Allan Jackson - June 2005
ago I was fortunate to be able to acquire a copy of the Souvenir
Programme produced to mark the visit of HMS Durban in December
1926. The booklet, issued on behalf of the Durban Town Council
by the Durban Publicity Association, is in remarkably good
condition for its age and is packed with interesting information.
kicks off with a welcome by Durban's Mayor, Cllr. H.L. Buzzard,
to Captain Guy L Coleridge, Officer Commanding HMS Durban,
and his Officers and Men. The language of the welcome is wonderful,
as shown by these extracts:
Royal Navy is to us all a perpetual witness to the strength
of those common ideals which bind together all the wide flung
peoples and Dominions of the King ... We have hitherto watched
with more than ordinary interest the career of your gallant
ship, and you may be assured that after thus meeting you in
person and actually seeing our name-ship, your future progress
and welfare will be a matter of even greater intereest to
the Citizens of Durban."
was to begin at 12:30pm on Wednesday, 15 December, with a
parade in front of the Town Hall. Amongst the many other events
show High Jinks hosted by the Bachelor Girls Club at the
- A Naval
and Military Sports Meeting in Albert park.
- A Dance
- A number
of tours to different locations.
- A yacht
race and many other sporting events including cricket, boxing,
swimming, rifle shooting.
21 December, there was to be a march through the town ending
at the Old Fort, where Captain Coleridge was to unveil a memorial
tablet to Lieuts. King and Farewell, the first British settlers
at Port Natal. The last event was to be a Farewell Merry Evening,
on Wednesday, at Ocean Beach with Bands and Open Air Dancing.
The ship was to leave Durban the following day, on Thursday.
as if the people of Durban threw open their hearts to the
ship with many clubs and organisations offering either freebies
or concessions to the ship's crew.
except officers were offered free travel on Durban's trams
and free bathing in the Bathing Enclosure at Ocean Beach.
were offered honorary membership of the Durban [now Royal
Durban] and Country Club Golf Clubs.
Durban Bowls Club offered their facilities to all members
of the crew and promised to provide shoes and bowls.
Officers and Warrant Officers were offered the use of the
Union Club during the visit.
Greyville Cinema and the Alhambra Cinema Theatre offered
free admission to the men in the evenings, except on Saturday,
while the Empire Theatre and Crierion Theatre offered reduced
Navy League and HMS Durban
of the booklet contains information on the relationship between
the ship and her name town. The Town Council originally discussed
the possibility of making a presentation to the ship in 1919
and asked the Ladies' Section of the Navy League to raise
funds. The ladies apparently managed to raise £400 which
went to buying silver for the ship as well as the Borough
Coat Of Arms carved in oak, for her quarterdeck. The Ladies'
Section also presented the ship with instruments for the band,
a silken ensign and Jack, and two cups, to be competed for
the ship's Lower Deck. The various bits and pieces were presented
to the ship by Dr A McKenzie in a ceremony in the offices
of the High Commissioner for South Africa.
Lieut. King Hall of HMS Durban suggested that the ship should
have a South African marching tune for use by the ship's band
on ceremonial occasions. A prize was offered for the best
marching song and, after the entries were judged by the Borough
Musical Director and a Sub-Committee of the Navy League, the
winning song was forwarded to the ship. I must say that I
would be most intrigued to know what it was.
of the 72-page booklet is devoted to extolling the virtues
of Durban and running through all this is the palpable sense
of pride with which Durbanites viewed their town. There is
a section on the history of Durban and on the cosmopolitan
nature of the town. There is much on the busy harbour and on plans to incororate the outlying areas, such as Mayville,
into the borough. Durban North had been established and a
£60,000 1,270-foot bridge was being built across the
Umgeni River to link to the new suburb.
is a long section punting Durban's status as the premier holiday
destination in the country and describing the ammenities on
offer. It mentions that the open air swimming bath on the
beachfront was one of the largest in the world with sheltered
bathing conditions while still offering visitors the "bouyancy
and exhilaration" of bathing in sea water.
dock is mentioned as having been opened the year before .
The Municipal Broadcasting Station in the City Hall is mentioned
along with the fact that it was only municipal broadcaster
in South Africa. The station apparently served much of Natal,
East Griqualand and sections of the Cape province and the
booklet notes that experiments were underway aimed at linking
up South African radio stations in a national broadcasting
organisation, thus "ensuring perfection in service combined
with economy in working".
Power Station in Alice Street was providing all the electricity
for Durban and the Corporation was doing everything in its
power (Ha Ha!!) to encourage the use of electricity. Measures
ranged from the supply of stoves and geysers on hire purchase
to "competitive cookery exhibitions" to encourage
the use of electric stoves. There were over 6000 telephone
subscibers in Durban, which had the only purely municipal
telephone service in the country. The municipality had installed
two automatic exchanges on the Berea, with a capacity of 2000
lines each, but the central exchange was still manual owing
to the high cost of conversion.
interesting things in the booklet include the fact that the
estimated population of the Borough of Durban was 110,041 made
up of 53,356 Europeans [whites], 1881 Coloured [mixed race],
38000 Native [black] and 16,804 Asiatic. Another 71,620 people
lived in the Suburbs and the nett rateable value of Durban had
risen from £482,569 in 1875 to £21,454,580 in 1926.
Taxi fares between the Post Office and Albert Park and the
Post Office and Tollgate were given as 2 shillings and 6 shillings
respectively, while the ricksha fares for the same trips were
sixpence to Albert Park and either 2 shillings for the trip
up the hill to Tollgate or 1 shilling for the trip into town
to the Post Office. The charge for the hire of ladies or gents
swimming costumes at the bathing enclosure and beach swimming
bath was sixpence while the hire of a towel was threepence.