Have your say on proposed war memorial

South African railway workers constructing a bridge over the Orange River, as part of the effort to link up with the railway system in German South West Africa in 1915 during World War 1.

By Tamlynne Thompson

The public has until Monday November 22 to comment on the proposed erection of a memorial in the Company’s Garden honouring black South Africans who lost their lives in the First World War.

The memorial, which will be commissioned by the The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), will bear the names of more than 1 600 service men who lost their lives during the First World War and until now have not formerly been commemorated.

It’s aim is to encourage broad engagement with this lesser-known aspect of South Africa’s participation in First World War and introduce this historic period to a younger generation of South Africans.

A statement by the CWGC said the names of these men came to light following extensive research in South Africa’s National Archives. The men served with a variety of units including the Cape Coloured Labour Regiment, Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport, the Military Labour Bureau and the Military Labour Corps.

Official historian at the CWGC, Dr George Hay, said unlike the South African Native Labour Contingent, which would serve in Europe and is well known for its connection to the SS Mendi, these men joined in Africa for service in Africa.

Believed to be buried either in South Africa or elsewhere on the African continent, this memorial will be a permanent reminder of their sacrifice, while providing space for additional names should more come to light in the future.

Before the memorial can be commissioned, the CWGC is inviting members of the public and other interested and affected parties to comment on the application, he said.

This monument, if approved by Heritage Western Cape, will be erected in the Company’s Garden at the Delville Woods Memorial Garden.

Dr Grey said the shape, size and form of the proposed memorial is not known yet.

“The consultant urban designer has developed a design brief and some key design guidelines which form part of the heritage approval requirements, and which will form part of the brief for a national architectural competition.

“This competition will be the mechanism by which the services of an architect would be procured and will also determine the actual final architectural design for the project.”

He said the budget for the memorial will be disclosed as part of the architectural competition brief, at the time of the public launch of the competition.

To comment or object, or if you would like to participate in the process and be notified of further opportunities to provide comment, ensure that you register as an interested and affected party in writing and/or provide written comment/object by not later than Monday November 22.

A series of focus group meetings with key stakeholders and a public open house will be held this month.

To register as an interested and affected party, or to comment, contact Michelle Lee at info@chand.co.za, or send your comments by post at PO Box 238, Plumstead, Cape Town, 7801.

Dates, times and venues for the November workshops will be shared with registered people.

Additionally, a public open house will be held on Thursday November 18 at the Centre of the Book in the city centre, between 3.30pm and 6.30pm.