we've got a fantastic contribution from Bill Bizley in the
shape of an article on the activities of U-Boats off the coast
of Kwazulu Natal [and therefore Durban] during WWII. The piece
is quite long but is very well written and highly informative
on a subject which, as Bill explains, the authorities did
their best to conceal from the general public. Click
here to view the article.
turns out, Bill is presentling a talk on the U-Boats at the
Hilton Festival this coming Saturday and I'll certainly be
offline for a bit as I was battling with my energy levels
before discovering that my sleep apnoea does not agree with
the sleeping pills I was taking. I managed to attend the lecture
mentioned in my last diary entry and found it very interesting
on the subject of the Enigma Codes used by U-Boats off our
coast. I've done more research on whaling in Durban, been
on a visit to the derelict remains of the whaling station
and chatted to Reg Sweet, who was briefly stationed in Durban
as a fighter pilot during WWII. Reg was also able to reveal
what happened to the Speedbird [Imperial Airways logo] weather
vane which once graced the terminal building at Stamfordhill
will come out in the next few week and months but, in the
meantime, my informant Jack Cann has lent me a good picture
of the Ovington Court which beached herself in Durban off
Addington Beach on 25 November 1940 and is still there. See
the Ovington Court
page for more details and, right
at the bottom of the page, for an enlargement of the picture.
courtesey Jack Cann
very pleased recently when this website led to my being able
to put branches of a family back in touch with each other
after a long period when they had lost contact. The firm of
Cornelius & Hollis built Durban's City Hall which I've
mentioned elsewhere in these page together with the fact that
I had spoken to Brenda Horner, William Cornelius' grandaughter,
during the course of my research. Recently I received a mail
from Ian Izzard in Tasmania:
Allan, I was looking through web sites in relation to the
Durban City Hall when I happened to hit upon your Diary
site and read with great interest the articles about it,
especially the item in relation to the letter you received
from Brenda Horner. It would appear that Brenda's maternal
grandfather, William Cornelius and my maternal grandmother,
Ellen Elizabeth Cornelius were siblings. Family stories
have it that William' s father, mother and a number of their
children moved to South Africa seeking empoyment and that
the men got work building the Durban City Hall. It has also
been said that Ellen Elizabeth, who reputedly had a wonderful
singing voice, winning many musical competitions in Victoria,
Australia sang at the opening of the City Hall in 1910.
is recorded that William (snr), his wife and daughters returned
to Australia whilst the sons stayed on in South Africa.
Unfortunately over the years any contact between the two
branches of the Cornelius family has been lost and I was
vey exited to read the article about the Durban branch of
would very much like to make some contact with the surviving
members of the family in South Africa with the hope of sharing
some family history with them. Could you please either give
me Brenda Horners contact details so that I can make this
contact with her or at least pass on my wish to make contact
with someone there to fill in the gaps with respect to the
branch of the Cornelius family in South Africa. Ian Izzard.
have received an undated news clipping with a picture of the
Aircraft Operating Company crews who flew the whale spotting
flights mentioned on the previous
page. The first aircraft used on the flights was a de
Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide but, by the time the picture,
below, was published, two Cessna 310H machines were in use;
the date of the changeover is still unknown to me.
Clipping courtesy Margaret Surmon
Click pic for enlargement.
I appeal to anyone who know anything more about AOC, the whale-spotting
flights, or Stamfordhill Aerodrome to drop
me a line.
luckless vessels have come to grief near Durban over the years
[see here for
details of just one of them] and it seems that one still needs
to be pretty careful when moored in our outer anchorage or
approaching the harbour mouth. It was reported on the ports
and shipping page in the Natal Mercury network section, yesterday,
that a container ship, the Umfolozi, dragged her anchors last
Friday in high winds and bashed into another vessel, the MSC
Rebecca, which was moored nearby. Damage was minor but the
incident follows one about a month ago when the Nordbeach
collided with the MSC Lauren in similar circumstances. Another
incident took place in the last few weeks when the vessel
Dainty River collided with, and partially demolished, one
of the concrete caissons which once supported the anti-submarine
nets which protected the harbour mouth from incursions by
on the subject of the harbour, I see that access control has
now been implemented on parts of the docks, like Maydon Wharf,
where the public could go and spend happy hours watching the
loading and unloading of vessels. It's all part of a worldwide
drive to tighten up port security in response to the terrorist
threat. Next year the harbour mouth will be widened to almost
twice its present width but the sad news is that we will no
longer have access to the new pier which will be built. One
of the most enjoyable things about Durban for me has always
been sitting at one of the restaurants in that area and watching
ships go by, literally a stone's throw away. I find it very
sad that we'll no longer be able to do so.
last six weeks or so I've been doing a lot on whaling in Durban
and the full fruits of this work will be published in full
on this site in due course. One aspect of whaling was the
use of aircraft flying from Durban as whale spotters. See
diary page for a picture of the crew that flew the early
flights fromm 1955. I have now received two other items which
may be of interest. On the left, below, is a picture loaned
to me by John McDonald who was the last chief chemist of the
Union Whaling Company, which ran a whaling operation from
Durban for many years.
shows a de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide** aircraft flying
over the whale catcher Sydney Smith. The picture is thought
to have taken on the occasion of the first time a whale was
caught and killed with the help of a land-based aircraft from
Durban. If that's true, it would put the date of the picture
sometime in 1955. An interesting thing about the picture is
that it has been altered at some point with the whale symbol
on the tail of the aircraft and the figure at the bottom right
having been glued onto the original print. We know that the
figure pointing the way on the right is Abraham Larsen who
was the first oberver on the flights.
that the flights were undertaken from the start by the Aircraft
Operating Company, which also did the first
air survey of Durban. Allan Roy from the AOC [yup, its
still operating] has pointed out that the aircraft in the
picture does not have AOC markings which has made us wonder
if the flights weren't begun by Ken Pinkerton in his private
capacity and later taken over by AOC.
point the whalespotting operation expanded with a pair of
Cessna 310H aircraft being acquired and more aircrews recruited
- see the clipping on this page, above.
We don't know when the Cessnas were first used and I'd welcome
hearing from anyone who has
Click pic for wallpaper-sized enlargement (1024x768px).
The de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide was a six (or seven)-seater
passenger aicraft which was launched in 1934 and looks uncommonly
pretty to my eye. There are a number of examples still flying
and you can find them easily by searching the Internet for
second edition of Facts About Durban I wrote:
SAS Inkonkoni is a volunteer naval unit based in Durban
which traces its origins to the Naval Volunteer Artillery
(Natal) which was formed in 1885 to counter the threat of
a Russian invasion. A popular legend had it that the unit
was the first of its kind in the British Empire, but it
seems that a naval volunteer unit was formed in Port Elizabeth
in 1861 but that soon merged with an artillery unit. Whatever
the truth of the matter, however, it is certain that the
SAS Inkonkoni predates Britains own Royal Naval Volunteer
Reserve and is freely acknowledged by that august body to
be the senior unit!!
batteries were built on Back Beach, where Battery Beach
is today, and on the Bluff and were manned by the unit until
the end of WWI. Men from the unit were involved in action
during the Anglo Boer war in the siege of Ladysmith and
in the relief column. One volunteer, Lieutenant Nicholas
Chiazzari, was the first non-regular to be awarded a Distinguished
Service Order (DSO) by Britain. The Naval Volunteer Artillery
later later formed the Durban base of the Royal Naval Volunteer
Reserve, in which guise it performed sterling service during
WWII providing basic training for recruits to the South
African and Royal Navies. In 1954 the unit was named SAS
Inkonkoni, which is the Zulu for wildebeest, and it is still
have been more wrong about the 'going strong' part!! Articles
in the local press this weekend announced the demise of the
unit. Its ensign was hauled down for the last time at a sunset
parade on Friday, 22 October 2004. Commander Peter Rousseau
[the unit's 18the commander] handed the ensign over to Rear
Admiral Jan Radebe who was to take it back to Simonstown where
it would be stored along with the volunteers' files much of
the unit's memorabilia.
Officer Commander Brian Stockton was reported as saying that
SAS Inkonkoni was one of seven reserve units which were being
closed in line with "national defence force transformation
restructuring". He added that nobody was picking on SAS
Inkonkoni. Commander Rousseau said that the decommissioning
was part of the navy's drive to reduce its "footprint"
and consolidate itself in Simonstown.
to decommission the oldest naval reserve unit in the world
may very well have been taken for sound pragmatic reasons
but it took no heed whatsoever of emotion and pride. SAS Inkonkoni
was the oldest unit of its kind in the world and nobody else
could ever claim as much - not even Britain's Royal Naval
Reserve [successor to the RNVR]. Surely to goodness it would
have worth hanging on to SAS Inkonkoni for that reason alone,
even if the unit had to be reinvented and given a new more
relevant mission. An Inkonkoni Association has been formed
to keep members in touch with each other, but that's scant
back I mentioned that I had heard from Peter Marsh in the
USA on the subject of the sailing ship Tango. Peter has now
sent me the picture of the vessel, below, which was taken
as she left Astoria in Oregon in 1942 on her way to Durban
with a cargo of timber.
courtesy Larry Barber via Peter Marsh
details on the Tango and an enlargement of the picture are
Durban was paid a visit by the SAS Mendi, one of the newest
additions to the South African Navy. The ship was berthed
at N Shed on T Jetty and was open to the public on Saturday
and Sunday. I went along on Saturday and was very pleased
to find that the crew were on hand to conduct guided tours
of the vessel. The tour was very enjoyable even though we
missed a bit because her armaments have not been fitted yet
and we were kept out of some areas.
Click image to view wallpaper-sized enlargement (1024x768px)
Mendi was built by Blohm and Voss in Germany as the last of
four vessels which made up part of the controversial R43-billion
arms deal meant to reequip the SANDF with the latest weaponry.
Her sister ships are SAS Isandlwana, SAS Amatola and SAS Spioenkop.
Even though allegations of corruption over the deal have flown
thick and fast, implicating some of the highest authorities
in the land, we at least have four very pretty warships to
show for our money.
Mendi and her sister ships are referred to locally as Patrol
Corvettes for some reason which presently escapes me, but
which is doubtless very important. The ships are, in fact,
MEKO A-200 Frigates and are extremely sophisticated with stealth
technology and the capability of surviving chemical and biologogical
attack. Their main armament will be MBDA MM 40 Exocet surface-to-surface
missiles complemented by Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles,
a 76mm Oto Melara gun and a 35DPG 35mm dual purpose gun which
can shoot down incoming missiles. She will also carry a AgustaWestland
sure what seaborne enemy we might concievably have to fight
where such sophistication might be required but, then again,
I'm no military planner...
is named after the SS Mendi which was sunk during WWI carrying
a large number of the South African Native Labour Corp on
their way to France to serve in the war. The ship was accidentally
rammed by the SS Darro in thick fog in the English Channel
off the Isle of Wight on 21 February 1917. Only 211 of the
860 aboard survived and the rest died when the ship sank.
The event was a tragedy but what made it really live on in
memory is the courage shown by the men and how, under the
prompting of the Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha, many of the
black troops calmly accepted their fate and danced their death
dance as the ship sank.
Navy's page for more information on the SAS Mendi.
a very interesting visit to my informant Reg Sweet yesterday
during which he was kind enough to check a story I had written
on the time he spent in Durban as a fighter pilot during WWII.
He also let me loose in his photo albums and the story and
a selection of pictures will soon go up on the site. In the
meantime, however, I have put up a small taster from Reg's
picture collection in the form of an aerial picture of the
anchorage outside Durban sometime during 1942.
courtesy Reg Sweet
splendid picture of the anchorage off Durban was taken
in 1942 and clearly shows the huge amount of shipping
which the port handled during the war. The patrolling
aircraft on the lookout for hostile forces is a Fleet
Air Arm Walrus amphibian based at Stamford Hill Aerodrome
in the city.
Click image to view wallpaper-sized enlargement (1024x768px)
much as any, have sometimes been guilty of writing Durban
off as a backwater but, as the picture reminded me, we have
played a major role in the affairs of the world and of our
country, in particular. I can't even begin to imagine for
example, what the allies would have done in both world wars
without our port.
the Mercury carried a very interesting article on the person
belived to have been the youngest baby ever to be carried
as a passenger by South African Airways. The article, published
on 9 November, told how Lyn Harrison was flown from Durban
to Cape Town by her parents at the tender age of 14 days.
You may be wondering what this has to do with a website concerned
with Durban, apart from the fact that the flight began here.
explained by the fact that the aircraft in question was named
the Sir Benjamin D'Urban and has been mentioned
in these pages before. The flight took place on 15 October
1935 and there were only six other passengers apart from Lyn
and her mother. The crew apparently rigged up a screen of
blankets around her mother so that she could breast-feed her
courtesy Transnet Heritage Foundation
Sir Bejamin D'Urban - ZS-AFD.
Click image to view wallpaper-sized enlargement (1024x768px)
quotes from a contemporary magazine which described the Sir
Bejamin D'Urban's first arrival in Durban a few months earlier
in 1935. "It caused a near riot on arrival. The crowd
gasped at what was considered an immense size for an aircraft.
The passengers could hardly alight from it because of the
jostling crowds which pressed up close to inspect this giant."
The aircraft was a German-built Junkers Ju52 and the last
word in luxury. The Mercury article reports that the plane
had been designed for 18 passengers but that SAA had removed
four seats to make passengers more comfortable.
them doing that today! Hah!!
in today's Mercury from Peter Quantock says that his daughter
Sian flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg on 22 November 1972,
when only two days old. It sounds as though Sian may be the
youngest passenger outside the womb to have have flown with
SAA, but even younger passengers would surely have flown after
being born aboard; I'd be very surprised if nobody had ever
been born aboard an SAA flight.
- I took
a look at the statistics for this website the other day
and discovered that there were over 1200 visitors during
both September and October. It would seem that you are no
longer the fortunate chosen few, but a minor horde; still
fortunate and chosen, of course.
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