Durban, South Africa, quayside

A locomotive for Persia lifted from a Freighter (source:

18 December 1941 A large convoy of troopships like WS. 12z is a very large burden on a port. Especially if those troops are granted shore leave for a few days. Therefore in South Africa the ships are divided between the ports of Capetown and Durban. Abbekerk arrives the 17th in Durban and soon the crew is aware of the fact that the world has been turned upside down. If anybody had questioned the military capacity of the Japanese, that has been cleared up now. The past week Japan has executed a blitzkrieg in the South West Pacific of which Hitler could be jealous. A few hours before the attack on Pearl Harbour Japan launched an assault on the Malayan peninsula towards Singapore and Hong Kong.


The route of WS.12z through the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Durban

In the meantime the situation in Malaysia had changed quickly. The Japs had started to march down from the north and you did not have to be an experienced general to understand that it was Singapore they were after. In fact the Japs were already halfway there when we arrived in Durban. Great reinforcements of materials and troops were feverishly dispatched to Singapore. Considering that the English Airforce, as well as the Dutch, was nowhere near as strong as the Japanese it was clear that the Japanese would have absolute power in the skies in a very short time.
Ass. Engineer Adriaan Kik

Parts of WS. 12z. are impacted heavily. The new destination is Singapore in the hope that they will get there in time to help reinforce the city. Abbekerk is one of 4 ships that will now go there. Her cargo of Hurricanes, anti aircraft- and anti tank artillery and ammunition is much needed in Singapore. Only one problem, the enormous locomotives on board need to be shipped to Persia and have to be unloaded as soon as possible. To make that possible the biggest quay crane Durban has is being used and the locomotives which are on the deck are quickly unloaded. But there are still others at the bottom of the holds.
Adriaan Kik about what happened next:

All the cargo on top of the locomotives had to be unloaded, the locomotives lifted out, the rest of the cargo put back and we could be on our way to Singapore. And as swiftly as possible because over there they really needed our war materials.
So imagine ( if you can) 5 holds and a locomotive in each one. First the 10 Hurricanes were lifted ashore, top hatch opened and everything beneath that lifted on shore. After that bottom hatch opened and unload everything beneath that until finally we caught sight of the locomotives. On shore and in the warehouses there was total chaos. Everything was next to or on top of each other, a kind of orderly disorder.
Ass. Engineer Adriaan Kik

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