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Sited on a prominent corner, the War Memorial stands proudly in a landscaped garden at the intersection of two axial paths. The garden is surrounded by a low wrought metal fence. A substantial Lych gate was constructed following WWII at the main northern entrance to the garden.
The memorial is constructed in a fine grained sandstone with classical mouldings and details. Bronze name plaques have been recently removed and replaced with granite. An evocative bronze sculpture of a battle weary soldier forms the centerpiece of the memorial. The sculpture sits on a plinth inscribed with "THE GLORIOUS DEAD PRO PATRIA".
The backdrop to the sculpture is a carved crest of The Municipality of the City of East London and the dedication "TO THE MEN OF EAST LONDON WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 - 1919".
Free standing precast concrete light standards utilise some of the mouldings and details from the memorial. Commemorative events are still held at the Memorial but the Municipality has an ongoing problem of theft, vagrants and vandalism on the site.
In the Mayor's Minute issued by the Municipality of East London for 1921, one of the matters which had concerned the administration of the Municipality and which had merited inclusion in the Mayor's Minute, was the proposed War Memorial. A transcription of the item is provided below:
East London War Memorial
The War Memorial Monument Committee invited competitive designs for a Memorial to the men of East London who fell in various spheres in the Great War, such Memorial to be erected on a Site granted by the Council for that purpose at the top and to the eastwards of Oxford Street.
Fourteen Designs were received. The Assessor, Mr. J.S. Cleland, Chief Government Architect, awarded the first premium of £100 to the Design submitted by Messrs F.J. Ing and R.N. Jackson, architects of Durban, and the second premium of £50 to the Design submitted by Messrs. F. Gordon McIntosh and J. Lockwood Hall, architects, of Pretoria.
The Assessor stated in his report that the Design awarded the first premium "is simple and dignified, and would very fittingly symbolize the heroism and self-sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their country."
The committee accepted the Assessor's award, and adopted Messrs. Ing and Jackson's Design and those gentlemen are now calling for tenders for the execution of the work.
In addition to donating the Site, the City Council has agreed to undertake the work of the laying out of the ground.
Neale, C.J. Minute Of His Worship, The Mayor, For The Mayoral Year Ended September 1921. The Municipality of the City Of East London. Daily Dispatch, Ltd. East London, 1921: pp 19 – 20.
Relevant transcribed portions of an article published in the East London Daily Dispatch of 12 November 1923, pg 5, on the occasion of the unveiling of the War Memorial.
THE WAR MEMORIAL UNVEILED
Ceremony Performed by Sir Henry Lukin
“Under a lowering sky, and with occasional showers of rain making things somewhat uncomfortable, the unveiling of East London’s War Memorial tool place yesterday, the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. The ceremony of unveiling was performed by Major-General Sir Henry T. Lukin, K.C.B., C.M.G, D.S.O so well known on the Border and of dedication by the Ven. Archdeacon Hugh E. Rowley, M.A.
As East Londoners are aware, the memorial is situated at the top of Oxford Street on ground that once was covered with a small plantation of trees, a few of which still remain in the background. The monument which local residents have had an opportunity of viewing for some time past, is not lofty, but is of neat design and attractive appearance. The architects were Messrs. Ing and Jackson of Durban, who were represented here by Messrs Cordeaux and Farrow. The contractor is Mr. Jas Kelly, of Durban and there is no doubt that the memorial is a splendid piece of craftsmanship. The whole scheme is not yet complete. By the time it is finished, it will have cost nearly £6 000. The ground will finally be enclosed with an iron railing, and benches will be fixed at certain points, with an electric light standard near each bench. An Australian myrtle hedge forms part of the scheme and the ground will be planted with grass and thereafter with cycads, Japanese privets, etc. Part of the monument consists of a life-like bronze figure of a soldier in trench kit. Above it is the East London coat of arms and the inscription “To the Men of East London who fell in the Great War, 1914-1919.” Below the figure are the words “The Glorious Dead,” and on panels affixed to each side of the structure are the names of those who made the supreme sacrifice.
The ceremony commenced at 3:30 pm, and, in spite of the threatening nature of the weather, a huge crowd had gathered by the time the proceedings started. A limited number of seats were provided for parents, widows and minor children of deceased soldiers. Of men in uniform of various descriptions, there was a very goodly muster, and the other sex was also represented in the matter of uniform by the Girl Guides, who were present in force. Medals and other decorations were to be seen everywhere. A strong contingent of ex-service men, numbering between three and four hundred, marched from the Head-quarters of the B.E.S.L., and formed up on two sides of the memorial, the parade being under the command of Col. Smedley Williams. The Kaffrarian Rifles, with Col. Currin in command, the R.N.V.R, under the charge of Lieut Jarvis, and the Naval Cadets marched from the Drill Hall, headed by the Band of the Kaffrarian Rifles under Bandmaster W. Smith. The Railway and Harbour Rifles marched from their headquarters. Oxford Street was thronged with interested spectators. The Cadets and Boy Scouts were represented at the ceremony, as were also the Fire Brigade under Capt. B.C Burnett, and the Police. Col. Currin was in command of the parade. The Municipal Band, under the conductorship of Mr. G Freeman, provided the accompaniment for the hymns, and the S John’s Church Choir, augmented, was also in attendance, being under the conductorship of Mr Leslie Needham, organist and choirmaster at S John’s Church. The Caledonian Society’s Pipe Band under Pipe-Major Ross, was present, King William’s Town was represented at the function, among those present from the old Kaffrarian capital being Col. Pringle and Col. Bligh Wall.
On arrival General Lukin inspected the various units, after which he presented medals to Mrs. Bolze, the mother of two men, B.R. Kobus and W.C. Kobus, who lost their lives in the war.
The service was then proceeded with. With Sir Henry Lukin were the deputy Mayor (Cr. Pearce) and Mr. R.E. Dowding, M.B.E., both wearing the robes of office, Ven. Archdeacon Rowley, Rev. R.B. Douglas, Rev. D.H. Hay, Rev. B.J. Wessels, Rev. Harrison Thompson, Rev. Frank Jones, the District Staff Officer, Col. Burgess, C.B.E., D.S.O., Col. Hill, M.C. (President of the East London Branch of the B.E.S.L.) and Mr H J.C. Cordeaux. The opening part of the service was conducted by Rev. Frank Jones, after which the hymn “O God, our help in ages past” was sung, followed by the reading by Rev. R.B. Douglas, of the Lesson, Wisdom, III.1-9, v. 15, 16 and the reading by Rev. D.H. Hay of some words by the Dean of Westminster, Bishop Ryle.
The hymn “O Valiant Hearts” having been sung, the unveiling of the memorial was performed by Gen. Lukin, who immediately before releasing the Union Jack which covered the bronze figure, said: “In the faith of Jesus Christ I unveil this monument in honour of the men of this city who offered their lives in the Great War.” The dedication by Archdeacon Rowley followed, the words he used being: “By the authority committed unto us in the Church of God, we hereby dedicate this memorial to the greater glory of God, and in memory of the men of this city who offered their lives in the Great War, through whose sacrifice we have peace. Amen.”
After the dedication the “Last Post” was sounded by buglers of the Cadets, R.N.V.R and Kaffrarian Rifles, the men on parade presented arms and the Union Jack fluttering at the standard in front of the memorial was half-masted. After the mournful strains of the “Last Post” had died away, the wailing of the pipes was heard, the Lament “Flowers of the Forest” being played by the pipers of the East London Caledonian Society.”
An impressive address was then delivered by Sir Henry Lukin, the buglers blew the “Reveille”, the Roll of Honour was read out, a number of wreaths were laid and the function concluded with the singing of two verses of the National Anthem.
[William MARTINSON. March 2010.]
WAR MEMORIAL, EAST LONDON was won in open competition. Steps and work from ground to plinth level are in Pretoria granite. The remainder is in Flatpan stone. The Roll of Honour is cast bronze and the figure is by the London sculptor, J. W. Jagger, R.A.
(Building Sep 1921:507; East London Daily Depatch 25.6.1921; Jackson 1985)
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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