South Africa's Battle of the Atlantic: 1939-1945: A Survey of the Cape Peninsula's WWII Heritage
Harrison, Ian P
In 1939, the Union of South Africa was caught unprepared for war. With the full weight of the Commonwealth's resources dedicated to the defense of the British Isles, the Union Defense Force (UDF) was tasked with defending the Empire's vital supply lines through the Southern Ocean. Although the Union joined the war on the side of the Allies, ethnic and political turmoil left the extent of its participation in question. With Allied shipping under attack from German submarines, the Special Signals Service (SSS) was formed to develop and deploy a chain of Range and Direction Finding (RDF - aka. Radar) defenses along the South African coastline. Furthermore, a series of High Frequency Direction Finding (Huff-Duff) stations were constructed to intercept and decode high-band radio transmissions from enemy submarines. In the years following the end of the war, however, these sites were slowly abandoned to the mercy of destructive forces, with only a handful having received any form of modern archaeological documentation. As these sites continue to deteriorate, so too does their historic and community value, as well as the potential of future archaeological research to glean meaningful scientific insight. As such, fifteen World War II sites throughout South Africa's Cape Peninsula were surveyed and documented for this thesis. Condition reports and digital records were created for each site, establishing a baseline from which to monitor future degradation. In addition to the standard recording methods, several metrics were logged for each site including: structural integrity, legal protection status, and site accessibility. Through the comparison of sites according to these metrics, this study is able to draw baseline conclusions for long-term survivability. Despite various levels of legal heritage protection across the survey dataset, only structures with active conservation programs survived better than those with any degree of legal protection but no conservation. Further, remote sites were significantly less affected by cultural processes than those located nearby metropolitan areas. In addition to this archaeological recording, an archival search for primary source materials relating to RDF stations and coastal defenses was conducted from several document repositories throughout the Cape Peninsula. As part of this process, a survey of newsprint sources was conducted in order to ascertain the influence of the U-boat war on the maritime landscapes of the Cape. In this way, the actions of South African civilians were gauged as they reflexively responded to the perceived risks of the surrounding maritime landscape.
Harrison, Ian P. (May 2019). South Africa's Battle of the Atlantic: 1939-1945: A Survey of the Cape Peninsula's WWII Heritage (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7253.)
Harrison, Ian P. South Africa's Battle of the Atlantic: 1939-1945: A Survey of the Cape Peninsula's WWII Heritage. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, May 2019. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7253. July 31, 2021.
Harrison, Ian P, “South Africa's Battle of the Atlantic: 1939-1945: A Survey of the Cape Peninsula's WWII Heritage” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, May 2019).
Harrison, Ian P. South Africa's Battle of the Atlantic: 1939-1945: A Survey of the Cape Peninsula's WWII Heritage [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; May 2019.
East Carolina University