Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 10

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25 February 2004

Hostiles lurking off Durban
I was re-reading Captain Tony Pearson's excellent African Key Port on the history of the Port of Durban and added to my stock of knowlege about the German U-Boats operating in the Indian Ocean during WWII. The U-Boat sinking occurring closest to Durban was that of the Mendoza which was sunk on 1 November 1942 about 80 miles East-North East of Durban.

In 1943 U-Boat 160 apparently sank a number of ships off Port Edward about 100 miles south of Durban and then bypassed Durban and sank three more in the region of Lake St. Lucia. The thing that amazed Tony Pearson, and I for that matter, is that there were plenty of U-Boats in the Indian Ocean at various times as well as some Japanese ones but there was never an attack on the shipping moored in Durban's outer anchorage.

Pearson says that there were never fewer than 20 vessels anchored outside Durban during 1941 and that the number rose to 50 in 1942. They were a huge and relatively poorly defended target that no U-Boat man should have been able to resist. I find it hard to believe that the Germans were not fully aware of how much shipping was generally anchored off Durban but the question remains why they never attacked.

I know that at least one U-Boat got close enough to Durban so that its crew could examine the city through their periscope [see here] and I have heard that photographs of the city were taken on another occasion using that means. Besides which, however, there is little doubt in my mind that the Germans would have been informed of all the the shipping traffic by spies and by South Africans sympathetic to their cause.

My informant Len Nicholson grew up in Durban during WWII and he writes that he and his family often used to listen to the German propaganda radio station and hear snippets of news proving that the Germans did keep pretty close tabs on what was happening in the area. He remembers mention being made of a change of command at the miltary camp in Ladysmith and of the fact that food in the mess had improved after the men complained. The announcers apparently also named ships in the harbour together with the dates they were to depart.

The Axis powers could have put a severe crimp in the Allied war effort by attacking the shipping moored off Durban, if not the harbour and city itself. So why didn't they??

03 March 2004

Picture courtesy Director: Survey,
eThekwini Municipality.


The Cambria was the first flying boat of Imperial Airways to land in Durban. You can get all the details and much more on the new page I've put up on flying boats in Durban. Click the picture or here to view the page.



03 March 2004

I've put up a couple of new pictures on the Flying Boat page including some aerial shots of both the passenger and military flying boat bases which were at Bayhead just around the corner from the Prince Edward Graving Dock. I have also put up a page with some reminiscences from Tom Chalmers about the last Sunderland flight to take off from Durban Bay.

Lately I seem to have been collecting quite a lot of material on Durban's aviation past so I have collected all the stories together on an aviation page here.

10 March 2004

Some time ago I put a page on sailing ships which have visited Durban since the age of sail ended and steam took over.The story isn't over yet because the tall ship STS Khersones visited Durban recently arriving on 28 February and staying for a few days.

<== Click here for the sailing ships page for more details on the vessel and an enlargement of the picture.

13 March 2004

Today we've got another interesting article from Frank Beeton about his memories of aviation highlights in Durban from the 1950s. The story is linked from the both the Resources and Aviation pages.

I think it's great that readers have started contributing to the site and I hope the few articles I've already put up are the start of many. In the next week or or so I'm going to be put a big page with Leon Nicholson's reminiscences of growing up in Durban during WWII. Also scheduled is an article by Terry Hutson on Durban's first railway which was not the one I described here but, on the contrary, an affair made out of wood and powered by oxen.

I've found a very good resource for anyone interested in the Port of Durban or, indeed, in any other South African port. The Ports and Ships site contains a lot of general information as well as which ships are in Port and which are expected.

17 March 2004

I see by the reports I get from Atomz, the company which provides the search facility for this site, that a number of people have been looking for information on Nellie the Elephant.

Picture courtesy Sonia Coleman

Nellie the Elephant was a particular favourite with children at Durban's Mitchell Park.

<== Click picture to view an enlargement.

In Facts About Durban I wrote:

Over 20,000 children attend the birthday celebrations of Nellie the Elephant in Mitchell Park. Originally presented to the park by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1928, Nellie became a firm favourite with Durbanites and soon learned to play a mouth organ, crack coconuts and let children ride on her back. Nellie left South Africa in 1949 to go to Taronga Zoo in Australia where the authorities, not knowing what a people-loving animal she was, put her in an enclosure with a moat and a fence around it. She must have been starved for company and one day, while trying to reach over the moat, fell in and broke her back.

22 March 2004

Durban's new L.E.D. traffic signals. When viewing the picture enlarged you can quite clearly see that each light is made up of clusters of smaller diodes.

<== Click picture to view an enlargement.

On 11 December 2003 new traffic lights were installed at the intersection of Argyle and Stanger Streets in a pilot project. The new lights are manufactured by Leotek Electronics Corporation of Taiwan and incorporate Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) instead of the usual incandescent bulbs. LED traffic lights have many advantages including the fact that they are significantly brighter while consuming only a tenth of the electricity that the old ones did. The new LED lights offer substantial savings in maintenance because they have a life expectancy of between 10 and 15 years compared to the old traffic signals which need to have their bulbs changed about every six months or so.

*** We're going to be seeing a lot more of LED technology being used for all sorts of things including domestic lighting seeing that they've now developed diodes which emit white light.

29 March 2004

Some time ago I put up a page on the site on Durban's original Borough Seal, its Coat of Arms and the logos which are now being used. I didn't know then whether to call it the heraldry or symbols page but I think symbols are winning. What I do know is that I have now put up another short piece on the page about what I believe may be the the largest version of our Coat of Arms ever produced. Click here for details.

3 April 2004

The content on Horace Dainty at this location has been moved here.

11 April 2004

Facts About Durban reader Gerald Buttigieg has contributed some of his memories of growing up in Durban in the 1950s. I have put up a page for Gerald on the site where you can read the first of his contributions about year-end school break up day. I look forward to hearing from you with comments or your own memories.

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