Hangklip Hotel History
Hangklip Hotel History
Hangklip Hotel History
Hangklip Hotel History
Hangklip Hotel History
Hangklip Hotel History

A Story of the Hangklip Hotel in WW2

Today most people in South Africa know something about radar and that it played a vital role during the Second World War, particularly during the Battle of Britain. In the Second World War, South Africa developed its own radar which protected the vulnerable coastal shipping route.
Essentially, South Africa had assumed responsibility for protecting the vulnerable sea route around the Cape, which was a vital lifeline for the Allied forces and an important communications link between East and West. Britain promised to send radar equipment when it became available, which South Africa would then operate. Their immediate task was to construct a radar system suitable for training in preparation for the arrival of the British equipment.

The British were impressed with the South African apparatus and, after the defeat of the Italians, they asked for the ‘JBs’ (named for ‘Johannesburg’) to be relocated . The South African top brass were aware of the value of the JBs, but these instruments remained a total secret from almost everyone else in the forces.
Eventually with much hardship, a station on Signal Hill was set up.
 As early as 15 June 1940, 390 ships were reported to be active in the area, but by 1942, with the Suez Canal closed, their numbers had increased enormously.

Initially, the coastal radar stations were all operated by men, but this could not be continued as all able-bodied men were needed for active service ‘up north’. Thus the decision was taken late in 1941 to train university-educated women as radar operators.

Sheilah Lloyd was one of those excited young recruits. Their first day was devoted to collecting their uniforms from the Union Grounds. Army issue covered everything from toothbrushes to greatcoats; the girls were (very grudgingly as far as those issuing the kit were concerned) exempted from having to accept the thick, greenish-khaki, lisle stockings and voluminous bloomers to match. Later they learned that these were dubbed ‘passion killers’ by the army girls.
Basic training took place at the BPI, and the more active part of it – the squad drill and the intensely vigorous PT (physical training) – was performed on the lawns around the swimming pool of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Sheilah Lloyd was always a ‘station girl’ and her favourite was Silversands at Cape Hangklip. To reach it, she had to travel by train to Somerset West and climb into the back of the ‘ration van’ (which collected supplies every few days and was the station’s link with civilization) and set off along the coast road. At Steenbras Bridge, which was securely guarded, military passes were checked and from there on, the van drove on an untarred road for some 40 km through unspoiled wilderness. On one side was the mountain and flowering fynbos; on the other the sea. A strong clean wind blew the scents of sea and mountain around those at the station – and there was never another human habitation in sight.
On arrival at camp the girls were met by the station commander and with him, the OC Women, who was not much older than the girls in her charge. They were taken to their quarters – which were shielded by a standard split pole fence – dubbed the ‘chastity fence’!

A little distance from the camp and clinging precariously to the mountain side was a small hut. This was the original Hangklip Radar Station with an old but effective JB set which was manned mainly by veterans of the desert war, who initially only had radio contact with the outside world. These men shared the simple recreation and eating quarters with the women and were billeted nearby. Silversands Station, with its complement of about twenty, was equipped with a very new British COL and was a little way down the coast from the camp. The girls could and, on occasion, did walk to and from shifts, but more usually drove in one of the army vehicles – especially at night and in poor weather.
The radar girls went on shift in pairs, each shift lasting five hours. While one girl watched the screen and telephoned the plots through to ‘Freddie’, the other had various tasks to perform, including marking the plots on a map of their area. After or before night shifts, the operators slept in a little hut next to the tech hut. In case of need, there was always a male technical staff on call and the one gate to the radar site was guarded day and night by members of the Native Military Corps (NMC), armed with assegais. No one without the proper pass and password could get near the tech hut, but it is difficult to imagine how the assegais would have repelled a U-boat raiding party after the station’s secrets.

The nearest thing to civilization for those at Silversands was Sandown Bay (now known as Kleinmond). Situated at the mouth of the lovely Palmiet River quite some distance away, it boasted a typical old-fashioned South African hotel, a few houses, a general dealer-cum-bottle-store and a manual petrol pump. The garbage from the camp had to be taken to Sandown Bay once or twice a week for disposal and the girls, if not on shift, were allowed to go along for the ride. In the ‘ladies lounge’ of the Sandown Hotel they were served the beverage of their choice. Port and lemon, Sheilah recalls, was a favourite, and reasonably daring, whilst ginger squares (ginger brandy and ginger ale) were also popular. Very occasionally there would be a dance at the hotel on a Saturday night, well attended by the local community from far and wide – and every now and again the girls were permitted to join them. Those were the dancing years and long dresses were the essential wear and the radar girls usually wore greatcoats over them as it was pretty chilly huddling in the back of the ration van, especially during a cold wet winter. By midnight they had to be back in camp and safe behind their chastity fence. Those who were unfortunately due on the 03h00 shift, would then try to snatch a short nap.

Generally, however, the leisure hours were spent on the lovely beaches and rocks below the camp Bathing was delightful, fishing off the rocks popular, and a lot of crayfish caught by the men. A 21st birthday party was once celebrated with a braaivleis on the beach beneath a full moon – an unforgettable occasion for those not on shift. The radar operators also enjoyed walking on the mountain slopes below the Hangklip overhang. A close watch had to be kept for snakes which were plentiful in the summertime.

We are grateful to: The South African Military History Society, The Military History Journal  (Vol 11 No 2 – December 1998), THE SPECIAL SIGNAL SERVICES (SSS) and Geoffrey Mangin and Sheilah Lloyd for supplying this information (via Eben van Tonder, thank you!)
(Please note that the stories have been condensed for this Website.)

* Geoffrey Mangin was an SSS radar maintenance technician attached to the SAAF during the Second World War (1939-J945) and is now involved in a radar information service from Cape Town. Sheilah Lloyd, also in Cape Town, was an SSS coastal radar operator.*

Top Illustration: A drawing, by Geoffrey Long, of South Africa’s first coastal radar station – a JB on Signal Hill (Source: The original drawing is at the SA National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg)

After the war,

the site under the rock became the quintessential beach hotel with wild stories of dancing and merriment. In the sixties the hotel was a haven for fishermen and divers. Students flocked to the hotel during weekends and holidays to enjoy the quirkiness and freedom that the hotel offered.

To this day people from all walks of life return to the hotel to reminisce and share stories of first loves, ghosts, scandals and the eccentric characters that used to hang out (some still do!) at the hotel.

A. van der Vyver and Lorette Luckett bought the property in 1997 whilst living in London. For several years Paula and Madeleine van Bosch managed the hotel on behalf of the two owners. Paula and Madeleine oversaw renovations to the hotel and also started a new tradition – music events, with well-known artists such as Anton Goosen, Koos Kombuis, Valiant Swart and Karen Zoid all drawing big crowds. Local favourite band Akkedis used to rehearse at Plankies on regular basis.

Just over 10 years ago the landmark site was put up for sale by Van der Vyver and Luckett. Word reached them in London that a prospective buyer intended converting the hotel into private property. They were so shocked by the possibility that the hotel with its magical mountain, vivid views of the milky way and extraordinary sunsets all year long would be closed to the general public that they immediately took the hotel off the property market.

Subsequently Henry Roux and his team rented the Hangklip Hotel for 10 years. Henry had a great passion for the hotel, and brought back some much-needed
glory. Lawns were planted, the chalets spruced up and the Hangklip Hotel became a popular setting for special events.

Lorette returned to South Africa ten years ago, but decided against becoming involved in the hospitality industry. She says she prefers painting people to working with them.

In 2016 Van der Vyver, or A, as he is called, returned to South Africa. He is a connoisseur of the theatre and ballet, and is an art lover who managed an art gallery in Notting Hill at one stage during his 33 years in London. He also attended a culinary school and is now resident chef at the hotel.

Both A and Lorette are keen to pursue their original vision of the Hangklip Hotel as a hub for music, theatre, visual arts and conversation – a place where young as well as established talent would be welcomed and nurtured. In order to realise their vision, A and Lorette decided to bring in two new partners. Both of them are well-known in Pringle Bay – Liza Schaap and Ali Croucamp.

Liza has been associated with the Hangklip Hotel since 2003, when she joined the staff of Mrs. Van der Poll who rented the Hangklip Hotel at the time. Her passion for Plankies is legendary. Liza’s experience, great memory and love for the Hangklip Hotel and its guests make her a valuable addition to the management team.

Ali moved to Pringle Bay in 2003 and ran the successful pizza/music/theatre establishment PeriGators until a few months ago when her lease agreement was not renewed. Her pizzas and live music drew audiences from near and afar. Her migration to the Hangklip Hotel is one of the most exciting developments in our area.

The partners are in agreement that the character of the Hangklip Hotel should remain intact, even though extensive renovations will be carried out in the course of the next few years. Hopefully the imminent tarring of the road to the hotel will make the hotel more accessible to the public, and the heightened activity will generate some of the funds needed to realise the owners’ vision of the Hangklip becoming a destination that caters for foodies, music and art lovers, hikers, bikers, star gazers and lovers of the good life.

We are Pet Friendly

We are a Premiere Overberg LIVE MUSIC Venue

We are > 1 hour’s drive from Cape Town & the CT International Airport

We have Free WiFi

Hangklip Hotel Room

Accommodation

Book an restful stay in one of our Chalets or Rooms or book the lot for your Special Event.

Hangklip Hotel Restaurant Event

Restaurant

Our Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. We also cater for events both outdoor and indoors.

Hangklip Hotel Plankies Music

Bars

The Hotel Bar and Plankies are famous for Live Music and Legendary Parties and Festivals.

Become part of the Hangklip family…

Pringle Bay Beach
Hangklip Naure
Hangklip Hotel Road along Mountain Pass
Hangklip Hotel Nature
Hangklip Hotel Fishing Sunset View
Hangklip Hotel Vast Pristine Beaches Near