October 1946 the Durban Publicity Association published
a booklet called Spotlight on Durban which was intended
to inform prospective settlers about the local conditions.
gives a fascinating snapshot of Durban in those days.
population figures it provided for Durban were:
[for Europeans, read whites] - 114,562
Natives - 102,591
[of mixed race] - 9,657
The flying time to Johannesburg was quoted at 1¾
hours [now 50 Mins] while that to Cape Town was 6½
hours [now 3 hours]. The driving time to Johannesburg
was 17½ hours [now 7 hours] while it would have
taken you 44½ hours [now 20 hours] to drive to
food prices were
- threepence per pound
- 2s.5d. per pound
- 2s. per pound
- 2s.5d. per pound
- 10½ pence per pound
-1s.7d. per pound
- 4½ pence per pint
- 2s. per dozen
- 2s.6d. per pound
- 3¾ pence per pound
- 7½ pence per pound
- 2s.5d. per pound
Wines - from 2s. per bottle
- from 2s. per packet of 50
settlers could apparently expect to hire unfurnished flats
at up to £16 per month, furnished ones at up to £25
or stay in a residential hotel from £9.9s. per month,
all found. They could buy a house in a good residential area
from £2500 or land from £400 and building costs
were between 28s. and 35s. per square foot.
on Durban promised a plentiful supply of domestic labour with
'cook/house boys' costing up to £6 .10 per month, and
'garden boys and nursemaids' up to £4 per month.
Spotlight goes into some detail about immigration requirements
to South Africa but the upshot is that 'Natural-Born British
subjects of pure European descent' [for pure European, read
white] could get in with no restrictions providing they complied
with the Immigrant's Regulation Act No. 22 of 1913. The booklet
doesn't go into detail but the implication is that other types
of people would have found it much harder to get in.
Natural Born etc. would only have had to satisfy an Immigration
Officer at their port of entry that they were able to read
and write a European language, that they were coming to a
job or had funds enough to support themselves, that they were
free from infectious, contagious or loathsome diseases and
that they had not been convicted of certain criminal offences.
Oh, and they had to have a valid passport as well.
spectacles or not, however, people reading Spotlight on Durban
in Britain and Europe must have thought that Durban sounded
like paradise when compared to their own war-ravaged countries
where severe rationing of most commodities was still in force.
I've put up two new pictures near the bottom of the page devoted
to the wreck of the Ovington
Court. Those two pics and the one below were kindly sent
in by Johannesburg reader Janine Anderson.
courtesy Janine Anderson.
know anything about this picture of a crucifix? We believe
it was taken in or around Durban but we don't know where or
May 1941 HMS Cornwall arrived in Durban victorious after the
sinking of the German raider Pinguin on 8 May 1941 about 900km
north of the Seychelles. The Pinguin was a heavily armed auxiliary
cruiser made to look like a merchant ship and had used her
harmless appearance to lull 28 allied ships into letting her
approach close enough to sink or capture them.
had been a frequent visitor to Durban but this time was welcomed
back by the residents with rapture according to my informant
Reg Monckton who was a Royal Marine Bandsman aboard her at
the time. A few days later 400 of the ship's crew [including
a number of South Africans] paraded through the streets of
Durban led by their Royal Marine Band.
of HMS Cornwall's crew parade through the streets of
Durban. The arrow points to Durban Mayor Rupert Ellis
Brown who is partly obscured by Cornwall's Commanding
Officer Captain P.C.W. Manwaring. Ringed in red is my
informant Reg 'I joined the Marines at 14, you know'
Click to download a wallpaper-sized (1024x768px) version
of the picture.
led past the front of the City Hall where the Mayor Rupert
Ellis Brown took the salute. By a strange coincidence his
younger son was serving aboard the Cornwall as a midshipman
and the Mayor thus had the pleasure of being saluted by his
On 1 June
a number of new members joined the Cornwall including a Durban
youngster called Tony Large who was later to become a doctor
and deliver me. The ship left Durban on 10 June to escort
the Mauretania, the Ile de France and the Nieuw Amsterdam
which were carrying troops bound for the North African campaign.
was a heavy cruiser with a main armament of four turrets mounting
two eight-inch guns each but she was ill equipped to fight
off a determined air attack and thus met her doom on 5 April
1942. She and her sister ship HMS Dorsetshire, which had administered
the coup de grace to the stricken Bismarck on 27 May 1941,
were sent to the bottom in an 11-minute attack by 80 Japanese
dive bombers led by Lieutenant-Commander Egusa.
from the two ships spent a whole day adrift before being picked-up
the following evening and were transferred to a base on the
Maldives and then to Durban. Marine Monckton was later repatriated
to the UK taking with him Durban girl Doreen Shepstone, whom
he had married, as a prize of war [they were later to make
their home in Durban].
also survived and was ordered to the UK to go on an officer's
course. He was given passage aboard a ship called the Laconia
which left Durban on 29 August 1942 and was torpedoed off
the west coast of Africa on 12 September. The U-Boat [U-156
commanded by Werner Hartenstein] which had torpedoed the Laconia
later surfaced, rounded up the survivors and began to tow
four lifeboats full of them to safety.
was later bombed by an American Liberator bomber and made
its escape abandoning the Laconia survivors [including many
Italian POWs] to their fate. An Italian submarine then appeared
on the scene and Tony was among a number of survivors which
it carried on its deck and later deposited in a lifeboat on
17 September. At that point there were fifty one people aboard
the lifeboat but there were only four, including Tony, left
alive when rescue came on 21 October.
am indebted to Reg Monckton for his memories and for lending
me his copy of Turns of Fate by Ken Dimbleby which gives
and excellent account not only of HMS Cornwall but also
of the sea war in Indian Ocean and the close shave we
had when the Japanese decided not to pursue the war in
I am also indebted to Tony Large and his book In Deep
and Troubled Waters which tells his incredible story and
which I can highly recommend. The book is still available
from the publishers and from Gail Dick in South Africa
who has a stock of copies - her contact number is 27 31
7010 345 during SA business hours. See Sources
for dates and publisher information.
Navy website has a section on the current HMS Cornwall
[a Type 22 Frigate] which has a history page giving details
of the five other ships which have shared the same name.
Page # 7 for more pictures
of HMS Cornwall.
sumarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a reconnaisance
of the east coast of Africa from May to July 1942. On 20 May
submarine I-10 under the command of Commander Kayabara Yasuchika
reconnoitered Durban. She even flew her Yokosuka E14Y1 "Glen"
floatplane over Durban which gave rise to much excitement
and speculation among the residents. The Japanese also visited
Port Elizabeth, East London, Simonstown, Reunion and Mauritius.
They mounted a raid using midget submarines on allied warships
moored at Diego Suarez in Madagascar and sank a good deal
of allied shipping before returning to their base at Penang
About Durban I wrote that my family knew fishing ghillies
in a remote area of the Transkei who told stories of yellow
men who had come from the sea in small boats to buy fresh
provisions. In light of the above it seems as if the stories
could well have been true.
had another link with Durban when, on 24 October 1943, she
sank the merchant vessel MS Congella with gunfire. The Congella
had been named after the Durban suburb where the Zulus had
set up a camp to keep a watchful eye on the early white settlers.
Ken Dimbleby [see Sources
page] wrote of the sinking of the Congella during which her
captain Arthur William Folster, though mortally wounded, refused
to leave his ship and showed his defiance by tapping out the
V for Victory signal in morse on the ship's siren as she sank.
dit dit dah !!
for more on the I-10 and the Japanese Navy in general.
we've got a nice pic of Durban Bay and the Lighthouse Tea
Gardens probably taken from the lighthouse on the Bluff. The
pic is undated but I imagine that it has to be from before
WWII when the lighthouse was demolished.
courtesy Janine Anderson.
of weeks ago [Diary Page
# 3] I was talking about the many shipwrecks which litter
the approaches to Durban and about the fact that a goodly
number of these were vessels which had outlived their usefulness
and been scuttled. A book by Tony Large, In Deep and Troubled
Waters [see Sources],
which recently came my way mentions one such luckless vessel.
the Modwena and had been the private yacht of sewing machine
magnate Mortimer Singer. She was a sailing barque and when
Tony knew her she was owned by prominent Durbanite T.B. Davis
and used for trading between Durban and Madagascar. Tony's
father commanded her on his last two seagoing voyages but
she was later paid-off because she was uneconomic.
seeing her swinging round a buoy near Salisbury Island before
she was taken out and scuttled sometime in the early 1930s.
Going by a picture I've seen, Modwena was a really pretty
ship and it's a great pity she wasn't preserved.
also mentions that sailing ships were rare by the mid-1930s
but that they occasionally still called in Durban. He recalls
the visit of the Olivebank from that time because his first
cousin Arthur Large was one of her crew. I also know that
a working sailing ship called the Tango visited Durban during
WWII. I'm hoping to find out more on this and other matters
nautical next week when I meet a local shipping expert.
11 December 2005:
See a general page on sailing
ships to have visited Durban which has some information
on the Tango, and a special
page on Modwena.
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