“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
“We will remember them.”
This iconic verse from Robert Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem For the Fallen has become an enduring symbol of the two World Wars, and is inscribed on memorials around the world.
It is a haunting passage, one that calls on its readers to remember the countless millions who were not allowed to grow old, and to honour their sacrifice.
Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) doesn’t seem to have understood the lesson.
The GO! & Express was recently approached by SA Legions Lt-Col (Ret) Malcolm Cock, who had a number of concerns about the poor state of the World War 1 and World War 2 memorials on Oxford Street.
“When we went to do an inspection [ahead of the 2020 Armistice celebrations], when I arrived there the soldier’s face had been painted and the bayonet on the rifle – he’s standing there with an old .303 rifle – the bayonet had been broken off.
“When I met with the mayor to lay out the parade, I explained that to him and when he arrived he saw it himself.” Cock said.
Though this was a year ago, there does not seem to be any improvement in the state of the memorials.
The GO! team visited the memorial site and found it in an appalling condition.
First noted was the sheer amount of litter strewn across the grass and piled up next to overflowing rubbish bins or wherever it had been dropped.
A miniature lake had also formed on the grass on one side of the yard, though the source could not be determined.
It only got worse when it came to the memorials.
While the face of the soldier on the World War 1 Cenotaph had been cleaned, someone had painted a face in the wreath on the front, and the granite lab below had a large chunk gouged out.
The bayonet is still missing.
The World War 2 lychgate was in a similar state of disrepair.
For one, the actual gates were missing.
“They disappeared five years ago,” Cock said.
“We were told that they were in storage for repairs but we’ve never seen them.”
Rubbish had been dumped in the middle of the structure, with graffiti covering both the inside and outside of the building.
One of the granite slabs bearing the names of fallen soldiers had also been removed, and the GO! managed to find pieces of it lying in the grass nearby.
Cock said he had asked the municipality four years ago to protect the memorial. “We approached the municipality and asked that they fence the area off properly that it may be protected.
“There was no response,” he said.
The GO! & Express contacted BCM to ask when the monument was last inspected and whether it would be repaired in time for the upcoming Armistice Day celebrations in November.
At the time of going to print, no response had been received.