NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
MACHAVIE RAIL ACCIDENT, NEAR KLEKSDORP, NORTH WEST PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA
SATURDAY 12 APRIL 1902
|BOURNE||Charles Spencer||6042||Christchurch, Canterbury|
|BRUCE||James||6035||Oamaru, North Otago|
|FOSS #||William||6123||Waihi, Auckland|
|HARRIS||James Alfred||6126||Athol, Southland|
|JONES||John Henry||6063||Wendonside, Southland|
|LOWE||Francis David||6071||Styx, Canterbury|
|MACDONALD||Archibald Hutchinson||6084||Oamaru, North Otago|
|MALONEY||John||6085||Little River, Canterbury|
|OSBORNE||Robert||6092||Middlemarch, Central Otago|
|PEARSON||Alfred Edward *||6122||Oamaru, North Otago|
|WHETTER||William Henry *||6115||Waikouaiti, East Otago|
|WHITEHEAD||David Lunam *||6016||Dunedin, Otago|
# Enlisted as LEHRS Peter Edward William LEHRS
* Died later from injuries received.
|GRANT||William Chisholm||6057||Middlemarch, Central Otago|
|PLUMRIDGE||Henry R [Harry]||6100||Spreydon, Canterbury|
|THOMAS||Nicholas Lindsay||6114||Waimate, Canterbury|
|WATTS||James Gilbert||5984||West Plains, Invercargill|
Otago Witness , Issue 2515, 28 May 1902, Page 28
THE MACHAVIE DISASTER
The Southland Times has received from Mr Brebner, stationmaster, the following interesting account of the railway collision at Machavie, in the Transvaal, in which many members of the Eighth New Zealand Contingent were killed or injured, written by his son, Lieutenant O. W. Brebner, now serving with General W. Kitchener's column in South Africa : Ś On the morning of the 12th I went over to the New Zealand lines to see some of the Otago and Southland boys, but learned that they had not arrived. I then went down to the station to meet them, when I was told that a collision had occurred between Machavie and Potchefstroom, where a goods train had collided with the troop train bringing the New Zealanders. A light engine was just leaving, taking the railway inspector to the scene of the disaster, and he kindly allowed me to accompany him. The ride of about 20 miles was not very pleasant, sitting on the water tank with steam and smoke blowing over me. We did not stop until we reached Machavie, the station where the fatal mistake was made. It appears that the acting-stationmaster, a young and inexperienced man, confused the numbers of his trains, doubtless through the extra rush of traffic. A goods train from Klerksdorp to Johannesburg was to cross both troop trains at Machavie. One of the troop trains had arrived, and the stationmaster, mistaking a ration train which was standing in the yard for the other troop train, despatched the "goods" before the second train had arrived. He soon after discovered his mistake and telephoned to the next blockhouse to try to stop the goods, but was too late to avert the catastrophe. When the drivers of the approaching trains saw each other, they applied the brakes, but it was too late, and they dashed into each other at a speed of from 12 to 15 miles an hour. The first truck, containing troopers, was smashed to pieces; the next, containing 15 men, turned completely over, and landed right side up several yards away, with only one man slightly hurt. The front truck mounted the first, and the fourth, containing horses, was thrown, sideways upon the first, and, strange to say, not a single horse was seriously injured. The horses in the next trucks were not so fortunate, nine being killed. Corporal Hunter, of Invercargill, was in the second waggon which, turned over, and had a wonderful escape. As soon, as he pulled himself together he mounted a horse and rode to Potchefstroom for assistance. As he passed the blockhouses he was mistaken for a Boer and was fired on, but escaped unhurt, and succeeded in getting an ambulance train to come out. As soon, as possible the dead were separated from the injured, and some dreadful sights were seen. Nine were killed outright and four died: shortly afterwards, while 13 were injured. One poor fellow prayed to his comrades to shoot him, as he was suffering so much. The injured were taken to Potchefstroom Hospital, and the dead were placed in blankets and taken on to Klerksdorp. The accident occurred at 8 a.m., and it was 5 p.m. before the line was cleared. I returned to Klerksdorp with the first train to get through, reaching there at 2 a.m. next day. When the stationmaster found what had happened he tried to shoot himself, but was I prevented from doing so and placed under I arrest. The funeral was a most impressive sight. First came the firing party, with reversed arms, the band following, playing a funeral march then the 13 bodies, each, carried on a stretcher by four of their comrades, and covered with flags and wreaths. I Then followed men from the various regiment. On reaching the cemetery the burial service was read by the New Zealand chaplain in presence of several thousand soldiers and civilians. The last post was then sounded on the side-drums, the whole battalion standing at "the present." The regiments then marched off to their respective units, leaving a few still lingering by the graves of their late comrades.
Otago Daily Times , Issue 12328, 16 April 1902, Page 5
THE SCENE OF THE DISASTER. (From Our Own Correspondent.)
CHRISTCHURCH, April 15.áMachavie,áthe scene of the disaster to the Eighth Contingent, is a small station halfway between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom, and less than 20 miles from the former place. To have reachedáMachavieáthe contingent must have first journeyed by rail to Johannesburg, and then entrained on the branch line terminating at Klerksdorp.áMachavieáis close to the frontier of the Transvaal, and just north of the Vaal River. Mr R. Tubman, who is at present in charge of horses at the Addington camp, under the Stock Department, and who was a member of one of the previous New Zealand contingents, informed a representative of Truth that whilst in South Africa he had travelled on the Klerksdorp line, which is a branch line from Johannesburg. The inclines and curves on the line are somewhat heavy, and sharp, and in some places the grade is about 1 in 40. Between four and six miles before reaching Klerksdorp there is a very heavy incline and a sharp curve, and Mr Tubman expresses the opinion that in all probability this is where the accident has occurred.
PARTICULARS OF THOSE KILLED AND WOUNDED. Trooper P. ROGERS was a farm hand, and a well-known man in the Tapanui and Heriot districts. He has a sister living at Woodhaugh, and a brother working on Mount Royal Station near Palmerston. His father, who is dead was formerly stationmaster at Caversham. His mother is said to be living in Melbourne.
Trooper Robert OSBORNE, of Middlemarch was a farm hand. Trooper J BRUCE of Oamaru, is a son of Mr G. BRUCE of that town, and was a tailor by trade. Trooper F. L. D. LOWE was well known in Styx, near Christchurch, where his mother a widow, owns a farm, on which her son, prior to his enlistment, was engaged. He was between 19 and 21 years of age, and is described as a steady and straightforward "young chap, who never drank." In connection with Trooper A. F. LEERS whose real name is William FOSS, there is a somewhat romantic incident. It appears that he made several attempts to get into the Eighth contingent, variously stated at from four to six attempts. His modus operandi was to assume the name of some applicant who failed to answer his name and pass himself off as the trooper in question. On every occasion, however, he appears to have been rejected either for riding or shooting. Evidently towards the end he improved in these particulars, for he was ultimately accepted under the name of Leers. Trooper Foss was born in St. Albans, where his father, Mr Thomas Foss, resides.
Trooper A. H. MacDONALD was a son of Mr J. MacDonald, draper, of Oamaru, and was employed in his father's shop. He was about 21 years of age, and had been about two years in the Oamaru Rifles, in which corps he was a corporal when he joined the contingent. Trooper M. CANTY was sawmill hand, and hailed from Longbush, Southland, where he was employed in Kelvin's sawmill. His father is also engagaged in the same employment in that district.
Trooper Victor H. BROWN was one of the men selected at Sheffield, Canterbury, at which place he was born. His father resides in the North Island. Trooper Brown, when ho joined was in the employ of a blacksmith at Waddington. He was a member of the Malvern Mounted Rifles, and was about 21 years of age.
Charles Spencer BOURNE was the eldest son of Mr C. F. Bourne, of Christ's College. He was born in Auckland, and was 19 years of age last July. About 18 months before he joined the contingent he was one of the staff at the cable station at Wakapuaku. Trooper Bourne was a lieutenant in the Christ's College Rifles. He left in the H Squadron of the Otago section of the Eighth Contingent, being too late to enlist in the Canterbury section.
MALONEY was a resident of Little River for some five or six years previous to his departure with the Eighth Contingent. He served as a cowboy for several small farmers in the district, and was well respected. His father is an employee at Kinloch Station.
Of the wounded, Corporal D. L. WHITEHEAD was a member of the Dunedin Cycle Corps, and was for some time employed in Messrs A. and T. Burt's engineering shop. His mother resides in Stuart street. Nicholas L. THOMAS had been previously in the Waimate Rifle Volunteers, and hailed from that district. Henry PLUMRIDGE is a son of Mr Thomas Plumridge, of Spreydon, Canterbury, who at one time was a baker in Park road, Addington. Trooper Plumridge was also a baker. Trooper T. LEE was a farm hand prior to enlisting, and was employed on a farm at Dacre, between Edendale and Woodlands, Southland. Trooper W. WHETTER was, prior to enlisting, employed in a store at Alexandra South. Nothing definite could be ascertained regarding Trooper J. C. SIMPSON, but it is thought that he enlisted in the North Canterbury district. Trooper H. Brown, prior to joining the contingent, was employed by the Westport Coal Company in their Coalbrookdale mine. He was a member of the Denniston Rifles and also of the Denniston Brass Band. His parents reside at Denniston.
Trooper Charles JONES, of Dunedin, is a son of the late Captain Jones, who at one time was in command of the steamer Herald. Prior to enlisting he was employed as an electrician on one of the gold dredges near Cromwell. Trooper Leonard THOMAS was prior to joining the contingent, employed in the auction rooms of Messrs Guinness and LeCren at Waimate. He has a brother who is a school teacher at Malvern. Trooper Thomas is about 20 years of age. His people have lived at Waimate for the past five or six years, his father having come from Otago, where he was a gold miner. Trooper GRANT, of Middlemarch, was a farm hand. Trooper Walter DEVON, of Gimmerburn, was a farm hand. Trooper William TURNER, of Outram, was a shepherd. Trooper John EDGAR of Queenstown, was a stockrider. Trooper James Gilbert WHITE, of Invercargill, was a farmer.
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