61 strong contingent of South African Air Force aboard Rangitata when it left Cape Town on the 2nd of September 1943

December 11, 2010

From "April 1945, aboard Rangitata in the convoy HX-348"

Finally, RANGITATA appears on a postage stamp (below). It was issued by the tiny island of Tristan da Cunha. Only 8 miles in diameter and lying in the Atlantic ocean some 1,500 miles from the nearest land, the island is surrounded by high sheer cliffs ranging up to 1,800 feet high. It's main feature is a volcanic peak that is covered in snow all year long. There is a very small community of some 300 people on one side of the island, and the rest of the island is utterly uninhabitable. One ship visits Tristan da Cunha every year in January. One can but wonder whether or not RANGITATA ever passed by.

Rangitata Stamp


I was very interested in the information on the Rangitata and your comments on Tristan da Cunha. I don't know when the stamp was printed but the Rangitata left Cape Town on the 2nd of September 1943 bound for Liverpool. I am not sure how many passengers the ship carried on that voyage but there was a 61 strong contingent of South African Air Force pilots on board. My late father was one of them and his logbook entry records that the Rangitata sailed via Tristan da Cunha, Montevideo, Freetown and Gibralter disembarking in Liverpool on November 7 1943.

This route was sailed to avoid the German U Boats. I have a group photograph of the pilots taken in Montevideo and have over the years been trying to compile all of the names of the pilots in the picture.

I have peiced together just over 40 definites including Major Edwin Swales VC DFC and the sad part is realizing just how many of these brave young men made the ultimate sacrifice . 13 out the 40 identified so far were killed in action.

> Most of the pilots seconded to the RAF and flew aircraft like Spitfires, Hurricanes, Typhoons and Lancaster bombers and although Edwin Swales was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross, my research suggests tht at least 18 members of the group were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

My father died many years ago and as the years have passed there are to the best of my knowledge only two members in the group photograph that are still alive today. The one very sobering aspect of my research comes from a return photograph of four members of the Rangitata contingent on board the Ilse de France returning to South Africa 23 months later at the end of the war and just how the young boys in the Montivideo photograph had aged in 23 months

Hope this may at least solve the stamp riddle 

Jon Eagar
Cape Town

Dear Jon,

My thanks for taking the time and trouble to E-Mail me, all very interesting.

During WW2 I visited Cape Town on numerous occasions and have fond memories of your area,
it is a lovely city set in wonderful surroundings.

Best wishes for Christmas and 2011.



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