The War Memorial in Cathcart, Eastern Cape, is set in well-tended grounds along Main Street.
A uniformed soldier stands guard at the top. Traces of red paint from an earlier bout of the vandalization of monuments was still visible in 2016.
Even more so from behind.
The monument bears a plaque: THIS MONUMENT IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THE TOWN & DISTRICT OF CATHCART WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. Apart from giving their ranks, the names of the eighteen dead are written out in full. Two possibly come from the same family, if not brothers then they are surely cousins: Scout John Henry Ferguson and Private Arthur William Ferguson. The sentiment ‘laid down their lives’ refers to the giving up of one’s life for a good purpose or to die for a good cause. The implication that we should honour these men for doing just this is thus clear in spite of the reminder – so in keeping with many memorials of the time – in the familiar quotation from John 15:13 – “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN MAY LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS” at the end.
What no-one realised at the time was that another sacrifice of loved ones would be called for during the Second World War. LEST WE FORGET this plaque, erected by the M.O.T.H.S reads ahead of the ROLL OF HONOUR OF THE MEN OF CATHCART AND DISTRICT WHO MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR. This time, as well as their rank, twenty names are given in full – all from families that remain in the Eastern Cape. The final quotation is “NOT FOR OURSELVES BUT FOR OTHERS”. This, I understand, is derived Cicero’s treatise On Duties.
That is where most war memorials would have ended, except that South Africans have been embroiled in other conflicts since. Another plaque was erected. This one is headed DIED IN SERVICE TO THEIR COUNTRY and contains only the name of Cpl. Paul Kruger.
The red spray painted letters of ANC is still clearly visible on the stone.
Lest we forget is a phrase we have become used to associating with Remembrance Day services. While the concept of not forgetting is mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:7-9, the phrase was popularised by Rudyard Kipling, who used it several times in his poem Recessional.