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Kimberley's Cenotaph


UPDATED: 15/07/2021

15 July 1871, Diamond News reports that there are 43 graves in Dutoitspan cemetery.
15 July 1916, The SA Brigade moves into Delville Wood at 05h00.
15 July 1928, Kimberley’s Cenotaph unveiled in Dutoitspan Road.
15 July 1950, England Women’s hockey team defeat Griqualand West women 7-0.

Kimberley’s Cenotaph unveiled

The Cenotaph, in memory of Kimberley’s 400 men who died during the Great War 1914-1918, was unveiled on Sunday 15 July 1928 in front of a crowd numbering eight to ten thousand persons, and coincided with the annual commemoration of Delville Wood.


Delville Wood

Although not the only war memorial in South Africa dated 1914 – 1919, it is unusual and the reason is that although hostilities ceased on 11 November 1918, the Peace Treaty was only signed in 1919. The Cenotaph was unveiled by four mothers who had each lost either a husband and son, or two sons, during the war.

What is known thus far is the probable names of two of the mothers. A definite “mother” is Catherine Anderson – the wife of William – who lost two sons, while another is Katie Solomon, the wife of local attorney Arthur. It is believed, but not proven, that Ethel Annie Pickering, who lost both her sons in the war, is another of the four. Ethel Pickering is famed for firing the first shell from the Long Cecil gun.

Councillor Henry Schmidt, Mayor of Kimberley, was the Chairman of the War Memorial Committee, and Colonel T. Ormiston DSO VD gave the Unveiling address. The following Reverends played a part in the service: Rev William Pescod, Rev WH Kinsey and Rev JR Albertyn. After World War 2 dates and four additional plaques were added.

The Cenotaph was designed by local architect and artist William Timlin.

Prior to the unveiling ceremony a service unique in South African ecclesiastical history took place in St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, a Pontifical Requiem Mass, said at the time to have been held only once in Rome on a Sunday in the forty years preceding. The service was for the soul of departed soldiers and the preacher was Father Janssen OMI who had served with the German forces in World War I.

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It is generally accepted that Kimberley was founded in July 1871 (the date given variously as 15, 16 or 17 July) when diamonds were discovered at Colesberg Kopje which is the present-day Kimberley Mine popularly known as the ‘Big Hole’. The person credited with finding the first diamond at Colesberg Kopje is Esau Damoense of the Red Cap party.

For the first ten years or so of its existence the place was a ‘bleak, primitive and, above all, insanitary place’. Thousands of people from all over the world flocked to the area hoping to strike it rich and the conditions were chaotic as a tent town sprang up on the veld. Later corrugated iron shacks were constructed.

Kimberley only received that name in July 1873 prior to which it was known as New Rush or Vooruitzigt. The municipality of Kimberley came into being even later. The town was constituted as a municipality in an ordinance published on 27 June 1877.

It was in the 1880s that Kimberley began to take on a more permanent aspect. In 1882 it became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have electric street lighting installed. Brick buildings gradually replaced corrugated iron ones and some grander public buildings appeared, although it was only in the following decades that they became numerous.

Two developments that greatly contributed to the permanence of and more comfortable living conditions in Kimberley were the completion of the water supply pipeline from Riverton on the Vaal River in 1883, and the railway line from the Cape in 1885.

Text: Robert Hart

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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