by John H Marsh
|FATE STEERED THEIR COURSES|
BELIEVE it or not, what happened subsequently to some of those who
survived the Skeleton Coast drama is almost unbelievable. Heroism,
tragedy, irony were to continue dogging their footsteps.
I've researched at this time - late 1978 - as much as was possible into what happened subsequently to every individual whose name is mentioned in the original book. This is what I've found, presented in alphabetical order:
BORCHERS, Capt H., in charge of the second overland convoy sent from Windhoek to rescue the castaways from the Sir Charles Elliott and to save Naude's bogged bomber. He was released from military service on medical grounds in September 1944. No information on what happened to him subsequently.
BREWIN, Tugmaster Harry G., master of the Sir Charles Elliott when she was wrecked. After recovery from his ordeal he was appointed master of the big tug T. Eriksen at Durban in 1944; transferred to Cape Town to command the famous tug Ludwig Wiener in May 1946; appointed acting pilot at Cape Town in July 1947, and pilot in February 1948; transferred to East London in 1958 and retired there, still as pilot, in 1965. In late 1978 he was still living, aged 73, at Fairview, 22 Ganteaume Crescent, Beach, East London, C.P.
CARLING, Alan, second officer of the Dunedin Star. Rescued by the Nerine. Remained with the Blue Star Line. Survived hostilities, promoted to chief officer, and was serving as such in the new passenger liner Argentina Star when he was killed in Buenos Aires while horse riding ashore, in about 1946.
CHAPMAN, Sgt Bentley, radio operator of the bomber piloted by Capt. Immins Naude when it became bogged near the camp of the castaways from the Dunedin Star. After his rescue he was posted to the Mediterranean theatre of war. His bomber was shot down and he was last seen parachuting into the sea.
COCHRANE, Lt R.B., gunner-observer-radio operator of the Ventura bomber piloted by Major Matthys Uys when he landed on the sand ridge at Rocky Point and rescued the first of the survivors of the Sir Charles Elliott. He left No. 23 Bomber Squadron in December 1943 on being transferred to 64 Air School. He was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1943. He left the service in November 1945. No information on what happened to him after that.
COX, Mr Tommy, second mate of the tug Sir Charles Elliott, who took the last watch before that of the first mate, Mr Angus Macintyre, in which she ran aground with the subsequent drowning of Mr Macintyre. Mr Cox remained in the Administration's service until about 1950, when he retired and went to settle in Umtali, Rhodesia, where he was last reported to be running a garage.
CREW of the Dunedin Star. After they re-assembled in Cape Town
and had rested and recuperated they were repatriated by ship to
England. Most of them, after a short home leave, were signed on as
crew in the Melbourne Star, a sister ship of the Dunedin Star, and
she sailed almost immediately, on March 22, 1943, from Liverpool,
for Sydney, Australia, via Panama, with 31 passengers and 86 crew
and a cargo of munitions. Eleven days later, on April 2, at 3 a.m.,
when she was 480 miles southeast of Bermuda in heavy weather, a
German U-Boat fired 2 torpedoes almost simultaneously into her.
She blew up immediately and within 2 minutes had disappeared under
the water. Some rafts floated to the surface and when dawn broke
11 survivors were clinging to two of them. The U-Boat then appeared
and her commander questioned the hapless men on the identity of
their ship and the nature of her cargo. Then the U-Boat went off and
left the people to their fate. It was not until the German propaganda
department boasted of the latest evidence of the prowess of the German
Navy that the loss of the ship became known. Thirty-eight days after
the sinking an American flying boat found one raft and rescued the four
men on it. They were in surprisingly good condition, although needing
hospital treatment. They were the only survivors of the ship's complement.
None of them had been in the crew of the Dunedin Star.
DALGLEISH,Capt James S., Director of the South African Naval Forces. He saw the war through in this post. On August 1, 1946 he was promoted to the rank of Commodore and in December of the same year he retired as Director of the SANF. In July 1951 he was placed on the retirement list at the age of 60, with the rank of Commodore. He has since died.
DAVIES, J., chief officer of the Dunedin Star, brought to Windhoek by the overland convoy. Remained with the Blue Star Line and survived hostilities. Promoted to master and had his own command until he retired. Subsequently died.
DE VILLIERS, Major-General I.P., CB, MC, GOC Coastal Area, Cape Town, responsible for organising and supervising the rescue of the castaways on Skeleton Coast. He was a policeman by profession who in 1940 had been seconded to the S.A. Defence Force to take command of its 2nd Division with the rank of major-general. In November 1944 he left the SADF to resume duty as Commissioner of Police. He retired in 1951 at the age of 60. He died in the late 1950s.
DEARDEN C., chief refrigeration engineer of the Dunedin Star, evacuated by air from Rocky Point. Remained with the Blue Star Line, surviving hostilities, until retirement. Since died.
DOMS, Lt Johann, observer in Capt. Immins Naude's Ventura when it got stuck in the sand. He did active service in the Air Force throughout the war and until the end of October 1945. Back in Civvy St he became a garage proprietor at Aberdeen, Cape. Later he moved to Milnerton, Cape Town, where he was still in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s he was back on the Skeleton Coast with a financial interest in the project to build a harbour there which, however, came to nothing. No recent news of him.
DRIVER, Lt. F.J., second in command of the Nerine. He subsequently commanded various minesweepers in South African waters until July 1944, when he was seconded to the Royal Navy. He eventually held the rank of Lt Commander in the South African Naval Forces. He was reported to have died in 1957, at the age of 60.
EL SAIFI. Mrs Hilda El Saifi's baby is reported to be now grown up, married and living in Scotland.
FINLAYSON, Lt. Com. W. ("Wally") S., the South African naval officer-in-charge at Walvis Bay who was in local charge of the South African naval ships that were sent to help rescue the castaways. Later he held various appointments as chief examination officer at Union ports, and he was released from full-time service in February, 1946. In the following year while master of the Government Guano Islands steamer Gamtoos he took the Occupation Party of troops and construction workers on the dangerous secret mission from Cape Town to the Prince Edward Islands on the fringe of the Antarctic Ocean as part of the expedition which annexed the islands for South Africa. One of his 2 civilian passengers was the Author, who as a result wrote his second book, No Pathway Here. Captain Finlayson later retired from sea service. No recent news of him:
GELDENHUYS, Constable A.D., who was one of the 2 policemen chosen to accompany Captain Smith, also of the South African Police, on his overland expedition to rescue the castaways. Later he went through the stages of promotion to Sergeant, was pensioned in 1969, and died in 1970.
HAMMILL, George, third officer of the Dunedin Star, rescued by the Temeraire. Did not return to the Blue Star Line after the war but was reported to have migrated to Australia.
HEWITT, Commander Brian, R.N., passenger in the Dunedin Star, evacuated by air from Rocky Point. He eventually reached Alexandria and being considered too old to fight afloat was given an office post helping to get the sea convoys through. After hostilities ended he retired to New Zealand where he died in the late 1950s of old age.
HILDYARD, Captain Gordon, the port officer and pilot at Walvis Bay who superintended the fitting out and equipping of the tug Sir Charles Elliott to go to the aid of the stranded Dunedin Star. He died in 1977.
HUTCHINSON, Capt. E.L., the military doctor of the S.A. Medical Corps who accompanied Capt. Smith's overland convoy. Soon after he returned from helping to rescue the castaways he was posted back to front line service and he served with the 6th S.A. Armoured Division in Italy. He was released from military service in April, 1946. No news of him since.
JOHNSTON, E. ("Johnny"), assistant purser of the Dunedin Star brought back to Windhoek by the overland convoy. Went back to sea with Blue Star Line and remained afloat until after hostilities ended. Then came ashore and went into the Company's freight department. Retired in 1975 at the age of 65. Now lives in Essex, England.
JOUBERT, Capt. P.S., DSO, AFC. Pilot of the Ventura bomber which helped to keep the castaways supplied from the air and which, with that of Major Matthuys Uys, rescued the first group of them from Rocky Point. In civil life a mining engineer, he had been born in 1896 and in WW1 had served in the German S.W.A. and German E.A. campaigns and afterwards with the Royal Flying Corps (which was to become the Royal Air Force) in Egypt and Ireland. In 1940 he was flying again in war service with the SAAF. After the Skeleton Coast operation he was seconded, in 1943, back to the RAF. He served with the No. 1 Ferry Unit and later with 271 Squadron RAF. He was injured in an accident during the VJ-Day peace celebrations in August 1945 and died of his injuries on August 16.
KOCKOTT, Sub-Lieutenant P.D., S.A.N.F., the officer on watch on board the wrecked Dunedin Star during the cargo salvage operations, who gave the alarm when the great storm began on New Year's Night, 1943. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1945. During his service he was in turn in command of H.M.S.A.S. Aristea, Benoni, Parktown and Southern Isles. After hostilities ceased he returned to civilian life, but in the middle and late Sixties he served the SAN again in a part-time capacity as a Lieutenant on SAS Rand (ACF). In 1972 he was living in Johannesburg.
LEE, Capt. R.B., master of the Dunedin Star. A court of inquiry in South Africa found him blameworthy for the accident to his ship. He was then dismissed by the Blue Star Line. For a time he ran a pub to make a living, in England. Then Blue Star gave him another chance and he became master of an invasion vessel under their management. When its job was done and Blue Star's management contract ended he was not offered another ship. He eventually went to India and while working ashore there not long after, died.
LEMIERE, Mr John, chief engineer of the tug Sir Charles Elliott. He survived the war but died later.
MACARTNEY, J., fourth officer of the Dunedin Star, rescued by the Nerine. Now lives in Liverpool.
MEREDITH, Lieutenant James R., RN, Paymaster-Lieutenant aboard HMS Afrikander at Walvis Bay, who broke the news to Dr Burn Wood on his arrival there after being rescued, of his son's success in sinking a U-Boat. In December 1945 he returned to the SANF payroll. He left the service in October 1946. In 1967 he was living at Rondebosch, Cape Town.
MOSTERT, Lt-Col. M.C.P., OBE, commander of the fortress air defences of the Cape Fortress Command, who supervised at Walvis Bay the aerial side of the supply and rescue operations of the castaways. In November 1943 he was appointed OC 29 Squadron SAAF. He was mentioned in despatches for gallant service in East Africa and Madagascar. He was released from service with the Forces on December 8, 1945, and in the same month joined British Overseas Airways Corporation. He became in turn general manager of its associated companies Iraqi Airways, West African Airways and East African Airways. He retired about 1963 and died a few years ago.
NAUDE, Captain Immins, pilot of the Ventura bomber who landed his plane near the castaways to try and rescue some, got bogged, and after his rescue went back, recovered his plane, and before he could get it home crashed into the sea. After his discharge from the South African Air Force because of the injuries he received in the crash, he ran a garage at Malmesbury, Cape, then went farming near Zeerust in the Western Transvaal, and after retiring in 1960 lived for periods at Port Alfred and Plettenberg Bay. He now lives with his wife, Hilda, on the Klippoortjie Estate in the Germiston district, near Johannesburg.
NICOLAY, Lieutenant Paddy, DFC, co-pilot with Capt. Immins Naude when they landed their Ventura bomber at the castaways camp and became bogged. After the rescue he saw service in the Italian campaign, was decorated, and was promoted to Captain. He joined the SAAF Permanent Force in 1946. Ironically, when he was flying as a passenger in a Ventura in May of the following year, he was killed when it crashed near Khartoum.
PHIMISTER, G., junior second engineer of the Dunedin Star, brought to Windhoek by the overland convoy. Since died.
ROBBS, Major J.N. DFC, pilot of the Ventura bomber that replaced Capt Immins Naude's one in dropping food and water and other supplies to the castaways after Naude's plane became bogged. After the rescues he was posted back to his original 12 Squadron and saw service with it in the Middle East. In July 1943 he was given command of it, after promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel. In December of the same year he twas shot down. He survived and was taken prisoner. No subsequent news of him available.
RUSSELL, Corporal C, radio operator of Major Robbs' Ventura during its supply-dropping to the castaways. Subsequently he served with 26 Squadron, and in 1944 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant Air Gunner. No later news of him.
RUDMAN, Air Mechanic Aleric Vincent, who with Captain Immins
Naude and A/M Bloemhof escaped after their bomber crashed into the
sea and who went ahead alone and intercepted the returning overland
salvage party, thus ensuring the rescue of his comrades, had also participated
in the rescue of the survivors of the tug crew earlier. He had been
a member of the aircrew of Matthys Uys' Ventura when Uys landed
on the sand dune at Rocky Point and picked up some of the castaways.
SCHLENGERMAN, Sergeant-Major C.H., in charge of the maintenance crew sent from Cape Town which got Capt. Naude's bogged bomber into the air again. Subsequently he served with 16 Squadron in the Middle East, until after hostilities ended. He then served with 34 Squadron until his discharge on April 1, 1946. No later news of him.
SCULLY, Leading Signalman Denis, who swam from the moored lifeboat to the beach with a lifeline and thus enabled the first castaways to be rescued from the shore. In September 1943 he left for the Middle East theatre. In 1944 he was promoted lance-corporal and he served with 6 Air Depot Artillery Signal Squadron until his discharge in February 1946. He is now a film producer living at 2 Umgeni Road, Emmarentia, Johannesburg.
SCOTT Mr Bob, second engineer of the tug Sir Charles Elliott. He continued in the Administration's tug service until pensioned, and is believed to have since died.
SMITH, Captain W.J. Brafield, the district police commandant at Omaruru who commanded the first overland convoy that went to rescue the castaways, left the Police Force in 1944 to go on early pension because of ill health and went dairy farming at Carolina in the Eastern Transvaal. In 1955 he moved with his family to Pietermaritzburg and became Secretary of Road Safety in the City and also representative of Pietermaritzburg City in the Provincial Council. He served in both capacities for 8 years and then in 1966 was elected to Parliament. He represented Pietermaritzburg City there for 8 years. In 1972 he returned to Skeleton Coast for the first time, but on this occasion in a little more comfort and with less anxiety and responsibility, as a member of an official party doing an investigation. They used four-wheel-drive vehicles and aircraft. In late 1978, now aged 75, he was still serving on the Board of Grey's Hospital, P.M.B., and he and his wife, Truda, keen bowlers, were proud owners of 2 race horses.
SMIT, Major A.J., GSO (II) at Combined Headquarters, Cape Town, who served as observer on Major Robbs' first flight to the wrecks. In February 1943 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and he saw service in the Middle East and then in 1945 in Italy. He was placed on the reserve of officers in 1967.
STRETTON, Jack, Captain Lee's personal steward in the Dunedin Star. Rescued by the Temeraire. Subsequently left Blue Star Line service and now lives in New Zealand.
STRETTON, John, assistant steward in the Dunedin Star and brother of Jack (see above). Rescued by the Nerine. Remained with Blue Star Line, climbed the ladder to become purser, and in September 1978 was still serving at sea. Probably the last of the Dunedin Star's crew to be doing so. His home is at 511B, Gale St, Dagenham, Essex, England.
TAIT, Vice-Admiral Sir Campbell. C-in-C South Atlantic, RN, who was at Combined Headquarters, Cape Town, when the Dunedin Star beached herself, and became responsible for the safety of all and everything aboard her. In November 1944 he retired from the Navy and was appointed governor of Southern Rhodesia. He died in 1946.
TAYLOR Annabel. She and her mother reached Abyssinia and she stayed there until after the war. She is believed to have then gone to England to take up nursing. No news of her since.
THOMPSON, Jimmy, fifth officer of the Dunedin Star. Brought back
to Windhoek by the overland convoy. He and Annabel Taylor did not
marry, though they kept in touch with each other until after hostilities
ended. He continued to serve the Blue Star Line at sea and attained
command. While his ship was in dry dock he met Pat, and in 1952
they were married and they now have a grown-up son and daughter.
UYS, Major Matthys, AFC, who led the way in rescuing castaways by air from Rocky Point. His subsequent career was as outstanding as its start had been. From May to December 1944 he served with 27 Squadron as Squadron Commander in North Africa, Malta, Italy and France. In 1945 he served in Egypt and South Africa, still with 27 Squadron. The war ended, he remained in the SAAF and was soon made Staff Officer Air Operations to the Air Chief of Staff. In 1949 he went back to active flying as a VIP pilot with 28 Transport Squadron. In 1950 he volunteered for active service again in Korea and was made operations officer with SAAF'S 2 Squadron there. Home again, in 1954 he was promoted to Commandant, in 1961 to Colonel, and in 1962 to Brigadier. He died on November 25, 1964, at the early age of 53.
VAN COLLER, Colonel C.A.B., MBE, ED, officer commanding the South West Africa Command, who provided the vehicles and drivers and supplies for Captain Smith's police overland rescue convoy and later provided and organised the second, military, overland rescue convoy commanded by Capt. Borchers. He retired in October, 1943, at the age of 63.
VAN DER HOVEN, Major P.F., Fortress Commander at Walvis Bay, who recommended to Combined Headquarters at Cape Town that it should send aircraft to drop water and food to the castaways, and who later took a salvage party to the Dunedin Star to recover mail and freight. After his S.W.A. service he saw further war service in the Middle East and Italy. After hostilities ended he remained in the Permanent Force, rising to the rank of Brigadier and to command of, in turn, Western Province Command and Natal Command. In 1969 he retired and went to live at Tulbach, Cape.
VAN DIGGELEN, Major H.C., of Defence Headquarters, Windhoek, who organised a search by plane for the third overland rescue convoy, that of Colonel Johnston's "flying sqnad". He was released from fulltime service in April, 1944 and was placed on the retirement list of the Union Defence Force in May, 1953, on reaching 60. No later news of him.
VAN PITTIUS, Major C. Gey, OC No.23 Bomber Squadron, who selected the planes and crews that were flown from the Cape to help the castaways. In 1943 he served in the Mediterranean theatre of war. The following year he returned to the Union and was attached to the S.A. Military College.When the war ended he remained in the Permanent Force. He served overseas in turn in the United Kingdom and the Middle East, finally returning to Defence Force Headquarters in 1952. He rose to the rank of Colonel and retired in 1970 to Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town.
VAN RENSBURG, Sub-Lieutenant H.H., in command of the minesweeper H.M.S.A.S. Nerine which was the first ship to leave port to go to the rescue of the Dunedin Star and her people. In 1943 he was promoted to Lieutenant and after the war was over, in 1946, to Captain, when he left the Navy and was put on the reserve of officers. He was living in Plumstead, Cape, when he died in April 1961, at the age of 49.
WALTERS, Sub-Lieutenant J.C., in command of the minesweeper H.M.S.A.S. Natalia, the second warship to be sent to the rescue of the Dunedin Star and her people. He later rose to command warships as big as the frigate H.M.S.A.S. Transvaal and to be promoted in rank by stages to Vice-Admiral and finally to become Chief of the South African Navy. In late 1978 this was the post he held..
WOOD, Lieutenant Gordon Burn, DSO, son of Dr Burn Wood and in command of the submarine hunter H.M.S.A.S. Protea when on July 11, 1942, she and her consort H.M.S.A.S. Southern Maid fought and destroyed the Italian submarine Ondina between Beirut and Famagusta, capturing all but 5 of her crew, who were lost. Lieutenant Burn Wood was later decorated and so were others who took part in the action. Lieutenant Burn Wood left the Navy after the war ended, in December 1945.
WOOD, Dr J Burn, surgeon of the Dunedin Star. True to his vow he saw the war through as a ship's medic and rejoined his wife at Sea Point, Cape Town, after it was over. He died there in the Fifties at the age of about 80.
Copyright Michael Marsh(2020)
Return to main page