Tour group goes back in time at World War II base

Adventurers gather to go underground at the Apostle Battery above Llandudno.

About 20 people took a trip back in time on Heritage Day as they toured a World War II military base above Llandudno.

The Apostle Battery was built in 1940 to withstand an enemy attack, tour guide Matt Weisse, of Milnerton, told the group.

They ventured down steep steps into an underground ammunition bunker, where another guide Lance Weston, of Table View, described how German U-boats would have been lurking off Cape Town’s coastline in 1942 and the Special Signals Services women deployed at the complex would have used radar, then still in its infancy, to locate targets.

Members of the tour group crouched through a narrow shock-absorbing tunnel surrounding the ammunition chamber.

Anita van den Berg, of Durbanville, said she had had a claustrophobic attack after a few metres but had found the tunnel interesting.

Monde Ralane, of Brooklyn, said he had joined the tour because he was trying to overcome his own fear of tight spaces.

Milan van Eeden, 15, of Constantia, was chosen for a mock interrogation, and while the teen was blindfolded and handcuffed to a chair, Mr Weisse, sporting a military uniform and fake moustache, quizzed him on some of the information given to the group earlier.

Milan said venturing inside the complex had been fascinating and had made the war more real, especially as his ancestors were German.

Keshav Singh, an art-and-design student from Goodwood, helps Mr Weisse on the tours and feels they are a fun way to learn about history.

Mr Weisse said the Apostle Battery and other military installations around Cape Town “are possibly one of the most comprehensive arrays of historic military heritage sites in the world”, but they were being neglected and the three turrets at the Apostle Battery were consistently being stripped by metal thieves.

The site was suitable for tourist development as it was easily accessible from Cape Town and many buildings at the Apostle Battery could be converted into accommodation for visitors, he said.

He said he would like to see the property administered by the City of Cape Town instead of the national government, as is currently the case, as the municipality had the resources and expertise to support it as a tourism destination in cooperation with the community.

“After all, the Apostle Battery was built to defend Cape Town,” said Mr Weisse.

Nicky Willemse, left, of Vredehoek, and Nerissa Swart, of Pretoria, with “Betty Brown”, a dummy representing a Special Signals Services radar operator.
Tour guide Lance Weston, of Table View, sets the scene in the ammunition bunker.
Vincent Clayton, of Bellville, on his way out of one of the shock-absorbing tunnels surrounding the ammunition bunkers.
Tour guide Lance Weston, of Table View, watched by Caro Copeland, of Constantia.
Anita van den Berg, of Durbanville, finds herself in a tight spot.
Some visitors wore masks because of the dust.
Milnerton tour guide Matt Weisse said the base was built in 1940 to withstand an enemy attack.
Tour guide Matt Weisse shows the group an emergency exit for the Special Signals Services radar operators.
Narrow steep steps lead from an ammunition bunker to the outside world.
Keshav Singh, of Goodwood, feels the tours are an important and fun way to learn about history.
Tour guide Matt Weisse sports a uniform and fake moustache while running a mock interrogation.