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Adam Turnbull's flight to South Africa in 1947


Published in Phil Moir's Blog on 20 Sep 2011 16:19 : turnbull klm travel air flight : 1 comment : 3076 views

In 1904, Henry B Turnbull boarded a ship in Southampton bound for South Africa, never to return to his home town of Edinburgh and unlikely to ever see his parents or siblings again. Some 43 years later, after both the Great War and the Second World War had ended, he invited his older brother Adam (my great-grandfather who was 82 at the time) to visit him in his new homeland of South Africa. This is the letter written by Adam Turnbull, recounting the troubled decisions he had to make before taking on the flight, the bizarre encounters with people who knew his name, the journey in incredible detail and sadly, only briefly of his experiences in South Africa. Even more sad is the scant mention about his family reunion. And then he recalls the sudden departure by ship because of illness (or home-sickness), his journey through the destruction that was still evident in post-war London and finally his return to Edinburgh.


On Saturday the 3rd December 1904, the relatively new RMS "Kenilworth Castle" passenger liner (part of the fleet of Union-Castle Line. See also Union Castle) slipped out of Southampton Docks bound for South Africa. Master of the ship for this voyage was Captain J Morton. The ship was travelling with only half occupancy, some 330 out of a possible 754 passengers spread across the three classes and up to 250 crew. The ship would make one stop in Madeira, the small Portuguese archipelago some 400km east of the Moroccan coast in the North Atlantic, where 15 passengers were due to disembark (and a few likely to join), before proceeding onto Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and then finally 49 days after departing from England, it would reach Durban. Of the 330 passengers who originally boarded in Southampton, the majority, some 258 were due to leave the ship when it first docked in South Africa at Cape Town.