HMS Vanguard in South Africa
Thursday, 27 March saw the inevitable swell found on this coast at this time of the year. The Captain called on the Mayor. Mail and the boxing team arrived, but otherwise there was no contact with the shore. Throughout the day, harbour tugs and dredgers cruised round with sightseers (adults 2/6 children 1/6) and, at sunset, when the band Beat the Retreat on the Quarterdeck, they provided excellent grandstands for the performance which was obviously appreciated. VANGUARD then sailed off into the night.
The ship arrived in thick fog at Port Elizabeth at 0900 the following morning, and anchored nearly two miles from the break-water on the advice of the local authorities. Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting ashore due to the swell and, had it not been for a tug put at VANGUARD'S disposal by the Port authorities and good weather, no leave could have been given over the weekend. Dances and picnics organised ashore were well attended.
VANGUARD sailed from Port Elizabeth on 31 March and arrived at Durhan on 1 April, where Perla White was on the jetty to greet the ship with her strong voice and personality. (for reference Perla White became famous during the war years when she would sing greetings and farewells to all the troopships arriving and leaving Durban.) The climate proved to be very uncomfortable for most due to its humidity, but the hospitality of the citizens of Durban was ample compensation. Rather reluctantly, the last minute visitors left the ship at 1500 on 8 April, and equally reluctantly the ship left harbour to the accompaniment of songs (mostly sentimental) sung by 'Perla' who was again present on the jetty, this time to see the ship leave.
On passage to Capetown VANGUARD passed close to Hermanus, had a final night battle with ACTÆON and the frigates GOOD HOPE and TRANSVAAL, and entered Duncan Dock at 0900 on 11 April. The ship's stay at Capetown differed only from the previous visit in that there was less official entertainment and more rain; a considerable number of War Gratuities were liquidated, for which the Pay Office was duly thanked. Two ship's company dances were given ashore and proved to be a popular idea. In the field of sport 'soccer' held a monopoly.
Then came 'Black Thursday' 24 April. An indescribable but wholly accountable gloom came over the ship that day like a pall of penetrating smoke. Telephone calls, an uncertain sensation in the pit of the stomach, and a desire to bid one last 'Tot-Siens' was experienced by most men on the ship.
The Royal Family embarked and, shortly afterwards, as the gap between the ship's side and the jetty grew wider, Capetown bade the Royal Family and the crew of HMS VANGUARD their 'Tot Siens'. A choir, composed of white and coloured chorists led the singing, while bands on the jetty played popular Afrikaans and British music, including ''Sarie Marais'', ''Lament for Bonnie Prince Charlie", and other traditional Scots airs; and hard was the man who could not confess to a tear in that hour. As the bow of the ship turned towards the mouth of the harbour, a wildly cheering crowd surged down from the grandstands and stood on the edge of the jetty wavng goodbye. A routine bugle call smote the senses like an icy blast and almost everyone sighed and resigned themselves to the prospect of seventeen days at sea.
The escorts until 1830 consisted of the same ships that met the VANGUARD on 17 February, and on parting company they cheered ship. VANGUARD proceeded at 16 knots through a somewhat heavy beam swell escorted only by NIGERIA.
During the return journey to Portsmouth, HMS VANGUARD anchored off St. Helena on 29 April 1947 when the Royal Family made a brief visit to the island.
We sighted Table Mountain on a glorious summer's day,
All early in the morning, with a heat haze in the Bay;
And we little guessed what kindness and what friendship we should meet
As the crowds cheered to the echo from the gaily flag-decked street.
Then the Royal Tour started and we read the news reports
Of the loyal, loving welcomes as we steamed around the ports.
So once more sailing southwards for the Princess' birthday,
We were proud to be in Capetown on that most historic day.
And now the cruise is over and we're steaming North again
With the honour of the Standard flying bravely at the main;
But we won't forget South Africa and all those loving hearts
In the winter of our lifetime when we talk of foreign parts.