In the spring of 1942, when World War 2 was still anybody’s game, three German U-boats cruised in SA waters seeking easy pickings among the merchant ships that often sailed unescorted and out of convoy. SA believed the war was far away, in the deserts of North Africa.

Cape Town, for all its heavy artillery on Robben Island and at Fort Wynyard in Green Point, was so unprepared that Captain Carl Emmermann, commander of U-172, could bring his boat to the surface off Sea Point and allow his crew a night out: come up to the conning tower, one by one, and enjoy the city lights. Cape Town was lit up for an air-raid exercise with searchlights casting beams across the sky. The real danger, meanwhile, lurked below...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as articles from our international business news partners; ProfileData financial data; and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now