Port Elizabeth of Yore: The S.S. Western Knight-The Death Shriek of a Ship’s Siren

So far, 1929 had proved to be a disastrous year for shipping on the South African coast. To add a liberal dose of salt to that wound, at 8:30 on a foggy Monday morning, the American freighter, the 5,779-ton SS Western Knight, would be added to that tragic total.

In the impenetrable fog and along this treacherous coastline, the vessel blindly groped its way past Schoenmakerskop, a disaster waiting to happen. Then my grandmother, Elizabeth Daisy McCleland, granny Mac to us, heard the death shriek of a ship’s siren.

Main picture:  Salvage operations underway on the SS Western Knight

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Paris Maru Disaster-When Humanity confronts Bigotry

That evening, Monday 15th January 1934, was not going to be a good one for the ship from Osaka, Japan en route to Cape Town. Nor would it be for the newly-arrived destitute Jews from Nazi German. An angry south-easter was gusting as this steamer left the protection of the recently completed Charl Malan Quay at 19:00. Unlike the days of the sailing ships, when the wind from this direction could be a death sentence for ships at anchor in the bay, the conversion to steam had long since tamed that menace. After exiting the harbour and  entering the choppy waters of the Bay, the ship veered to starboard and headed for Cape Recife to meet its fate.

In effect the call by the Grey Shirts in the Feathermarket Hall to block the emigration of Jews to the Union, would constitute a death sentence to Jews trapped within the warped bigoted anti-Semitic world of Nazi Germany.

Main picture: The swansong of the Japanese merchantman, The Paris Maru

Continue reading