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In 1947 the British Royal Family embarked upon a world tour. It included an excursion to South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Bechuanaland Protectorate. It was the first overseas state visit since the outbreak of war in 1939 and was celebrated with much pomp and fanfare. The young Princess Elizabeth also celebrated her 21st birthday during the tour.
South African Railways provided a newly built Royal Train, the Garratt locomotives of which were painted deep royal blue and which were used throughout the tour of Rhodesia. In total, there were three trains which travelled together. The Royal Party travelled in the White Train (the same used in the 1925 Prince of Wales and 1934 Prince George Royal Tours). A Pilot Train ran 30 minutes in front of the white train and carried lesser officials, press officials and servants. The Ghost Train followed the White Train carrying spare parts and maintenance gear.
The Royal Family flew into Salisbury from Pretoria, South Africa on 7th April in a Viking aircraft of the King’s Flight. They were received by Governor Sir John Kennedy and Prime Minister Sir Godfrey Higgins and driven to Government House where the King opened the Crown Colony’s single chamber Parliament.
On 10th April, the family boarded the Royal Train for a two day vacation at the Victoria Falls. Staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel over the Easter weekend. On 11th April 1947, the Royal Party visited Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia, crossing the river in the Hotel’s launch, Daphne. Flying the Royal Standard, the party sailed up to the Zambezi Boat Club on the northern bank, escorted upstream by the state barge of Barotseland Paramount Chief, Litunga Imwiko. The road from the river was resurfaced and re-named the Royal Mile in honour of the occasion. Several islands and special locations were named after the Royal visit.
They returned to Bulawayo on 14th April where the King received some survivors of the Pioneer Column. A visit was also made to the grave of Cecil Rhodes in the Matopos. They left on 17th April for Bechuanaland Protectorate.
A special train was provided to the delegates of the 1924 South Africa Parliamentary Tour to act as their headquarters throughout the tour. The train also had a post office on board for use by the delegates.
Of note, the Australian delegation included the Postmaster-General of Australia.
A special postmark was available for the tour. The postmark was inscribed in both English and Afrikaans and coloured purple/violet.
In 1924, for the first time in history, delegates from five parliaments of the British Empire met together to promote a more cordial understanding between Britain and the dominions in a country other than Britain (previous meetings were held only in London).
The tour also provided an opportunity for the representatives of the Parliamentary Association to study the problems and possibilities of the host country for discussion at future Parliamentary or Inter-Empire discussions.
Eight representatives sailed from Melbourne, Australia on the 29th July. New Zealand sent four delegates. Delegates from Britain and Canada arrived on the Saxonia on 8th August (Some of the British delegates had to return to Britain during the tour due to the Irish Boundary dispute). Newfoundland were unable to send a delegation. All visitors were treated as guests of the Union of South Africa with sea fares were paid by the South African Government.
A special train was provided to the delegates to act as their headquarters throughout the tour. The train also had a post office on board for use by the delegates.
Governor-General Lord Althone
Although the tour started in Durban, South Africa, the first meeting was actually held in the afternoon of 10th September at Maseru, Basutoland. The meeting was opened by South Africa’s Governor-General, Lord Althone while the Secretary of State for the Colonies, J.H. Thomas, presided over the meeting. Delegates debated the present methods of the exchange of information (both inter-parliamentary and in relation to foreign affairs) and ways this could be improved.
In the newly formed Southern Rhodesia, representatives from each delegate met the Cabinet and Leader of the Opposition to extend an invitation for Southern Rhodesia to participate in future schemes of the Empire Parliamentary Association.
Prime Minister J. B. M. Hertzog
In South Africa at the start of the tour in Cape Town, guests were entered to a Luncheon held by Prime Minister Hertzog. At the end of the tour, the Prime Minister also held a dinner at Pretoria. Delegates praised the Prime Minister not only for the arrangements but also for the individual talks afforded to the guests.
The tour was seen as highly beneficial with delegates proposing a representative of each parliament in the Empire visit each other’s country for an informal conference at least once every two years.