Published: November 10, 2019
Staff Sergeant Jacobus Joshua Francois ‘Kobus’ Martens, of the Umvoti Mounted Rifles (UMR), was reported as missing since June 20, 1943.
It was later confirmed he was killed on January 28, 1944, when the train in which he was travelling as a prisoner of war was mistakenly bombed by the United States Air Force, on the Allerona Bridge near Orvieto in Umbria, Italy.
The train was carrying more than 1 000 Allied servicemen from POW Camp PG 54 Fara Sabina in Italy to Germany.
It is estimated at least 400 servicemen were killed, and was described as possibly being the worst friendly fire incident of World War II.
Kobus Martens was born in 1912 to Jacobus Cornelius ‘Koos’ Martens – born on April 15, 1873, and Catharina Elizabeth Martens – born Steenkamp on September 15, 1881.
Koos and Catharina were married on October 20, 1903 in Vryheid.
When Catharina passed away on December 27, 1936, she was buried in Vryheid.
Thereafter, Koos married Susanna Elizabeth Kritzinger, and after Susanna’s death, he married Bettie van Greuning van Oudtshoorn.
Koos died on October 18, 1970 and was also buried in the Vryheid Cemetery.
His son, Kobus was educated at the Vryheid Government School, and he had six siblings, of which four were girls.
– Cornelia Christina ‘Corrie’ Martens, born 1904, who married Pieter Willem Johannes Jordaan in Vryheid on November 8, 1924
– Susanna Elisabeth ‘Sannie’ Martens, who was married to J. Cornelius ‘Kerneels’ van Rooyen
– Catharina Elizabeth ‘Katie’ Martens, who was married to Wilhelmus Petrus ‘Bill’ Rabé
– Maria Sophia ‘Miemie’ Martens, born 1915, who was married to Jacobus Andries Rudolph in Vryheid on March 2, 1934
– Roelof Petrus Gerhardus Dreyer ‘Roelfie’ Martens, born 1916, who was married to Cicelia ‘Lila’ van Heerden
– Hendrik Jacobus ‘Hennie’ Martens, born 1920, who was married to Daphne Alice Martens (ex Baur, nee Beland). Hennie and Daphne tragically died together in a collision near Bethal in 1963.
On May 3, 1941 Kobus married a Scottish-born ‘lass’ named Olive Margaret van Heerden, in the Methodist Church at Dooneside, between Amanzimtoti and Kingsburgh, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
At the time of their marriage, Kobus was enlisted with the UMR and was based at Zonderwater near Pretoria, while Olive was employed as a typist at Dooneside.
The Vryheid Gazette (date unknown) reported: “Staff-Sergeant J.J.F. Martens, of Vryheid, and husband of Mrs. Olive Martens, 11 Delrenee Mansions, Russell Street, Durban, missing since June 20. He was educated at Vryheid Government School and is attached to the U.M.R.”
Like many South African servicemen, Kobus was captured by the combined German and Italian forces at Tobruk, Libya.
After the death of Kobus, Olive Margaret Martens later married Hollander, Antonie Karssing, who was a builder by trade from Davenport Road in Durban.
At the time of her marriage to Antonie, Margaret was a typist and a resident of Amanzimtoti.
Her son with Antonie, Alan Anthony Karssing said his father was married to Olive for only two or three years before they got divorced.
Olive probably married again after the divorce, but no further trace of her was found.
On January 28, 2012, a monument was erected at the site of the Allerona Bridge tragedy, in memory of the 400-odd victims.
Including Staff Sergeant J.J.F. ‘Kobus’ Martens, the total number of South African soldiers (Springboks) killed totalled 44, and all of these soldiers were commemorated at the Alamein Memorial in El Alamein, Egypt.
The name of Kobus Martens is also inscribed on the War Memorial in Vryheid.
Lest we forget.
Check out the gallery below…
Staff Sergeant JJF Martens War memorial in Italy. Trench art. The tea time bell that Staff Sergeant Kobus Martens made for his wife Olive during the war The grave of JJF Martens senior and his wife in the Vryheid Cemetery Staff Sergeant JJF Kobus Martens Staff Sergeant Jacobus Joshua Francois Martens Sannie en Kerneels van Rooyen Oupa Koos Martens and his wife in front of their home at number 95 President Street in Vryheid Olive Margaret Martens born van Heerden Lieutenant Colonel RW Evans of the Natal Mounted Rifles JJF Martens senior and his son Koos Martens during the time that they served as POW's in India Kobus Martens smartly dressed in a Suite and tie Kobus Martens as a small boy with his sisters Corrie at the back, Sannie on the left and Katie with the doll in hand Kobus Martens and Olive van Heerden on their wedding day in the Church entrance at Dooneside Kobus Martens and Olive Margaret van Heerden were married at Dooneside Kobus and Olive on their wedding day Kobus and Olive Grave of Koos Martens in the Vryheid Cemetery A letter home by Kobus Martens from Egypt to his sister Corrie in Vryheid 95 President Street Vryheid
Also read: ‘The Lord gives and He takes away’ – RIP Brigadier Andreas Roelof van Ellinckhuyzen
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