How survey maps orginated in South Africa.
This is an extract from the book
Adrift on the Open Veld, the Deneys Reitz trilogy, edited and introduced by
T. S. Emsile.
(Has Deneys Reitz received the recognition and acknowledgement for his role he played in having the survey maps commissioned for South Africa? - Gavin Lawson).
Early in 1936 I returned to Capetown for the approaching session of Parliament. I was under constant fire from the opposition benches. The farmers attacked me because food prices were too low and urban members shot at me because food prices were too high.. I was Public Enemy No.1 and there were numerous complaints against me and my Department.
However, any Minister of Agriculture in south Africa is a scapegoat and as I look on Parliament and politics dispationately, I was not unduly perturbed.
The session petered out at last and by the end of June I was addressing meetings along the coast of Natal in an endeavour to persuade our ultra British friends that our only salvation lay in both races working together. I was not very successful.
In Durban and in villages dotting the littoral most of the voters were as jingoistic and racial on their side as were the extreme Afrikaners on the other side.
Between these ultimates, Englsih and Dutch moderates have been striving for many years to build up a united nation in this country, and the road is long and stony.
On our return from Sandringham I worked in office at Pretoria, attended Cabinet Meetings and helped at by-elections, spoke at agricultural congresses and met irate deputations in the countryside. I went mostly by air. I might be in Port Elizabeth on the south coast of the Cape one week and in Natal or the northern Transvaal the next, for the old leisurely pace of the ox with which I had grown up as a boy has gone for ever and now I hurtle through space like a madman.
And the numberless speeches I delivered! I once saw a catoon of a deceased politician in Hades. Bound to a chair with ropes, his punishment was to be compelled to endure recitals of gramaphone recordings of the speeches he had inflicted during his lifetime. There was a look of excruciating agony on his face - I only hope I shall be spared similar torture in the hereafter.
I had three flying incidents during this year; two nearly ended in tradgedy the other was humerous.
I was proceding from Capetown to the Orange River in a recently acquired twin screw machine
(Airspeed Oxford) belonging to the Defence Force. As we approached the river after four hours flying there came an ominous knock in the port engine. I noticed the pilot and his mechanic uneasily watching through the window and I could see that the propeller was revolving erractically.
The second incident arose out of my irrigation activities.
At the begining of the session just ended I was hotly assailed for spending twenty thousand pounds on a certain irrigation survey without parliamentary sanction and the opposition devoted several days to castigating me. I had sometime before inspected a place called Loskop, in the transvaal, where I was determined to build a large dam. I let the Nationalists rave about the 20,000 pounds and towards the end of the session when everyone was tired and jaded I slipped a million and a half onto the estimates for the Loskop project and it was passed without a word of comment.
The third incident took place soon after. Mr Lewis had repeatedly urged me to have a proper map of the Union compiled but I refused, partly on account of the cost and partly because in my ignorance I thought the existing maps were good enough.
I was soon converted to his viewpoint for shortly after the Loskop trip I had to fly down to northern Zululand to visit a survey camp.
Westland Wapiti airplanes similar to the reference above.
However, to the immense relief of Captain John and myself the engine defect suddenly rectified itself and we were able to continue our journey and after a longish search we located the survey camp. Having completed the business I had come on I flew back to Pretoria.
I had had enough of faulty maps by now. The crocs and sharks of St Lucia converted me and first thing I did on my return was to tell Mr Lewis to go ahead. We enlisted the co-operation of nearly every land syrveyor in the Union and they responded with enthusisam. Thanks to their field notes the Irrigation Department built up the present topographical sheets witout which, no airman goes aloft. It cost 85,000 pounds, but today with British air training centres all over the country, flying by day and night, I like to think that Mr Lewis and I between us, with our map, have prevented many a crash and that we have saved many lives. Had it not been for his representations and for those uneasy moments over St Lucia lake our airmen and the British pilots would still be flying by charts torn out of a schoolboy's atlas.
In December an Empire Exhibition was opened in Johannesburg which cost a million of money and drew hundreds of thousands of people. My chief recollection of the event was a dinner in the Exhibition grounds at which Jim Mollison and the famous flying man was the guest of honour. He and a frenchman had tried to break the London - to - Capetown record and had just missed doing so.