weather, unpredictable as always, gave me a short respite and I set the mission in motion. There were 3 CWGC graves to find in Styx Road Cemetery, as well as one in Wattville. I also intended visiting Rynsoord cem if time was on my side. There are a few Rand Revolt graves in there that I wanted, and that is generally reason enough to pay a visit. 
 
First stop though was the Cenotaph in Boksburg. I do not understand what it is with war memorials on the East Rand. Brakpan, Springs and Boksburg are an insult, with Germiston coming a close second. At least the memorials on the West Rand do look a bit better, although I wonder how long that will last.
Boksburg Cenotaph

Boksburg Cenotaph

My next visit was the cemetery in Styx Road. This is situated in an industrial area which is called Benoni East. The cemetery is in a poor condition. The formal gate was nowhere to be found, but portions of the precast fence had been broken so we were able to access it. Inside was not looking good either; unkempt grass, litter and holes were all over and most of the grave markers in the Moslem section were missing. The oldest grave I saw dated from the mid 1930’s, but they weren’t in too bad a condition. My 3 war graves were easy to find thanks to the map and we were able to wrap it up reasonably quickly.


Our next destination was the Wattville Cemetery, this is in the middle of Wattville and is reasonably close to Benoni itself and was quite easy to find. It’s an average size cemetery, but the area I was looking for was heavily overgrown. Roads are mere dirt tracks and I would hate to see what this one looks like in a rainstorm. There was only one war grave here and we found it reasonably easily. Like all of the African cemeteries I had visited it was really difficult to get a sense of it. A lot of trees would enhance it considerably, but I suspect space is becoming a problem.

 

Time was on my side so we detoured to Benoni Rynsoord Cemetery.  Those Rand Revolt graves were my priority, but the cemetery has a lot of CWGC graves in it as well. It is quite large and well managed, maintenance was going on while we were there, and apart from a downed tree branch the whole place was neat and tidy. We spent most of our time in the older sections and found eight Rand Revolt graves which was a nice bonus. There was no formal SADF plot, although there was a “Hero Section” at the gate. We did find one Border War grave which I was hoping to find and I left very impressed with this cemetery, it really made a nice change. Interestingly enough, because this was predominantly a mining area, there are a lot of mine related deaths amongst the stones, something I saw on the west rand too. Our task completed it was off to our next destination, but first we had to navigate the abortion that is the N12 highway. Road works have made this an absolute nightmare, and I would hate to have to travel on here during peak hour, the road was bad before, it’s even worse now.

 
Our last destination was the Dickie Fritz MOTH Shellhole in Edenvale. It has a plinthed military equipment area, with amongst others, a Lockheed Ventura, Sherman tank, a Puma helicopter, and a beautiful sanctuary. The name was interesting as it is comes from two headmasters from that area that lost their lives in WW2, their former pupils came together to remember them and the Shellhole and associated cottages are the end result.   
 
 
 
Mission accomplished. It was an enjoyable day, although a scorcher when it came to heat. I like finding a multiple of things on one trip, it always makes the expenditure in petrol worthwhile. It is just a pity that everything you do in Johannesburg is governed by the mess that we call highways, and the traffic jams associated with broken robots, disgusting roads,  maniac taxi’s, decrepit trucks and indifferent metro police.
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 20/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 13:15

Bakerton and Payneville.

Continuing with my efforts to capture images of the more obscure cemeteries where CWGC graves are to be found, I ventured forth to Bakerton/Payneville Cemetery outside of Springs. My original thoughts were that these were two distinctly seperate places, however, some homework revealed that actually they are a cemetery within a cemetery. Bakerton being the Hindu/Moslem cemetery, and Payneville being the African burial ground. Naturally they are miles from anywhere, but reasonably close to Brakpan to pay a return visit to Brenthurst Cemetery  and pop in at the derelict war memorial in Springs.
 
My first port of call however was at the Cosy Corner MOTH Shellhole in Brakpan to photograph the new Wall of Remembrance, that is now home to the original plaque from the mess that is the former garden of remembrance in Brakpan.
 
The MOTH Shellhole is a treasure trove of memorabilia and is well worth visiting if you have an interest in Delville Wood. A tree, grown from a seedling from a Hornbeam tree on the battlefield, grows in the grounds. Its a strange tangible link to that terrible battle.
 
 
There is a proud heritage at that Shellhole, and by the looks of it, it is a thriving one. There are two preserved tanks on their premises, and that is quite an accomplishment. 
 
 
Moving onwards to Bakerton, I had one CWGC grave to photograph,  and he was reasonably easy to find. This area of the cemetery is very well maintained and is still in use. Unfortunately I cannot say much about when it opened, but it must have been open in the early 1940’s at a minimum. The Springs area does have a number of Native Military Corps graves in it, with the beautiful Palmietkuil South War Cemetery just up the road.  
 
Payneville however was a different ball game altogether. Its not a very large space,  but it is sparsely populated with headstones, and overpopulated with weeds and grass. Mounds and holes are not easy to spot and I nearly saw the ground from close up on quite a few occasions.
 
I had 2 CWGC graves to photograph, and had a rough idea where they were, but in reality, finding them in real time was a different story. Usually the headstones are very distinctive and I found the one reasonably easily, but the second was nowhere to be seen. I had rough GPS co-ordinates of the graves and changed to pedestrian mode to try find it, but even with a GPS I struck a blank. I did a block search in the area and eventually found the stone, but it had been broken in half. It was only recently that the CWGC graves had been cleaned up, and this was a recent break. There wasn’t much to do but report the broken stone and head off to our next destination. I think that as long as I live I will never understand the logic of somebody that goes around breaking tombstones. If somebody can provide insight into this please drop me a comment.
 
 
Springs War Memorial was one of those mapbook finds. I spotted it when I was researching Palmietkuil in 2007, but couldn’t find it on the ground at the time. There was this strange derelict dome structure on an island in the town, but surely that wasn’t the memorial? 
Springs War Memorial in 2007

Springs War Memorial in 2007

My gravehunting companion assured me that WAS the memorial, or should I say, what is left of it. The dome used to cover a tripod of rifles with a helmet, inscribed on the interior walls were the “Their Name Liveth Forevermore” reminders. Upright walls lined the pathway, with name plaques of the fallen, a fountain adding its melody to the tableau. That was then. This is now.
springswm 093
 
 
The only purpose that this derelict seems to serve now is to provide a shelter for the homeless, otherwise it is just a travesty that can get consigned to the scrapheap of history. In the nearly 4 years since I had visited here originally, nothing had been improved or done to rectify the situation. And, probably in 4 years time, things will be exactly the same as now. I wonder how many residents even have an idea what this derelict structure actually was? I know one thing, no remembering of the fallen is done in Springs anymore.
 
In 2014, I was contacted by Joe Borain who informed me that they were stealing the copper off what was left of the dome.  The image below being taken in February 2014. It was also announced that the council would be “restoring” the memorial, but whether that ever happens remains to be seen. 
I did post an update to my original entry on the relevant page of allatsea
 
A last detour to photograph a Honey tank, and we were ready to head off to Brenthurst Cemetery, but that’s another story, for another day. Unfortunately, between my visit and 2016 the tank has been deteriorating and I did an update on her too.
 
  
DRW © 2011-2019. Images recreated 20/03/2016
Updated: 08/04/2019 — 18:55

Palmietkuil South War Cemetery

There is a small haven of peace out on the East Rand called Palmietkuil South War Cemetery. The CWGC describes it as follows: ”Within the cemetery is the Palmietkuil South War Cemetery Memorial, which commemorates members of the South African Forces who died during the 1939-1945 War and who lie buried in different parts of South Africa in graves which could not be maintained. The compounds of the gold mine on Palmietkuil Farm were taken over by the Union Defence Force at the outbreak of Second World War and used as the main training centre of the Military Corps. The centre was served by its own hospital. The cemetery contains 217 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, all of the South African Army. A memorial within the cemetery, behind the Cross of Sacrifice, bears the names of 122 soldiers, whose graves in remote parts of the country could not be properly maintained.

I visited Palmietkuil in November 2007. It was a a hot and glaring day and I found the cemetery at the end of a dirt road that really taxed my small car. The space was ringed with trees and stood out proud in the flat fields around it. When it was created those trees had been planted, and now over 50 years later they were tall, and created this small space inside.

Inside the cemetery was immaculate, and well maintained. Rows of grey headstones bisected by an avenue that led to the Cross of Sacrifice with the Memorial behind it.

The dominant colour here was green and frankly I admit my entry level camera was not really equal to the task. I have always regretted never returning here to reshoot my images because this was such a special cemetery. The local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project was also present this day and he tackled one half of the cem while I tackled the other. Photographing each grave so that they too are not forgotten. Sadly the men who served under the NMC and SANLC colours were conveniently shunted aside when the wars ended. Yet they performed a vital duty and served the British Empire and South Africa with distinction. The memorial also commemorates men from the Essential Services Protection Corps, The Cape Corps, Indian and Malay Corps,

The men who are buried here probably had families and loved ones, and there is no way of even knowing whether those family members even saw these graves because Palmietkuil is really off the beaten track, about 9 kilometres from Springs. These men did not die in action though, but probably died during training or in accidents or of disease or illness. Unfortunately a military base was often a home to diseases like TB and of course many childhood diseases like measles or mumps could and did wreak havoc amongst the soldiers.

It is also worthwhile remembering that the men who are buried here were mostly volunteers, and they did so for a variety of reasons. However, the government decided that they would not be used in a fighting capacity, but rather as support troops, and in that role they excelled. Who knows how well they would have done as fighting men. The bravery of men like Job Maseko and Lukas Majozi, is legendary, as is the bravery of the men who were killed in the sinking of the Mendi . Just how much of a fighting force did we loose because of politics?

And then we were finished. I stayed behind a bit longer to photograph the graves in the other half for my own records, and while I did that I was struck by how quiet it really was. The only real noise was coming from the mine close by, but other than that it was silent. I bid the men of Palmietkuil farewell and headed off to my next destination. This was my first dedicated war cemetery, and one which I would not forget. I really intended to return one day, but my own circumstances changed in many ways and I never did; much to my dismay. But I always said that if ever I was in a position where I could specify where my ashes should be scattered Palmietkuil was high on my list. Palmietkuil was left reasonably undisturbed until June 2012 when somebody apparently performed an unofficial exhumation of a body. It was a very disturbing moment in the history of this cemetery and I do not know if the perpetrator was ever found, or what the motive may have been, but it was desecration of a really special cemetery.

I believe that it was also intended that a larger memorial be erected to the men of the SANLC and NMC was to be erected and Palmietkuil was mooted as one the possible sites. And as far as I am concerned it would be too little way too late. 

DRW © 2007-2019. Recreated 04/06/2016

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:09
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