Robert Henderson EM

b. ? d. ?

DATE OF EM ACTION: 11/01/1913 Hatting Spruit Colliery, Natal, South Africa.

Little is known about the life of Robert Henderson other than his actions at the Hatting Spruit Colliery in Natal, South Africa on 11th January 1913.



On the 11th of January, 1913, a number of native “boys” were engaged in building up the ends of old roads in No. 2 North Main Haulage of the Hatting Spruit Colliery, Natal, in order to prevent the fumes of a gob fire from coming out into the haulage. A brattice cloth screen had been placed across the road to keep back the fumes at one point, while work was proceeding at other points. The air was quite pure outside the screen, but very poisonous on the inside. In the absence of Hepburn, who was in charge of the party, two of the “boys” went through the screen, contrary to orders, to get a shovel, and, as they returned, first one and then the other fell unconscious. Hepburn was informed, and with another “boy” went in search of the two. His first search of the workings had no result, and he returned through the screen thinking that he had been misinformed. On being assured that there was no mistake, he went in a second time accompanied by a native, Mbuzimaceba, and an Indian named Munian, and found the two missing “boys.” They dragged one for six or seven yards, when Hepburn collapsed, and Mbuzimaceba carried him on his shoulder almost as far as the screen, a distance of at least 100 yards. The attention of those outside the screen was attracted, and assistance arrived to carry Hepburn into safety. Mbuzimaceba became unconscious. Munian in the meantime remained behind with the missing “boys.” Hepburn, though suffering from the effects of gas, managed to tell Easton what had happened. Easton shouted for Henderson, who was near at hand, and both penetrated into the danger area and succeeded in bringing out the missing “boys,” one of whom unfortunately died from the effects of the gas.

They were able in their return down the working to discover a shorter way back to the screen, otherwise in all probability they would have lost their lives. The native Mbuzimaceba and the Indian Munian showed great bravery. A letter of appreciation, together with a suitable present, has been sent to them by the Governor-General.