A Tribute to Gerald Denham

A Tribute to Gerald Denham


Quoted from the publication, “Where the Baobab Grows at Durban High School” by Jeremy Oddy.


Gordon Buckle, even today (2007), still has a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. On a visit to School he recalled to the Archivist how his great friend, Gerald Denham, and he planned to abscond from School early on a Friday morning in order to catch the 12 noon train to Compensation on the Natal North Coast.

The plan was that Gordon would make his way directly from his home to Durban Station in town with all the equipment and food necessary for a good weekend of fishing. Then, at the ramp leading into the station, he would wait for his friend.

Gerald Denham, on the other hand, would go to School bright and early, the reason being there was a competition to be finalized at the shooting range and Gerald could do well for his House. After the competition he would start to develop some sort of illness which would develop into something that would finally be referred to the Head Master’s attention. By 10.30 am Denham was not well – a self-imposed, completely imaginary malady had overcome his entire body. Denham, as he thought and hoped would be the case, was sent to the Head Master, Mr Black.

Denham now, in an even weaker state, explained to the Head Master that as it was a long weekend his parents were already at the cottage on the North Coast but if he could be excused early from School he could board the last train which departed at noon. He explained to the Head Master that once he arrived at the station at Compensation he would ask the Station Master to phone his parents to fetch him. He assured the Head Master that he would brave the train journey on his own with his illness, perhaps a few aspirins would help.

Gordon had been waiting excitedly at the entrance to the station. Across Soldiers’ Way the flower sellers were doing a good trade with their blossoms. A movement in front of him drew his attention away from the flower sellers. A car pulled into a vacant parking spot a few yards from him. Gosh, that was rather lucky for the driver thought Gordon, nice when things work out for the best.

The passenger alighted from the passenger side in a gingerly manner while the driver hopped out of the car. The passenger was Denham. The driver was Mr Black, the Head Master.

Mr Black was very concerned about his passenger, helping him with his school bag and wanting to carry it to the platform for his young charge. Gordon, amazed, shocked and disbelieving, awkwardly grabbed his goods and clutter, half carrying and half dragging, made his way in all haste to a place of safety, melting into the crowd and unseen by the Head Master.

This was one of the many enjoyable weekends the two friends spent together, many of which were on the beach fishing at Compensation in the early 1940s.

Denham left DHS at the end of 1942. The joys of youth can so easily slip or be taken away. Denham is remembered at his old School DHS. His is the 49th name on the 1939 -1945 War Memorial. Flight Sergeant Gerald M A Denham of the South African Air Force was killed off the island of Crete on 15 January 1945.

At the Remembrance Day Service held at the Memorial Courtyard at School on 9 November 2007, were two folk who knew of the near ill-fated trip up the coast to Compensation that Friday midday in 1940, they were Gordon Buckle and Gerald Denham’s sister Mrs Buckle, who incidentally married Gordon’s cousin many years ago.

Sailing is great