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.

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

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