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HM Naval Base, Durban
HMS Kongoni(1942-1943)
HMS Afrikander IV (1943-1946)
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
CountryFlag of the Union South Africa (1928–1994).png Union of South Africa
AllegianceFlag United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.gif British Empire
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Part ofCape of Good Hope Station
South Atlantic Station

Durban was a naval base and local command of the British Royal Navy first established in 1847 as one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy administered its worldwide responsibilities.[1] It was defined so by the Department of Admiralty to identify the area jurisdiction of the Principal Naval Transport Officer, South and East Africa. After the first world it was deactivated. During World Two the station was reactivated under the command of the Commodore-in-Charge, Durban he was responsible in this role as an area commander for Durban itself but held a joint tile of Commodore-Superintendent of Durban Naval Base.


Map of RN Bases and Ports Indian Ocean in World War Two. © Gordon Smith
Durban Naval Base Sailsbury Island, Durban shortly after World War Two

On 25 December, 1497 the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama was sailing past the mouth of Durban Bay and called it Rio de Natal. Over the subsequent years, Rio de Natal came to be a popular stop-off point for explorers and traders, mainly because the bay offered one of the few protected anchorages on the southern coast of Africa.

In 1823, the first European settlement arrived on the vessel the HMS Salisbury under the command of Lieutenant James King RN. with the aim of trading up and down the South African coast. While inclement weather forced the Salisbury to shelter in the roadstead off Durban, her accompanying ship, the Julia, sailed over the sandbar and surveyed the bay. King immediately recognised the importance of the bay and returned to England to try and garner support for an English settlement. Despite his efforts he was unsuccessful, and so he returned to Port Natal as it had come to be called by the Europeans.

King befriended King Shaka Zulu who granted him land around the bay, and sent him to England with two of his chiefs. But the party got no further than Port Elizabeth and King returned to Port Natal once more, moving to the Bluff across the bay, where he died of dysentery in 1828. This rough, uncertain life frequently had lethal results and at one point the number of settlers at the bay was no more than six.

The modern city of Port City of Durban was founded in 1835 on the site of Port Natal and was named for Sir Benjamin D'Urban, the governor of the Cape Colony. In the late 1830s and early 1840s the Boers clashed with the British over control of Durban and in 1844 Britain annexed Southern Natal to the Cape Colony. In 1847 the Royal Navy then established a naval base at Durban.[2] In 1855 development began on Durban’s harbour which would later become one of the world’s major commercial ports. In 1867 a cast iron lighthouse was built on the Bluff and is the only one on the East Coast of Africa at that time.

During World War Two the Royal Navy expanded and constructed a modern naval base in response to the threat of Japanese attacks on shipping along the east coast of Africa. It was during this construction that the island became a peninsula through the construction of a causeway. After the war the base at Durban was turned over to the South African Naval Service (SANS), which has since maintained a fluctuating and intermittent presence.

With the signing of the Simonstown Agreement in 1957, the Royal Navy gave up its control of the SANS in exchange for the use of the base at Simon's Town. The SANS became the South African Navy (SAN) and Salisbury Island its main base. When the Simonstown Agreement ended the SAN moved most of its operations to Simon's Town and Durban became a secondary facility.


Durban, a coastal port city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

Naval HQ

Principal Naval Transport Officer, South and East Africa


  1. Commander: Edward J. Headlam, July, 1918 - April, 1919.[4]

Divisional Naval Transport Officer, Durban


  1. Commander: Murray MacG. Lockhart, December, 1918.

Commodore-in-Charge, Durban

  1. Commodore: Benjamin Charles Stanley Martin, 14 April, 1942 - 30 May, 1944.[6][7]
  2. Commodore: C. F. Hamill, (retd), 30 May, 1944 - June, 1946.[8][9][10]

Rear-Admiral, Training Establishments, Durban

This flag officer was retired but appointed responsibility for training establishments in Durban.

  1. Rear-Admiral, R. J. R. Scott, (retd), 1 October, 1942 - 30 May, 1944.[11][12]


  1. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (19 August 2018). "Durban - The Dreadnought Project". Harley and Lovell. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  2. Harkavy, Robert E. (2007). Strategic Basing and the Great Powers, 1200-2000. Oxford, England: Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-134-00375-4.
  3. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (19 August 2018). "Durban - The Dreadnought Project.
  4. Admiralty, British, (Jul. 1918.) The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 9.
  5. Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony (19 August 2018). "Durban - The Dreadnought Project.
  6. Admiralty, British. (Dec. 1942). The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 1338.
  7. Admiralty, British. (Feb. 1943). The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 1421.
  8. Admiralty, British. (Oct. 1944). The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 2261.
  9. Admiralty, British. (Oct. 1944). The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 2350.
  10. Admiralty, British. (Jul. 1946). The Navy List. H.M.S.O. London, England. p. 1870.
  11. The Navy List. (Dec. 1942). p. 1338.
  12. The Navy List. (Feb. 1943). p. 1338.