In the 1920’s group settlers in Margaret River often used gelignite to blow up the massive Karri and jarrah stumps. The explosives were stored at a “Gelignite Block” which was an allocated Government site. The “Gelignite Block” I refer to in this story was located near the Green Valley Vineyard at Forest Grove. They actually have a series of amazing wines called Gelignite Block. The original owner of the winery told me this story, while I was tasting a fine white.
On June 17th, 1925, at Forest Grove (formerly known as Group 6) Mrs Emma Hault 60, Mrs Edith Hoult 26, and Mrs Rose Eleanor Atkins 37, became unsuspecting victims .
Walter Hoult a retired British engine driver and his son an ex Imperial army man were packing up to go to Perth but had one chore left before departing. Mr Hoult had just removed a new stove from the kitchen of his group settlement cottage. It had replaced an old stove which was now sitting on the back verandah. The new stove was being removed because he had sold it to a neighbour named Hocking. After loading the new stove on his cart, Mr Hoult then put the old stove from the verandah back inside.
Mr Hoult’s son Arthur then headed off to the Hocking house to deliver the new stove. In the meantime Arthur’s wife Edith cranked up the old stove. A few hours later Walter’s wife Emma, Edith and a neighbour Mrs Atkins gathered in the kitchen for a chinwag. When all of a sudden, kaboom, the house exploded.
Walter and his 14 month old grandson were just leaving the house when the blast happened. Both were blown off their feet but were not injured.
The three women survived the initial blast but all eventually died from their horrific injuries.
Evidently, Arthur Hoult had used the old stove about a fortnight earlier to store his fracteur bag which contained gelignite caps. Despite watching his father shift the old stove back into the house he forgot he had left the bag with the explosives in it. When Edith lit the stove it was only a matter of time before the gelignite ignited.
Arthur was found guilty of culpable negligence and charged with manslaughter but was later acquitted.
Reference: THE GROUP TRAGEDY CORONER’S INQUIRY – Verdict of Manslaughter: page 11 The West Australian newspaper Saturday 26th June, 1925.