Remembering Pauline

War Grave photography can be a very rewarding experience, with highs and lows, and many times you are left shaking your head or just feeling angry with what you see. My post today is one that  finally had closure for me after many years. 

I was “responsible” for many of the original photographs that we have on the South African War Graves  website that covered the cemeteries and memorials in and around Johannesburg and a few other places in Gauteng. I found it very satisfying to do and it did help me when I was suffering from an extreme case of “cabin fever” in 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately though, many casualties had slipped between the cracks when the South African Roll of Honour was being compiled. Apparently the person responsible for that job was stricken with Spanish Flu and passed away, and the unfinished ROH was adopted and the files of those who had not been processed were stuck on a shelf. 

In 2012 we started the record card project in an effort to photograph as many of the WW1 record cards as possible. The end goal being to submit the names of those who had slipped through the cracks to the CWGC and ultimately to have them added to the ROH.  When Ralph and Terry started to submit names for inclusion to the CWGC, one of the graves I went to find was that of PAULINE HERMIONE EMILY PAFF, a Probationer Nurse with the South African Military Nursing Service. She died of pneumonia and influenza, at Johannesburg Hospital on 20 October 1918 and was omitted from the ROH.

She is buried in Brixton Cemetery in the “EC” section (“English Church”) although that does not necessarily mean that the grave would be easy to find. Brixton is a big cemetery and there are very few grave numbers/markers and no real coherent plan of what is where. Fortunately I know the cemetery quite well and because I photographed the war graves can identify a section based on known graves.  Pauline’s grave was close to the fence of the Jewish section and a few graves close to where I was stung by a bee in 2009. By the time I left South Africa in 2013 no headstone had been erected although she had been approved for inclusion in the ROH and on the CWGC lists for South Africa

This past week Sarah Welham Dove was able to send me a photograph of her headstone and I was finally able to get closure over this grave. Pauline has been remembered and no longer does she rest in an unmarked space in a cemetery that is rapidly deteriorating due to indifference. 

I am also hoping that in the intervening years a headstone has been erected for Chris Charles Doak in Braamfontein too, although there was a dispute about where he was buried. He was somewhat of a troubled chap and died as a result of an overdose of morphine. Hopefully one day I will be able to display his grave here too. Irrespective of whether they died by misadventure of through no fault of their own each is important, and that is why we were out there taking the photographs. 


Rest n Peace Pauline and Chris and all those who we are still waiting for an answer on. 

Gravesite in 2008


DRW © 2020. Created 21/06/2020. Thanks to Sarah Welham Dove for the image.

OTD: Soweto Riots Begin

On this day in 1976 Soweto literally exploded as school children and police clashed in what has become known as the “Soweto Riots” or “Soweto Uprising”. An estimated 20 000 students from local Sowetan schools took to the streets of the township to protest the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. It was really the beginning of the end of the “Apartheid Regime”, but it would still take almost 20 years before a government elected by the majority of the people actually stepped into power. Between then and now there have been many changes in South Africa, although the ugly head of racism still rears itself and fingers will get pointed and arguments will get thrown about. 

Unfortunately amongst the many casualties of 1976 was truth and justice. Both would be sorely tried when the dust settled, or when the blood dried.  The figure mentioned in the Wikipedia page about the uprising  reads: 176 deaths (with some estimates ranging up to 700) and 4000 injured,  We will never know either because the government knew that they had used excessive force and had a serious problem on their hands, and they claimed that only 23 students had been killed.

The name most associated with the students is that of  Hector Pieterson (also spelt Pietersen) who was gunned down by the South African police and carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo to a local clinic and declared dead on arrival.  How many people still remember that name? I am sure it is ingrained in the psyche of many Black South Africans from that generation, and unwittingly led to Hector becoming somewhat of an icon. 


As a white South African schoolboy my experience of the events then is very different to that of Black school children so I can never really know the horror of what the riots were like as they ebbed and flowed throughout the country. I am sure that the police who faced those mobs were equally frightened of what may happen to them if they were overrun by a mob. You can be assured that mob justice would prevail, and in later years that could also entail “necklacing” which became yet another form of protest and execution. The Nationalist government was never able to justify their reactions to the riots, relying on propaganda, censorship and oppression of media. The concept of “fake news” would be very familiar to them, because they used it all the time.

Was it worth it? there are those who would argue that it achieved nothing, yet today the national party is gone, and so is grand apartheid, although it has been replaced by grand corruption and cadre deployment by the ruling party. Apartheid is still practised under the title “black economic empowerment (later BBBEE)” banner and things have not really changed in the lives of the very poor;  schools are still without proper toilets or running water, shacks still abound in the poorer parts of the cities, and the poor people still battle to eke out a living while the corrupt line their pockets.  What would Hector Pieterson have to say if he saw what South Africa has become? 

In Soweto you can visit the June  16th student uprising-memorial in Avalon Cemetery or alternatively the Hector Pieterson Monument And Museum is worth the visit.  I know that many would question the neutrality and objectivity  of the museum, but I know I came away with a different vision of the events of that fateful day. My visits happened in 2011/2012, so things may be slightly different now.

South Africa has never been the same since 16 June 1976, and we must respect the fact that children died for a cause they believed in. 


Rest in peace all of those who never went home on that day.

DRW © 2020. Created 15/06/2020.


Return to Muffinland (1)

I was recently reminded that the original Muffinland webpage had gone missing. For those who do not know Muffinland was where Muffin the cat used to post pics for his hordes of adoring fans. However, when I changed everything to a blog format Muffin was asleep and did not complete the migration of his stuff either (He was very tired because he only slept 27 hours that night). After some persuasion I managed to find the original material from then and am going to try to recreate parts of Muffinland. Bear in mind that the chief cat involved is still recovering from his last attempt at going into politics. 

Without further ado…  a fishy cookie for encouragement. 

This is Muffinland,  the home of Muffin. The cat with the cleanest foot in town. Him of the fishycookie habit. Occasionally known as Noodle, sometimes Osaka, but always Muffin deep inside. Fishycookies are one of Nature’s purrfect foods, and one of Muffins (that’s me below), favourite snacks. I will do anything for a fishycookie, and will endure hoodies, gloves, scarves and newspapers heaped upon my tormented body just for that moment of greatness when a fishycookie graces my pallet. I consider them to be the “Scooby Snack” of Muffinland.

Nom nom nom

Of course being somewhat of a debonair playcat has not gone to Muffin’s head. He acknowledges that he has many fans and wishes that he could thank them all, but he must wash his foot and of course catch up on his sleep. However, he does send this personalised pic for his fans.


Fans send Muffin lots of questions. Here are a few.

Q. How long are you Muffin?

How long is Muffin? 1491 x 636 pixels.

Q. What kind of cat are you?

A. A very tired black and white one.

Q. What is your favourite food?

A. Fishycookies! and cream and custard and fishycookies and whatever else I can scrounge.

Q. Is there a Mrs Muffin in your life?

A. No, but there is Pooty Applewater although she is kind of grumpy. 

Pooty Applewater

Q. I always feel motivated when I see you, what is your secret?

A. Fishycookies…. lots of sleep and a clean foot.

That reminds me. I must wash my foot.

Talking about motivation. Muffin was the star of a series of motivational memes and would like to share some of his favourites.

Unfortunately Dokes the cat crossed the rainbow bridge in June 2014, and he will be remembered with fondness by all who knew him. Read our tribute at Rest in Peace Dokes

Muffin would like to remind everybody that it will soon be winter

Muffin is no follower of fashion, although he does have his favourite no name wardrobe items.

And of course during this period of lockdown and social distancing…

Don’t forget that this pandemic is serious business, so Muffin advises that lockdown is the perfect time to catch up on your sleep (even if it is only for 27 hours), or get your hair done.

And that is Muffinland for today. Once Muffin gets more energy he will be back to enthral us all with more Tales from the Tail. 

DRW © 2008 – 2020. Originally created 15/07/2011. Recreated 26/04/2020