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South African Hospitality

"On the 8th February (1941) the convoy divided into two. One section of 11 ships went on to Durban as there were too many with naval vessels to inflict on Cape Town, where our vessels and escort docked at 0915 hrs. Passes were issued daily to allow 75% of the troops shore leave from 1300 hrs until midnight, which meant 3 days leave out of the 4 we were due to stay. My officer told me I was ship's staff and nothing to do with him, so I issued myself with a pass every day. As the troops left the dock gates local residents were lined up with cars to offer tours and hospitality. Three of us were picked up by a family called Davis and taken on a tour of the area, and then taken home for a meal. We covered 63 miles, and after a very pleasant evening we were taken back to the ship, with some grapes.

They made arrangements to collect us the next day when we were taken on another tour round a different area covering 100 miles. At home later the son, Brian, gave me some photos of Cape Town and other places. This time we returned with peaches. So as not to outdo our welcome we said we would tour the town next day, which we did. By the evening we were tired so we phoned the Davis family to see if we could go for the evening, and they agreed, so we went there by trolley-bus, which was free to troops. There were other troops there but we were still taken back to the ship. How the others fared I'm not sure. We spent the final early afternoon in town and went by trolley-bus again to the Davis family, and went on a short tour of 40 miles. After supper I 'helped' the daughter with her homework (I think) and returned to the ship with more grapes, after the best days I've ever had.

Cape Town
Photo: Bill Greenfield

I have a record of the Davis's address and did write when we reached Greece as there was no opportunity earlier, but I heard no more. I assumed it was difficult for them to keep in touch with everybody they had entertained. I later realised that in all probability my letter had never left Greece, in the turmoil of the final days, and I regret that I never tried again. On a tour of South Africa in 1998 I did try the phone book, without success, but a lot had happened in 57 years."

'The First and Only Militia' by WT Greenfield