Durban, quayside, halfway unloaded

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Some of the crew also gets a short shore leave

22 December 1941 Durban is overrun by troops – for many of them their first time abroad- who are having their last few days to relax in a beautiful war free town. For most it will be their last leave for a very long time. Walter MacNab and his fellow gunners from Abbekerk are taking it all in. Everything is still for sale here, nothing is rationed and there is no black out at night. He buys a pair of handmade shoes that will play a surprising role later in this story. Some of the crew, including engineer Adriaan Kik, get a chance to enjoy the city, but most are busy with the unloading and preparing the ship for the obviously very dangerous voyage to Singapore.

RMS Aorangie in peacetime
(source: http://www.ssmaritime.com/Aorangi-II.htm)

Amongst the troopships thousands of troops are running from pillar to post with their luggage. Geoff North’s colleagues of the 35th light AA Battalion moves to the Aorangie and so multiple battalions shift. Meanwhile Abbekerks desperate unloading has come to the point where they have almost reached the locomotives in the bottom holds.

As the chimney and cab of the first locomotive became visible orders arrived to leave the next morning. The unloading stopped immediately and  hastily we put everything from the shore back in the holds. Eventually there was nobody who could tell what was where and how much of it. In any case, the whole ship was reloaded and at least we got rid of the locomotives on deck.
Third mate Jacob Visser

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