15 October 1880, Griqualand West incorporated into the Cape Colony.
15 October 1885, Richard Stable accidentally killed in the Kimberley Mine.
15 October 1899, Martial law proclaimed in Kimberley besieged by Boers.
15 October 1910, SA cricketer Xenophon Balaskas born.
15 October 1913, Edward Cheeseman dies as a result of a biplane accident, South Africa’s first aeroplane casualty.
15 October 1915, George Charles Foster, Diamond Detective Chief, dies.
15 October 1919, Zulu Piet Twala killed by a Tally machine arm.
15 October 1958, William Hayes killed accidentally at the Dutoitspan Mine.
15 October 1973, Andrew Moraldi discovers The Sterns diamond in the Pan Mine weighing 223.60 carats.
15 October 1988, Memorial to the SAP unveiled at the Police Station on Transvaal Road.
South Africa’s first aeroplane crash death
The African Aviation Syndicate moved to Kimberley and established a permanent headquarters at Alexandersfontein.
Plans were made for the establishment of a flying school, with the tacit approval of Brigadier-General Christiaan Beyers, who was Commandant-General of the Union’s newly formed Defence Force. Weston’s dream was approaching reality, but disagreement between the principals forced the Syndicate into liquidation in September 1912.
A group of Kimberley enthusiasts bought the assets at a public auction in 1912, and Paterson started the Paterson Aviation Syndicate.
A disastrous fire in February 1913 had destroyed all Weston’s aircraft and his workshop, but his dream of the establishment of a flying school for South Africa was about to become a reality. Alas, without Weston for on 1 July 1913, the Paterson Aviation Syndicate was registered in Kimberley. Tom Hill who had purchased the biplane (No 36) that Paterson had continued to operate after the liquidation of the first syndicate, was one of the seven directors of the new syndicate. His co-directors were Ernest Oppenheimer, Alpheus Williams, Herbert Harris, Charles May, David Macgill and George Robertson.
On 10 September 1913 General J.C. Smuts representing the Government of the Union of South Africa, and Cecil Compton Paterson in his personal capacity signed a Memorandum of Agreement whereby the Government agreed to have 10 candidate pilots trained at Alexandersfontein. Amazingly, one of them is still with us in 1982, and I count myself honoured and fortunate to have known him for many years, and to have seen him climb into the Compton Paterson replica, shortly before his 90th birthday, and demonstrate how he did it nearly 70 years earlier! He is Brigadier-General Kenneth van der Spuy.
His fellow trainees included B.H. Turner, G.S. Creed, G. Clisdal, E.C. Emmett, G.P. Wallace, M.S. Williams, Hopkins, Solomon and M. van Coller. Private pupils included Arthur Turner (not to be confused with B.H. Turner already listed) who was Paterson’s mechanic, and Miss A.M. Bociarelli.
The biplane that crashed with van der Spuy and Compton Paterson aboard, was rebuilt, and is often referred to as the ‘Paterson No 2’, but Kenny van der Spuy assures me it was always known as the ‘Paterson No 36’ in those days.
Paterson recruited Edward Wallace Cheeseman from the Grahame-White School of Aviation at Hendon, England, but he died on 15 October 1913 after complications (malaria, shock, and a broken leg) following the crash of the second aircraft (that had been rebuilt from the remains of the original No 36 after the crash of Paterson and van der Spuy).
Cheeseman’s remains are incorporated in the monument to the pioneer aviators at Alexandersfontein, not far from the spot where he crashed, and beside the site of the original hangar, on which stands the present hangar housing the replica of the machine in which he crashed. This was the first fatality of a true aircraft accident in South Africa.
(Written by Major D.P. Tidy, 1982).
Pictured is Edward Cheeseman.