Wednesday, 11 January 2012

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.


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 very nice 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.


  


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