Muriel was coached by Rachael Finlayson and she swam for Natal at the South African swimming championships from 1929 - 1935. In 1938 she was killed in a train crash near Vakaranga, in Botswana, on the 4th of April 1938, she was 27 years old.
The South African Amateur Swimming Union presents a memorial trophy, named in her memory, to the winner of the women's 220 yard freestyle at the South African swimming championships.
The story of the train crash at Vakaranga in Botswana was recorded in an article by Richard Clatworthy, and published in the South African Railways magazine in 2015.
Muriel was the Acting Matron of the Francistown Hospital when she had become engaged to be married to Taffy Bennett, the Dispenser at the Serowe Hospital. They had traveled to Bulawayo to buy an engagement ring and the crash occurred on their return journey.
She and Taffy were in their compartment near the front of the the train when it collided with a good train. The engagement ring had been admired by other passengers, and was the only means of identifying her body after the crash.
Taffy Bennett was buried in Francistown, but Muriel's body made the trip back to Durban, where she was buried at the Stellawood cemetery. On the ill-fated train was a letter written by Muriel to her mother from Bulawayo, describing the engagement. It which was also eventually delivered to her family in Durban.
From an article by Richard Clackworthy in SAR/SAS magazine 2015.
Vakaranga (alternatively rendered Makalanga, etc.) is the name of an African tribe, of the Shona group, and the presence of a community of these people along the south-western border of Rhodesia, sandwiched between the amaNdebele and the baTswana, led to this name being given to a siding where the railway line crosses the border into Botswana. From this point on the watershed a river rises to run southward - the Ramaquebane - and the next siding to the south carries this name. The current official names are Ramokgwebana and Bakaranga - I shall use the spellings applicable at the time of this narrative.
While the railway climbs generally toward the north, in the 8 miles from Ramaquebane to Vakaranga the altitude increases from 4194 to 4529 feet, and northbound trains face the formidable ascent known as Vakaranga bank, while for southbound trains this is naturally a fast downhill run. These two sidings are unmanned crossing places, train movements being arranged by the station staffs at Tsessebe (now Tshesebe) and Plumtree. Arrangements were made verbally by phone, confirmed by telegraph, and written orders handed to the train crews. At that time this was the standard method of train operation throughout southern Africa, except for the most heavily trafficked peri-urban systems and the "one engine in steam" branch lines, and its efficacy and safety was accepted as being of a very high order. Rhodesia Railways, in particular, had one of the best passenger safety records in the world.
Although the line is now operated by Rhodesia Railways, this has only been the case for the last few years. Built by the progenitor of Rhodesia Railways, the line from Vryburg through Mafeking and Bechuanaland was initially operated by the Cape Government Railways, and after Union the South African Railways carried on. Thus the operating staff was SAR employees. However the locomotives used, subsequent to a very mixed fleet of CGR types in the earliest years, were supplied by RR. Originally the 7th and 8th classes were used, supplemented from 1913 by the 10th class. The derivation of this class is worth describing in some detail. In 1909 Mr. H. M. Beatty, Chief Locomotive Superintendent of the CGR, had designed a locomotive of the 4-8-2 wheel arrangement, two specimens of which were delivered in 1911, after the creation of the South African Railway by merging the pre-existing systems. (Natal's D. A. Hendrie became Chief Mechanical Engineer and later achieved considerable fame in his field; Beatty retired). These locomotives were designated Class 4 in the SAR's new classification, and in 1913 ten more locomotives, modernised and classified 4A, were delivered. At the same time a lighter version of the same design was built for Rhodesia Railway as their 10th class - seven locomotives (98-104) were delivered in 1913 and the first three were allocated to the Mafeking line. Seven more of the class were added in 1922-3 (153-159) and a further six in 1930 (241-246). By this time the full class of 20 engines were the exclusive power on the Mafeking section. Although not possessed of a great deal of power, they steamed freely and rode easily and were popular with crews and maintenance men. The 480 miles between Mafeking and Bulawayo required caboose working, with two crews alternating, the resting crew riding a caboose immediately behind the engine.
The present system of Cape and Johannesburg Mail trains running on different days is also a recent introduction. Formerly trains from the Cape and Johannesburg ran as pairs, arriving at Bulawayo in close sequence early in the morning (with RR affording daylight connections to the east and north) and departing close together around midday. Sometimes a single train might run, with Cape and Johannesburg portions uniting or separating at Mafeking. At that time the Johannesburg line entered Mafeking from the north, converging with the Rhodesian line. Thus trains between Bulawayo and Johannesburg underwent reversal at Mafeking; in the case of combined trains the Johannesburg portion led northwards while the Cape portion was in front on the southbound trip.
This then was the set-up prevailing on Monday, 4th April, 1938 (incidentally your present author's third birthday.) For Mr. S., the stationmaster at Tsessebe, the day started early - being due for transfer he was up in the small hours to meet his successor, Mr. C., off the northbound Mail train and install him and his family in lodgings for the remainder of the night. S. expected to leave Tsessebe on the Wednesday, and was considerably discomfited to learn from C., when the latter appeared at 8 am, that the Administration expected him to move out on that afternoon's southbound Mail. The handing over procedure and his personal arrangements must perforce be rushed. In the meantime C. had to attend to moving in to his house and reappeared at 11 am. to set about taking over the station. The procedure was complicated by a discrepancy of 2s. 3d. which after much checking was found to have been entered twice. In addition there were parcels and mailbags to be attended to. A break was taken for lunch but S. was away from the office for only about 10 minutes, worrying over the missing 2s. 3d.
Sometime around 2 pm Mr. v. N., Stationmaster at Plumtree, phoned to enquire about the arrangement for crossing train 45, a northbound goods, with the southbound Mail. S. deferred the matter, promising to phone back when 45 had arrived at Tsessebe. The Working Time Table called for the Mail to cross 45 at Tsessebe but as the latter habitually ran ahead of schedule, the crossing was frequently at Ramaquebane or Vakaranga.
At 2.30pm train 45 arrived, and S. phoned v.N. to arrange its forward progress. With the engine blowing off about 25 to 50 yards from the office, he set about writing the crossing order. On completing the order he realised that he had failed to record the fact that certain other trains, which would normally have also crossed 45 in section, were not running. Possibly he could have added this in, but in the event he elected to discard the order and rewrite from scratch. The guard, Harold Botha, had come into the office, and S. handed him the completed order, apologising for the delay and telling him: "Jong, jy moet gou maak." ("Man, you must hurry up.") Botha gave his driver the right-away and the train pulled out at 2.45 pm. C. was occupied in checking cash and books throughout all this.
The handing over was completed around 3pm, and S. left to take his farewells of the ganger and pump man. He changed out of his uniform and at about 4 pm returned to the station. C. had gone up to the points to admit the Mail. At about 4.10 pm, with the train overdue, C. returned to the station building to confer with S. S. remarked that the Mail might have been delayed by the crossing. As C. was later to testify, as S. mentioned the crossing a thought appeared to strike him, and he went into the office and checked the carbon copy of the order he had handed to Botha. Within the minute C. was on the phone to Plumtree. One can but imagine the Plumtree operator's emotions on recognising the dread implications of a seemingly straightforward query: "Please repeat the crossing place arranged for train 45 and the Mail?"
The deadly answer given by v. N. at Plumtree was that the Mail had left with an order to cross 45 at Ramaquebane. The abandoned draft retrieved by S. from his waste paper basket conformed to this, as did the telegraph tape, but the carbon copy of the order handed to Botha on 45 instructed him to cross the Mail at Vakaranga.
On receipt of this order, train 45 had left Tsessebe. At Ramaquebane a passenger was waiting to be picked up, the stop to accommodate this taking one minute. Botha went into the saloon - presumably a compartment within the van - to collect his fare and make out the ticket. This completed, he returned to the guard’s compartment and took his seat in the wing. The train was entering a long cutting, straight at the southern end, the sides of which rose to the full height of the locomotive. The front of the train disappeared from view around a curve . . .
The Mail, a combined train with passengers for the Cape, Transvaal and Natal, left Plumtree at 3.12 pm and ran to and through Vakaranga. The driver was Mr. C. Reynecke, and also on the footplate was Locomotive Inspector Marshall of Kimberley - soon due for retirement, he had gone up front at Plumtree for a farewell taste of locomotive operation on the section. Among the 150 passengers were four of the five daughters of the Figtree stationmaster, Mr. Burger, and a non-related person of the same name, Miss Catherine Elizabeth Burger, travelling south to get married. Also on a nuptial journey was Mr. A. N. Wilson, on the staff of the Standard Bank at Bindura, travelling to King Williams Town to marry a girl coming by sea from India. He had planned to leave Salisbury on the Tuesday but had advanced his trip by two days. Miss Muriel Ensor-Smith, a nurse in her early twenties, a noted Natal swimmer, and Acting Matron of Francistown Hospital, was travelling with her fiancé, Mr. H. W. (Taffy) Bennett, Dispenser at Serowe Hospital and a widower with a child of 3 years (not travelling) - they were actually returning from a trip to Bulawayo where they had selected an Engagement ring and sent off the announcement by telegram. The wife, son and daughter of Mr. F. Barham, a director of the Rhodesian Milling Company in Bulawayo, were on the train - the daughter Margaret was 13 years old, a pupil of Eveline School and a keen Girl Guide. Sergt. C. S. Mackay from London, a member of the Permanent Staff Corps in Bulawayo, was on his way to leave and further training in Britain. Mr. Lennox McEwan, 21, worked at the Monarch Mine near Francistown and had motored as far as Plumtree where he learned that the road ahead was probably impassable as a result of a cloudburst - so he left his car there and took the train. Also boarding the train at Plumtree had been Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Weakly, former Stationmaster at Plumtree, on transfer in similar manner to, though probably not as precipitately as, S.. and a Mr. J. A. Ludich, Permanent Way Inspector on the SAR.
Mr. I. Klein of Gwanda was setting off on a trip to Britain, the first stage of a journey that was to take him around the world. Wednesday's train was the normal boat train for his sailing, but he wished to spend two days in Cape Town. Travelling with him was Mr. M. Hersch of Tweespruit, O.F.S. who had been staying at the Klein’s ranch at Gwanda and was returning home via Kimberley. At lunch time they had shared a table in the dining car with Mr. Bennett and Miss Ensor-Smith — later the Engaged couple had called at the two men's compartment, the leading one in the second coach. They then left to go to their own compartment in the first coach, and the two men lay down on the bunks to read.
In the Dining Car the Chief Steward, P. S. Kloppers, was sitting writing up his books when he felt a severe retardation shock, which threw a woman out of her chair. As he rose from his seat there came a second shock, not so severe, then a terrific shock which flung him against the bar door. The train having come to a halt, he stepped down, saw that the front of the train was a scene of devastation, and hurried forward. A head-on collision had occurred with a goods train - the two locomotives were interlocked, with steam and smoke issuing forth and the screams of injured men from the cab of the Mail's engine. Mr. Kloppers hurried back to the Dining Car for First Aid material, and on arrival found smoke pouring from the windows, so he set off a fire extinguisher and broached the stock of brandy, in response to a call for stimulants.The guard, Mr. J. J. van Wyk, in his van heard two short whistles followed immediately by a shock which threw him from his seat. When he found the train stationary he emerged; saw that an accident had occurred, and set about 31
taking the prescribed measures to protect his train in rear. Mr. J. A. Ludick, the Permanent Way Inspector, was in the first coach behind the caboose. As the train entered the cutting he heard a whistle which he thought was for Mr. Isaacs, a ganger known to be working in the area. Next he experienced "engines banging and carriages cracking, and found myself on top of a piece of plank". Emerging unscathed, he helped the train guards protect the scene.
Benjamin Weakly, former Stationmaster at Plumtree, was with his wife in the first compartment of this coach3, and also recorded two separate jerks, which dislodged suitcases, before the main crash. They also escaped serious injury. In another compartment of this coach a Mrs. Jacobs was lying down reading. Also in the compartment were a little girl and boy. A crash occurred and the engine splintered its way into the coach — the little girl was killed and the boy injured. Mrs. Jacobs crept out of the wreckage uninjured.
In the corridor of the third coach a South African Immigration Official, Mr. J. H. van der Riet, heard the bumping of brakes being violently applied and, acting with remarkable intuition, dashed to the coach end and leaped onto the side of the cutting, as the crash occurred. Also in the corridor of this coach an 11 year old boy, Frederick Weiner, was leaning out of the window. In a remarkable eyewitness experience this boy saw the approaching goods train, shouted to his mother that a collision was imminent, and saw the two locomotives meet and plough across the metals into the bank of the cutting. The inter-coach gangway telescoped, the roof buckled and the drinking water bottle fell to the floor. Most remarkably, this lad and his mother escaped injury.
Harry Moolman, an off-duty Guard, was standing on the balcony of the third coach when the crash occurred, and he was stunned for a while. On recovery he went to the locomotives and helped to remove driver Reynecke, terribly injured but still conscious, from his cab. Reynecke said (probably in Afrikaans) "God, Moolman, my vacuum brake was hard on." He also asked that a telegram be sent to his wife. Moolman gave him some brandy and splinted his arm. While Moolman was attending to fireman Esterhuysen he heard that Reynecke was dying.
The driver of the goods (train 45), Bernardus Rudolph Coetzee, was wedged dead in his cab, burned beyond recognition, with his hand still on a control lever. The newspaper report here introduces a slight mystery: "I was told that the driver of the goods train engine, which had turned over on its side, though pinned under a mass of metal and crushed between firebox and tender, reached up and pulled the safety valve open, thus preventing an explosion." I am advised that the 10th class did have a cord, by which one safety valve could be voluntarily opened, but the Inquest report gave Coetzee's cause of death as "crushed skull" and I suspect - and hope - that unconsciousness came instantaneously. Such purposeful action after the collision seems unlikely - if indeed he affected this precaution in the few seconds available before the impact it shows remarkable foresight and fulfilment of duty.
A coloured ganger, Jose Isaacs, was at work about one mile to the south. He heard the noise of the accident and proceeded towards it. On the way he met a fence guard who, having seen explosives vans in the consist of train 45 as it passed, suggested they might have exploded. After reaching the scene, Isaacs took Mr. Weakly to Ramaquebane by trolley, and from there the transferring Stationmaster telephoned confirmation of disaster at 4.35pm.
As soon as S.'s grievous - it was not then known to be disastrous - lapse was reported over the phone, v.N. at Plumtree told C., who was now in charge at Tsessebe, to instruct S. to take a car and run out. S. did so, discovered Weakly at Ramaquebane, and carried on with him to view the devastation that he had wrought.
The two locomotives were almost completely buried under the following rolling stock which had piled up over and around them. The locomotives were Nos. 153 (North British Locomotive Company no. 22796 of 1922) on the goods
train and 241 (NBLC 23972 of 1930) on the Mail. Both were substantially upright, in contradiction of the press report extract quoted re the safety valve release. Newspaper photos showed the smoke boxes of the two locos interlocked, the left running plate, connecting rod and Walschaerts motion of the goods engine bent outward away from the frame - obviously the cylinder (out of the picture) had sheared away. One coach stood alongside, having overshot the Mail's locomotive to the right - the side panel of another coach topped the debris on top of this engine. A view from behind the goods loco shows a bogie wagon derailed, two short wagons dipped into a V and a long SAR bogie steel van reared up into the sky over the loco - what appears to be the roof of the caboose lies alongside, only feet from the overshooting coach. Another photo shows the twisted frame and detached bogies of a coach in the foreground, the body tipped away exposing the underside of the floor.
A passenger was subsequently quoted as having formed the initial impression that an over bridge had collapsed onto the line - presumably he or she was South African or from overseas as I believe such a structure was unknown in Rhodesia at that time. Both cabooses were effectively demolished, that of the Mail suffering more severely. It becomes something of an exercise to sort out the disposition of the various crew members, not specified in detail in the press reports. The working drivers and guards have been identified. Three firemen - Combrinck4, Esterhuysen and Van Rensburg - lost their lives; two of these were clearly working, as no footplate testimony was subsequently available. Guard Van der Heever is listed as a fatality, clearly in the Mail's caboose, as the relief guard of the goods is identified as Mr. A. D. Sutherland. (Moolman was not involved with the train's operation). Mr. Sutherland, who had been relieved by Botha at Tsessebe, was asleep in his caboose and awoke to find himself amidst wreckage. He extricated himself and, with Mr. Weakly, fetched wrecking tools from the van of the goods train (Botha was protecting in rear in accordance with regulations). In one caboose the African attendant was killed; that of the other disappeared and returned later having taken refuge amongst the local populace.
The remaining crew members, listed as injured in the initial report, were drivers du Toit and Rausch and fireman Van Wyk. We have seen that driver Reynecke and fireman Esterhuysen were extracted from their cab and the former quickly succumbed to injuries and shock. Loco Inspector Marshall was beyond aid, trapped with only an arm exposed.
The ticket examiner, Mr. C. J. Grove, had been delivering a telegram to a passenger at the rear of the train, and had been thrown right out of the carriage. He went the length of the train calling for doctors or nurses and for passengers to assist rescue operations. Mr. Weakly, the Plumtree stationmaster, had started clearing debris and quickly realised that help should be sent for most urgently. He checked the van in hopes of finding a bicycle - then ganger Isaacs appeared and afforded transportation by trolley, as previously described. This being at the south end, they ran downhill to Ramaquebane - Vakaranga was nearer but would have meant manhandling the trolley past the wreckage.
A degree of confusion naturally pervaded the initial check of the passenger list but certain passengers took the lead, together with dining car staff and Immigration officials, in getting rescue operations under way. Mr. I. Klein and Mr. M. Hersch, in their first compartment of the second coach, discovered themselves on a level with the top of the cutting. They scrambled out of the wreckage of the coach and promptly set about the task of extracting the other victims. Other passengers who showed special initiative in setting about rescue operations were Rev. Pauw, Messrs. Collard, C. Mackay, Marshall, T. Smith and Mrs. Kelly. A young nurse, Miss Pickles, returning to Natal, rendered service that was to be commended, but the Acting Matron of Francistown Hospital, Miss Muriel Ensor-Smith, could offer no help — both she and her fiancé Taffy Bennett of Serowe Hospital, had been killed.
The initial newspaper report stated that a man was seen to pick up a little boy and carry him to the top of the cutting but the child died in his arms. However no young boys were among the fatalities. I speculate that this was Miss Carolina Burger, daughter of the Figtree stationmaster — her three sisters were injured and one was to die later in hospital at Bulawayo. Mr. Lennox McEwan, who had left his car to ride the train, died within half an hour of thist ransfer. Miss Margaret Barham was killed, her brother Eric had a broken arm, and their mother was injured. Another fatality was Sergt. Mackay.
There were no medical practitioners among the passengers (a Dr. Sloane mentioned in the press report was a Ph.D. in another field — nonetheless he and his wife and sister-in-law rendered great assistance). The Plumtree Medical Officer, Dr. Knight, was away, but his wife came quickly to the scene accompanied by Sister Westaway of the school hospital. The latter was able to ease driver Reynecke's dying moments with a painkilling injection, but as her stature limited her mobility, Miss Pickles worked under her direction.
Passengers tore up sheets and rolled the strips into bandages. A passenger's photograph published in the Chronicle shows rather indistinctly three ladies seated on a bench working on a pile of sheets, to which a Coloured attendant is adding another pack, while a small boy stands looking on. One woman went hysterical for a while and had to be calmed. A tense moment was provided by the discovery of a lavatory door in the Engaged position but when broken down it was found to be vacant.
One of the first outsiders to appear on the scene was Sergeant Major L. J. Genet of the British South Africa Police (BSAP) at Plumtree, who took matters in hand. Another early arrival was Alan Redfern, Assistant Native Commissioner at Plumtree. While the train was standing at Plumtree he had chatted to Miss Ensor-Smith and admired her newly acquired Engagement ring. Now by this same ring he was to identify her battered body.
Many other helpers came from Plumtree including numbers of schoolboys. As the road diverged widely from the railway, this meant a trek through the bush — a track suitable for motor vehicles was progressively cleared.
As soon as the discrepant orders were brought to light, Plumtree station had sent out an alert, and relief measures wore in preparation at Bulawayo before the collision was confirmed. At 5 pm. a Bulawayo Municipal Ambulance and four members of the BSAP left by road, and half an hour later Dr. Aylmer-May, the Chief Medical Officer of RR, Dr. Casson and Dr. Hart, and four members of the Ambulance division followed them. A relief train was made up with Dr. Houff and seven Ambulance men, and the SAR System Manager at Kimberley, Mr. Agnew, who was on a visit to Bulawayo, had his Saloon attached.
Mr. Cecil Smeeton, a Rhodesia Railways employee and Member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade in Bulawayo, returned to Bulawayo on the day of the accident, having travelled up from South Africa on the same train that had brought C. to Tsessebe. Mr, Smeeton, who had worked previously on the SAR, knew C., but does not recall meeting him on this journey. The Mail train (combined Cape/Transvaal) was running in company with a Tourist special, and at Mahalapye, where and while the locomotives took on coal, and they waited for a southbound goods, Mr. Smeeton chatted to the staff of both trains. Among them was Barry Moolman, Ticket Examiner on the special — although Mr. Smeeton cannot be certain on this point, it seems a safe assumption that the special carried on to Victoria Falls with RR crew, which explains the presence of Mr. Moolman dead-heading south on the returning Mail — he was in fact sharing duty with Mr. Grove, doing the front half of the train while the other attended to the rear half.
In Bulawayo Mr. Smeeton had a number of errands to attend to and returned to his home in the late afternoon to find a message requesting him to come to the station as a serious railway accident had occurred. Expecting something on the lines of a shunter’s amputated limb, he hurried to the station where the Chief Superintendent, Mr. W. E. Dawson, told him what had happened and issued instructions.
The Relief train was being made up in the "north dock", the trackbed of which is now buried under the present Platform 1, which faces onto the second track of four which then occupied the bay. The train consisted of about six coaches, the rearmost of which was Mr. Agnew's private saloon. Mr. Smeeton had 60 SAR beds loaded into the train and pillaged the Catering department for provisions and utensils.
Mr. E. Baldock, a springwright in the workshops, was another member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and as knocking-off time approached he was told not to go home as a serious accident had occurred. He was one of the party that left by road at 5 pm. Another St. John Ambulance Brigade man, Mr. Norman Stephen, went to the Station at about 5pm. to see his father-in-law off on the North Mail. He was promptly sent home to change and returned to join the Relief train.
Mr. Bert Hunter, a Rhodesia Railways driver, and his fireman, Mr. Reg Wright-Ingle, had worked a train from Dett that morning. At about 5 pm. Mr. Hunter was summoned by the call-boy to report to the shed immediately. This was very irregular but there was no question but to comply. At the shed the Locomotive Foreman, Mr. Donald Sinclair, briefed Mr. Hunter - he and his fireman bad been called because they knew the Plumtree road, having worked cattle specials on occasion. Their regular locomotive, 12th class No. 257, had dropped its fire for a boiler washout but another 12th class, No. 206, was being prepared for the trip. Mr. Hunter backed the locomotive into the station and coupled onto the waiting train. He was joined on the platform by Mr. Wright-Ingle, who had been fetched from his bath.
Another driver, Mr. Bert Mead, happened to call at the shed to ascertain his next duty. He also knew the road to Plumtree, and was promptly sent home to change - "Don't bother about any skoff" - in order to work the breakdown train. Mr. Mike Bushney, washout-man at the shed, was impressed to fire the locomotive. While Mr. Mead was away changing, Mr. George Wright, father of the present General Manager, prepared another 12th class, no. 205, for the assignment.
At Plumtree, the staff of Plumtree School were among the first to know of the accident as an immediate call was made to the School Hospital. We have seen that Dr. Knight was away but Mrs. Knight and Sister Westaway proceeded to the scene. Mrs. Knight held First Aid classes at the school, and the participants were called and taken down by lorry - one of them became a casualty himself with a large splinter from the wooden body side.
It was hoped that some Doctors might be flown down from Bulawayo and a car was stationed at the airstrip in readiness. Mr. Lionel Archell, who taught Maths and Chemistry, stationed himself on the road at the nearest access point to the accident scene to guide in helpers as they arrived. In the event, the first Doctor to arrive came from the other direction - Dr. A. Austin Morgan, Railway Medical Officer at Francistown, arrived at about 6.30pm just as it was getting dark. He set to work with efficiency, utilising what dressings and medicaments were available, and had the luggage etc. in the guards van disposed so as to clear the maximum floor area on which bunks from the damaged coaches were arranged to make a ward for some 30 patients.
There was a southbound goods train out of Bulawayo which apparently reached Figtree at or after the time that the news of the accident broke. I am told that Stationmaster Burger, with four daughters to account for, availed himself of this transportation to Plumtree. On arrival at Plumtree, with it now known that most of the stock of the Mail remained on the rails, this locomotive was sent on to the accident scene to bring these coaches out. I am told that the driver of this train was one "Marmie” Wayne5, another Mafeking-based SAR man. However it appears that Mr. Burger was not allowed to proceed with the locomotive. When Mr. Hunter subsequently arrived he noted Mr. Burger on the platform in a high state of agitation. It seems strange and cruel that he was not allowed to go on to the scene - possibly the Plumtree staff, assessing his mental state, saw fit to restrain him.
The first party of ambulance men from Bulawayo arrived at Plumtree just before 7pm. and were guided from Plumtree to the scene. The car containing Drs. Aylmer-May, Gasson and Hart arrived at Plumtree at about 7.30pm and the doctors were confronted with a dilemma - if they went forward by road they might cross the train coming out. It was decided that Drs. Aylner-May and Hart would go on, while Dr. Gasson would stay behind as insurance against this.
The Relief train had left Bulawayo at about 5.50pm behind driver Bert Hunter. Also on the footplate was the SAR agent in Bulawayo, Mr. Jim Heath, who had been instructed to take charge of the operation and who had requested to ride the locomotive. At Khami, where the tender had to be filled with water, Mr. Heath tried to telephone for information but could not get through. Mr. Hunter drove at fast as he considered prudent, and reached Plumtree sometime around 7.30pm having passed through a rainstorm on the way.
With the other engine sent ahead under a Ballast order, there was now no provision compliant with regulations for any other locomotive to enter the section. Mr. Hunter was asked to proceed forward on his own responsibility - the other driver had instructions to phone from Vakaranga before coming out again - and he consented to do so. (At night, with the locomotive headlight visible, directly or indirectly, for miles, this was less risky that it would be by day - I know of another potential collision which was averted by this factor). Mr. Hunter cautiously took the Relief train to Vakaranga where he placed it in the loop line and returned light engine to Plumtree.
I have not been able to find anyone to describe the approach of Mr. Wayne’s locomotive to the wrecked train though this must have been quite a dramatic event as its headlight and the explosion of Guard van Wyk’s detonators heralded its arrival. About 30 injured passengers were laid on the bunks in the guards' van and presumably other passengers from the wrecked coaches were accommodated wherever they could be. The bodies of 19 passengers had already been removed by lorry for Francistown.
It was at about this time that one of the engine crew, who up till then had, in spite of terrible burns, been helping bravely, took a seat in a compartment and was found, a few minutes later, to have died. This was certainly fireman Esterhuysen - other facts support this identification.
Departure from the scene appears to have been at about 9.30p.m. It seems that at Vakaranga the Relief train was also picked up, and the cavalcade returned to Plumtree at about 11pm. At Plumtree the railway staff, their families and other residents had organised some refreshments. Mr. Norman Stephen was given the job of checking survivors against the passenger list.
Meanwhile the Breakdown train behind Mr. Bert Mead travelled more slowly down to Plumtree, the crane being subject to a 20 m.p.h. speed limit. The locomotive was freshly out of workshops, without the customary trial run, and Mr. Bushney had to battle with a sticking fire door. At Figtree the station building was locked and deserted, so the crew broke into the office and obtained authority to proceed. They also arrived at Plumtree at about 11pm. A certain amount of shunting must have been carried out there as Mr. Agnew's saloon and some others were transferred to the Breakdown train.
At about midnight the undamaged stock of the Mail, plus part of the Relief train, left Plumtree for Bulawayo behind No. 206, running tender first. With only a marker light on the tender, it was a case of running blind into a dark night. Mr. Hunter drove cautiously and there was no opportunity to charge the banks, but the rails were dry, No. 206 kept her feet and no difficulty was experienced. Bulawayo was reached at 3.45am and on the platform a fleet of ambulances and lorries waited to transport the injured to hospital. About 100 people were present, to see the doors of the Ambulance van opened. The state of the injured aroused excited comment which was silenced when a shrouded body was carried out – fireman Esterhuysen. The chatter resumed as the second door of the van was opened. By about 5a.m. the last of the injured had been taken to hospital. "Thereafter, those passengers who had been walking up and down the platform returned to their coaches to lie down. The Railway Officials had ample supplies of tea and coffee ready, and this forethought was much appreciated."
"The Bulawayo Chronicle" for Tuesday April 5th 1938 carried the headline "DISASTROUS RAILWAY ACCIDENT NEAR
PLUMTREE" right across the top of its main News page, which was page 7. The “Chronicle” then carried advertising on its front page, classified ads on page 2, radio programmes etc. on page 3, a Company report on page 4, Stock
Exchange on page 5, editorials on page 6, before the news pages. Page 3 also carried a regular column "Day by day" which normally listed, inter alia, arrivals and departures by train, and people booking into the main Hotels. In this issue arrivals were listed but no departures, four inches of column being taken up by a photo of "SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM, who arrived recently in South Africa, takes a great interest in Empire Settlement". Very clearly a space filling substitution had been employed. On the main News page, under the umbrella headline, were five sub-heads, including "Death Roll of 23 and 13 listed as Missing" and "Rescuers hampered by Heavy Storms", the latter not being borne out by my investigations - it had previously been raining (vide Mr. Lennox McEwan’s abandonment of his car) but not at the scene after the accident. In the text the site of the accident was given as Bakaranga, thus inadvertently using the spelling which was to become official 35 years later. The actual lists were very incomplete - the known dead were drivers Coetzee and Reynecke, loco Inspector Marshall, firemen Esterhuysen and van Rensburg, Miss Margaret Barham, child Burger, Mr. Bennett, Miss Ensor-Smith, a man who joined at Bulawayo for Palapye Road, a lady who joined at Bulawayo for Francistown and "many others not so far identified". Missing were fireman Combrinck (Combrinche), guard Van der Heever, two caboose natives and 16 passengers. Injured were drivers Du Toit and Rausch, fireman Van Wyk and 13 passengers. As is customary with such momentous events, an accompanying item listed previous major rail accidents.
In the meantime, driver Mead with the breakdown train had left Plumtree at about midnight. A number of St. John Ambulance men transferred to the breakdown train to attend to the removal of bodies still trapped in the wreckage. Among them were Mr. E. Baldock and Mr. Cecil Smeeton - the latter's fluency in Afrikaans was to fulfil an important liaison function.
At Vakaranga the locomotive ran round the train and propelled it, crane leading, to the accident site which was reached at about 1am. Four arc lights were rigged up and "the men settled down rapidly to clear the debris from the side of the coach immediately in front of the dining saloon. This was still on the rails, but difficulty was experienced in detaching it from the next coach which had left the rails. “With this accomplished a powerful chain was attached to the next coach and the engine began to tug on it, but the coach seemed immovable and after a while the chain snapped in a shower of sparks." Cutting with oxy-acetylene apparatus was then resorted to, the undercarriage of the coach was raised and deposited on the bank exposing the caboose beneath. Dawn broke and at 6.30 the first human remains were encountered - the leg of the Mail’s caboose attendant. The body of Loco Inspector Marshall was exposed and removed, as was that of fireman Combrinck, but that of driver Coetzee could not be extricated without risk of disintegration, so it was left for the time being. Dr. Bernard T. Squires had, at the request of Dr. Austin Morgan, come to the accident scene and he supervised the removal of these bodies. The expected body of the other caboose attendant was not discovered and this remained a mystery until the following day, when an African requested Iodine for a cut and was identified as the missing attendant. At the moment of impact he was opposite the doorway and was catapulted onto the bank of the cutting, whence he simply continued running.
The previous Friday, April Fools' Day, Mr. W. K. J. Skillicorn had succeeded Sir Henry Chapman as General Manager of Rhodesia Railways, and now both men came to view the accident scene (more on this from subsequently received information later). From the South African Railways, Mr. J. D. Whyte, Chief Traffic Manager, Mr. Lindenberg, Chief Superintendent of Motive Power, and Mr. Greathead, Assistant Chief Engineer, flew in to Bulawayo and travelled down by car to conduct an enquiry. This SAR brass watched Mr. P. Buckle operating the crane, to the direction of Locomotive Foreman Donald Sinclair, and were highly impressed. Mr. Smeeton prepared sandwiches and meals from the provisions with which the breakdown van had been stocked. However Mr. Sinclair refused such sustenance, refuelling from time to time with tots of whisky. The debris was progressively removed but it was clear that a diversionary line would have to be built around the wrecked locomotives, which would entail widening out the cutting.
Back in Bulawayo it was decided to send those passengers who were fit and prepared to resume their journey out on a special train to Plumtree, thence to be transported by road to Tsessebe and there entrained in a train to be sent up from the south. This train left Bulawayo at 12.40 p.m. and reached Plumtree at 3.45 p.m. Considering stock logistics, the train probably consisted of the coaches of the original Mail, and I regard it as probable that it was driven by Mr. Wayne or his relief counterpart, they, no doubt, having returned with their locomotive and caboose to Bulawayo. The passengers were taken on to Tsessebe in three light lorries fitted with garden seats, there to await the connection from the south. In the event this only arrived long after dark. Departing in the heat of the day, the passengers were lightly clad, and with the luggage piled into a heap, access to warmer clothes was virtually impossible as the evening chill descended. As northbound mail trains from Johannesburg and the Cape were expected at Tsessebe the following morning, and it was not expected that the line would be clear for their further passage, I consider it probable that the original train was stabled at Plumtree overnight in readiness to receive northbound passengers in the morning.
In the hospital at Bulawayo, Mr. C. R. Jenkin, a 20 year old clerk articled to a Salisbury firm of accountants (and brilliant sportsman who had toured Rhodesia with the St. Johns College, Johannesburg, rugby team) died shortly after admission; Mr. J. Birnie, Manager of the Hotel Victoria at Fort Victoria died in the afternoon, and Miss Loufia Burger, 13 year old daughter of the Figtree station master, died in the evening. During the afternoon Mr. Cecil Smeeton travelled from the accident site to Francistown to assist in identifying some of the victims. Five bodies remained unidentified and Mr. Smeeton was required to telephone descriptions through, to be broadcast by the Southern Rhodesia Broadcasting Service before its closing time of 10pm. These five bodies - two male, three female - were also described in the following day’s Bulawayo Chronicle but as the same issue also listed two men and three women as “Missing”, it was clearly a matter of attaching the correct identity to each. During the day a lorry, belonging I understand to the Rhodesian Milling Company, transported the body of Miss Margaret Barham and probably some others to Bulawayo.
In the afternoon Messrs. Mead and Bushney made a trip into Plumtree with No. 205 to dispose of damaged stock, fill the tender with water, and obtain provisions. Mr. Mead carried instructions and money from Sir Henry Chapman to acquire another bottle of whisky for the breakdown crew, and this was greatly appreciated as a cold night succeeded the heat of the day.
Mr. Smeeton returned to the accident scene in the small hours of Wednesday morning, to find it silent and in darkness - it had been decided to call off the work for 4 hours rest, and everyone was asleep.
Thus ended the day following the disaster.
The headline across the top of the main news page of “The Bulawayo Chronicle” for Wednesday April 6th 1938 was "DEATHROLL IN RAILWAY ACCIDENT NOW TWENTYSIX", subbed "FIVE MISSING AND FIFTEEN IN HOSPITAL”. The whole of this page was given over to the report, as were all bar two columns of another page - a further page was devoted to photographs of the wreckage, with three other photos elsewhere. A full passenger list was given, and there was an 8 column-inch editorial, of which one salient point may be quoted: "The locality and nature of the accident appear to have made it extremely difficult to get word to the big centres from which help could be summoned . . . it may be that the coning investigation will make clear steps which might in future be taken to establish more rapid communication with centres from which relief can be sought . . ."
Under the heading "Premonition of disaster" came a report of how Mrs. F. Scott and her daughter Eveline were travelling from Luanshya to Johannesburg, but the daughter did not wish to travel further so they broke their journey at Bulawayo. On hearing of the accident, they reported to the station, arriving at the office as the passenger lists were being checked. – “So you see, you needn't worry any more about us." With due respect, I would not regard this Waratah-like premonition as being very important in saving their lives, as, travelling to Johannesburg, they would have been in the rear portion of the train, unlikely to suffer severe damage.
At the site, the work of clearing the wreckage was resumed on Wednesday morning by the RR breakdown crane, which had worked unassisted all the previous day. SAR had despatched a crane which had broken down with a defective axle at Lobatsi — another had to be brought from Kimberley, and it was only at 10 o'clock that (Wednesday) morning that it reached the scene. By this time the final two bodies, had been recovered when the tender of the Mail's locomotive was dragged clear. At the moment of impact this tender must have lifted off the rails, allowing the leading end of the caboose, containing guard Van der Heever and fireman Van Rensburg, to telescope beneath it. Removal of this tender allowed the two engines, which had been partly reared up against each ether, to settle. Shifting them sideways, partly up the cutting side, and excavating the base of the opposite bank, made sufficient space for a diversionary track to be laid alongside the obstruction, thus restoring the line for the passage of trains.
During the night mail trains from Johannesburg and the Cape had arrived at Tsessebe. In the morning 100 passengers, with their luggage, were loaded onto a fleet of seven lorries. One passenger subsequently reported his impressions in "The Rhodesia Herald" that he had never seen such a bad road. Jolting through dry river-beds and tilting on the boulder strewn road, from time to time a stop would be necessary to retrieve a dislodged suitcase or a hat whipped off by an overhanging thorn branch. After a three hour journey over the 23 miles they entrained at Plumtree — as already stated, I presume this was the original train-set stabled there after bringing down southbound passengers the previous afternoon. On arrival at Bulawayo there was a rush for baths.
Train movements at Bulawayo are best shown by a table as follows:
scheduled 7.30a.m., actual 1.40p.m.
8.50 a.m., actual 8 p.m.
12.30 p.m., actual 2.35 p.m.
12.50 p.m., actual 9 p.m.
From this it will be seen that the first southbound departure took place only after the arrival of the train from Plumtree already referred to (actually I think this carried both Johannesburg and Cape passengers). Presumably the original formation involved in the accident, it got away again within an hour of arrival in Bulawayo, reflecting creditable turn-round handling. The Johannesburg departure had to await the arrival from the south of a set of SAR stock - this no doubt included the luggage/parcel vans of both trains and was probably the first train over the
"shoofly” past the accident. The arrival time of this southbound Johannesburg train at Francistown is recorded as 3.30 a.m., Thursday, when the body of Miss Ensor-Smith was placed on it for return to Durban.
The first funerals of accident victims took place on Wednesday, in Bulawayo (two) and at Francistown where six bodies that bad not been repatriated elsewhere were interred. The latter funerals, at the cemetery overlooked by the prominent hill Inyangahwe, were conducted by the Rev. G.A. Lee of the Railway Mission. The subjects were Mr. Llewellyn Austin, Mr. H. W. Bennett, Miss Caroline Burger, Capt. Percy Jones, Mr. B. Kay and Mr. A. N. Wilson. At the last minute a telegram had been received from the family of the last-named requesting the return of his body to King Williams Town but in view of the lack of embalming it as decided to proceed with the interment. Later an application was to be filed for the exhumation of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Llewellyn Austin - this was ultimately reported as being refused. However at Francistown cemetery only three graves can now be identified: Mr. Llewellyn Austin, Miss Caroline Burger and Mr. H. W. Bennett - the unmarked plots, between may represent subsequent exhumations or simply failure to erect headstones.
In Bulawayo Miss Margaret Barham and Mr. Lennox McEwan were buried - both funerals were clearly well-attended; those at that of Miss Barham included the District Guide Commissioner and a representative of the Girl Guides Association. The list of those sending wreaths, which “The Chronicle” published in those days, took up almost a full column.
With the line now open to traffic, recovery operations were periodically interrupted by the need for the cranes to return to Vakaranga and Ramoquebane respectively to permit the passage of a train. Such movements were controlled by Jim Heath, SAR agent at Bulawayo, from his temporary station at Vakaranga. In the heat of the day, decomposition of the portions of human tissue littering the scene - many of the bodies bad been mutilated and some were incomplete - produced a stench making the wearing of gas masks necessary. By the evening the task was essentially complete and the remaining St. John Ambulance men, including Mr. Smeeton, returned to Bulawayo during the night.
Thursday's “The Bulawayo Chronicle” carried a two column report under the heading "DEVIATION AT SCENE OF ACCIDENT" as well at reports of the funerals. A sentence in the former section stated that investigators bad found the brakes fully applied on both trains, in contradiction of earlier suggestions that there had been no time to apply brakes. I would view this physical evidence with reserve, as the rupture of the vacuum pipeline inevitable in a major collision would lead to automatic application of the brakes after the crash if not before; nonetheless on the Mail at any rate there is unarguable evidence of violent retardation preceding the impact. A separate item reported that S., the station master at Tsessebe, had been arrested on Tuesday morning on a Culpable Homicide charge, with Bail being set at £100 - however on Wednesday morning he had been released unconditionally. Clearly S. had been unable to raise the sum of £100 but the authorities had regarded his detention in custody as not only embarrassing but unnecessary - however the unconditional release of a man on such a charge is rather irregular. Possibly the proprieties could have been better observed by setting bail in a more realistic sum.
The previous day's funerals in Bulawayo were also reported – “The Chronicle” then reported local funerals in some detail, with full lists of mourners and these who sent wreaths. A relevant, if flippant, commentary on the period is provided by a report elsewhere in the same issue headlined “A Lent Wedding" - one wonders whether this contains a hint of reproach?
Thursday saw the final clearing of the cutting and removal of the wreckage. The goods locomotive, No. 153, was so badly damaged that it was necessary to load the boiler and the frame separately onto wagons, but the Mail's locomotive was adjudged fit to run on its own wheels. Mr. Mead recalls that the goods locomotive had the washout plug fractured away from the boiler - this would have caused the immediate escape of steam, misinterpreted as a voluntary safety valve release, and which ensured the fatal scalding of the loco crew, already mortally injured, and rendered driver Coetzee’s body fragile.
No. 205, running tender first but in daylight, drew the damaged locos cautiously back to Bulawayo. An extra man rode the footplate to ensure that Mr. Mead kept awake. On arrival at Bulawayo the official in charge of the train, who shall remain nameless (not Donald Sinclair), told Mr. Mead to shunt the locomotives into a spur. Mr. Mead pointed out that the distorted bogie of the Mail’s engine, while tracking satisfactorily in one direction, was liable to derail in the other. The official persisted, making his demand an order. Mr. Mead had no option but to disclaim responsibility and comply. Sure enough, several wheels were straightaway off the rails. At this stage Messrs. Mead and Bushney were allowed to return no. 205 to the shed and book off, after 80-plus hours of continuous duty. (So I was told – with commencement at 4pm on Monday, 80 hours later would be midnight on Thursday night.)
In the meantime a number of funerals took place on Thursday - there were five in Bulawayo, while in Mafeking six of the seven railwaymen killed were laid to rest. Those buried in Bulawayo were Mr. John Birnie of Fort Victoria; Miss Loufia Burger of Figtree; Sgt. C. S. Mackay; Mrs. Margaret Malcolm, the wife of a former M.P. for Umtali, and Mrs. Florence Pullin of East London, who had been returning from a visit to her daughter in Bulawayo. The greatest ceremonial attached to the funeral of Sgt. Mackay; originally with the London Scottish, he had then served with the BSA Police and three years previously he had transferred to the Permanent Staff Corps. As previously stated, be was travelling overseas on leave and for further training. With pall bearers drawn from the 2nd Battalion, Rhodesia Regiment, the coffin rode from the Drill Hall to the cemetery on a gun carriage drawn by four mules, accompanied by the Bulawayo Pipe Band and a firing party, who fired three volleys over the grave. A photo in the following day’s Chronicle showed the carriage passing the Rebellion Memorial taken from the balcony of Asbestos House with the Old Post Office building clearly recognisable.
At Mafeking on Thursday afternoon, Locomotive Inspector Marshall, drivers Coetzee and Reynecke, guard Van der Heever and firemen Combrinck and Esterhuysen were buried in the town’s cemetery. Fireman Van Rensburg was buried at his home town of Lichtenburg, Western Transvaal, the following day.
On Thursday night Mrs. Birnie, wife of the already deceased manager of the Fort Victoria Hotel, died in the Bulawayo Hospital; she was the last victim to die in direct consequence of the accident. The following day she was laid to rest in the same grave as her husband. At this point it is pertinent to record the separation in death of some of the other victims. Of the four daughters of Mr. Burger, the Figtree Station Master, Caroline (14) was killed outright so her body was removed to Francistown and later buried there; Loufia (13) died in hospital at Bulawayo and is buried in this cemetery; the other two daughters, Angela and Joanna, recovered from their injuries. Mr Herbert William Bennett, dispenser at Serowe Hospital, was buried at Francistown, but the body of his fiancée, Miss Muriel Ensor-Smith, Acting Matron of Francistown Hospital, was returned to Durban for burial. Mr. Bennett's tombstone records the fact that his deceased wife had also been named Muriel. A poignant touch war provided by the receipt by Mrs. Ensor- Smith of a letter from her deceased daughter, describing the Engagement ring and expressing her happiness; posted in Bulawayo, it bad been contained in a mailbag actually in the guard's van of the fatal train.
On Friday 8th April the last victims of the collision were buried; Mrs. Birnie at Bulawayo in the same grave as her husband as stated, Mrs. Rudolph at Que Que, and Mrs. Pinder at Salisbury; Mr. Pinder flew up from Bulawayo, where his son was one of the injured in hospital, for his wife's funeral. Contemporary Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways advertisement identify the aircraft then in use as 6-seater Dragon Rapides.
At Lichtenburg in the Western Transvaal, fireman Van Rensburg was buried. That morning’s "Chronicle" carried photos of the Mafeking railwaymen killed in the accident (including Loco Inspector Marshall, actually from Kimberley), and reports of the local funerals under the heading “DAY OF MOURNING IN BULAWAYO”. It was reported that a general inquest would be held in Francistown the following Monday. There were also reports of the ultimate arrival of some of the surviving passengers who had gone forward on Tuesday's "special" at their destinations. The Johannesburg portion arrived there at about 4am on Thursday, the hour that it would normally do so on scheduled days; whereas usually it arrived with drawn blinds for the passengers to sleep until a more civilised hour, on this occasion its arrival was accompanied by a fair amount of bustle. The Cape portion arrived at Kimberley at 2am on Thursday, where five passengers due to sail for England in the Llandaff Castle detrained to await the dawn; at 6 am they took off in a Junkers JU86 of South African Airways, which covered the 550 miles to Cape Town in 3 hours and 5 minutes; at noon the Llandaff Castle sailed with them.
A correspondent to Salisbury’s "Rhodesia Herald" the previous day (Thursday) had drawn attention to a singular omission; "A railway disaster without parallel in the history of Rhodesia would seem to be a fitting occasion for the flying of flags at half-mast. The Salisbury Municipality set the example during the morning, which the business community (and Government offices) failed to follow." This sounded an echo of the “Scotsman" correspondent in
1915 who had protested at the flags fluttering at full mast while soldiery of the Royal Scots, killed in the Quintinshill railway catastrophe, were being buried at Leith.
Thursday's papers (agency reports being common to both "Herald' and "Chronicle") reported a comment by a Vice President of General Motors, Mr. Edward Jenkins, on a visit to Johannesburg, pontificating in typical American fashion on other people's affairs. Citing the protection afforded by steel-bodied coaches, as built in the U.S.A., he could not understand why SAR used wooden construction. He was of course so right, especially in view of the published photo showing the steel-bodied bogie van reared up straight and intact over the goods loco, in striking, derisive, contrast to the shattered timbers that crowned the passenger loco.
The next day’s paper carried a statement by SAR saying that steel-bodied coaches had been tried but were subject to extremes of temperature; an air-conditioned set was being built and general policy was to change over to steel.
Saturday’s paper quoted the comment of Sir Nigel Gresley, renowned Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER in Britain (of Flying Scotsman fame), expressing the view that steel coaches might transmit the shock throughout the train with possibly worse consequences. Sir Nigel could speak with some authority, the durability of teak having been proved at Castlecary (Scotland, not Somerset) the previous winter, but this speculation does seem rather far-fetched. Anyway we now have steel coaches and I have never heard of this gloomy prediction being borne out.
Friday's papers reported that His Excellency the Governor, Sir Herbert Stanley, conveyed messages of sympathy from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald) and Viscount Bledisloe. Saturday’s paper reported the arrival of the SAR Board of Enquiry in Bulawayo; Mr. Whyte had earlier defined a difficulty in that they had to deal with three administrations (SAR, RR and the Bechuanaland Protectorate).
On Friday night the Arundel Castle sailed from Cape Town at 7,15 pm, over 3 hours late, having waited for passengers off the Wednesday train from Bulawayo. This will be remembered to have left Bulawayo 7 hours late, but this became 9 hours late on passing the scene of the accident; however one hour had been made up by Kimberley, and two more hours on the run thence to Cape Town. Mr. I. Klein of Gwanda was amongst these passengers.
"The Sunday News" (Bulawayo) for April 10th paid editorial tribute to "the glorious manner in which members of the Railways, police, doctors, nurses and volunteers worked to relieve distress and alleviate suffering.” The Very Reverend W. L. Skey, Dean of Salisbury, referred to the crash in the Palm Sunday service broadcast from Salisbury Cathedral.
Monday's “Chronicle” had nothing further to report about the accident beyond a brief bulletin on the eleven injured who were still in hospital. However the entertainments page advertised that a special newsreel film of the disaster was showing for two days at the Palace Cinema.
Tuesday’s Chronicle, which, as stated then carried advertisements on its front page, had a heavy type heading "RAILWAY ACCIDENT” over an advertisement for the Railway Passengers Assurance Co. No doubt that advertisement had appeared many times before, but its prominent appearance in those circumstances seemed a bit distasteful. However the main interest in Tuesday's paper lay inside, in the report on the Francistown Inquest.