The Dynamite Explosion Memorial in Braamfontein

One of the many events that occurred in the fledgling city of Johannesburg was the Dynamite Explosion that occurred on 19 February 1896 at Braamfontein Station. A memorial was erected in Braamfontein Cemetery to commemorate the event, and the over 70 people that lost their lives in it.

Braamfontein Dynamite Explosion Memorial

Braamfontein Dynamite Explosion Memorial

An explosives train, carrying dynamite, had been left standing for 3 days in searing heat; the massive explosion occurred when this train was struck by another that was shunting. It left a crater over 60 m long and 8 m deep and was heard 200 km away. The exact number of casualties was never ascertained, and over 200 people were seriously injured. Some 3 000 people lost their homes and almost every window in the town was shattered. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact site where the explosion occurred but a period map puts it on the bend where Braamfontein Vapour Depot now stands.

Period map with inset of modern Johannesburg

Period map with inset of modern Johannesburg

Braamfontein Vapour Depot

Braamfontein Vapour Depot

I have spotted at least 5 physical graves in Braamfontein cemetery that have explosion related inscriptions on them, and it is probable that most of the casualties are buried in this cemetery, the majority of the funerals being held on the 20th and 21st of February.  I can physically identify 46 names in the registers as being marked as “dynamite explosion”, and all are buried in the DR section. There is also supposedly a mass grave in this plot where unidentified severed limbs are buried.

Area where burials occurred.

Area where burials occurred.

Braamfontein Dynamite Explosion Memorial

Braamfontein Dynamite Explosion Memorial

© DRW 2011-2018. Created 21/01/2011, edited 28/09/2012. Moved to blog 19/01/2014

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