was a very important transit point for the movement of troops
during WWI and WWII and many hundreds of thousands, if not
millions, of them visited here in passing as they went about
their grim business of war. Frederick Pendall was one of these
and spent time in Durban during February 1916 while resting
during a sea voyage from the UK to India. He left a diary
of his wartime experiences and I have been given gracious
permission by his descendants to reproduce the section of
the diary dealing with Durban. The balance of the diary may
be read on Nigel
extract you are about to read is very interesting but it does
contain one instance of the racially hurtful N-Word. I decided
not to censor it because the diary is an historic document
and I feel that it is morally wrong to suppress and/or rewrite
bits of history that you don't like. Allan
8th. Left port [Cape Town] for Durban at 6 o'clock in the
morning very rough and heavy sea, worst we've had.
9th. Engine broken down and we had to stop and repair pipe.
10th. Held ships sports, still very heavy sea, land is in
sight nearly all the way from Capetown to Durban high mountains
all the way.
11th we were all too excited over landing at Durban that
i forgot my own Birthday.
12th. Landed at Durban at 6 in the morning and marched to
rest camp. At 11 o'clock arrived there in time to have dinner
which we enjoyed very much, after living on board ship for
7 weeks. We had very little to eat on board, we only had
bread and butter for tea and breakfast 2, 4lb loaves for
16 people with about 1/2lb butter for each meal. We had
meat and potatoes for dinner but nothing to drink. 1/2 pint
tea with no sugar for tea and breakfast- and our sleeping
was none too good - as our hooks for hanging hammocks were
only 15 inches apart. We had nothing much to do on the ship
, if we had we could not have done it on the food we got.
we only did 1/2 hours parade and 1/2 hour PT each day. We
had to get up at 6 breakfast at 7 and then all on top deck,
first parade at 1/4 to 10. PT at 1/2 past 10. Dismiss at
11 o'clock when we had finished for the day.
found it a pleasant change to get into camp as we were fed
much better and we had a grand YMCA Hut where we could buy
tea etc. at 1d per cup - minerals @2d buns etc. Notepaper
free. We were allowed out at night after 6 o'clock. We found
that soldiers were treated much better in Africa than in
England, in the 1st place we could ride on trams free of
charge. It was on the beach where our camp was situated,
it was a lovely place. We were on the side of the tram lines
where our tents stood, and we were lit up by the electric
lights on the tram lines, it was a monstrous great camp,
about 50,000 soldiers in camp all sorts - black ones - white
ones - Australians and several 100 of sailors.
13th. We were allowed in town from 2 till 10pm. We went
for a tram ride, to the Wesley Hall where we had some sandwiches
and tea, fruit grapes etc all free, then we went for a tram
ride round the town 8 miles free, it was a glorious ride
such lovely trees and flowers, I have never seen anything
so beautiful. When we got back we went to the Army and Navy
Hall where we had a wash etc. and then we had a shop window
randy. We could not buy much as everything was so dear.
We returned to the beach by tram and watched the bathers
until 10 o'clock lights out at 10-15.
14th. We went out at 2 o'clock and took at tram to the zoo
where I had a good look round and to the public gardens
and museums which were all free to soldiers. We were very
much surprised to see the means they have of getting about,
there are very few horses, nearly all the work is done by
small mules and instead of cabs or taxi's they have rickshaws
drawn by niggers, they are all dressed up with a pair of
horns and feathers in their heads and will seem like stags,
quite as fast as a horse, for miles with 3 or 4 soldiers
in the rickshaw and they don't charge very much. I should
like to have ridden in one but we had no money in the Norfolks.
All the other regt's were paid every week but we were not.
The Australians were drawing 6/0s per day. We were only
worth 6 pence and that we could not get. We had drawn 15/0s
in 8 weeks and there was always something we wanted, such
as soap, tobacco, matches, polish for boots etc, and if
i had not done a bit of hair cutting etc. I should have
been very hard up, but I was never really broke - only once
- I then had some owing to me, but the fellows could not
regards our camp life here, it was a rest camp and we used
it as such, we got up at 6am washed, shaved etc bathing
parades at 7.00. not in the sea as it was not allowed on
account of sharks and sharp ..........
is a gap here - part of page unreadable>
living in main streets are white, the natives live in their
own quarter and their dresses are all the colours of the
rainbow, with rings on their fingers, on their toes and
in their ears and through their nose. they are most of them
fruit sellers the women, but it is so dear that we cannot
buy it. Pears are 1d to 2d each, apples 1d each, bananas
are cheap 4d per doz. Tobacco is very cheap 1/0d per 1/4lb.
tin navy cut. boer tobacco 1/0d per lb bags. everything
else is very dear, ice cream not less than 9d. and sweets
are only marked up by the pound and terrible dear.
17th. Saturday, bathing parade, route march, wash our clothes
out at 2 to go to the races, lovely racecourse here and
good racing. It came onto rain so we went to the Wesley
Hall where we had a good feed, then to the museum and library,
a magnificent place. Arrived in camp at 6pm. Went to concert
at YMCA at 7.30pm to hear the Durban Follies which were
very good indeed, in fact there is a good concert every
night. The Wesley Hall is a large hall belonging to the
Wesleyan Chapel and everything is free to soldiers and sailors
and there is no waiting for it. They make as many as 8 thousand
cups of tea and 20 thousand sandwiches in a day, besides
pastry etc. and fruit. There are writing rooms, paper etc.
all free of charge. Raining in torrents all night.
18th Feb. Bathing parade 6 o'clock, breakfast at 8.00 Church
parade at 8.45 open air service on the beach, thousands
attended service and the sun enough to scorch you. At 2
o'clock we went out till 1/4 to 5. At 6pm we had the order
to pack up ready to board ship, not the same ship, but we
are to be ready to leave camp at 7am. Durban on the whole
is a very nice place, you would hardly know that you were
not in London only by the heat and the lovely flowering
trees. I wold not mind living in Durban, all the same I
shall be glad to be getting to India, as it is now 2 months
since we boarded the Pakeha.
19th. Marched out of camp down to the docks where we found
a ship waiting for us, it was a big ship and my word it
was a dirty old thing and on our deck it was nearly dark
and the smell of mice was awful and we could not have the
portholes open as they were too near the water line, so
it does not look like a very pleasant voyage to india. We
boarded the ship at 10.30am and moved out into the bay at
12 noon and anchored there. I have not at present found
out the name of it, but it is an old ship taken from the
Germans in the early part of the war and we are told by
the crew that she will run to Bombay in 14 days and I hope
she will do it as I am longing to get a letter from home
and hear that things are going on alright. At 12 noon we
had dinner it was a dinner too, meat and potatoes just about
enough to give a rat a good feed. At 2o'clock we set sail,
we stood on deck and watched Durban go out of sight, 4 o'clock
we had tea, a small piece of bread and butter, 3 loaves
for 18 men and at 8 o'clock lights out. We were nearly starved
on the Pakeha but this is worse than ever.
Pendall was born on 11 February 1880 in Norfolk and spent
his early years in a viilage there called Blo Norton. He worked
as a gardener and, in 1927, accepted the post of gardener
to the Barnard family in Cople in Bedfordshire and moved there
with his wife Frances and their six children. He died in Cople
on 29th April 1972.