Ivan Hind
Ivan Hind
THE war memorial in Bezuidenhout Valley that was vandalised with red paint.
THE war memorial in Bezuidenhout Valley that was vandalised with red paint.
Johannesburg - Ivan Hind made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but now his name lies buried under a splash of red paint. He is not the only one.

The names of other Joburgers who fell in World War I are also hidden, thanks to an act of vandalism to the Bezuidenhout Valley war memorial that sits in a small park just off Albertina Sisulu Road.

For years the memorial has suffered numerous acts of vandalism, but now it is set to be moved to nearby Bezuidenhout Park, a safer environment that the City of Johannesburg hopes will protect it from further damage.

Resident Richard Brooksbank, who highlighted the plight of the monument, said: “It has been a long process, but I’m happy the dignity of the memorial will be restored in the near future once the move has taken place.”

His actions resulted in media reports and a sense of urgency.

For years, concerned citizens who wanted to save the monument had been split between those who wanted to have the memorial relocated and those who felt it should stay where it was.

The head of immoveable heritage at the council, Eric Itzkin, said: “That desecration that happened with that red paint just confirmed in some people’s minds that the present location is just not sustainable.

“We had to look at public sites within Bez Valley which had the right qualities. The Bezuidenhout Park was the best option we had.”

Those who wanted to save the memorial believed it had to remain in Bezuidenhout Valley because it was erected to commemorate the men who had lived in the surrounding suburbs.

What will help is that money has been donated for the relocation.

Brendan Hart of Mayat Hart Architecture & Heritage has been tasked with moving the memorial.

Hart wants to tell the story of the Bezuidenhout Valley War Memorial’s hard journey through the Japanese concept of kintsugi.

This is a trdition in which a damaged object is repaired in a way in which its scars are not hidden, but highlighted to represent its experience through time.

The architects wrote in a presentation about the memorial: “The act of repairing and re-using as much of the existing memorial as possible can be seen as a way of honouring the community who originally built the memorial, preserving its materiality and original intent.

“It is a public memorial and, being a public memorial, it needs to be publicly accessible, so we have taken the stance that it would be unfenced, because it is important that people are able to interact with it. And this is a far safer environment.”

The architects have planned to construct a memorial wall at the park from where the memorial is being moved.

Jeanette Bensted-Smith, whose great-great uncle was Ivan Hind, is pleased with the move.

On Saturday, she was part of a heritage tour group that visited a number of war memorials on the eastern side of Johannesburg.

The group drove past the Bezuidenhout Valley war memorial and visited the site of its new home.

Bensted-Smith learnt of her great-great uncle only recently, when she found a box of photographs her father had kept.

Flight Commander Hind’s war story is told through those faded photographs and the information Bensted-Smith has gleaned from the archives.

Hind, who grew up on a plot to the east of Joburg, was a fighter ace who served in the Royal Flying Corps and later in the Royal Air Force.

One of the stories Bensted-Smith discovered about Hind’s heroism was how one night, while still dressed in his pyjamas, he climbed into his fighter plane, took off and shot down a German aircraft that was bombing his aerodrome.

He then went back to bed.

Hind was shot down and killed on August 12, 1918, just three months before the end of the war. He is buried in France.

Bensted-Smith believes that without a graveside his parents would have had only that memorial as a place to visit him and mourn.

“So by defacing this monument you are defacing a grave,” she said.

Saturday Star