THEN & NOW: The Durban Cenotaph

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Nov 14, 2018

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Durban - The horrific destruction and loss of life during World War I led to cities, towns and small villages building memorials to the war dead. Durban was no exception, but the process was to be a protracted one. As a result, a temporary memorial was erected, as seen in the first photo.

Not until 1923 was the foundation stone laid for the permanent Cenotaph, which was completed in 1926. The second picture depicts the memorial from a post card published in 1929, after the bronze lions were added.

The third photo was taken at a parade on November 11 last year during which the military honoured its war dead.

The pictures are from correspondent Mark Levin’s collection.

The first temporary Cenotaph.

In early November last year, vandals removed several brass plates from the Cenotaph and it was believed they were sold as scrap metal.

Nine of the plates stolen were erected on walls that surround the Durban City Cenotaph. A tenth plate was removed from the front of the plinth. The plates are inscribed with the names of Durban citizens who fell in all wars. Four brass cappings from a dome were taken and several other plates were damaged during attempts to remove them with a crowbar.

The Independent on Saturday visited the Cenotaph last week and, as the picture from Nqobile Mbonambi shows, the plates have not been replaced and the damage is evident to see.

eThekwini spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela, said the city was doing its “utmost best” to repair the cenotaph for the centenary of the end of World Ward I.

“We are currently working closely with eThekwini Heritage Architects, Urban Design, Amafa, SA legion, etc. We will also be looking at the permanent repair of the plaques around the Cenotaph.

Mayisela added the matter was still in court. “So we cannot tamper with evidence.”

The Independent on Saturday

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