Driving in and out of Franschhoek on the R45 as often as I do, I’ve passed a cryptic sign and small memorial dozens of times without stopping to investigate. Eventually, the other day I pulled over to satisfy my curiosity.
The sign reads Bleskop which is Afrikaans for ‘baldy’. Since the memorial is to honour soldiers from the Franschhoek Valley who lost their lives in World War One, the connection to baldness isn’t clear at all. In fact it’s a complete mystery.
The memorial is small and simple with an inscription of only a few names. I’ve tried to find some more information but very little seems to be known about it. One entry on a memorial online forum claims that the soldiers died in Flanders Field and another search result was a blogger as puzzled as I am about the history. I’m also curious about the date – as far as I know WWI ended in 1918 but this memorial shows 1919.
Clearly this memorial isn’t of much current interest to anyone – aside from the lack of info to be found, there’s the sad state of the surrounds … glass, plastic, broken fence, weeds .. shame on Franschhoek for not looking after it. The gardeners at the Huguenot Memorial, which has an immaculate garden, could spend a few minutes there once a month and make a huge difference.
I asked Franschhoek Tourism for more information but they have nothing beyond what I found online. They gave me a lead to get more info but I’ve heard nothing from that contact.
How strange is that? Someone cared enough to build it but no-one seems to have cared enough to record it. It’s highly probable that the descendants of the men listed are not around otherwise they would surely ensure that some care is taken.
UPDATE: I received a reply from the Drakenstein Heemkring, a historical archive group, who also have very little information other than the 2 online results that I had already found. They did mention, however, that since the names on the memorial are all English, the men may have been associated to the Anglo American farms in the area, i.e. the Rhodes Fruit Farm. The mystery continues!