Simon’s Town During World War II

Troop ships in Simon’s Bay WWII (Image ST Museum)

Simon’s Town activity followed much the same pattern in the Second World War as it did in the First. In the early stages of the war, it was the assembly base for the ships engaged in the rounding up of German ships in the southern oceans, the most important of which was the Graf Spee. There followed other heavily armed raiders disguised as merchant ships, including the Atlantis which laid mines off Cape Agulhas and elsewhere. They operated with considerable success but were eventually intercepted and sunk by ships based at Simon’s Town.

With the closing of the Mediterranean, all traffic between Europe and the East had to be routed around the Cape as in former days. Although the merchant ships were put into Cape Town for replenishment only Simon’s Town was capable of dealing with the special requirements of the warships.

The entry of Japan into the war and their swift conquest of Malaysia and the East Indies intensified the vital role which Simon’s Town had to play. In the latter stages of the war, with the reopening of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, Simon’s Town regained much of its importance as a staging post. By this time, however, the war in the southern oceans was virtually over and Simon’s Town’s task was finished for the time being. It had done its job well.

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