But the talk was not about their actions, rather on the legends and anecdotes that grew from the presence of their crews on land. The stories came from Namibia and the west Coast, made their way around the Cape, then along the East Coast, and ended north of Mocambique. In addition, no self-respecting village or town was without its own resident spy who made contact with U-Boats by light signals, and who was invariable captured and put away. At Arniston a farmer regularly supplied boats with diesel and on one occasion even carted a crankshaft to Swellendam for repairs. In Table Bay two officers rowed from sub to shore, strolled along blacked-out Adderley Street and enjoyed a drink and show at the Alhambra Theatre. Months later, two Alhambra ticket stubs were found among documents from a damaged and captured boat. Another officer contacted a German family in Kommetjie who lent him their car to drive to Cape Town and make his purchases at Stuttafords.
In DEAL'S Hotel reception in East London once hung the picture of an officer in uniform who had spent a couple of nights as guest, and even his signature in the register was shown in a photocopy. Fishermen in False Bay sold part of their catch one night to a sub which had surfaced alongside. They were very well paid, albeit with counterfeit money. How they succeeded to change the notes into proper money has not been recorded! At one time a rusty Tramp was anchored one mile off Hout Bay. Nobody took any notice but this rusty hull was a sub supply ship, and very often, until it was boarded, the subs came in to collect provisions.
Over X-Mas 1939 boats used to creep close to Humansdorp to confiscate drums of diesel from government road construction sites. If they were the early type of boats, this is totally feasible, since their action radius was very limited. At Renosterkop, just west of Cape Agulhas, a crew was invited by members of the O.B. to a soccer game and braai while look-outs were posted on hilltops.
As Portugal was neutral, U-Boats were welcomed with open arms in Mocambique. German and Italian officers used to lounge at the Polana Hotel enjoying drinks and a shower, while their boats, anchored in the harbour, were topped up with diesel and provisions. Further up on Bazaruto Island an enterprising trader had a row of huts built for crews to rest in, and it has even been said that repair pens for boats had been built which were used in the fifties as original base for a tourist lodge.
But the U-Boats did not have it all their own way. From late 1942 on increased vigilance by Navy defences and the effectiveness of SSS, the radar chain, curtailed shore adventures severely. From then on, and much to the disappointment of U-Boat sailors, they had to rely on their own ordinary rations brought from home.
The talk, supplemented by pertinent background information, as well as additional stories as they come in, will appear in the form of a booklet early in 2003 with photographs and a map of South Africa showing the numerous contact locations.
Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167