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Today in Kimberley's History

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 11 SEPTEMBER

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11 September 1896, Train accident on Dronfield farm kills stoker W.H. Wonnacott.
11 September 1905, Thomas Raaff accidentally killed in the De Beers Mine.

DID YOU KNOW

There have been two train accidents on Dronfield farm. Both were derailments after collisions, the first, in September 1896, being fatal, while the second in 1908 involved the Johannesburg passenger express known as the “Number 1”.

The train accident on Dronfield farm on 11 September 1896 is worth noting, as there is an association with the first action of the Anglo-Boer War – the Boer capture of the armoured train at Kraaipan on 12/13 October 1899. This particular goods train had left Kimberley at 9pm on the evening of 11 September heading northwards and after cresting Dronfield ridge headed downhill but could not stop in time to avoid cattle sleeping on the line. The steam engine derailed and the stoker, 23-year-old W.H. Wonnacott, was badly scalded and died later that evening in the Kimberley hospital.

The driver, Robert John Flowerday, escaped relatively unhurt from the accident. Flowerday, who lived at 9-11 Shippard Street in Kimberley, was the driver of the leading steam engine when attacked by Boers under command of General de la Rey at Kraaipan, and was the only escapee from the trapped engines and wagons taking two guns into Mafeking. He reached Vryburg some two days after the incident, much of the trip on foot. Private A. Rossiter, who can be classed as the first casualty of the war, was wounded in the incident and later died from his wounds at Vryburg.

The epitaph on the unfortunate Wonnacott’s headstone in Gladstone cemetery, Kimberley, reads:

No more he will stand on the engine,
No more he will steam into town.
He has shut off the steam forever,
He has gone to take up his crown.

The second train accident was on Saturday 17 October 1908. On a day when the wind was blowing strongly, four railway wagons (trucks) were blown from their parking at the Dronfield Refuse Siding on to the main railway line where they travelled northwards until they stopped a good half mile from their starting point. The Kimberley-Johannesburg Express, known as “Number 1” left Kimberley at 7.15pm and hit the four runaway trucks at 7.30pm. Fortunately the alert driver had seen the parked wagons and put on brakes, and although the train did not stop completely, there was only one injury and that to a steward on the train. The steam locomotive was derailed and all railway traffic held up until it was cleared.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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