Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 9

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15 December 2003

Many unusual vessels have have called in Durban over the years but there can be few more unusual than the Borobudur which called in Durban recently. She is a modern replica of an 8th century Indonesian outrigger sailing ship and is on a mission to highlight the trade links between Indonesia and Africa by retracing the Cinnamon Route along which Indonesian traders travelled to and from Africa on their trading voyages.

<== Click the picture to view a wallpaper-sized enlargement (1024x768px).


The Borobudur arrived in Durban on December 1 with a little bit of help from the National Sea Rescue Institute who provided a tow for the last section of the journey from Richards Bay. The vessel is 15m long and was built using traditional methods based on a design shown in carvings in the Borobudur Temple in Indonesia.

It is not known whether any of these vessels visited Durban in the dim and distant past but it seems very likely that they would have used the bay for shelter and that they would have taken the opportunity of filling their water tanks and perhaps hunting for game. More information is available on the expedition's website at www.borobudurshipexpedition.com which today reports that the vessel has reached Port Elizabeth on its way Accra in Ghana.

31 December 2003

I seem to have forgotten to wish you all well over Christmas but here's hoping that you had a good one and that 2004 will bring you happiness and prosperity.

In the meantime I have dug into my archives and come up with another of the pictures which were taken during the first aerial survey of Durban in 1931/32.

<== Click the picture to go to the Air Survey page to viewan enlargement of the picture.


5 January 2004

I've just put up a page on some of the sailing ships that have visited Durban in the days since the decline of sail. There are some wonderful pictures to see and stories to read. Check it out here.

20 January 2004

Yesterday I went exploring through the wilds of New Germany outside Durban with my informant Doug Thomas. We went in search of the grave of former German U-Boat Officer Hermann Kolditz and eventually found it in the German cemetary near the old Lutheran Church. Hermann first saw Durban through the periscope of his U-Boat during WWII and later settled here. More on Hermann here and here and more on the Nova Scotia here.

The last resting place of Hermann Kolditz is marked by a stark black stone carrying his name and the dates of his birth and death.

Hermann Kolditz
19.7.1919 - 19.1.1967

It carries no epitaph and it was left to Doug Thompson, who accompanied me to the grave, to supply one: "Herman was a real gentleman," said Doug."


27 January 2004

I paid another visit to the Killie Campbell Africana Library the other day to look through the Natal Mercury microfilm archives in search of the date of HMS Cornwall's victory parade through the city in 1941. I looked through about two week's worth of issues from the end of May and the beginning of June and found references to a number of parades but not the one I was looking for.

One interesting snippet I did find was the fact that, on 31 May 1942, Putt Mossman, enveloped in smoke and flame, dived fifty feet into the sea from the mast of the Ovington Court which had run aground on South Beach. [See here for more on the Ovington Court] Mossman, who was described by the Mercury as 'the American stunt motor cyclist', was hauled aboard the ship by lifesavers waiting on her deck. Many holiday makers witnessed the event although their reactions to it were not recorded.

10 February 2004

One of the most rewarding thing about Facts About Durban is the amount of feedback I have had both from readers of the paper edition and people who find this website. When I started with the project I hoped that people would pass ideas and material on to me and to a great extent this has happened. One comment I received from a reader was that I should do something on 15 Squadron of the South African Air Force which has been based in Durban for a good long time and which enjoys the freedom of the city.

See my new Aviation Page for details on the squadron.

On my latest visit to the squadron I discovered a programme from the ceremony on 5 December 1992 in which Mayor Margaret Winter bestowed the Freedom of Durban on it. The programme records that the following units have also received the Freedom of Durban:

1954 Durban Light Infantry and Natal Mounted Rifles
1962 Natal Field Artillery
1966 SAS Inkononi
1970 5 Squadron
1974 15 Maintenance Unit
1979 1 Field Ambulance Unit
1982 Durban Regiment

17 February 2004

I've got something really interesting for you today in the shape of a page of reminiscences from former Durbanite Frank Beeton. Aviation enthusiast Frank sheds some light on a picture I used in the printed version of Facts About Durban and on a tragedy which had taken place only hours before [a day at most] at the scene.

Picture Courtesy Transnet Heritage Foundation
<== Click image to view Frank's Page.

Frank's article is the first of what I hope will be many reader contributions to the site. I would love to hear from anyone else who has something interesting about to Durban to share. What I can offer in return is the glory of being published on what must easily be the most interesting website on the Internet. :-) I'm going to be putting up a contributor's roll of honour real soon now!!

19 February 2004

Following up on the story of the tragic accident just prior to the opening of Louis Botha Airport [now Durban International] I went on a trek through the wilds of of Stellawood Cemetary and managed to find Lt. Fletcher's grave.

<== Click image to view the story and an enlargement of the picture.

22 February 2004

Durban may have a claim to having been the home of the world's longest-serving soldier as I was reminded by an article in today's Sunday Tribune announcing the death of Colonel Cyril Metcalfe. He joined the Transvaal Scottish in 1924 and later transferred to the Durban Light Infantry (DLI) in 1927 and went on to command the unit in action during WWII. He stayed in command until 1954 and was appointed honorary colonel of the regiment in 1960 by Queen Elizabeth II. He completed his eightieth year in uniform on 8 January this year and received letters from the chiefs of the SA National Defense Force, SA Army and the Defense Force Reserves marking the occasion. He died yesterday morning at the age of 97.

23 February 2004

In Facts About Durban I told the story of the first hydroplanes to be brought here and how they helped to find the German Raider Konigsberg. See the new Aviation page for more on the two planes.

One of the two Curtiss hydroplanes [water flying machines] brought to Durban by Mr Gerard Hudson.

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