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Historia

On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X

Historia vol.53 n.1 Durban  2008

 

Water for Saldanha: War as an agent of change

 

Water vir Saldanha: Oorlog as 'n instrument van verandering

 

 

Deon Visser; André Jacobs; Hennie Smit

Lieutenant Colonel G.E. Visser is an associate professor of Military History at the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University (South African Military Academy). Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Jacobs and Commander H.A.P. Smit are senior lecturers in Military Geography at the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University (South African Military Academy). The authors are indebted to Ms Louise Jooste, Director Documentation Services, SANDF (SANDF Archives) and her personnel, particularly Mr Steve de Agrela, for their tireless efforts to facilitate the research for this article

 

 


ABSTRACT

Saldanha Bay is one of the best natural harbours in the world and was known as such by the French even before the Dutch set foot at the Cape in 1652. However, when the British first occupied the Cape almost one and a half centuries after the Dutch arrival, no development had yet taken place at Saldanha Bay. The British saw great potential in Saldanha Bay as a naval base, but never exploited it. The principal reason for this lack of development was the absence of fresh water. Even Saldanha Bay's early Khoikhoi inhabitants had to seek greener pastures during the dry season. The prospect of diverting water from the nearby Berg River to Saldanha Bay had often been contemplated even from the time of the Dutch settlement, but never came to fruition until the mid-twentieth century. The fact that war is a powerful agent of rapid and profound change was clearly illustrated when Saldanha Bay acquired access to a sustainable supply of fresh water during the Second World War. This article traces Saldanha Bay's "waterless" history to 1943 and explores the Bay's acquisition of strategic importance during the Second World War, resulting in the South African Engineer Corps being tasked to tap into the Berg River to quench Saldanha's thirst. The article then concludes with a brief overview of the immediate and longer-term impact this wartime lifeline had on Saldanha Bay and its inhabitants.

Key words: Berg River; harbour; naval base; Saldanha Bay; Second World War; South African Engineer Corps; water


OPSOMMING

Saldanhabaai is een van die beste natuurlike hawens ter wêreld en was as sodanig aan die Franse bekend selfs voor die Hollanders in 1652 aan die Kaap geland het. Met die eerste Britse besetting van die Kaap bykans 'n anderhalfeeu later, het daar egter nog geen ontwikkeling by Saldanhabaai plaasgevind nie. Die Britte het groot potensiaal in Saldanhabaai as 'n vlootbasis gesien, maar nooit dié potensiaal ontgin nie. Die hoofrede vir hierdie gebrek aan ontwikkeling was die afwesigheid van 'n volhoubare bron van vars water. Selfs Saldanhabaai se vroeë Khoikhoi inwoners moes 'n ander heenkome gedurende die droë somerseisoen vind. Die moontlikheid om vars water van die nabygeleë Bergrivier na Saldanha weg te keer, is reeds sedert die Hollandse nedersetting herhaaldelik geopper, maar het eers teen die middel van die twintigste eeu 'n werklikheid geword. Die Tweede Wêreldoorlog het die verskynsel van oorlog as 'n kragtige instrument van vinnige, ingrypende verandering duidelik gedemonstreer toe Saldanhabaai plotseling in 1943 'n volhoubare toevloei van vars water ryker geword het. Hierdie artikel skets Saldanhabaai se "waterlose" geskiedenis tot 1943 en toon aan hoedat Saldanhabaai gedurende die Tweede Wêreldoorlog van sodanige strategiese belang geword het dat die Suid-Afrikaanse Geniekorps opdrag gekry het om water vanaf die Bergrivier na die baai aan te lê. Die artikel sluit af met 'n beknopte oorsig van die onmiddellike en langertermyninvloed wat hierdie oorlogstydse ontwikkeling op Saldanhabaai en sy inwoners uitgeoefen het.

Sleutelwoorde: Bergrivier; hawe; Saldanha; Saldanhabaai; Suid-Afrikaanse Geniekorps; Tweede Wêreldoorlog; vlootbasis; water


 

 

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127. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary for Defence - Quartermaster General, 21 October 1943.
128. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary, Saldanha Village Management Board - Secretary for Public Health, 13 October 1943.
129. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary, Saldanha Village Management Board - Secretary for Public Health, 13 October 1943.
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131. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary, Saldanha Village Management Board - Secretary for Public Health, 13 October 1943.
132. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary for Public Health - Secretary for Defence, 20 November 1943.
133. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Secretary for Public Health - Secretary for Defence, 20 November 1943.
134. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 15 February 1944.
135. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 15 February 1944.
136. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, E.S. Henochsberg (Defence Legal Adviser) - Local Representative, Estates and Negotiations Sections, 16 March 1944; SANDFA: QMG (Gp. 19), DC(E)671/2/285, I, Commandant Cape Fortress -Town Clerk, Vredenburg Municipality, 18 April 1944.
137. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 10 December 1943; SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 15 February 1944.
138. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 10 December 1943.
139. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Secretary for Defence, 17 March 1944; SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, C.H. Blaine -Secretary for Lands, 31 March 1944.
140. SANDFA: DC 3395, DC2305/51/2, I, Quartermaster General - Fortress Commander, Cape Town, 13 April 1944.
141. Union of South Africa, "Saldanha Bay Water Supply Act Number 23 of 1945", in Union of South Africa, Statutes of the Union of South Africa (Union of South Africa, Cape Town, 1945), p 76.
142. Union of South Africa, Act Number 23 of 1945, pp 77-78.
143. SANDFA: QMG (Gp. 19), DC(E)671/2/285, I, "Deforts" Cape Town - "Dequar" Pretoria, 11 December 1944; SANDFA: QMG (Gp. 19), DC(E)671/2/285, I, "Deforts" Cape Town - "Dequar" Pretoria, 19 December 1944.
144. J.P.P. Rabe, interview with G.E. Visser, Saldanha, 15 May 1995.
145. Union of South Africa, Saldanha Bay Water Supply Amendment Act Number 43 of 1951, in Union of South Africa, Statutes of the Union of South Africa (Union of South Africa, Cape Town, 1951), p 787.
146. Burman & Levin, Saldanha Bay Story, p 153.
147. Burman & Levin, Saldanha Bay Story, p 153.
148. L. Jooste, "FC Erasmus as Minister van Verdediging, 1948-1959." MA verhandeling, Universiteit van Pretoria, 1995, pp 112-117.
149. G.E. Visser, "Die Geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse Militêre Akademie, 1950-1990", Supplementa ad Scientia Militaria, I, 2000, pp 64, 162-163, 222.
150. Burman & Levin, Saldanha Bay Story, p 155.
151. Republic of South Africa (RSA), 1973, Sishen-Saldanha Bay Railway Construction Act (Act 28 of 1973).
152. Burman & Levin, Saldanha Bay Story, p 155.
153. Burman & Levin, Saldanha Bay Story, p 157.
154. C. du Plessis (former Director Water Supply: West Coast District Municipality), telephonic interview with H.A.P. Smit, 8 November 2004; P. Maritz (Deputy Municipal Engineer, Saldanha Bay Municipality), telephonic interview with H.A.P. Smit, 18 April 2007.

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