sent a picture of two zebras making themselves comfortable
on the grass next to the amphitheatre on Marine Parade.
Click to view an enlargement.
courtesy J. Lousada.
Joan Lousada told me that the two used to roam freely about
the beachfront and Old Fort Road area a couple of years before
World War II. [A recent letter to the Mercury Idler put the
date between 1936 and 1938] Joan says she remembers going
on a visit to the Old Fort with her mother and being charged
by one of the zebras.
added some new details to the page on the Ovington
of work have kept me offline for longer than I'd like but
I do have the excuse that I have been collecting more facts
in the meantime. In Facts About Durban I included a number
of stories which I was told but wasn't able to verify. Among
them was the story of a German U-Boat officer who caught his
first sight of Durban through the periscope of his U-Boat
during World War II and ended up settling here.
I have now had words with Durbanite Doug Thomas who assured
me that the story is perfectly true and that he worked with
Hermann Kolditz at Unilever in Durban where the former U-Boat
officer was in charge of dried soup production. Doug told
me that Hermann had been a member of the crew of U-177 which
had been responsible for the sinking of a number of vessels
including the Nova Scotia just 120 miles off Durban.
I have done some research on U-177 and it appears that she
left the German harbour of Kiel on 17 September 1942 under
the command of Korvettenkapitän Robert Gysae bound for
the U-Boat hunting grounds of the South Atlantic and Indian
Ocean. On that trip she sank eight ships including the Nova
Scotia [on 28 November] which was packed with Italian Prisoners
of War and a number of allied troops.
The U-Boat apparently surfaced to pick up a survivor for questioning
and Herman Colditz later said that he and the U-Boat crew
had been apalled by the scenes they witnessed as the survivors
struggled struggled to get aboard the submarine [to
escape sharks in the water??]. He said that the U-Boat had
been unable to stop to offer assistance and I surmise that
this must have been because of the fear of discovery by allied
warships or a roving Catalina*** patrol aicraft from Durban
or St Lucia [see
Diary page # 5
for another reason the U-Boat might not have stopped].
A number of bodies from the Nova Scotia were later washed
ashore on Durban beaches.
Hermann Kolditz was extremely lucky to survive the war given
the heavy losses suffered by the U-Boats in its latter stages.
He settled in Durban but later took his own life on 19 January
1967 after attending a retirement party at which Doug Thomas
was present. Doug told me that there had been no warning signs
and I can only speculate that the traumatic experiences of
the war might have played a role.
Aviation section in Facts About Durban
previous page of this
diary I told of the strange tale of the Cooper Light Wreck
whose origin is unknown and of the fact that it was once common
practice to dispose of unwanted ships by towing them out of
Durban harbour and then scuttling them. Researchers
recently became convinced that the Cooper Light wreck was
the Kate which was scuttled off Durban in 1931. This later
proved not to be the case and so that mystery remains as does
the Kate's location.
Click to view an wallpaper-sized version (1024x768px).
courtesy Illovo Sugar Ltd.
the good offices of Jill Forrester I recently received a poignant
series of pictures taken during the last hours of the Kate
which I made into a wallpaper. The originals are located in
the archives of Illovo Sugar and I'm indebted to the company
for permission to use them.
On a visit
to the Warriors Gate Moth Museum I was lent a book by custodian
Charlie van der Merwe. SAS Inkonkoni 1885-1985 by SHC Payne
cleared up the mystery of how Battery Beach [in front of Natal
Command] got its name and provided a couple of other facts
besides. The 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 Payne reports that a naval
volunteer unit was formed in Port Elizabeth in 1861 but that
it soon merged with an artillery unit. Whatever the truth
of the matter, however, it is certain that the SAS Inkonkoni
predates Britain's own Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and is
freely acknowleged by that august body to be the senior unit!!
Gun batteries were built on Back Beach, presumably where Battery
Beach is today, and on the the Bluff and were manned by the
unit until the end of WWI. Men from the unit were involved
in action during Anglo Boer war in the siege of Ladysmith
and in the relief column. One volunteer, Lieutenant Nicholas
Chiazzari, was the first non-regular ever to be awarded a
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by Britain.
The Naval Volunteer Artillery later became the Durban base
of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in which guise it performed
sterling service during WWII providing naval recruits for
the South African and Royal Navies with basic training. In
1954 the unit was named SAS Inkonkoni, which is the Zulu for
wildebeest, and is still going strong..
two other stories on a marine theme and I would be very grateful
if any reader can help with further information.
first story was told to me by Joan Lousada who lived with
her family in a block of flats (apartments) on the corner
Gillespie Street and Tyzack Street in Durban during World
War II. She told me that during one night in 1939 her mother,
who was not usually wakeful, happened to look out the bathroom
window towards the sea and spotted a large warship steaming
at full speed close to the shore and belching smoke in all
directions. The family was friendly with a British naval
officer based in the town who confirmed that smoke cannisters
of foreign make had been picked up along the coast and advanced
the theory that the ship had been the German pocket battleship
Graf Spee. If the story is true then Graf Spee, armed with
two triple 11-inch gun turrets, could have made mincemeat
of Durban. This is especially true of the military headquarters
which had been built right on battery beach at the behest
of Oswald Pirow, defense minister of the Union of South
Africa, and dubbed Pirow's Folly by the locals.
second story involves the steel-hulled sailing ship Tango
which apparently arrived in Durban on 7th December 1942
and, as it was just about on its last legs, spent more than
a year here in spite of attempts to leave.
About Durban was given a nice mention by Lindsay Slogrove
in the Daily News yesterday.
Click to view article. (89Kb)
have been getting a little out of hand lately but I have been
hard at work gathering new facts. In the next few days I will
be popsting a new page on the development of public transport
in Durban complete with several world records. I will also
soon be telling a story about a Royal Naval cruiser and the
doctor who officiated at my birth. There'll also be more stuff
on the first train in South Africa and details of the first
seaplanes to reach Durban.
Click to view enlargement. (111Kb)
courtesy Doreen Monckton.
meantime we have the Bluff Lighthouse, above, which was built
in 1867 and was the only lighthouse on the east coast of Africa
at the time. The picture was taken in 1935 with one of the
tiny figures at the base being my informant Doreen Monckton.
The lighthouse was demolished early in WWII with some sources
saying that it obstructed the field of fire of the guns in
the Bluff Battery while others say that the practice firing
from the battery was shaking it to pieces anyway. The Bluff
Lighthouse was replaced by two lighthouses - the Umhlanga
Rocks Lighthouse [built 1953] and the Cooper Lighthouse [built
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