Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 18

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15 January 2005

In Facts About Durban I wrote that Durban had been an extremely important transit point for troops during both WWI and WWII. Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions, of men and women passed through here during the two conflicts. While looking through an online auction site recently, I discovered a WWII-vintage leaflet/map welcoming members of the armed forces to Durban. It had belonged to a US soldier and was found among his effects after his death.

I did try and buy the leaflet but unfortunately got pipped at the post and it went to someone else. There weren't any pictures of the contents of the leaflet so I have no idea what was in it it. I'd welcome hearing from anyone who has a copy or who knows anything about when it produced or handed-out.

Added 6 December 2010: I did finally manage to get hold of a copy of the leaflet and I have written it up on its own page here.

16 January 2005

Information from this diary location concerning Scottish Ironwork, Currie's Memorial Fountain and the Da Gama clock has be moved to its own page



Reminder: Durban became a city 70 years ago, this year !!

18 January 2005

I seem to have been quite productive lately. Today, I have a major new page for you on whaling in Durban. The story is based very strongly on an article I did for Metrobeat, our ratepayer's magazine. Click here to view the page.

Picture courtesy Margaret Surmon

A Union Whaling Company catcher sails out of Durban harbour.



19 January 2005

The other day I was fortunate to meet Wade Kidwell and be taken on guided tour of his incredible collection of historical bits and pieces which ranges from antique petrol pumps and barber shop eqipment to ginger beer bottles and enamel signs. He was kind enough to lend me his copy of Durban: From its beginnings to its Silver Jubilee of City Status which was edited by Felix Stark and brought out in 1960 to mark the 25th anniversary of Durban's having achieved city status. There is quite a bit of historical background in the book as well as lot of advertising feature stories on companies which were operating in Durban at the time.

One indispensible new fact I learnt from the book is that Durban was where the first pneumatic tyre in South Africa was made. The event took place in the Dunlop factory in Sydney Road at 11:30am on 11 January 1935.
The book also provides a sad little historical footnote in this picture of a Sunderland flying boat being scrapped in the K Nathan (Pty) Ltd. scrap yard, also in Sydney Road. It was one of a number of aircraft which, today, would have been literally priceless. I only know of one Sunderland which still survives. When will people learn??

25 January 2005

On the very first page of this diary I posted a picture of a military parade which I was later told was taken during a visit by the Grenadier Guards to Durban in 1927 or 1928. Yesterday I received a photograph from my informant Malcolm Wesson which opened the matter up again. The picture is of three bandsmen of the Grenadier Guards and was taken in Durban by Malcolm's father Ken but the photograph is dated 1931.

Picture courtesy Malcolm Wesson.

Three grenadier bandsmen snapped in Durban by Ken Wesson. Note that they are carrying their busbies in cases. Ken also managed to take a picture of their parade in Smith Street but he was jostled and the pic is badly blurred. Nevertheless, you can see members of the Durban Borough Police, including mounted members, holding back the enthusiastic crowd.


<= Click image to view an enlargement.

Malcolm tells me that the Grenadier band had been brought out on tour to South Africa by African Consolidated Theatres and that they had a parade in Smith Street and did a show at the Playhouse. I'd welcome hearing from anyone who can tell me whether the Grenadiers visited Durban twice (in 1927/29 & 1931) or whether we've got a date wrong and both pictures are from the same visit.

Addition 16 March 2005: We now believe that the band only visited here in 1931. See here.

The original picture posted on page one of the diary shows the Grenadiers passing the Criterion Theatre, which was on the corner of Victoria Embankment and Field Street closest to the Berea. It would be nice to know if the pic was taken on the same visit as the one above or on another occasion.


<= Click image to view an enlargement.

Addition 16 March 2005: We now believe that the band only visited here in 1931. See here.

13 February 2005

Some months ago my informant Peter Sharples got in touch to say that he knew someone whose grandfather had been one of troops who had passed through Durban during WWI. He told me that Frederick Pendall had left a diary of his exploits and that this had been published on the Internet. Frederick's grand daughter Sonia Minney very kindly gave permission for me to reproduce the sections of the diary dealing with Durban and sent me the photograph, below, of Frederick. I have put the diary up on its own page here.

Frederick Pendall
Picture courtesy Sonia Minney

7 March 2005

Things have been moving a bit slowly here in Durban due to the terrible February heat and the consequent lethargy that the whole region appears to be suffering from; Natal Fever is no joke!! Today I have for you details of an ex-Durban whale catcher which has been discovered by my informants in the wilds of Western Australia, south of Perth. See here for details.

Picture courtesy Margaret Surmon

The catcher Wilfred Fearnhead, foreground, sometime before her move to South Australia.



13 March 2005

Last week was an incredible week with my e-mail bag bulging and the phone ringing off the hook in response to an article on whaleing that appeared in our ratepayer's magazine Metrobeat. The article was based on research I did for a web page here on this site.

Metrobeat: March 2005: Pages 16 - 18

It seems that there are a lot of people in Durban who remember the whaling days and not a few who were actively involved. I'm hoping to receive a lot more pictures and information from the folk who contacted me. Two of them said that they have cine film taken at the whaling station and I'm presently trying to line up somebody who knows about dealing with old film and can digitise it for posterity.

On another topic entirely, my informant Marius Beytell recently sent me a very interesting helicopter picture which, after some fiddling, I managed to have identified as an Mi-24 attack helicopter. The aircraft is Russian in origin and known in Western defense circles as the Hind. It fought in Afghanistan and is apparently a very potent beast, armed as it is with a four-barrel 12.7mm machine gun, a twin-barrel 30mm cannon and any number of different missile types.

Picture courtesy Marius Beytell

The question is what it it was doing flying over Scotsburgh Golf Course at 7,15am on 8 February 2005. I do have reason to believe that it stopped off in Durban to refuel but know nothing further. An Internet source tells me that the machine has a range of nearly 1000km, when fitted with extra fuel tanks, so it must have come from somewhere and been going somewhere within that. The captain of a Russian vessel passing offshore who couldn't resist popping in to town for a bunny chow and a crate of Castle beer??

I'd welcome hearing from anyone who can throw some light on the subject.

ADDED 6 December 2011:

My informant Peter Noci has just been in touch to shed some light on the mysterious chopper. He wrote:

The subject is indeed a "Hind" or the Mil Mi 24 attack helicopter. However, the particular beast photographed by Mr. Beytell is the Mi 24 "Superhind" as modified and up-graded by Advanced Technologies Engineering based in Midrand. The helicopter was developed as an upgrade using most of the systems employed in manufacture of the S.A.A.F. Rooivalk attack helicopter, and ZU-BOI was the prototype machine. The Algerian Air-force fleet was so rebuilt and modified by A.T.E. a few years ago. Exactly what the machine was doing at the time in Durban air-space would be conjecture. Suffice to say, it would only be issued with a permit to fly for testing purposes or for display / filming purposes – there was a military testing range off the coast of Cape-Vidal a few years ago, and the machine was also used in the making of the film "Blood Diamonds", although I believe this was shot mostly in the Cape region. The helicopter was based for it's test flying programmes at the the Overberg (military) Test Facilty on the Cape Coast.

(My brother was a director with the company and involved in development with the avionics systems)

I enclose a picture of the prototype beast taken at the Waterkloof air base during the AAD 2003 show. For what it's worth, I hope this sheds a bit of light on the 'mystery' for you and Mr. Beytell. I continue to browse your site with great pleasure, mixed with a little heart-ache I must admit, I hope it continues to grow in the same manner with more precious memories...Thank you indeed..!

Peter Noci

Click to enlarge image.

16 March 2005

I have been Internetting for a long time but I am often still surprised at what you can find out there. I was looking for information on the liner City of Durban to add to my collection of ships that have been called Durban, when I came across something else. Right at the top of this page is a picture of a leaflet produced in WWII to welcome visiting troops to Durban but, according to the reminsicences of a member of the New Zealand 5th Field Artillery Regiment, not all the residents were equally welcoming. It seems that, while the unit stopped over in Durban for four days, Gunner Ted Burgess had his ear bitten off in 'one foul bite' by a large Durbanite who objected having his foot trodden on.

The source page is here. Warning: passage contains one racially hurtful word.

Grenadier Guards
I have also had a response from Mark Whitehead to the pictures of the Grenadier Guards Bandsmen on this page, above. Mark is the band archivist and says that, as far as he knows, the band only visited Durban in 1931. He is hoping to be able to identify the bandsmen in the picture.

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