Vereeniging – Maccauvlei British cemetery

However, the golf course’s links with military history go back very much further – in fact to the Anglo Boer War, when 68 British soldiers were killed in action, in and around the Vereeniging area and are buried in a Garden of Remembrance next to the golf course. They came from all over the world and served with the Royal Engineers, the Kings Royal Rifles, the Queens own Calvary, the Wales Borderers, the New Zealand Mounties, the Gordon Highlanders, the SA Constabulary and the Norfolk Regiment, to name but a few. The soldiers were killed between 1900 and 1902, and were all buried in isolated graves at places where they saw action.   In 1961, the 1820 Settlers organisation decided to collect the remains from these graves situated at Viljoensdrift, Engelbrechts Drift, Klip River, Maccauvlei, Meyerton and Vereeniging, and establish a single military cemetery at Maccauvlei. Small coffins about one metre long were made, the bones were placed in them and they were reburied in graves dug to the side of the 3rd green. It was near this spot that Boer soldiers ambushed a troop train and one of those to escape was the young Winston Churchill, then a journalist covering the war.   On the 12 March 1961, the then Chairman of Anglo American Corporation, Harry Oppenheimer officially opened the Garden of Remembrance. Contrary to military tradition, officers and men agreed to parade together. The parade was taken by RSM Lendrum, of the Transvaal Scottish. In the parade were Bobby Wilson (Lt. Col), Allen Snijman (Major), Harry Oppenheimer (Capt), Rod Metlerkamp (Capt), Max Itzigsohn (Sgt) and many others. In his stentorian tones the Sergeant Major formed them up in front of the clubhouse, and marched them to the graveyard where a service was held. It was a touching and impressive ceremony.   The opening was also attended by the then Chairman of the War Graves Board, Dr AW Kieser, the mayors of Vereeniging, Sasolburg and Vanderbijlpark, representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the National Secretary of the SA Legion, Major Eric Edmeades.

The remains of 74 British and Colonial soldiers, who were buried at Klip River, Meyerton, Vereeniging, Viljoensdrift and Engelbrechtsdrift, were buried in the Garden of Remembrance.

 

The soldiers were killed in the Vereeniging/ Meyerton district during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902. The cast-iron gravestones and granite memorial, bearing the names of the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, bring to mind those who fought and perished in a strange land, far from their loved ones. The cache is a small container little bigger than a film container. It is camouflaged and it includes a pencil, sharpener, and log sheet. To get to the Garden you need to enter the grounds of the Maccauvlei Golf Club. The entrance is controlled but you will have no problem in getting inside. Just say you are coming to see the monument. Some stealth could be needed as golfers and caddies are nearby! Just a small note to give some background on the reason behind the placement of a monument there. Maccauvlei Golf Club grounds are built on a very historical piece of land. If you drive in through the entrance you will see the remains of the original railroad bridge that was blown up by the Boers in the Boer war. Maccauvlei Golf Club is also on of the places in Vereeniging that the English used as a base camp and some Boer POW was housed there as well. This is why the monument was erected at that spot. Some of the graves is the original graves of English solders that died in and around the Vereeniging are. Other graves are from English soldiers that died in battle elsewhere and that was relocated there. Hope this explains the “silly” location for a monument.

The Garden of Remembrance, situated at the Maccauvlei Golf Course, is the final resting place for seventy-four Canadian, Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in the Vereeniging/Meyerton District during the Anglo-Boer War. These soldiers were initially buried at Klip River, Meyerton, Vereeniging and Engelbrechtsdrift and were reburied at Maccauvlei. An interesting grave at the site is of Lieutenant Robert McKeich who was a member of the 2nd Brigade of the New Zealand Contingent. He was killed at Nitnengt, near Vereeniging, on June 4th 1902. Lieutenant McKiech was the last officer killed in the war, as peace had been declared on 31 May 1902

Retha Fitchat

VEREENIGING. – If the 74 deceased soldiers buried in the Garden of Remembrance at Maccauvlei Golf Course could know what vandals did to their last resting place, they would surely turn in their graves!

The cast-iron gravestones at the grave site were recently removed or broken by thugs and at many graves a heap of broken rocks was all that remained of this once neatly kept graveyard.

According to Mr Humphries Jooste, well-known Vaal Triangle architect with a longstanding interest in this historical site, it is suspected that vandals removed the cast-iron gravestones to sell as scrap metal.

“The thieves will probably sell them for a total of as little as R200, not realising that in historical and sentimental value, they are priceless,” says Jooste.

The soldiers whose remains have been buried in the Garden of Remembrance came from all over the world to fight in the Anglo Boer War.

They served, amongst others, with the Royal Engineers, the Kings Royal Rifles, the Queens own Calvary, the Wales Borderers, the New Zealand Mounties, the Gordon Highlanders and the Norfolk Regiment.

They were killed between 1900 and 1902, and were all buried in isolated graves at places where they saw action in the Vaal Triangle district. Many of them were actually still boys of around 18.

In 1961, the 1820 Settlers organisation decided to collect the remains from these small groups of graves, situated at Viljoensdrift, Engelbrechts Drift, Klip River, Maccauvlei, Meyerton and Vereeniging, and established a single military cemetery at Maccauvlei next to the golf course, where the deceased apparently found peace, until it was disturbed by modern day grave robbers.

Jooste requests all scrap metal companies to be on the lookout for the gravestones. He personally offers a reward for the return of the gravestones.

Anyone with information can contact him on 083 653 1704.

Photos and script from :http://sedibengster.com/13454/soldiers-last-resting-place-vaal-vandalised