I AM THE CHAIRMAN (Old Bill) of the Moth (Memorial Order of the Tin Hat) Organization in Harrismith and more specifically, the Platberg Shellhole. We are a Charity Organization that focus on the wellbeing of old soldiers, including soldiers from World War 2, the Korean War and any other ex-servicemen.
Our organization became involved with the Kidston Monument just outside Harrismith, which was vandalized a few years ago. Our Organization, together with the Heritage Foundation in Harrismith and Ladysmith, decided to restore the Monument to its original glory, a task which was recently completed.
As background, the Kidston Monument was erected after an aircraft crashed just off the N3 near Van Reenen in the vicinity of Tandjiesberg and Nelsonskop Mountains on 5 May 1931. The three-seater De Havilland Puss Moth, DH 80A, was piloted by Commander Glen Kidston and Captain Thomas Gladstone was the navigator. They were on a pioneering flight, in partnership with the newly formed Union Airways (Pty) Ltd and were on the first leg of a round trip from Johannesburg to Durban via Pietermaritzburg in KZN to plot a possible flight route.
Approaching Nelsonskop, they flew into gale-force winds which buffeted the small plane alarmingly. The fierce winds had created a dust storm below, which impaired their visibility considerably.
‘a wing had broken off’
It would appear that they dropped altitude to try and find a safe place to land. According to a number of local eyewitnesses, the plane was about 300m off the ground, when a piece appeared to break off it, causing it to nosedive and crash into the ground. On examination of the crash site, it was confirmed that a wing had broken off in flight and was found about 180m behind the wreck.
At the inquest it was found that the two aviators lacked local knowledge and experience of flying in the tortuous maintain conditions around Tandjiesberg and were not familiar with the terrain.
At the request of the families, their bodies were returned to Wales for burial. The local Harrismith Moths, police force and school cadets formed a guard of honour and acted as pall-bearers from the morgue to the station from where the bodies were taken by train to Johannesburg.
A memorial, in the form of a stone cenotaph with a stainless-steel dome, was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Kidston (the parents), through a law firm in Johannesburg in memory of their son Commander Glen Kidston.
It needs to be mentioned that after this fatal accident, the Puss Moth design was officially modified in 1933 to correct the inherent wing design flaw. It is interesting to know that in each accident involving wing separation in flight, abnormal wind conditions were recorded.
I attach herewith a photograph of the Kidston Monument before the vandalism, a photo of the damaged memorial and also a photo after we and the Heritage Foundation repaired the memorial.
We hope to unveil the new restored Monument on 23 October 2021 and we invite you, if you are interested in this story to also attend the unveiling of the monument. We also attach herewith a photograph the bronze plate confirming the names of the aviators.
One of our members made a thorough research of this specific accident, as well as other accidents in the area of Harrismith and is more than willing to assist if you require any further information.
I wish to congratulate you and your team with a very interesting and well published magazine.
Old Bill (Chairman)