further news of the two zebras [first mentioned on the previous
page] which used to live in Durban and roam freely around
the Old Fort and beachfront area. My informant Doreen Monckton
has told me that she used to work in the area and that the
zebras used to come to the window of her office around lunch
time to share her sandwiches.
Click to view an enlargement.
courtesy J. Lousada.
found out more about the locomotive Natal which drew the first
train in South Africa and I've put up a page
on it here.
Bros. was the second of Durban's major department stores [after
Greenacre's] having been founded George and John Payne in
in the twentieth century the firm had cloth made especially
for them in Yorkshire and this Pyramid Serge soon got a
reputation for being very hard-wearing. It was so hard-wearing,
in fact, that a Mr Larson was able to attend the 1957 relaunch
of the enlarged Payne's store wearing a Pyramid Serge suit
he had bought fifty years previously.
was completely rebuilt in 1938 and then contained the largest
escalator in the Southern Hemisphere. My informant Doreen
Monckton tells me that Durban kids used to visit the store
especially to ride the escalator.
1947 it was the first store in Durban to introduce a self-service
the time of Payne's centenary in 1969 it had on its staff
Mr Sid Rainsbury who had joined the store in 1909 and Mr
Gazi Makanya who joined in 1925. Mr Rainsbury worked in
the boys' schoolwear department and by by 1969 was fitting
fitting the grandsons of his original customers with their
Centenary Grand Parade in 1969 was the first time that a
West Street Deparment Store had been allowed to open at
night since before WWII and over 50000 people attended to
get their share of the merchandise which was selling at
up to 50% off the usual price.
Brothers is now sadly no more but the Payne's Building is
still one of the landmarks in West Street.
in the diary today but I haven't been idle. You can take a
look at a big new page I've put up on the History
of Public Transport in Durban. My thanks go to Kevan Mardon
for all his help in preparing it.
of material awaiting my attention and the list of people to
phone has grown to frighteningly large proportions but I'm
trying to keep my head and keep on tackling things one at
a time. Today I received an incredibly interesting packet
of aerial photographs taken of Durban in 1932 and 1948 and
I'm waiting on permission to reproduce them. I've also ordered
a book by an ex-Durbanite who was a crewman on a ship which
called in Durban regularly during the early part of WWII and
was later involved in an epic of survival at sea; he also
delivered me for which he deserves either praise or censure,
depending on your point of view.
however, we turn our attention to Durban's first traffic light
or robot as they often referred to locally. [Please note that
robot can be pronounced 'robot', as in robotics, or
as 'robo', as in robo-soccer, if you're being posh.
Following considerable excitement and much discussion in
the press Durban's first traffic signal is installed in
the middle of the intersection of Pine Street and Field
Street on an experimental basis and is switched-on on 12
May. A Natal Mercury reporter writes the next day that he
had thoroughly tested the robot during which time he had
crossed Pine Street on foot in company with a smiling band
of pedestrians, seen two frivolous young things in a sports
two-seater blowing kisses to the "steel policeman",
and had driven through the intersection so often that the
flesh and blood pointsman still on duty assisting the robot
had suggested he give others a turn.
from the Borough Council's General Purposes Committe dated
8 September 1930 hails the traffic signal experiment as
a success and suggests that they should be installed in
15 locations around the borough. Twelve tenders are received
and it is decided in 1931 that 14 units and a master controller
should be ordered from Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Export
Company for the sum of £1040.00.
the first Electromatic Traffic Signal with buried sensors
is errected on a trial basis at the intersection of St Thomas'
Road and Musgrave Road. The signal allows traffic the right
of way if there is no other traffic crossing the intersection.
I've finally managed to pick up a copy of last Friday's Kwana
newspaper and I see that Facts About Durban has received a
very nice mention from editor Karen Lotter.
<== Click to read article.
I will be certainly be trying to make Facts even better.
August in this diary I told of the story of U-Boat officer
Hermann Kolditiz who caught his first glimpse of Durban through
the periscope of his U-Boat during WWII and ended-up settling
here. The U-Boat, U-171, was reponsible for sinking the ship
Nova Scotia on 28 November 1942 only 150 miles from Durban.
Scotia was a small liner [6796 tons] belonging to the Furness
Withy Group and was converted into a troop carrier during
WW II. She was a frequent visitor to Durban being employed
mainly in ferrying troops from Durban up the West Coast of
Africa to Suez and bringing Italian prisoners of war back
to South Africa.
Scotia was carrying 765 Italian POWs, 134 British and South
African guards, and 118 crew when torpedoed. There were 825
lives lost in the tragedy which apparently still ranks as
South Africa's worst maritime disaster and some of the bodies
were washed ashore on Durban beaches. Alfonso de Albuquerque,
a Portuguese ship from Lourenco Marques, rescued 190 survivors
late the following day with one more being picked-up up by
a destroyer on the third day and another fortunate Italian
flaoting ashore on a raft at Mtunzini on the Zululand coast
a fortnight after the sinking.
no confirmation from any other source but my informant Doug
Thomas, who knew Hermann Kolditz well, said he had told him
that the U-Boat had surfaced among the survivors to find out
which ship they had sunk. Kolditz recalled that the German
crew had been appalled by scenes in the water as the survivors
tried to scramble aboard the U-Boat 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 forces and particularly,
by the flying boats operating from nearby Lake St Lucia.**
Since writing the above I have learned that the U-Boats
had been ordered not to assist survivors since an incident
the previous month [on 16 September] when U-156 had been
attacked in the Atlantic by an American Liberator bomber
while towing four lifeboats filled with survivors from
the torpedoed Laconia. The attack took place in spite
of the fact that Korvettenkapitän Werner Hartenstein
[U-156's captain] had twice broadcast a radio message
in English giving his position and promising not to attack
any ship which came to the survivors' aid.
Gate Moth Museum
fine little combined militaria museum and M.O.T.H. Shrine
is located in the grounds of the Old Fort in Durban
opposite Kingsmead Cricket Stadium. I take the opportunity
of mentioning it here because it needs all the visitors
it can get and because custodian Charley van der Merwe
was the one who mananged to track down a little booklet
containing information on the Nova Scotia.
indebted to the same booklet for news of an exciting
incident which started in Durban on 10 June 1940. See
June 1940 Italy was about to declare war on the Allies but
nobody in Durban knew that except the crews of the Italian
ships Timavo and Gerusalemme who had received a coded radio
signal to that effect.
ships put hurriedly to sea at noon with papers faked to make
it seem as if they were bound for Cape Town but, as soon as
they were over the horison, they altered course for Lourenco
Marques which was a neutral port and which offered sanctuary
from the allied forces.
that night the news of Italy's declaration of war reached
Durban and South African airforce planes began to search for
the two ships. The Timavo was found 150 miles north-east of
Durban during the night and headed at full speed towards the
Zululand coast after a bomb was dropped and warning shots
later grounded herself about 5 miles north of St. Lucia Bay
and her crew was captured and brought back to Durban. The
ship herself could not be salvaged but some of the cargo was
saved. The Gerusalemme, in the meantime, managed to reach
Lourenco Marques where she was interned until the Italian
surrender after which she returned to Durban to be converted
into an allied hospital ship.
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