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12th July 2008, 11:36
Do any of you have photos or memories of "famous celebs" on the Union & Castle passenger ships. Ian Smith travelled on Edinburgh Castle in 1972 from Capetown to Durban when Rhodesia was still a country......
Doesn' time fly
16th March 2009, 12:54
Whilst serving on board Dunotter Castle as asst carpenter we had the author Eric Linklater on board travelling to S.A.who commented,that of all the Union Castle vessels sunk during the war wasent it a pity that this vessel was spared??? The old girl went on to last longer than him.Mind you she was in a bit of a state then.1939 to 2004 ? Wasent a bad innings.
16th March 2009, 13:48
I know another member here will remember this (Rodney Gascoigne) In 1966 on Capetown Castle we carried "The Lady in White" Perla Siedle Gibson from Durban to Southampton. She insisted on singing over the ship's broadcast system most days.... nuff said!
During and after World War 2, hundreds of ships sailed from or arrived in Durban harbour en route to or from various theatres of war, their decks often packed with soldiers of the UDF and the Commonwealth. Below decks crew would be busy at their tasks and often patients would line the wards of the hospital ships. It must have been an emotional moment for everybody concerned. Singing for her servicemen was our own "Vera Lyn" who was popularly known as "The Lady In White". The story goes that in April 1940, troops on board a troop ship goaded Perla Siedle Gibson, a soprano, to sing. "Hey Ma, sing us a song... Ma, come on, be a sport. Ma, give us Land of Hope and Glory Ma..." Perla was not perturbed and cupping her hands to her mouth broke into song. There was silence and then the troops joined in, their voices being heard above the hustle and bustle of wartime Durban. It was the start of a ritual which she would continue doing as long as there were troopships to sing to.
As the troopships undocked she would start singing patriotic songs, often with the aid of a megaphone. Then, as the ship turned in the harbour basin she would move to the North Pier, waiting for it to appear. As it passed slowly through the channel, she would sing, her voice carrying across the water to the men on board, saying her goodbyes in song, singing till long after the ship had crossed the bar and was out of earshot. It was a pledge by Perla to meet or send off each troopship. Dressed in white and wearing a white hat, she sang patriotic songs for more than 1000 troopships and over 350 hospital ships.
There is no doubt that this 50 year old mother of three made a difference as is testified by so many soldiers, sailor's and airmen who were on board these vessels who remember her with fondness, her musical renditions heard on board those ships, causing many a lump in many throats. She never allowed the grief from losing one of her own sons to stop her singing to the troops.
She passed away in 1971, just before her 83rd birthday, official recognition coming slowly. A stone cairn with a bronze plaque was completed in June 0f 1972 on the North Pier where she would have stood, singing to her boys. It was donated by the men of the Royal Navy.
16th March 2009, 13:54
Ian Smith...his last days as Prime Minister of then Rhodesia was on the last upcoast voyage of Windsor Castle from Cape Town to Durban.
21st February 2010, 19:26
During my 2 years with Union Castle from 1974 to 1976, I was privilaged to meet Sir Arthur Harris (Bomber Harris) and his wife a number of times. I believe he was a director of the company. I also met Hayley Mills who was traveling back to the UK having just completed filming the film " The Kingfisher Caper". Happy Happy memories
21st February 2010, 19:45
Chris. Its as always the people with a real heart get overlooked and it takes years for their true worth to be recognised, meanwhile some back seat sitter gets all the pludits.She must have have given some comfort to many a war worn soul, God bless her Tony
7th March 2010, 14:02
Here is a page I took from the Clansman (date unknown) showing Hayley Mills and Roy Boulting with Commodore Sowden on board SA Vaal.
In the two lower photos, are many 'on board celebs' (myself included) on Edinburgh Castle in the early seventies.
7th March 2010, 14:13
On the Pretoria Castle we carried the England womens cricket team to South Africa. My pal the Junior 4th mate claimed one of the girls was his cousin so he had a very good excuse to fraternise.
26th July 2010, 11:14
On the Carnarvon Castle we carried the newly crowned Miss World 1958 back to Cape Town, photo in my album, also carried Gordon Pirie (Athlete) when he emigrated with his family, we also had Ian Smith onboard, but it was 1958-59 so may have been before he was Prime Minister of Rhodesia.
25th August 2010, 20:51
See attached photos from the Clansman Feb/Mar 1974 of Princess Alice and Anthony Eden. Mention is also made of "Bomber" Harris.
Someone on board at the time told me that Princess Alice was a regular traveller - presumably the links going back to her days as wife of the Governor-General. The same source added that an embalming kit was always carried because (as he put it) "it's not done to throw royalty over the side".
25th August 2010, 22:52
Thge only ship board celebs I remember was that Tommy Steele served as a steward on the "Rangitane" the trip before I joined and on our outbound voyage to NZ we carried the English Women's Cricket team
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