by John H Marsh
BACK in Windhoek there had been growing anxiety as day followed day
without news of Smith's convoy.
When Naude's message that the tug was ashore near Rocky Point reached Windhoek late on the afternoon of December 3, police headquarters immediately radioed the police post at Kamanjab asking that Smith should be informed of the second wreck and instructed to pick up the tug crew on his way to the liner wreck. But the convoy had already left Kamanjab and there was no means of overtaking it.
Colonel van Coller now decided to organise a second military convoy to follow in the tracks of the first, pick up the tug crew, and try to salve Naude's bogged aircraft. The plane was worth about 30,000 UK Pounds and its loss could be ill-afforded by the S.A.A.F. at that time. Instructions had been given that every possible effort must be made to salve it.
The second convoy comprised five three-ton troop carriers, some Fords and the others Chevrolets, and it was put under the command of Captain H. Borchers, of the Union Defence Force. The trucks were loaded with petrol, water, and food, as well as spare parts and planks, block and tackle, and wire netting, which were to be used in trying to get the plane out of the sand. Balloon tyres were obtained for all the trucks except one, for which Borchers had to be content with ordinary standard tyres. They were to cause endless trouble in the days that followed.
The second convoy left Windhoek on the evening of December 5, three days behind Smith's expedition.
Colonel Johnston, the police chief in Windhoek, waited anxiously for news of the first convoy's progress. Such news, he knew, could come only through the reconnaissance aircraft which the S.A.A.F. were sending out from Walvis Bay. When, day after day, the planes came back from their search to report no signs of the convoy, he began to fear that it was itself in trouble somewhere out there "in the blue." When December 7 came, and four days had passed since Smith sent his last message from Kamanjab, Colonel Johnston determined to go himself to see what had happened. Accordingly he gave instructions for a "flying squad" of three light vehicles to be prepared and manned, fuelled, and stored, and he left Windhoek with this third convoy at seven o'clock the same evening. The convoy comprised the divisional police headquarters' car and two light delivery vans. Each had a European police driver, the expedition numbering four men in all.
Following in the well-defined tracks of the two convoys ahead of them,
the police made rapid progress via Outjo to Kamanjab, which they reached
next day. They missed the two Hottentot runners who on the same day delivered
their message there from Smith, asking for the air pumps, spares, and tyres,
to be dropped from the air at Rocky Point. The police immediately radioed
the message to Windhoek, where Major E. Howe, acting in Colonel Johnston's
place, arranged with the defence authorities for the required articles
to be put aboard a plane the same afternoon and flown to Walvis Bay, from
where they would be taken to Rocky Point by one of the Venturas.
Copyright Michael Marsh(2020)
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