Monday, April 22, 2013

The Idler, Tuesday, April 22, 2013

Wartime memories stir

IT WAS ALL a long time ago but last week's pieces about anti-submarine operations of our coast during World War II have stirred memories for older readers.

Frank van Vloten says he was at school at the time but his two older sisters were army drivers and they had to take lorries from Clairwood to Umhlanga to pick up bodies that had been washed ashore.

Details were sparse as there was a news black-out and nobody discussed such things.

"But there must have been submarine activity off the Natal coast, either by Japanese or German U-Boats."

Arthur Wilkinson, of Hillcrest, says Catalina and Sunderland flying boats also operated from Durban harbour. He lived with his parents in an eighth-floor flat on the corner of Broad Street and the Esplanade from 1942, and had a wonderful view of the Catalinas and Sunderlands taking off and landing.

"In the case of the Catalinas the depth charges could be seen fixed underneath their wings. On many occasions they would be missing on their return, obviously having been dropped on a target."


Mike Trevethan confirms that U-Boat 197 was sunk off the coast of southern Africa. He has a military chart of ships sunk, captured or damaged in the waters off Southern Africa between 1939 and 1945.


"She was sunk on the August 20, 1943, approximately 42 degrees East longitude and 28 degrees South latitude.


"Unfortunately the chart does not show how she was sunk, but I am certain you are correct to say by a local seaplane."


He says there were only German submarines off our coast, not Italian.


MEANWHILE, Neil Goss (presumably of the well-known family of Pondoland traders) sends information about the land-based anti-submarine sweeps of 29 Squadron (South African Air Force), who operated from Lambazi airstrip near Port Grosvenor.

They flew Ansons, Taylorcraft and eventually Venturas, providing escorts for shipping as well. They also flew to Durban and Mtubatuba to join anti-submarine operations off the North Coast and Zululand.

The Paramount Chief of the Pondos was once given a 30-minute flight in a Ventura, and afterwards he donated an ox to the squadron who were under canvas at Lambazi.

Neil says the grass airstrip at Lambazi was re-opened for the first time in 2009 and is now known as Mkhweni. The wartime ammunition bunkers are still there.


All this was sparked by the planned re-opening of the naval base on Salisbury Island. It suggests how crazy it was ever to have closed it. Nobody wants another war but unless you have certain minimal preparations against it, that's when you're more likely to get it.

Donnish wordplay


A RECENT Tailpiece featured professors exploring the appropriate collective noun for a gathering of prostitutes (a jam of tarts, a flourish of strumpets, an anthology of prose).


But reader Richard Newell, of Gillitts, says there are two more of these donnish collective nouns: "a firm of solicitors" and "a novel of Trollope's".


Which leads him to recall the case of five insurance companies that were about to merge. They employed a commercial artist to design a suitable logo. In due course he arrived at the boardroom with a picture in each corner of the page of a man in bed with a woman and picture in the centre a man alone in bed'


Asked to explain, he said: The couple in the top left corner are man and wife – "Legal & General"; in the top right corner we have a man in bed with his housekeeper - the "Employers' Liability"; bottom right is a man in bed with his fiancee - "Mutual Trust"; and bottom left is a man with a prostitute - "Commercial Union".


"Ha, very good," said the directors. "And the man alone in the middle?"


"Ah, he's the "Prudential".






Last word


Go, and never darken my towels again.

Groucho Marx


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