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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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??
courtesy Director: Survey,
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
courtesy Sonia Coleman
the Elephant was a particular favourite with children
at Durban's Mitchell Park.
Click picture to view an enlargement.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The content on Horace Dainty at this location has been moved here.
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.
Contents Page | Previous
| Next Diary Page