3 Bennie's Story
The tragic story of the 3 Bennies
This is the story as told by Joachim Scholtz, who was also in the accident.
"On this day - I think it was May 1947 - I was in matric then, four school rugby teams would have played at Christiana . The late Oom George van der Linde would transport us with a 5-ton truck that served in the Second World War as a troop carrier. Since everyone couldn't sit on the steel benches, the three Bennies and Mr. S. M. de Villiers sat on the truck’s tailgate. We would drive across Schweizer-Reneke and Bloemhof.
We had to cross the railway line at Ferndale - between Bloemhof and Christiana. We had to go through the gates on either side of the track to get over the track. Someone with a donkey cart opened the gates. Since the truck had a canvas as a roof, the vast majority couldn't see the outside. The station (siding) was densely overgrown with large trees. When the uncle turned to the gate, one of the Bennies peered out and shouted to us inside, "You who come out of the Kalahari and haven't seen a train yet. Look, there is one now.” (From Christiana) Of course, only the three Bennies and Mr. SM De Villiers (and I) saw the train. I just sat behind the cab and as there was an opening, I peeked out and saw the train coming on the other side of the siding. Uncle George drove through, because the gates were open. Here I have to say that the windows were turned up and that the mica was yellow and cracked between the windows, which obstructed the sight.
I don't know if the locomotive blew the whistle at the transition - I didn't hear anything. Maybe the Uncle didn't hear anything either. Nonetheless - when the front wheels were between the tracks, the train hit the truck's cab - this I saw through the opening between the sail and the cab. The train was at full speed and swung the truck around so that the three Bennies were thrown against the locomotive. They had no chance and died instantly. Mr. SM de Villiers fell off. The wheels of the truck lay 72 feet (±23 meters) away. The other occupants flew through the canvas and some landed inside the trucks and others landed between the trucks and were dragged along.
Mr. Van der Linde died in his son's arms. I had a miraculous escape. I fell along the railway line, so close that the wheels tore my pants and jacket off my body. My hat was attached to the jacket's lap with a string and it was also torn away. I kept these clothes for many years. The only injury I sustained was a cut on my wrist. I later had to undergo a back operation and an operation on my hand.
To continue. When I got up, Mr. SM de Villiers already established order. It was a terrible sight to see more than fifty people lie - some seriously injured. There was no phone on the station and the first car to go and call for help arrived after about half an hour . Ambulances came from Vryburg, Schweizer and Wolmaransstad. A special train with doctors and nurses was hurriedly sent from Kimberley to transport the seriously injured to Klerksdorp Hospital. Among them was Mr. Calitz and Mr. Klue (two of the teachers who sat in the front). In Vryburg Hospital, 24 injured were treated.”
The three Bennies:
Bennie Kruger (Matric)
Bennie Kühn (Std. 9)
Bennie van Niekerk (Std. 8)
The 3 Bennies remembered
Vryburg High School's matric board will lay a wreath at the Drie Bennie Monument on the school grounds of VHS on 17 May 2021. This commemorates the horrific bus accident of 74 years ago, in which the three sons, Ben Kühn, Bennie van Niekerk and Bennie Kruger died on 3 May 1947. This year's wreath-laying was special because Mr. Charles van Niekerk, brother of Bennie van Niekerk, honored VHS with his presence.
The three Bennies were part of a group that was on their way to a rugby match against Christiana on the day in question, 3 May 1947, when they were involved in a collision with a train near Bloemhof. The bus driver, mr. G van der Linde, also died in the accident and another 8 boys were seriously injured. When the wreath is laid every year, it is also to say thank you to all the thousands of children of VHS who are constantly transported by buses and return home safely after an outing. VHS's highest award to the most versatile matric learner, the Three-Bennie Cup, is named after these three boys, who all had the name Bennie.