“Pongos” dare to be buzzed by the SAAF’s best!

This extremely low flying South African Air Force Harvard was flown as a ‘dare’ to the pilot by the South African ‘pongo’ (army) personnel about to be buzzed.  ‘Pongo’ is a derogatory term used by other arms of the forces, such as the Navy or the Air Force to describe the Army – comes from the British army tradition of saying .. “where the pong (smell) goes – the army goes”.

The pilot of the Harvard is Quentin Mouton, who is currently Chief Pilot of Mango Airlines in South Africa. He said the following about these pictures taken on 2nd October 1964 on a South African aviation forum:

“We were 590 hr pilots at the time and the whole thing was illegal, stupid and needless to say, dangerous. The low flying limit was 200ft (or above, not below).

I would have been court-martialled if the SAAF knew. Too late now.. These pictures were taken 2nd October 64. I was the pilot. The pictures are original and not ‘touched up’.

The ‘Pongos’ were on a route march from Langebaan by the sea to Saldanha.

The previous night in the pub one of them had said: “Julle dink julle kan laag vlieg maar julle sal my nooit laat lê nie” (“You think you can fly low, but you’ll never make me lie down”). Hullo!!!

I went to look for them on the beach in the morning and was alone for the one picture. I was pulling up to avoid them. In the afternoon I had a formation with me and you can see the other aircraft behind me. (piloted by van Zyl, Kempen and Perold)

A friend by the name of Leon Schnetler (one of the pongos) took the pics.

The guy that said “Jy sal my nie laat lê nie” (“You won’t make me lie down”) said afterwards that he was saying to himself as I approached: “Ek sal nie lê nie, ek sal nie lê nie” (“I won’t lie down, I won’t lie down”) and when I had passed he found himself flat on the ground”

This subsequent photograph shows the “Pongos” hitting the deck and just how low that Harvard is.  Certainly not something that would be approved of today, but it does demonstrate the exemplary flying ability and training of SAAF pilots.


Memories from the past.

Quentin Mouton – 23,000 hrs, everything up to B747-400, presently Chief pilot MANGO Airlines and still actively flying the B737-800.

Band of Brothers – 101 Romeo Mikes

This great photograph of Cpl Stephen Bothma captures the grit and camaraderie of a 101 Battalion ‘Romeo Mike’ unit in action somewhere on the Angolan/South West Africa (Namibia) border. The ‘Romeo Mikes’ meant Reaksie Mag (Reaction Force) and these units where designed as long range special forces of the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) and their purpose was to relentlessly track and then surround insurgents.

By 1981 101 Battalion had been established as a light infantry battalion.  By 1983 at least 2700 men had been recruited and trained, many converted SWAPO insurgents. 101 Battalion translated Police tracking concepts to suit Army operations. These formed two Reaction Force companies: 901 and 903 Special Service Companies. These Companies concentrated on external operations and pursuit of infiltrators. By 1985 101 Battalion fought under its own command instead of being detached to external units.

The Romeo Mike and 101 engagements were intense to say the least.  This Battalion saw an extraordinary amount of combat and it can be put down to the Romeo Mike strategy and tactics to deal with insurgency (long range patrolling).  To give an idea of the intensity of combat 101 Battalions reaction force teams (Romeo Mikes) averaged about 200 “contacts” annually, a “contact” was usually refereed to an armed military skirmish between SWAPO PLAN insurgents and conventional forces.   It can be argued that the vast bulk of the fighting against insurgents on the South West African (Namibian)/Angolan Border was left to the SWATF formations (units including 101 Battalion), Police formations like Koevoet, 32 Battalion and search and destroy missions by SADF Recce (Reconnaissance) and Parabat (Parachute) formations.

Note the parallel two strips on Stephen’s shoulder in the feature picture – this shows his designated rank as a “full” corporal.  The SWATF rank structure insignia differed slightly from the South West African Defence Force (SADF) rank structure who used downward pointing “chevrons” for Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) insignia (i.e. Corporals and Sergeants), as is done in British rank structure.

These are South West African Territorial Force Rank insignia:

These are South Africa Defence Force Rank Insignia

This is because South West Africa was after all seen as a “separate” country to South Africa with its own defence force, therefore it had its own insignia.  However, in realty the equipment, clothing, weapons and even many of the officers and non commissioned officers were supplied by South Africa.

One thing that was clearly very different with all of the South West African formations, and especially 101 Battalion, was the very high degree of racial integration, the ethnic make-up of these Battalions was very reflective of the South West African (SWA) demographic. Division along the lines of race in the military structures did not really exist to the same degree that it did in the South African Defence Force.

Certainly on this level – fighting together as a 101 Romeo Mike unit, any sort of racial differentiation did not exist at all.  There was an old saying on the Border – there is “no Apartheid in a fox hole.”   Veterans in both the SADF and the SWATF will always attest that they do not care for colour as it matters not a jot in a firefight, and regardless of anything else, men in this situation (the hard trials of combat or serving in a combat area) will always bond as brothers.

All 101 images photo copyright Stephen Bothma.  Written by Peter Dickens

A picture is worth a thousand words

Sometimes, years later, the human story of a simple border war picture carries so much, especially as to the sacrifice families make when a father or brother gets “called up” to fight a war.  This from Lorraine Beer when this photo was published on the South African Legion’s social media.

“This photo is very special to my family, my brother Trevor Leo is on the right has his wife Lynette with his first born, as yet unseen son Craig in the pram and his mother Madeleine behind her.”

Here the Cape Town Highlanders stage a homecoming parade in Darling Street, Cape Town upon their return from the Angolan border operational area on the 17th of March 1976.

What a fantastic memory to have, and what a pure insight into the simple human truths that come along when men and women are called to serve their country  – thank you Lorraine.

Photo copyright, The Argus.

‘A sole survivor and a ship’s crest’; the South African Navy’s first loss – HMSAS Southern Floe

The month of February is also remembered as the “three ships” month in some small South African military veteran circles.  That’s because three of South Africa’s worst military disasters at sea – the SS Mendi (WW1), the SAS President Kruger, and this one the HMSAS Southern Floe (WW2) – all occurred in February.

Much effort by various associations in South Africa is put to remembering the Mendi and the President Kruger, however little regard is given to the SA Navy’s losses in World War 2.  Odd considering that during WW2  the most significant number of South Africans were lost at sea, yet scant regard is put to this epoch of the South African Naval sacrifice by way of remembrance and parades.

In all South Africa lost four ships in World War 2, all of them minesweepers, so lets look at the flotilla of South African Navy minesweepers (converted whalers) during World War 2, and the loss of the HMSAS Southern Floe, the first of these four minesweepers to be lost.


A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare featured photograph in Alexandria Harbour in Egypt (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).10372567_405970339572704_7046310110446388801_n

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.


HMSAS Southern Floe T26

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

This sole survivor was Leading Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. The HMS Gloucester had a large contingent of South African Naval Force on it and was to be lost later in the war (see Observation Post A “grievous error”; Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Gloucester).

Jones was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a barely one month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.


After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

22308811_10155537271456480_3745202244434378650_nWe salute these brave South Africans – here is the honour roll for the HMSAS Southern Floe (MPK means “Missing Presumed Killed”).

ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant SANF, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian Mck, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
LEWIS, John Edward Joseph, :Lieutenant, 70019 (SANF), MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK


HMSAS Southern Floe in Cape Town

For more stories on other South African minesweepers lost during World War 2, please follow these Observation Post Links:

The feisty South African minesweeper that went down fighting – HMSAS Parktown

“Under a hail of shells”; Recounting the bravery and loss of HMSAS Bever

The last South African Navy ship to be lost in action; HMSAS Treern

Written and Researched by Peter Dickens. Many thanks to Glen Knox from the South African Naval Museum for the story content and his tireless work keeping this history alive. Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies, World War 2 by Don Kindell. Images of South African vessels courtesy Allan du Toit and reference from his book ‘South African Fighting Ships’.

“Out of the Storm came Courage” … the tragedy of the PK

February is usually remembered in South Africa as the “Three Ships” month as it marks three of South Africa’s maritime military losses in three separate wartime epochs, the SS Mendi (WW1), the HMSAS Southern Floe (WW2) and the SAS President Kruger (Border War).

Today we remember the sinking of the SAS President Kruger, and we remember this South African Navy Frigate as she was in her heyday in this painting by Derrick Dickens,  we also reflect on how true the SAS President Kruger’s motto is “Out of the Storm came Courage” came to be.

The “PK” as she was affectionately known was a flagship and the pride of The South African Navy, her loss on the 18th February 1982 made such a profound impact that the ramifications to the South African Naval fraternity are still be felt to this day.

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In the early morning of the 18th February 1982. The SAS President Kruger was involved in a collision with the fleet replenishment ship, the SAS Tafelberg during exercises in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The complex exercises were being conducted with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. The exercises progressed over several days, with different candidate submarine captains being given an opportunity of executing a mock attack against the Tafelberg.

At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees, a near complete reversal in direction. The frigates, sailing in front of the Tafelberg, had to change direction first to maintain their protective positions ahead of Tafelberg on the new heading.

The President Kruger was in front and to the port (left) side of the Tafelberg, the appointed officer of the watch (OOW) on the President Kruger was unqualified for the role and took an instruction from the Principle Warfare Officer in the Ops room to turn to starboard (right) “inwards” towards the Tafelberg, however the OOW elected to initiate a 10 degree of rudder turn, whereas operational procedure called for a tighter 15 degree of rudder turn. The 10 degree turn had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than the 15 degree of rudder turn, thereby allowing Tafelberg more time to close on the ship turning in front of her.

Partway through the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the ocean clutter and high seas. At that point, an argument ensued between the OOW and the Principal Warfare Officer over the degree of wheel to apply. The OOW was unable to recover the situation, and the bows of the much heavier Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side.

The force of the collision buckled the plates and crushed Mess 12 on the President Kruger where the Petty Officers sleeping quarters were located, killing or trapping all those inside. The ship began to take on water and list and an order to abandon ship was given. The President Kruger then sank in 45 minutes 78 nautical miles (144 km) south-west of Cape Point.


The honour roll of the South Africans lost that tragic day is as follows:

05507629 PE Chief Petty Officer Johannes Petrus Booysen
77060150PE Chief Petty Officer Hartmut Wilfried Smit
69443794PE Chief Petty Officer Willem Marthinus Gerhardus Van Tonder
07467392PE Chief Petty Officer Donald Webb
05208145PE Petty Officer Stephanus Petrus Bothma
70351226PE Petty Officer Graham Alexander Frank Brind
65718058PE Petty Officer Robin Centlivre Bulterman
73317695PE Petty Officer Granville Williams De Villiers
66510579PE Petty Officer Evert Koen
08302440PE Petty Officer Hjalmar Lotter
70343553PE Petty Officer Roy Anthony McMaster
72362379PE Petty Officer Roy Frederick Skeates
72265465PE Petty Officer William Russel Smith
75060863PN Petty Officer Michael Richard Bruce Whiteley
72249998PE Petty Officer Coenraad Johannes Wium
80100167PE Able Seaman Gilbert Timothy Benjamin

Chief Petty Officer Donald Webb and Able Seaman Gilbert Timothy Benjamin were not trapped inside the sinking ship and were both seen to abandon ship by jumping overboard into the sea. The following morning, the body of CPO Webb was sighted and recovered from the sea by SAS Protea. He now rests in the Simonstown (Dido Valley) War Cemetery. Able Seaman Gilbert Timothy Benjamin remains unaccounted for.

Considering the exceptionally high seas on that day and the speed at which the President Kruger sank it remains a small miracle that the vast majority of the crew were recovered from the water safely (177 in total), and that stands as testament to the caliber of the South African Navy. However such an unnecessary loss has dreadful ramifications which are still felt in South Africa’s Naval Fraternity to this day, and it remains a truly tragic event.

In the aftermath, a naval board of inquiry was commissioned, leading to a finding of a lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The Minister of Justice introduced a retrospective change in law to allow him to hold an inquest into the death of one of the seamen. The inquest apportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled

As a result of an international arms embargo against South Africa at the time, the ship could not be replaced, and was therefore a great loss to the capability and morale of the navy for many years afterwards.


The Navy’s prestigious ‘Cock of the Fleet’ trophy, which had been won by her ship’s crew in the annual rowing regatta, was also lost with the ship and lies on the bottom of the ocean now.

The story of the sinking and rescue of the personnel of the SAS President Kruger, as well as the impact to families of both the survivors and the men lost, truly comes back to the PK’s motto “Out of the Storm came Courage”.

In. conclusion, for an in-depth overview of this tragedy, this documentary by Marc Bow is a must, take the time to watch it and you’ll appreciate the deep emotional scares this event has left behind.

Researched and written by Peter Dickens.  Painting of the SAS President Kruger “The PK”, acrylic on canvass by Derrick Dickens copyright Peter Dickens, video copyright Marc Bow.  Roll of honour courtesy Col Graham Du Toit.

42% of South Africans serving in WW1 were “non-white”

World War 1 and here we see this stunning and timeless photo of some very unsung heroes – South African Native Labour Corps men sitting around a brazier at their camp near the Western Front – Dannes, France – March 1917. Funnily it’s a scene which would not look too dissimilar to a construction camp in South Africa on a cold winters morning today.

The Black African contribution to World War 1 has been heavily downplayed in South Africa’s accounts of the war on the Western Front (and for that matter all “western” accounts of the war), however in all – 83 000 black South Africans and 3 000 Cape Coloureds answered the call – a total of 85 000 “non-white” men complemented the 146 000 white servicemen – serving in all sorts of roles, ranging from policing, carriage driving, stretcher bearing, cooking, engineering earth and wooden defences, felling trees for fuel, on-loading and off-loading cargo … the list goes on. 42% of the serving South Africans during WW1 were Black or “Coloured”, a fact that is has been very overlooked in the past, and remains relatively unknown to this day.

Funnily in any military outfit today non-combat support roles are viewed as an intrinsic part of the military – medics, engineers, “Loadies”,”drivers,”military” policemen etc. and they are not viewed any differently in terms of veteran status.  Yet the prejudice and politics of the time viewed these men differently, withholding medals and recognition due to them.

To say that World War 1 for South Africans was a “whites only” conflict is to fundamentally misunderstand the politics of the day.  The sanitation of South African Military History to support the “white” narrative remains one of the hardest things to redress as people (Black and White) just simply cannot see past decades of historical indoctrination.

The South African Native Corps cemetery at stands in stark testimony of the sacrifice of South African “Black” men to the cause of World War 1 on the Western Front.  Over 300 Black South African soldiers of the SANLC and Cape Coloured Corps lie buried at the cemetery outside Arques-la-Bataille in France alone, and that’s without considering the over 600 Black South African SANLC soldiers lost on the SS Mendi to a watery grave.  Here the dead really speak volumes.


King George V who is seen inspecting N.C.O.’s of the South African Native Labour Corps at Abbeville, 10 July 1917.

Image copyright Imperial War Museum Collection

The sinking of the ‘City of Johannesburg’

The submarine “U Boat” menace of the Second World War became commonly known as the “Battle of the Atlantic”, but it also extended to all oceans and the strategic point rounding the South African Cape became a focus point of the submarine war and German attention – and subsequently the attention of The South African Navy and her British Allies.

2000px-Pirate_FlagA typical example of the danger, survival and sacrifice in South African waters is the story of the sinking of the “City of Johannesburg” by German submarine U-504 (seen in the featured image above).  U-504 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine during World War II, the SS City of Johannesburg was a merchant vessel carrying supplies off the coast of East London, South Africa.

Of the merchantmen on board the SS City of Johannesburg, 90 in total, 4 perished and there where 86 survivors. Their survival in open water is remarkable considering the conditions in South African waters and typical to the dangers of operating at sea in WW2. This is one of many stories of the sinking of vessels and bravery of men off the coast of South Africa.


SS City of Johannesburg

At 23.12 hours on 23 Oct 1942 the unescorted City of Johannesburg (Master Walter Armour Owen) was hit by one of two torpedoes from U-504 while steaming on a zigzag course at 10.75 knots about 80 miles east-southeast of East London, South Africa. The torpedo struck between the deep tank and #4 hold on the port side, blowing the hatches off the deep tanks and opening a hole that flooded these compartments immediately. All electricity failed and the engines had to be stopped when the engine room was flooded a few minutes later, causing the ship to settle by the stern with a slight list to port. No distress signals could be sent as the main aerial was brought down and fouled the emergency aerial and it was later discovered that the portable wireless set had been damaged while lowering into a lifeboat and was useless.

Two lifeboats had been destroyed and the rafts aft were jammed in the rigging, so the 21 crew members, 60 Lascars (Indian sailors) and nine gunners (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 12pdr, two 20mm and four machine guns) abandoned ship in the four remaining lifeboats which were launched safely within five minutes despite rough sea and high swell.

Before leaving the gunners tried to train the 4in gun, but it was damaged and could no longer be turned. The master was the last to leave the ship after making sure that no one was left on board. At 23.40 hours, the U-boat surfaced after firing a coup de grâce at the ship which was hit at #2 hatch on the port side, but only settled further on an even keel.

The Germans then questioned the survivors in one of the lifeboats and left the area after the City of Johannesburg suddenly broke in two amidships and sank at 00.00 hours. Four Lascars were lost.

The boat in charge of the master had 11 persons on board and rescued two men swimming in the water. Quartermaster H. Birnie was picked up by a boat with 28 persons and later stated that he was alongside the U-boat after it had surfaced and even touched the plates when he was told to swim astern to the lifeboat. He was asked no questions and the engines of the U-boat remained stopped until the man was clear.

The other two boats held 19 respectively 25 persons, but owing to the rough sea the lifeboats could not approach each other to even up the survivors in them. The master told the other boats to remain in the vicinity while his boat set sail in order to get help and made 140 miles in 24 hours before he and twelve survivors were picked up by the Dutch steam merchant Zypenberg about 8 miles from the coast in 33°50S/26°50E on 25 October and landed at Durban two days later.

However, the boat with 19 occupants also set sail and only made half the distance before they were rescued by the British motor merchant King Edwin on 26 October and landed at Cape Town three days later. The 54 survivors in the two boats that waited near the sinking position were picked up by the British steam merchant Fort George after 12 hours in 33°24S/28°31E and landed at Port Elizabeth on 25 October.

U-504: South African Patrol

This submarine had caused a lot of damage off the coast of South Africa, here is a short history of her 4th Patrol in South African waters:



U-504 left Lorient on 19 August 1942 and sailed south to the waters off South Africa as part of Wolfpack Eisbär. There, on 17 October, about 450 nautical miles (830 km; 520 mi) south of Cape Town, she torpedoed and sank the unescorted British 5,970 ton Empire Chaucer. On the 23rd she sank the 5,669 ton SS City of Johannesburg, and on the 26th she attacked the unescorted American 7,176 ton Liberty ship Anne Hutchinson. The crew abandoned their vessel after she was hit by two torpedoes and fatally damaged. However the ship remained afloat, and on the 29th was taken in tow by the South African armed trawler HMSAS David Haigh (T13) and a harbour tug. Lacking sufficient power to tow the ship to port explosive charges were set, cutting the ship in two. The aft section sank, and the fore section was towed into Port Elizabeth. Part of the crew were picked up at sea, while the rest made it to land in their lifeboats.

U-504 sank two more British merchant ships on 31 October, about 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) east of Durban. First the unescorted 7,041 ton Empire Guidon, then the unescorted 5,113 ton Reynolds, which, hit amidships and in the stern, capsized and sank within seconds.

Finally on 3 November she sank the unescorted and unarmed Brazilian 5,187 ton cargo ship Porto Alegre en route from Rio de Janeiro to Durban, off Port Elizabeth. Hit by a single torpedo, the crew abandoned ship before the U-boat delivered the coup de grâce. Only one crew member was lost. The survivors were questioned by the Germans, and later made landfall about 50 nautical miles (93 km; 58 mi) from Port Elizabeth on 7 November.[22] U-504 arrived back at Lorient on 11 December 1942 after a patrol lasting 115 days.

The fate of U-504

U-504 also met a grisly fate.  Whilst on her 7th Patrol U504 was depth charged and sunk with all hands on board (53 in total) on 30 July 1943 in the North Atlantic north-west of Cape Ortegal, Spain, in position 45.33N, 10.56W, by depth charges from the British ships HMS Kite, HMS Woodpecker, HMS Wren and HMS Wild Goose.


HMS Kite

HMS Kite’s Commanding Officer at the time of the sinking of U-504 was the famous U-boat hunter Captain “Johnnie” Walker, DSO and three bars.

The Commander from her one patrol off South Africa to when she was lost are two different men (and possibly even different crew as well).


KrvKapt Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske

During the South African Patrol (4th patrol) the Commander was KrvKapt Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske (he command U-504 for the first four War Patrols). KrvKpt Wilhelm Luis did the next three patrols, his third being the fatal one.

This U Boat spent a total of 372 days a sea and sank 85,299 tons of shipping. All ships sunk were under her first commander KrvKapt Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske and on the second, third and fourth patrols.  U-504’s most successful patrol in terms of tonnage suck was on her South African patrol.

KrvKapt Hans-Georg Friedrich Poske survived the war, he also served post war as well and retired in 1963.  Note on the image provided  he was awarded a Knights Cross.

Researched by Peter Dickens

Reference and thanks to Sandy Evan Hanes for additional input.

Related Observation Post links:

The Leonardo da Vinci  The Leonardo da Vinci wreaks havoc off South Africa’s coastline

U-177 The worst maritime loss off Durban’s coast; The sinking of the SS Nova Scotia


A part of Arlington will forever be South African

Arlington National Military Cemetery – Virginia, reserved for American servicemen of the United States of America, but there is a South African soldier buried in the cemetery. He was “discovered” in 1981.

For nearly 50 years World War II soldier Lieutenant Victor Potgieter lay unacknowledged in a common grave in the U.S, until his family learned of his whereabouts in 1981.

The fate of Lt. V. Potgieter, who grew up in Carolina, Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) and attended Wits University before volunteering for active service in 1940, what happened to him remained a mystery for half a century. He went missing in 1944 and his family in South Africa did not know his fate until 1981 when they read a newspaper article about an unknown soldier named Potgieter who lay unaccounted for in the United States; in their most revered military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

The lieutenant’s brother, Ben Potgieter of Arcadia, told the Pretoria News in 1993 that he believed his brother was involved in a clandestine operation when his plane was shot down and crashed in Greece.”Victor was home on leave from Egypt two months before his death,” Ben Potgieter was quoted as saying. “He told me he had volunteered for a mission and he would be photographing bridges there were to blow up.”When Victor Potgieter was first brought to the United States, all the authorities knew was his name. He was not registered as being on a mission in the area with any army. With no other leads, his headstone was marked as a British soldier.

Corrections have since been made to the headstone by the authorities at Arlington and Victor Potgieter is now correctly identified as a South African.

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Rest in Peace Lt Potgieter, a part of Arlington will forever be South African.