Seaman Gunner Do Not Weep: At sea with the SANF during the Second World War. John Duffell-Canham
Of the some 3,000 men who served in the young and developing South African Naval Forces during the Second World War, very few have written down their memories of that conflict. Nonetheless as can be seen from those that did, as well as in the official histories, the Springbok sailors acquitted themselves extraordinarily well.
John Duffell-Canham was one of the very few who had the energy to not only write down his memories and impressions of that conflict, but also the courage to offer the result of his efforts up for publication.
In writing his manuscript in 1984, nearly 40 years after the end of the War, the author deliberately tells it in the third person in order to make it a story rather than a dry formal history. This also enables him to tell the stories of other SANF rating as if they were the same person. This is therefore in its way a unique book in that it tells not only John Duffell-Canham's story, but also some of the experiences of others who served in the Mediterranean Theatre during that war. The modern reader thus gets a fascinating insight into the life and hardships faced by our sailors who served on South Africa's small ships during the war. In some ways this is also the heartwarming story of Maria Xanthopoulou, a young girl of Piraeus, Greece, to whom the author has dedicated his book.
It is a very "readable" story whilst at the same time highlighting the tremendous job that the Springbok sailors did in the Mediterranean, often under extremely difficult circumstances. As far as I know the stories about what the SANF did in the Aegean and Greece in the final phases of the war, and in the six months after peace was declared, has never before been told by anyone else making this a unique book on two counts.
Modern South Africans can indeed be very proud of what these Springboks achieved.