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Piper Alfie Smith's Funeral


UPDATED: 06/09/2021

6 September 1928, Springbok rugby player Ed Cotty dies at the Pulsator Works.
6 September 1937, Griqua rugby player and administrator JR de Melker dies.
6 September 1980, Kimberley Regiment Band involved in bus accident.

Pictured is Piper Alfie Smith and his funeral at St Alban’s Church.

A terrible day for the Kimberley Regiment

Saturday 6 September 1980 was a terrible day for the members of the Kimberley Regiment Pipe Band when the military vehicle they were travelling in to attend an Army Day at Sishen overturned some 20 kilometres from their destination. The vehicle was a Samil 50.

Piper Alfred Gordon Smith (58 years old), was killed instantly in the accident, and eight adults and eleven school boys were injured, several seriously so.


Piper Alfie Smith

A South African Defence Force Hercules air ambulance took 12 of the injured to No 1 Military Hospital at Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria. The 12 were Pipe Major Dudley Pringle, Piper GWJ (John) Paton, Piper Ramon Allen, Drummer WE Neumann, Drummer C Schoeman (all of the Kimberley Regiment Pipe Band}, Piper N Dickens, Drummer Dave Glover, Trumper Cadet Ed Morgan, Trumpet Cadet K van Wouw, Trumpet Cadet JD Williamson (all from CBC), Drummer R Nuttall, Drummer W England (both from KHS).

Trumpet Cadet J Egan from Boys High was airlifted by helicopter to Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein while Piper D Harris of CBC was helicoptered to No 3 Military Hospital in Bloemfontein.

Other injured were taken by ambulance to the Danie Theron Combat School sick bay. They were Piper Dale Rucastle and Piper Sean Peine of the Kimberley Regiment and Piper Bruce Mitchell of Boys High.

Drum Major Charles Ross and Sergeant Drummer Keith Söderlund of the Regiment were discharged after treatment.

De Beers Consolidated Mines allowed use of two of their aircraft to take wives and parents of the injured to Pretoria late on the Saturday afternoon.

Alfie Smith was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Western Desert with the ILH/KR and among other service medals, had been presented with the Chief of the Army’s Commendation Medal.

Born in 1922 he began work with De Beers in 1938, being presented with the 40 years service award in 1978. He was a volunteer piper in the Regimental pipe band and spent most of his time teaching both young and old to play the bagpipes. Highly respected and liked by his fellow band members and work colleagues, Alfie left his wife Olga and two daughters, Gail and Barbara, to mourn his passing.


Kimberley Regiment Cap Badge

He was buried in Kimberley’s West End cemetery after a funeral service at St Alban’s Church.

6 September 1928, Springbok rugby player Ed Cotty dies at the Pulsator Works.
6 September 1937, Griqua rugby player and administrator JR de Melker dies.


John de Melker is not as well-known as his brother, the Springbok rugby player Sidney, nor as infamous as his brother’s wife, Daisy. Nevertheless, he too had a life that was fulfilling and had it not been for an unfortunate accident, would have played for the 1891 South African rugby side. He was selected but withdrew.


John de Melker

John Robert Adolf de Melker was born in Cape Town on 10 February 1871 to Arie de Melker and Dorothea Jacoba Izabella de Melker (nee Zeeman), and Christened in the Dutch Reformed Church on 5 March that same year.

While still at a young age the family relocated to the lure of the diamond fields and, like his brother, was educated at the Kimberley High Schools. At the age of 14 years he captained the Kimberley Junior rugby team and some ten years later was undoubtedly the top all round athlete on the diamond fields.

A founder member of both the Kimberley Athletic Club and the Kimberley Rugby Football Club, he represented Griqualand West at rugby from 1891 to 1899, being the half-back partner to Jackie Powell, the famous Springbok rugby player. John was also one of the fortunate few to have won a Currie Cup, this when Griquas won in 1899.

He was a better than average cricket player and at athletics was outstanding, being a champion sprinter. It was a proud boast that he never left a sports meeting without a prize.

It is however, as an administrator of sport and coach of rugby that he should be remembered. For over 25 years he was an active coach with the Kimberley Rugby Football Club (and their Honorary Secretary) as well as at KHS and CBC.

For 20 years he was also the Secretary for the De Beers Athletic sports, and was also Honorary Secretary and the Groundsman for the Kimberley Athletic Club.

With his keen interest in schoolboy rugby, he used to repair the balls used in club and provincial matches and issue them to the schools the following season.

He died on 6 September 1937, and when buried in Kimberley’s West End cemetery, a rugby ball was attached to the coffin by silver fastenings.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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