Flying Boat Eyewitnesses - Cadets

Email from George Haskins

"Hi Allan,
I have just read your article in Metrobeat about flying Boats, My memory is about the Sunderlands that used Durban Bay as their airport. These were military jobs based at what is now Bayhead. In 1954 I was a member of the sea Cadet Detachment No 344 or it could have been 334, anyway. At parade one evening a call was made to all of us who wanted to fly in a Sunderland Sea Plane to Saint Lucia and back. I immediately volunteered.
We were given an indemnity form for our parents to sign. This form took all responsibility from the SAAF. This was not a problem, the problem was finding the money for the revenue stamp that in those days made everything official. My father was away at work and every now and then my mother was a bit cash strapped. He was in the Merchant navy. Anyway, after much running around, I managed to get the 5s. for the stamp. Indemnity duly presented.
Saturday was the day, Take off at 0900. We lived off Berea road so, at 0600 in full cadet's uniform, I commenced walking to Bayhead to make sure I was not late. I had at that time only seen these Flying Boats going up and down Maydon Channel preparatory to take off. Now here I was going up the channel. I found out that this was to actually clear the channel of all craft that might get in the way. The guys in the forward gun turret had the turret back so that they could wave off any craft in the road. Then came the order. " All hands close off for take off." This meant getting seat belts fastened etc. There was a sergeant in charge of us cadets, he was very kind but stern.
We took off and the water bashing against the hull made a tremendous echo within the aircraft. After clearing the water, it was almost peaceful apart from the noise of the engines. We were then allowed to thoroughly explore the craft and each one of us spent some time in the cockpit with the pilots. These guys were the professionals. They looked so relaxed and cool and confident but I can now understand that they could have been quite stressed.
As we approached St. Lucia, the bay was clearly seen with a whole bunch of logs floating around. The pilot did a low level run across the bay and all the logs suddenly disappeared. We then landed and went to anchor. Tea and sandwichs were served. Very Lekker.. The logs returned. Only this time, from close up we could see that they were crocodiles. A helluva lot of them..
After the feast ,anchor up and we took off to come home. I will never forget what Durban looked like from the air as we came in at a real slow speed and could see various landmarks, Some of which have now unfortunately disappeared. We landed at Maydon Channel amid huge showers of spray. We were taken ashore at about 1500 and, amid much saluting and hand shakes, the trip was over.
A very tired and excited little boy (14yrs old) and his mate walked our weary way home. All I could say to my mother when asked about the flight was that it was O.K. It was only the next day that I was able to tell her all about it.

Desmond Manning (as told to Allan Jackson)

Des attended the Technical High School and was an air cadet in 1950. He attended 10-day camp with 35 Squadron at Bayhead during the Michaelmas holidays and was taken on trip by Sunderland to Lake Umsingazi. He reported that the trip was a nightmare because interior had been stripped out of the aircraft's fuselage and that the cadets had nothing to hang on to. There was, he said, no sound insulation in the hull to deaden the sound of the water hammering on it during take off and landing. He reported that the cadets returned from the trip bruised and shaken, with their overalls filthy due to fact that many of the cadets had been ill.

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