The Memorial Hall was built to honour the service and sacrifice of the men and women of Dundee and District who served in World War 2. It was built with the sweat and commitment and financial contributions of many Dundee and District people and organizations, but primarily through the efforts of local members of the BCESL (the South African Legion of the British Commonwealth Ex-Service League – see www/ and the local MOTHS (Memorable Order of Tin Hats - see of Dundee's Endumeni Shellhole (a shellhole is what the local MOTH branches and meeting venues are called). Because of those joint efforts there were, quite properly, loud objections (especially from BCESL members such as my mother) to the frequently used reference to the hall as the “MOTH Hall.” The “MOTH Hall” it was certainly not. Nevertheless, given the huge contribution of the MOTHS to the building and funding of the hall, and to the fact that the Endumeni MOTH Shellhole was and still is located under the stage of the hall, it is not inappropriate that the two subjects of the Memorial Hall and the MOTHS should be combined in this one article.

The national MOTH organization was founded by a Durban man, Charles Evenden, following an upwelling of concern for the welfare of ex-servicemen triggered by the publication of his newspaper cartoon, in 1927, depicting a wounded soldier and a bullet-riddled World War 1 tin hat in a sea bearing the word “Forgetfulness.” The ideals of the MOTH order are “True Comradeship, Mutual Help, and Sound Memory,” implemented by “helping fellow comrades in need, either financially or physically, and to remember all servicemen who have answered the Sunset Call, both in war and peace time.” Given the large number of World War 1 veterans in Dundee and the surrounding district at that time, I assume that the local shellhole must have been established soon after the founding of the national organization, i.e. the late 1920s.

The BCESL was founded in 1921 by British World War 1 Field Marshal Earl Haig, South African Prime Minister General (later Field Marshal) J. C. Smuts, and South African World War 1 commander General Lukin. Its objective was to relieve the plight of soldiers who had returned from the horrors of the battlefields of France and Flanders in World War 1. The organization fulfilled its mission by providing care, employment and housing for former service personnel. In the 1950s Dundee had both a men’s branch and a Women’s Auxiliary branch of the BCESL.

As I understand the history of the events that led up to the building of the hall, towards the end of World War 2 (i.e. just before the mid 1940s) a group of Dundee citizens got together to devise an appropriate memorial to the servicemen and women of Dundee and District who had served, and succumbed, in World War 2. Unlike the cenotaph in Victoria Street that serves as a memorial for service personnel of World War 1, the intention was to build a living memorial that would be useful to the community. A committee known as the War Memorial Hall Committee, including representatives of the MOTHS and the BCESL, was established to pursue this objective. The founding committee members apparently included Hamish Smith and Jack McAlister, and subsequent members included Denis Smith and my father, George Clark.

The ex-servicemen who returned from World War 2 did so determined to make the world a better place to live in. And the Dundee and District returnees did their share in pursuing that objective: the community service and charity work performed in the 1950s and 1960s in Dundee by those ex-servicemen and women – and their spouses – was nothing short of amazing. Probably the most important of those public service projects, and certainly the most visible and lasting, was the building of the Memorial Hall, which commenced in the early 1950s (and perhaps even slightly before that).

The first step in the ambitious project of building the hall was to build the shellhole itself, so that there would be a venue for MOTH meetings. When the building work on the hall complex commenced there was insufficient money to hire a contractor, so the MOTHS decided to start doing the building work themselves. The shellhole portion was largely if not completely built by the MOTHS themselves. Like my Dad, a number of the Moths were bricklayers, or skilled in other building trades. Bob Holliday and Chummy Milne (both of whom worked with my Dad at Johnston & Keith) were two of the bricklayers. Another was Jimmy Marshall, who in his later years became the protector of the spirit of the shellhole and its memories. And while I cannot recall for sure, other MOTHS who were skilled artisans like plumber Sid Baker and bricklayer Dick Douglas put themselves to work too, as did Andy Kirkwood (also a plumber, I think). These MOTHS actually laid the bricks and did the plumbing and carpentry themselves – assisted by other MOTHS with practical skills such as farmers (including Doug Smith and John Sparks). Those who could not lay bricks – the accountants, lawyers and mining engineers – manhandled wheelbarrows full of “dagha” (i.e. the cement and sand mixture used for laying bricks) and bricks, acting as the labourers supporting the artisans. At the tender age of about seven I was one of the latter group – I learned, among other things, that a bricklayer’s assistant places piles of bricks at appropriate intervals along the wall being built, in two rows piled three or four rows high, and about ten bricks in length, stacked parallel. At similar intervals were “dagha boards”, i.e. wooden boards about two feet square where the dagha used in building the wall would be placed, ready for the bricklayers who were proceeding down the wall. Weekend after weekend these dedicated men (aided by their spouses, who provided lunches and teas and encouragement) toiled to build this memorial to their fallen comrades. Since I would generally accompany my Dad to “help” in the construction, I shared the excitement of the progress made each weekend.

After a day’s work, drinks and snacks would be served, and the “builders” would have the chance to swap yarns about a variety of subjects. Most frequently they talked about the war – mainly banter and humorous stories, but often tales of hardship and tragedy. I was an attentive listener at these gatherings. One of my most vivid recollections of those days (as a seven year old!) is my surprise that these guys talked so much about things that seemed to me to have happened so long ago – in fact a mere ten or twelve years ago, during World War 2 – but a period of time that was more than a lifetime in the past for me at that young age. Now I am older, and have a habit of looking back much further than that (as with this website!), I readily understand that these men were talking of events which, to them, were as vivid as if they had happened almost yesterday.

As the building progressed – very slowly given the all-volunteer workforce – fundraising efforts of all kinds were taking place. Eventually there must have been enough money to permit a bond to be obtained, and Johnston & Keith was hired to complete the construction work. Hamish Smith (grandson of the town’s founder, and father of MOTH Denis Smith) arranged the financing. Hamish and his wife Ivy deserve special recognition for making a substantial donation to pay off the shortfall between the loan and the cost of construction.

The Hall was completed in the mid 1950’s. According to “A Century History of Dundee,” at page 104, the hall was officially opened on October 13, 1956 by the then head of the South African Defence Force, General Klopper (General Klopper had acquired notoriety in World War 2 by surrendering the Tobruk Garrison in North Africa to Rommel on June 21, 1942 – the greatest defeat in South African military history, resulting in the capture and imprisonment of around 6,000 South African and other Allied service personnel, and an event which still raises the hackles of survivors and those interested in the war). The general arrived by air at the Dundee aerodrome, and to his surprise was met by his former driver from when he was serving in North Africa, Ben van Tubbergh – a local MOTH, who was then the manager of the Corner Service Station on the corner of Victoria and Gladstone streets. There was a military parade provided by the Natal Carbineers, who visited the town complete with their pipe band. I vividly remember the Carbineers formed up in King Edward Street, and marching through the town.

While the hall had been built and officially opened, it was far from being paid for. The whole community of Dundee and District rallied together to pay off the bond. Among the greatest contributors was the BCESL ladies’ committee, who made their contribution by catering for weddings, concerts, and other functions in the hall. Babs Brink was the “general in charge” of the catering team, and she was ably assisted by Daphne Clark, Maureen Smith, Girlie Reynolds, Justine Smith, and a number of others whose names I cannot now recall. The hall was a popular venue for weddings (especially) and other functions such as concerts, and the valiant team of caterers staffed most of these events – sometimes two or three times a month. One of the earliest weddings – probably in about 1956, and perhaps even before the hall was officially opened – was the wedding of Margaret (?) Williams, a St. James Church Sunday School teacher and daughter of the Williams family who lived in the house next to Williams Bakery (on the corner of Boundary Road and Beaconsfield Street).

There were a variety of other fundraising efforts. In the 50s there was no stereo sound available, but “hi-fi” (high fidelity sound) was new on the scene. Ken Simpson (a MOTH and well known local audiophile) introduced hi-fi to the town by putting on a series of very popular “hi fi concerts” in the Memorial Hall, to demonstrate the features of this new medium. (He built speakers and located them all around the hall for maximum effect.) And the Northern Natal Courier of those days bears witness to the variety of efforts to raise funds: for example, the November 18, 1955 edition reports on donations given to the War Memorial Hall Committee in memory of local residents who had died. This was a common way of making donations to pay for construction of the hall. And there were cake sales and “beetle drives” and jumble sales and a variety of other fund raising efforts for the same purpose.

A great contributor to hall funds was a series of musicals sponsored by the MOTHS (under the guise of “Endumeni (Moth) Productions”). These musicals are described elsewhere on the website. They were produced by Molly Bennett of Wasbank and Hazel Durham of Dundee, and included Girls of Gottenberg (1958), A Country Girl (1959), White Horse Inn, and Rio Rita (1963). The players were all local people, mainly without any theatrical experience or training, and some rather talented people emerged.

The Dundee MOTHs – with MOTHs from Nqutu’s Isandlwana Shellhole (including Harold Wilmot, Basil van Heerden, Ian Hay, and Gordon Dummer) – used to participate in the annual commemoration of the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana on the Sunday nearest to January 22. The proceedings – which I recall attending each year from the mid 50’s until at least 1963 – would start with a wreath laying at the sites of the various tombs and memorials at the foot of the “head” end of the Isandlwana mountain. After the service we would then proceed to the grounds of the St. Vincent’s Anglican Mission Church about a half mile from the “tail” end of the mountain, and enjoy a picnic under the trees near the church. At the time the Anglican priest was Rev. Peter Harker. While the adults were enjoying their beers and conversations, us kids would climb the mountain and roam the battlefield, picking up “doppies” (spent bullet cartridges), shell fragments, and other remnants of the battle (none of which were still lying around any more when I last visited the battlefield in 2002).

Though not all of them participated in the building of the hall and other events (some only came to Dundee later), among the ex servicemen who belonged to the Endumeni Shellhole included Keith Gordon (magistrate at Glencoe, and later someone I appeared before regularly when he was the Chief Civil Magistrate in Durban in the 1970’s and early 80’s), Val Williams (who brought back his wife, Izora, from Italy), “Loll” Hudson (a Londoner who, as I recall the myth, was at the beginning of World War 2 assigned to one of the last British cavalry regiments still on horseback – to fight German panzer tanks!), and Corrie Lundin (the local Old Mutual Manager). Other MOTHS included Les Archbell, Jeff Belville, Jimmy Douglas, Tommy Dudley, Dave Fowler, Sol Levinsohn, Andy Rankin (Mines Inspector), Tommy Reid, Denis Smith (great grandson of the founder of the town, and prominent local attorney), Archie Trimmer (the “grand Old Man” of the shellhole), Dudley “Minch” Aitken, Jimmy Simpson, Alan Helmer, Ernie Richards, George Chadwick, Ernie Arnold, Fred Jones, and Nic Schwartz.

The men of Dundee and District who died in World War 2 and in whose memory the Memorial Hall was built, and whose names are commemorated on the plaque in the foyer of the hall, are the following:

J. Barklie
C. S. Barclay
F.W. Brokensha
W.D. Brokensha
A.S. Carter
E.D. Clarke
A. Dickenson
J.E. Everton
C.H. Haworth
H. Jeudwine
K. Lockhart-Ross
J. Lyon
J.D. Miller
R.B. Miller
L. Mitchell
P.B. McNeil
T.L. Parry
E.D. Pollack
R.T.A. Pugin
T. Stokkeland
C.A.M. Stokoe
M. Symonds
A.F.B. White
L. Wood
W.C. Wood
R. Wotherspoon

To bring home with chilling effect what an impact World War 2 had on the town as a whole, one only has to read the “Roll of Honour” published by the Trinity Presbyterian Church in the mid-1950s of “Members and Adherents” who served in that war (why none of those who are shown as having given their lives are not listed in the Memorial Hall plaque is unexplained, and suggests that the toll may have been higher than recorded in the War Memorial Hall.

These Gave Their Lives

Barclay, George Stevenson
Gold, Lester Ralph
Salomons, Robert Campbell
Reynolds, Desmond Fregona

These Served King and Country

Baasch, Victor
Baker, Arthur Verdun
Baker, Frank Sydney
Baxter, David Gallately
Baxter, Hector M.
Bell, Charles Stewart
Bell, Paul Hastings
Boucher, Arthur J.
Clark, George
Coffey, Andrew Clark
Cope, Leslie
Donkin, Frederick Alfred
Donkin, Raymond
Douglas, James Law
Dunwoodie, Hugh Valler
Durham, Owen
Goldie, David Richard
Hughes, George
Hughes, Jack
Johnston, Harold
Johnston, Norman
Johnstone, John Swanson
Jones, Hilary
Linscott, Edward
McArthur, Colin
McGibbon, Alec Thomas
McLagan, Brian Stewart
McWilliam, Roland Scott
Mordue, Edward
Nash, Owen
Pester, Ernest Frank
Phoenix, Dorothy
Preston, Ralph
Ramage, William Thomas
Schultz, Ivan
Smith, Douglas Barclay
Smith, Marshall Ramsey
Smith, R. Clarence
Smith, William
Townsend, Frederick
Turnbull, Marshall
Walley, Earl

While on the subject of sacrifice of Dundee and District men in wartime, it is appropriate to also recognise those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War 1. As recorded on the Cenotaph in Victoria Street, they are the following (the number of casualties is astonishing for such a small town).

Codd, E.W. (Sergt. M.M. 2nd SAI)(No. 11434)
DeBavy, R.A.R. (Tpr. 4th SAI)
Dick, C. (Lieut. KRR)
Duncan, G. (Gnr. SAFA)
Elliott, R.J. (Mast. MTC)
Elliott, F.P. (Lieut. C. Engrs)
Franklin, S. (Pte.2nd SAI)
Greenhough, P.R. (Cpl. M.M. 2nd SAI)(No. 6346)
Greenhough, L.R. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Green G.G. (Capt. M.C. 2d SAI)
Harris, A.C. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Harding, A.R.F. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Head, H.J. (Pte. 2nd KRR)
Hearn, R.J.R. (Capt. S.A. Rifles)
Heslop, I. (Pte. 10th SAI)
Horsford, A.E. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Hudson, T. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Hume, D.G.W. (Lieut. S.A. Corps. R. E.)
Humphrey, H. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Hutchinson, T.P. (Tpr. 4th SAH)
Jenkinson, C. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Jerred, F.H. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Langenhoven, C.F. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Lennox, F. C. (Tpr. N.L.H)
Lennox, J.G. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Leslie, T. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Lyle, H.N. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Medlicott, C.H. (2nd Lieut. 3rd SAI)
Maun, W. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Marsh, W.S. (Lieut. 4th SAI)
Moolman, J.B. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Nurse, W.J. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Ogilvie, C.S. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Reid, W. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Richardson, E.B. (Lieut. S.A.L. Corps)
Shaw, W.R. (Sigmn. Sigln Corps
Sjoblom, J.B. (Pte. S.A.H.A.)
Tatham, R.P. (Lieut. 2nd SAI)
Turton, E. (Capt. R.C.A.)
Vincent, A.C.. (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Vincent, E.J., (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Venter, S.J.J., (Pte. 2nd SAI)
Walsh, G.R. (Pte. SAI)
Weir, W.B.S. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Willson, E.W. (Pte. 11th R. Brig.)
Wilson, W. (Pte. 4th SAI)
Wright, S.H. (2nd SAI) 

While transcribing the above list it struck me that the names of the three houses of the Dundee High School - Jerred's, Reid's, and Wright's - all appear on the list. Does this mean that the houses were named in honour of these men, and that they were ex-pupils at the school? (The fourth house is Old Boys.)

In the 1990’s Tom Brokaw, a well known American TV journalist, coined the description the “Greatest Generation” to describe the generation that participated in World War 2 – basically our parents’ generation. See Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation (Random House 1998). The ex-servicemen shown in the MOTH photograph in the Photo Gallery are our fathers and fathers-in-law, and a majority are members of this “Greatest Generation”. Others in the photograph who served in other wars are our grandparents and great uncles and perhaps even great-grandparents. They represent a great part of what made Dundee such a wonderful place to grow up in.

Mention of the sacrifices of the residents of Dundee and District brings to mind the immortal words of the MOTH Prayer, borrowed from Verse 4 of Lawrence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”, which was and is repeated at most MOTH ceremonies, and at all funerals of MOTHS. It reads as follows:

They shall not grow 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.