Quite a day today, our first stop was Naval Hill where the guns had been so commanding during the pause in activity once British troops arrived in early 1900 and before they headed on to Pretoria. The site has been well developed over the past two years with the addition of a statue of Nelson Mandela and a couple of long drop toilets much appreciated by some tour party members.
We then moved to President Brand Cemetery and some disappointment. The metal crosses with identifying discs that were once grave markers but were until recently moved to surround the central monument have disappeared. Some of the markers have been moved to form a fence but with their identifying discs removed. Some discs desecrated by having plates welded over the soldiers’ names are incorporated into a decoration of the bridge that takes you into the cemetery from a locked gate. All very sad. The names of the soldiers interred in the cemetery are on the central monument and there are a few marble and granite grave markers, but without the iron markers there is just mown grass giving little indication of the sacrificed soldiers that lie beneath.
On arrival at the Museum of the Boer Republics precinct, we inspected the block house, train, barbed wire fence, corrugated iron hospital and wagon exhibits. Then to the wendy house built by World War 1 rebels.
On to the Women’s Monument with the individual cairns indicating the scale of the unconscionable sacrifice of non-combatant women and children.
The re-vamped interior of the Museum of the Boer Republics cannot sadly be shown. No photos allowed. A tad brainless, without being tantalised by some appropriate images, why would anyone bother to visit. We also found the detail on Private John Books is still incorrect (this was pointed out to the Museum during the MHT tour two years ago and before the re-vamp). He is presented as an Australian Aboriginal soldier; he was not, being of West Indian descent. No mention was made of Private John Searle who served in the 4 WAMI and really was Aboriginal.
A visit to the nearby Children’s Museum followed. We were all taken back to our childhood, inspecting original 1950s Matchbox cars etc.
Lunch followed at the nearby café, then a visit to the South African Tank Museum. Warrant Officer Marais the curator showed us around. I am afraid that some of the terminology for the uninitiated was a bit hard to comprehend, for those who had served in the Armoured Corps he was a mine of interesting information.