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UPDATED: 08/10/2021

8 October 1918, Spanish Flu has Kimberley in its deathly grip and fatalities mount.
8 October 1931, Dairyman William Doyle dies after falling down a well at Ronaldsvlei.

Kimberley in the death grip of Spanish Flu

On this day, 8 October 1918, the Spanish Flu epidemic had Kimberley in its death grip. Both the Kimberley High School and Christian Brother’s College, on vacation when the epidemic hit, closed for the duration of the epidemic, and only re-opened on Armistice Day (11 November). They should have opened on 8 October.

Benjamin Bennett, later a well-known author, was a pupil at the High School:
‘Many of the senior boys helped at the Kimberley Hospital. Others were themselves stricken or had to look after the sick in their own homes. Fortunately the plague passed by my home, and I remember vividly, as a little boy, cycling through Kimberley’s streets of death to collect lemons at the City Hall – they were said to be good for one’s health and somehow staved off influenza – then watching the unending funeral processions on their way to the cemeteries’.

Nurses Memorial

The Irish Christian Brothers, those still on their feet, ‘rendered yeomen service in assisting the few doctors available by nursing the sick in their own homes and in the Kimberley hospital’. Quite surprisingly, no Brothers nor Boarders from CBC – all of whom had contracted the flu – died from the disease.

Today, we remember some of those who died so suddenly, especially the nurses who died on duty at the Kimberley Hospital.

The photograph shows the Nurses Memorial at their hostel in the hospital complex.

Nothing yet found that happened this very day in Kimberley’s history. Research continues…


The well-known artist Philip William Bawcombe was born in England 1906 and died aged 94 years in South Africa on New Year’s Day 2000.

He was a painter of landscapes and buildings, working mainly with watercolour, but also with oil, acrylic, gouache and ink. In 1922 Bawcombe was apprenticed to a firm of shopfitters in London; then worked as a designer at Maple and Company, London, for three years; before joining a ship decorating company as the senior designer. From 1930 until 1938 he worked in the British film industry, before moving to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and then finally to South Africa in 1939.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1938; was a member of the London Sketch Club and the Chelsea Arts Club; and a member of NSA and its President in 1948.

From 1939 to 1943 he served in the Camouflage Unit in the Middle East, and was appointed an Official War Artist to the South African forces, serving in North Africa and Italy, from 1943 until the end of the war in 1945.

After the war he worked, while living in South Africa, as an art director and designer in the British film industry; as well as on three films in South Africa during 1970 and 1971. He was the official designer of the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition in Bulawayo in 1953; and from 1962 to 1964 designed villas on Skiathos, an island in Greece.


Newton NG Kerk

From 1946, and up until his death in 2000, he had numerous exhibitions throughout southern Africa.

He was married to Pat Skilliter.

Two of his many publications include Philip Bawcombe’s Johannesburg (1972), and Philip Bawcombe’s Kimberley (1976).


Philip Bawcombe’s Kimberley

All of the original paintings are owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited and hang in the Kimberley Mine Museum (Big Hole).

H.F. Oppenheimer hailed Philip Bawcombe’s Kimberley (1976) as capturing “the spirit and portraying the fabric of old Kimberley.”

Pictured is the cover of Bawcombe’s book on Kimberley, and the Newton NGK.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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