Sailings Cape Town to England 1914

The following is extracted from WO 25/3696 (UK National Archives) being ships which sailed from Cape Town to England at the start of the war. Mostly they carried Imperial Garrison forces which had been relieved by the Union Government offering to take over defence of South Africa so the British forces could help the imperial power in its struggle. 

A few ‘indulgence’ names are recorded on the registers, invariably wives and children returning to England. However, it does not appear that South Africans travelling to Britain to enlist there were included in these lists, nor men those of the Royal Navy units being transported between ports. Where these names are recorded is yet to be identified.

22 Aug 1914 – 21 Sep 1914 – Kenilworth Castle to Southampton

23 Aug 1914 – 19 Sep 1914 – RMS Brittan to Southampton (? Sailed 27 Aug 1914)

26 Aug 1914 – 19 Sep 1914 – Guilford Castle to Southampton

27 Aug 1914 – 19 Sep 1914 – Goorka with Reservists to Southampton

3 Sep 1914 – 28 Sep 1914 – SS Ingoma to Southampton

20 Sep 1914 – 1 Oct 1914 – Garth Castle to Southampton

28 Sep 1914 – 20 Oct 1914 – Dover Castle to Southampton

29 Sep 1914 – 30 Oct 1914 – Kinfaus Castle to Southampton

21 Oct 1914 – 20 Nov 1914 – Balmoral Castle to Southampton

24 Oct 1914 – 13 Nov 1914 – Llandovery Castle to Southampton

9 Nov 1914 – 27 Nov 1914 – SS Britain to Southampton

The Union Castle line starts using Tilbury instead of Southampton

14 Nov 1914 – 2 Dec 1914 – Walmer Castle to Tilbury

20 Nov 1914 – 10 Dec 1914 – Durham Castle to Tilbury

See more about Tilbury Docks at – and specifically about WW1at:

It is from Tilbury that the Sopworth planes to track down Konigsberg leave and in 1915, the crew of the Lake Tanganyika Expedition.

Union Castle Line made ships available to the British Government for transport, also hospital…

Galway Castle sunk by torpedo on route to SA in 1918

Reconciliation – Smuts’ answer to SA and the 1919 peace

Smuts was ‘very anxious that the name of South Africa shall not be tarnished with this peace [of 1919].’ With this in mind, he wrote to the Gilletts, his Quaker friends in England: ‘I am going to give our Germans good decent treatment in spite of the awful terms about their private property.’ (p8 – Jean van der Poel, Selections from the Smuts papers, Vol 5)

Smuts’ reaction was within keeping of Botha’s actions as well as those of Lord Kitchener towards the defeated. No doubt Smuts’ main aim concerned the Germans within the Union. Reconciling them would ease some  issues in the mining fraternity given the links between some mining magnates and Germany, while it would also keep those who had rebelled against going to war with Germany quiet. How successful he was needs to be explored.

Looking at SWA (Namibia) which South Africa obtained as a mandate, the situation is less clear – half the German population was repatriated, the other half retained to help maintain the white presence. Was this compromise an attempt at ‘decent treatment’ or were there alternative economic and political drivers? 

It’s not always easy discerning altruistic motives from others in such actions, but one would like to think humanitarian priorities dominate. Sadly, history seems to prove otherwise – if Smuts could reconcile the Germans and Botha the Boers (although unsuccessfully as it turned out), why did they not do the same with other South African groups? What got in the way? The same issues that ultimately prevented the Boer reconciliation? It takes two to tango so they say, it also takes two to keep/create peace. As Kitchener said about taking Africa into World War 1, why fight for something with all that loss when its future will be ultimately decided at the conference table. And as he planned for Egypt, reducing the wealth gap, bringing people closer together, would ultimately reduce conflict. Why it didn’t happen is ably explained by Wanagri Maathai in The Challenge for Africa…

Review: A prophet without honour by Alex Mouton

FS Malan’s position in South African society was brought home strongly by a soliloquy by Susan du Toit in A Dry White Season. She was explaining to her husband, Ben, why he shouldn’t challenge injustice against South African blacks. Although it is not explicitly stated in Andre Brink’s A Dry White Season (also a film), Malan’s view was the reality that all had to live and work together – it was therefore imperative to fight for equal rights – in his case, keeping the Cape voters’ roll as it was before 1936.

There are no doubt other cases – Robert Powell’s short recording of his participation in the film Shaka Zulu during the Apartheid era is a case in point.

Many others quietly stand their ground, upholding equality and justice, against the majority position, finding ways to deal with the flack they get for doing so. It is through their work and those like FS Malan, Ben du Toit and Robert Powell, working alongside those on the coalface – taking (literally on occasion) the shots which eventually bring change.

But I wonder how much more we could achieve by taking risks and trusting in the prophets – for one, there should be less violence and bloodshed, and healing would be faster. As Julian Walker said at the launch of Multilingual Environments in the Great War “War happens due to a breakdown in language.”

For an insight into a man who challenged the system, Alex Mouton’s biography of FS Malan is definitely worth a read.

Have you seen him?

Johnny Clegg probably has the most well-known song asking if you’ve seen him. It goes under the title Asimbonanga (lyrics) and was initially penned during Nelson Mandela’s time in prison. Again it came to prominence at the time of Mandela’s death – Have you seen him? You can hear the different versions in the link above. A moving piece, as is Johnny Clegg’s The Crossing which considers the (re)meeting on the other side of death. Both songs again were in the limelight when Johnny Clegg himself died on 16 July 2019, aged 66. (youtube videos).

Some time ago I posted a blog entitled Detained – in a different way, asking have you seen him (or her). More recently, being part of the CWGC enquiry into the Inequalities in Commemoration opened new windows on ‘have you seen him?’ Seeing someone is a form of greeting for some cultural groups – “I see your shadow” recognises the multiple dimension of a being or creation. Is this the role that memorials play? Is that why they are so important?

How do we continue to see someone once they’ve gone? What do we remember? Only the good? Only the bad? The complexity of a relationship (and the empire) is captured in Johnny’s High Country. How do we capture the complexities of an individual, a movement, an era?

Indians in Kenya by Sana Aiyar is a reminder of how the visible becomes invisible only to be made visible when it suits a particular purpose. Twenty-five years after South Africa obtained full democracy groups were calling on the spirit of Madiba to dominate relationships again, and on 1 January 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa was calling on the nation to honour the late ‘Desmond Tutu by taking up his campaign for social justice’. It was the occasion of the archbishop’s farewell before he was aquamated. As with cremation, there is a residue which can be placed in a special spot for commemoration purposes.

Have you seen him? Do we need to see him or her to remember and continue their struggle for making the world a better place? More importantly, how do we ensure we see the whole – good and not so good – that makes us and our world who we are, especially when the visual is no longer visible?

It’s healthy to separate – apparently

Over the past few months while looking into home front aspects in Africa around World War One, I couldn’t help but notice that town planning in the pre-war days revolved around segregation for health reasons.

Instead of finding ways to accommodate different cultural practices in one space, it was felt better to separate them. The issue became one of containment – and then finance. Despite concerns about infection spreading, funding improvements was an issue. The long term impact of improving sanitation and thereby the health and economic potential was ignored with significant consequences when plague and small pox broke out, and then the 1918 flu.

Towns I’ve read about include some in the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg in the pre-1920s and Nairobi. While it might be more understandable in territories such as British East Africa, I find it difficult to comprehend how the South African territories having experienced the consequences of the 1901/2 war (and not just the camps) did not realise the wider implications of restricting health initiatives.  But then, Nairobi was a new town in a British controlled territory as well… and given the coverage of the camps and hygiene issues in Britain during the 1899-1902 war, one (I) would have thought they’d learnt their lesson.

Similarly, looking at the early division in the Presbyterian church in South Africa, the divide came about due to meeting different needs: those who had prior knowledge of the Bible required more analytical type sermons than those who were still new to the contents.

I can’t help but wonder, whether, if our ancestors had been bold enough to find a common ground working and living together, our situation today would be any different. Are we any further along the journey to considering collaborative solutions? I’m not so sure when I see all the separate groups calling for equality and inclusion. We have some indications that it can be done: the countries which have united or federated (South Africa, USA, Australia, EU), the UPCSA (Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa), and SADC?. It’s not been easy journeys for any of them but if it’s been done at such a macro-level, can we do the same at more micro-levels? Seeing the consequences of decisions made to separate 100 years ago because it was easier, makes me think it’s worth the risk to find some common ground and struggle through the growing pains of creating something new.


Sana Aiyar – Indians in Kenya
Alan Cobley – On the shoulders of giants: The black petty bourgeoisie in politics and society in South Africa, 1924-1948
Jack Dalziel on the early history of the Presbyterian history in South Africa and various other sources (forthcoming publication)
Heyman Mandlakayise Zituta, The spatial planning of racial residential segregation in King William’s Town 1826-1991 amongst others
Norman Parsons Jewell – On call in Africa in war and peace, 1910-1932