Sunday, 19 August 2018

6016 Corporal David Lunam Whitehead 1880-18/3/1902.

The Acting-Premier (Sir Joseph Ward) received the following cable message early this morning from South Africa, through His Excellency the Governor: — 
The following were killed in a railway accident at Machavie on 12th inst. : — 
Private J. Harris, Athol, Southland. 
Private F. L. D. Low, Styx, Canterbury. 
Private A. H. Macdonald, Oamaru. 
Private V. H. Brown, Sheffield, Canterbury. 
Private P. Rogers, Heriot, Dunedin. 
Private M. Cauty, Longbush, Southland. 
Private A. F. Leers (otherwise W. Foss), Waihi, Auckland. 
Private R. Osborne, Middlemarch, Central Otago. 
Private J. Bruce, Oamaru. Private J. Malonoy, Little River, Canterbury. 
Private O. Bourne, Christchurch. 
Private J. C. Simpson (relatives unknown). 
Private J. H. Jones, Wendonside, Southland. 
The following were dangerously injured :— 
Private H. Brown, Denniston, Westport. 
Private Alfred E. Pearson, Oamaru. 
Private Wm. C. Grant, Middlemarch, Otago. 
Corporal D. L. Whitehead, Dunedin. 
Private Patrick Lee, Woodlands, Southland. 
Private W. Whetter, Waikouaiti. 
The following were severely injured in the accident : — 
Private Charles Jones, Dunedin. 
Private Walter Devon, Gimmerburn, Otago. 
Private Nicholas L. Thomas, Waimate. 
Private William Turner, Outram. 
Private Henry R. Plumridge, Spreydon. Canterbury. 
The slightly injured are : —
Privates Jolm Edgar, Queenstown ; James G. Watt, West Plains, Invercargill. 
Machavie is a station on tho railway running south-west from Johannesburg to Kleiksdorp, and about eighteen miles from the latter town.] A cablegram has also been received by
the Acting-Premier stating that John Dyer Cunningham, of the Seventh Contingent, was dangerously ill at Pretoria on the 12th inst. 
CHRISTCHURCH, This Day. Mr. C. F. Bourne, headmaster of Christchurch College, has received a cablegram confirming the news of the accident to the Eighth Contingent, stating that his son was among the killed. 
AUCKLAND, This Day. The cablegram received by the Governor with reference to the disaster to the Eighth Contingent states that no officers were killed or injured. It is understood that none of the men injured or killed were in the North Island Battalion. No particulars are to hand as to how the accident happened.  -Evening Post, 5/4/1902.

Corporal David Whitehead, whose death is reported as the result of the railway disaster in which the Eighth Contingent suffered so severely, was a Dunedin boy (says the Daily Times). He was engaged before joining in Messrs A. and T. Burt's engineering works, and was a very active member of the Dunedin Cycle Corps. It is a sad coincidence that his father also died as the result of a railway accident. He was killed in December, 1884, by coming into contact with a bridge at Lovell's Flat while he was on the roof of one of the carriages of the train of which he had charge. Corporal Whitehead was the oldest of the three children thus orphaned.  -The Oamaru Mail, 23/3/1902.

His friends in Dunedin have received a letter from Trooper W. Whetter, of the Eighth Contingent, who was dangerously wounded in the Machavie railway accident, but it was written just before landing from the Cornwall at Durban, and is mainly devoted to particulars of the voyage. He states that St. Clair was seen, passing southward. At Albany, where the New Zealanders have a good name for their quiet behaviour, they were made much of. Splendid weather was experienced across the Indian Ocean. Concerts were frequently held, and every effort made to prevent time hanging heavily on the hands of the men. He mentions that on the night before writing the writer and Corporal Whitehead (of Dunedin, who was afterwards injured in the same railway accident and unfortunately succumbed to his wounds) paced the deck together for some time, talking of friends and speculating when it would be their lot to be amongst them again. Poor Whitehead will never return to his friends in Dunedin.  -Otago Witness, 7/5/1902.

A non-commissioned officer of the Eighth Contingent has written a letter to a friend in Nelson, which has been placed at our disposal, and the following extract shows that the squadron, which included the Nelson men, had a very narrow escape from being involved in the railway disaster at Machavie on April 12th, when so many New Zealanders were killed and injured. Writing from Klerksdorp the day after the disaster, the non-com, says: "We had a narrow escape of being smashed up on the train yesterday. It was only by a bit of luck that it was not our train, instead of the H squadron. When leaving Standerton our train was delayed for a short time through some of our troopers being away. In the meantime, the squadron passed on in their train, taking our place, and shortly after the collision took place between them and an empty train coming down the line. Thirteen men were killed and eighteen men were injured. It was a a terrible smash, and I never want to see a sight like it again. Some of the boys were mangled to pieces. On leaving Standerton our boys were growling because the H squadron was ahead of us, but when they saw the accident they shook hands with themselves, and so did I. The remains were buried to-day, and about 2000 colonials followed, including the Canadians and Australians. I think very nearly every regiment was represented by an officer of some sort. The bands of the South Welsh Borderers and Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders played the "Dead March", and the funeral ceremony was a very impressive one. -The Colonist, 17/5/1902.
Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.

(FROM OWN CORRESPONDENT.) CHRISTCHURCH, May 19. The following extracts from letters received by his parents from Trooper Glenie, of the Eighth Contingent, will be read with interest, particularly as he was in the train accident at Machavie, in which so many New Zealanders were killed and injured. Writing from Klerksdorp on April 13, he says: — On Tuesday we made a start from Newcastle for where we are now. We got as far as Majuba Hill, and camped there. Then on Wednesday we went on to Charlestown, and camped there all Thursday, and then went about three miles to Volksrust and entrained our horses. We left there at 3 o'clock on Friday morning, and we got to Ellingfontein at 3 o'clock. We then took a branch line, and passed Johannesburg at about 10 o'clock the same night. I was very sorry it was dark, as we could not see anything, only the beautiful station. We then went on travelling all night, till about 7.30 a.m.. when the sad accident occurred, in which 14 men were killed and 14 injured. All the men killed were in the first truck. I was in the second one. Our truck was thrown right off the line, and the third and fourth ones went on top of the first, and killed the men. They were simply crushed to death. When we came to our senses again we started to get the poor fellows out. There was one thrown up on lop of the engine, and he was scalded to death. There were others crushed between the first and third trucks. After we got them all out we had to lay them out and wrap them in blankets. It was a terrible sight to see the poor fellows, some of them with their heads off and others smashed to pieces. I may think myself lucky I was not killed. Everyone thought we were "passed out." After we got the line cleared we had to go back to Potchefstroom. We left there again last night, and arrived here at 1 o'clock this morning. They are burying the poor fellows this afternoon at Klerksdorp. We are all going to the funeral.
Lieutenant Harry Orbell, in conveying news of the sad disaster to the mother of Corporal P. Whitehead, who was injured in the Machavie railway accident in a letter dated Klerksdorp, April 13, wrote:— "The sad news of our accident will have reached New Zealand a long time ago. D. Whitehead, my corporal, I am sorry to say, is in a very low state, beings crushed internally. It was a marvel how we managed to come out alive. I cannot say enough for the poor fellow; he was one of my best men. When I pulled him out from amongst the rest of our comrades the first words he said to me were: 'It is hard luck, sir.' It was a marvel how we escaped the whole 10 trucks being smashed to splinters. Kindly accept my deepest sympathy." Lieutenant Orbell concluded by stating that Corporal Whitehead was in the hospital at Potchefstroom, and that his mother would be kept informed of his progress. Unfortunately the young soldier succumbed to the injuries he received.  Otago Witness, 21/5/1902.

NZ War Graves Project.

WHITEHEAD.— In loving memory of Corporal D. L. Whitehead, who died through the result of the railway accident to the 8th New Zealand Contingent, April 18th, 1902, at Machavie, South Africa; aged 23 years. 
Oh, how little i thought when he bade me good-bye, 
'Twas the last parting between him and I; 
When he put his arms round me, and said; "Mother, don't cry; 
I will come back again; the time will soon fly." 
—inserted by his sorrowing mother and sisters.  -Evening Star, 18/4/1903.
Graves of the Machavie Station victims.  From "Selwyn Kete."

In Memoriam.
WHITEHEAD.-In loving memory of Corporal D. L. Whitehead, who died through the result of the railway accident to the 8th New Zealand Contingent, April 18th, 1902, at Machavie, South Africa. 
Two years have passed, and friends around us 
Think the wound is almost healed; 
Yet they little know the sorrow 
Deep within our hearts concealed. 
Torn from home and loving kindred, 
Stricken hearts that sadly yearn, 
As they realise, oh, never, 
Never more will he return. 
Inserted by his sorrowing mother and sisters.  -Evening Star, 18/4/1904.

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