Cape Town, South Africa
About a week later we went down the coast to Cape Town and anchored in Table Bay, a lovely place, a fine city, with parks and shops. But at that time apartheid was at its worst. And it wasn't very nice, signs 'Whites only' everywhere, coloureds not allowed in public places, separated on public transport and everywhere else, I didn't like it one little bit.
Whilst in Table Bay we learned that we were waiting to escort a convoy of troopships back to Freemantle, Australia, and to bring back 'Anzac' troops to fight in the North African desert. But on the day we were to have sailed, our orders were changed and we had to join a fast convoy to Liverpool, England! Everyone was over the moon at this news, especially the lads who had been away two years. Then our luck changed again.
We were in the middle of Table Bay, beautiful views etc, the anchor weighed, we're all at our action posts, myself in the wheelhouse all agog for another big adventure to reach our homeland. But despite all sorts of orders from the bridge above us, engines full speed ahead, engines half speed astern, engines stop, which all went on for some time, things had gone wrong and the sleek ship did not move, she did not budge. We had to stay at anchor watch, and shore engineers came out to us in motorboats, but we remained static. Rumours got round, we had lost 6 hours and would miss our rendezvous with the convoy we so wanted to join. Watches were changed, every 4 hours, Jack Dusty, (Petty Officer Storekeeper, a smashing chap) was my relief, but he had no better news about moving. Just when everybody was fed up, a motor-boat arrived alongside, and two divers in full gear went down at the stern of the ship. And after a time 'hey presto' they discovered pieces of wire fouling the propellers.
SST aboard HMS Express
After several dives they cleared the ship's driving force, and we waited with baited breath to see if the ship would move out of Table Bay. After about an hour with urgent signals from ship to shore, we were instructed to go at full speed (much to our delight) out of Table Bay and Cape Town into the South Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, and catch up with the large convoy which already had 80 miles start on us.