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Cape Town’s Cenotaph war memorial restored in time for Remembrance Day

Cape Town’s Cenotaph war memorial restored in time for Remembrance Day

25 October 2013

Cape Town’s famous war memorial, the Cenotaph, has been moved to its new and final resting place in time for Remembrance Day celebrations on Sunday 10 November 2013.

The Cenotaph, initially erected to honour South Africans who died in battle during World War I, takes pride of place in the Heerengracht, in the heart of the Cape Town CBD.

The striking angel statue, first unveiled on 3 August 1924, had to be moved from Adderley Street to make way for a MyCiTi feeder station. Work on this station has commenced and should be completed by November 2014. This includes building work, gates, signage and passenger information displays.

“The Cenotaph is now located in the middle of the Heerengracht, on the Adderley Street and Heerengracht historic axis – a landmark site with excellent visibility. The new site allows for safe pedestrian access and is acceptable to the military representatives for the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport for Cape Town (TCT), Councillor Brett Herron.

A heritage assessment was commissioned, and the dismantling and reassembly of the Cenotaph took place in accordance with the National Heritage Resources Act. The provincial heritage authority, Heritage Western Cape, authorised the relocation of the Cenotaph.

Every block of the statue was marked, transported to the new location, and carefully repositioned and reconstructed. A new square granite base, similar to the Cenotaph’s historic square base, has been designed and constructed. The Cenotaph soldiers have been repositioned according to the original design.

It is not only a dignified position but also a safer site for the Cenotaph with less threat of vandalism than other proposed sites.

In its original position the Cenotaph was positioned across Adderley Street with the Winged Victory facing Table Mountain. At the inception ceremony it was said: “It was in this vicinity that our gallant South Africans took their last glance back at the old city and mountain, and heard the cheers of friends as they marched down to the docks to embark on their great adventure.”

This is the reason that the Winged Victory faces Table Mountain in its new position.

The angel is a copy of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace – a second century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, which means Victory.

The Cenotaph was initially erected in honour of the South Africans who died in battle during the First World War, which at the time was the greatest struggle the world had ever known. Later, the soldiers who died in the Second World War, as well as the Korean War, were also added to the remembrance list.

“The Cenotaph honours the soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty during some of the greatest struggles the world experienced. It is also a symbol of victory and remembrance of those who fought so bravely for our country,” said Councillor Herron.

The City is confident that the new location will make this monument far more accessible to members of the public as well as for ceremonies.

Photo: Bruce Sutherland, City of Cape Town