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The Southern African History Musings of Ross Dix-Peek

Southern African RAF Airmen Decorated for Bravery over Dunkirk and Norway, 1940

May and June 1940 were rather dismal months for the Allies during the war, with ill-fated campaigns in Norway and France (which was redeemed at least in part by the heroic evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk), and even that early in the war, and just prior to the Battle of Britain,  southern Africans were already making a name for themselves. Three intrepid airmen hailing from southern Africa and serving with the Royal Air Force (RAF) who were to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC’s) in June 1940, and who were mentioned in the “South Africa” periodical at that time include:

A Lockheed Hudson approaches Dunkirk on a reconnaissance patrol
         during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force
      from the port in May-June 1940 (IWM Collection)

“Flying-Officer Ronald Nicholas Selley, R.A.F. [39689], a South African, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Early  this month he commanded a flight of three aircraft engaged in protecting shipping in which the B.E.F. was being evacuated. A formation of some 47 Junker 87’s was encountered and immediately attacked. He shot down two enemy aircraft with his front guns and by skilful manoeuvring he also enabled his rear gunner to shoot down a third and to damage other enemy aircraft [LG, Page 3622,  14 JUNE, 1940]. He was born at Durban in 1917, educated at Michaelhouse, and entered the Royal Air Force as a pupil pilot in 1937.”

Selley flew a Lockheed Hudson during the Dunkirk evacuation, and was killed later in the war, on the 5 March 1941, and his name appears on Panel 4 of the Edinburgh (Warriston) Crematorium. He was 25 years of age at the time of his death.

“Flying Officer Hilton Aubrey Haarhoff, Johannesburg [43156], who has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, was a rear gunner [with it would seem his fellow South African, R.N. Selley, as the pilot] in one of the three aircraft forming a flight which protected the shipping engaged in evacuating the B.E.F. The flight encountered some 40 Junker 87’s which immediately attacked and he destroyed one enemy aircraft and severely damaged another two.”

Actual citation [LG, Issue 34873, 14 JUNE, 1940, Page 3622] reads:

“In June, 1940, this officer was the rear gunner in one of a flight of three aircraft engaged in protecting shipping evacuating the British Expeditionary Force. The flight encountered a formation of some forty Junkers 87's, which were immediately attacked. Taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded by his pilot, Flying Officer Haarhoff destroyed one enemy aircraft and severely damaged another two.”

Acting-Flight Lieutenant C. [Caesar Barraud] B Hull, from Shangani, Southern Rhodesia, a former cadet of the Transvaal Air Training Squadron, has been awarded the the Distinguished Flying Cross  for gallantry. After shooting down an enemy aircraft on May 24 he two days later engaged five enemy aircraft single handed. He shot down four  of them and damaged a fifth. Next day he attacked enemy aircraft greatly superior in numbers until wounded and forced to retire.” (Accomplished while flying with No 263 Squadron, flying a outdated Gloster Gladiators ).

Actual-citation [LG, Issue 34878, 21 JUNE, 1940, page 3784]: Acting Flight Lieutenant Caesar Barrand HULL (37285). After having shot down an enemy aircraft one day in May, 1940, this officer, two days later, relieved the Bodo Force from air attack by engaging five enemy aircraft singlehanded. He shot down four of the enemy aircraft and damaged the fifth. The next day, despite heavy air attack on the landing ground, he attacked enemy aircraft in greatly superior numbers until he was wounded and forced to retire.

Caesar Hull was to command No 43 “Fighting Cocks” Squadron during the Battle of Britain and was killed on the 7 September 1940.

Springbok Pilot Leads Attack on German V1 and V2 Rocket Sites, 1944
1943 Reconnaissance Photograph
  of V2 Rockets at Test-Stand VII
Photo: F/Sgt E.P.H. Peek, 504 Squadron)

The V1 and V2 rocket attacks on England during 1944/1945 were debilitating to say the least, and were to do damage both mentally and physically, and so effective were they that the attacks on London became known as the “Second Blitz“. One of the many airmen involved in hunting down and destroying the relevant rocket launching sites (known as “Operation Crossbow", November 1943-May 1945) was a South African from Witbank, Transvaal,  namely Wing-Commander Lewis Alan Lynn, Royal Air Force.  Lynn had initially attended the South African Training Ship (SATS) "General Botha" from 1932 - 1933 before joining the RAF, and by 1944 was operating with No 320 (Netherlands) Squadron, RAF, flying B25 Mitchell twin-engined bombers. A contemporary article published at the time was to write of him: 

“A well-known South African bomber pilot skilled in the art of precision bombing was out this morning helping to smash the launching platforms [in Northern France] from which the Germans are sending their flying bombs across Southern England. He is Wing Commander L.A. Lynn, of Witbank, operating with a Mitchell bomber group of the Second Tactical Air Force [2nd TAF]. Described as one of the most experienced pilots in the group, Lynn led to-day’s assault by the R.A.F. and Dutch Mitchell bomber crews on the flying bomb installations; it was his 85th operational trip.”

“On his return he said: ‘Visibility  was good, and our bombs fell in the target area all right.’ He and his group sought out skilfully camouflaged installations in the Pas de Calais area and the Mitchells hit their targets  squarely despite accurate and persistent flak, some of which tailed the bombers out to the coast on their homeward trip. Flak was thick in the target areas, indicating the importance the enemy attaches to safeguarding the rocket sites. Another “secret weapon” was used against our planes without effect. This consisted of a square box-like missile fired into the air to burst and scatter long strips of silvery and apparently metallic substance, possibly designed to foul the propellors [sic], but it was completely ineffective.”

Wing-Commander Lynn  was  to serve with marked distinction during the war, and was awarded the DSO (1944) and Bar (1944), and the DFC (1942), as well as the Dutch “Bronze Lion” award (November 1944), having flown with No‘s 107 and 320 (Netherlands) Squadrons‘, RAF. His London Gazette citations read as follows:

Air Ministry,11th February, 1944.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve
the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the  enemy: —

Distinguished Service Order.
Acting Wing Commander Lewis Alan LYNN, D.F.C. (40124), Reserve of Air Force Officers, No. 320 Squadron.

This officer has completed a very large number of sorties and has displayed skill, courage and determination of the highest order. He is a most inspiring and forceful leader, whose personal example has been reflected in the fine fighting qualities of his squadron which has obtained many successes in recent operations over Northern France. Wing Commander Lynn has displayed outstanding keenness and devotion to duty and his achievements have been worthy of great praise

Air Ministry, 14th July, 1944.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy: —

Bar to Distinguished Service Order.
Acting Wing Commander Lewis Alan LYNN, D.S.O., DF.C. (40124), R.A.F.O.

Wing Commander Lynn has completed a large number of day and night sorties during which he has successfully attacked a wide range of strongly defended targets. He has- maintained a high standard of operational flying and his genius for leadership has been outstanding. His achievements have won great praise.

The Hawker Hunter's southern African Connections

It is well known that the Hawker Hunter aircraft was operated in southern Africa by the then Rhodesian Air Force (now the Zimbabwean Air Force) during the Rhodesian Bush War, and very effectively at that, but what might not be all that well known is that a South African-born test pilot was also involved in the Hawker Hunter's development.

                                                                                                       (Brian Burnell Photography)

The aesthetically-pleasing Hawker Hunter was designed to replace the Gloster Meteor in the Royal Air Force (RAF) service, and the prototype first flew in 1951, powered by a 2948kg/6500lb thrust Avon 100 series turbojet WB188. The Hunter appeared at the 1951 Farnborough air-show, and in April of the following year the famous test pilot Neville Duke took the jet fighter through the much-publicized “sound barrier” for the first time.

One of the pilots who worked with Neville Duke on the Hunter project was Hugh Merewether, born in South Africa in 1924, and educated there at the Diocesan College (“Bishops”) and the University of Cape Town (UCT), before serving with the South African Navy and on secondment to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) during World War II.

From 1948-1953 Merewether worked under Barnes Wallis (of the Bouncing Bomb and Dambusters fame) as a junior technician in the research and development department at Vickers Armstrong, and also flew with the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), at one stage flying Meteors from Biggin Hill with No 615 Squadron. In 1954 Merewether joined Hawker as a test pilot and was appointed deputy chief test pilot in 1956, and his aeronautical engineering interests led to his involvement in the developmental flying of the Hunter.

He made detailed assessments of the aircraft's powered flying control systems and he was responsible for the corrective actions, which eventually made the system so reliable. He explored the extreme conditions of the aircraft's performance envelope, including a comprehensive inverted spinning programme, which subsequently became a standard exercise a the Empire Test Pilot's School for over 30 years.

After the retirement of Neville Duke, Hawker then appointed Merewether as its chief experimental test pilot. On the 2 October 1958, he flew a Hunter Mk.6 non-stop to El Adem, Libya (a distance of 1,588 nautical miles) in three hours and 19 minutes (at an average of 548 miles-per-hour). The aircraft carried the new 230-gallon (1,046-litre) fuel tanks on the inboard wing pylons with a pair of 100-gallon tanks mounted on the outer.

In November 1959, Merewether teamed up with Hawker 's chief test pilot, Bill Bedford, to develop the techniques of vertical take-off in the P.1127. In 1967 he was appointed Hawker's chief test pilot, and was based at Dunsfold, Surrey. In addition to test flying Hugh Merewether also helped convert military pilots to the P.1127's successor, the Kestrel, which was later developed into the famous Harrier. Merewether retired from test flying in 1970, during which time he had been awarded the OBE, after an illustrious career in aviation.

Meanwhile, in the interim, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (as it was then) first received their Hawker Hunter FGA.9's in late 1962, when the country was still part of the short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi respectively), all the Hunters being issued to No 1 Squadron at Thornhill, near Gweru.

However, in March 1963 the federation was subsequently dissolved, and the bulk of the RRAF's aircraft, including the Hawker Hunter, reverted to Southern Rhodesia control. The Rhodesian Hawker Hunters' first saw action in 1966 during the early days of the Rhodesian Bush War, and were to serve until the end of the war in December 1979, which may have been the most intensive action that the Hawker Hunter was to see. And the Hawker Hunters were still to serve in what became the Zimbabwean Air Force and were later involved in the Second Congo War.

And today Hawker Hunters are still to be seen in southern Africa, as seven Hunters' (of which at least three are flyable) are based at Thunder City at the Cape Town International Airport.

                                                                                                (Video: Seagoons 1)

Squadron-Leader Marmaduke Pattle's Transkeian Roots


In the June 2013 edition of the excellent magazine “Aeroplane” and in particular the very interesting article entitled “The Gladiator Strikes True” by Martyn Chorlton, which pertains to No 80 (Fighter) Squadron's operations against the Italian Regia Aeronautica in North Africa from June - November 1940, the author stated that the famous South African and Royal Air Force air-ace Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle was “South African born to English parents”.


This is in part incorrect as although Pattle was indeed born in South Africa, his parents were not English, but rather South Africans'. His father, Sergeant-Major Cecil William St. John Pattle, was born in Butterworth, Transkei, South Africa, in 1884, while his mother was Edith Brailsford (1881-1962), a hospital matron and a member of a family settled in South Africa since at least 1855.

Cecil and Edith Pattle were married in Butterworth, Transkei, South Africa, in July 1912. C.W.St.J. Pattle was to serve with the South African colonial forces during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Natal Rebellion (1906), and the First World War, and was also to attend King Edward VII's coronation in 1907 as part of the South African colonial contingent.

It was Cecil's father (and Squadron-Leader Marmaduke Pattle's grandfather) who was English-born and who immigrated to South Africa in 1875, and who died in Butterworth, Transkei, in 1890. Squadron-Leader Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle, DFC & Bar, was also born in Butterworth, Transkei, South Africa, and was thus technically a third-generation South African, and following his education in southern Africa was ultimately to join the Royal Air Force on a short service commission in 1936 (when already 22 years-of-age). Members of the Pattle family still reside in South Africa to this day.

Alistair James Hay, Hurricane Catapult Pilot from the Transvaal
Catapult Armed Merchantmen or CAMs for short were merchant navy ships fitted with catapults from which fighter planes, often Hawker Hurricanes (termed “Hurricats”), could be launched in an effort to combat German aircraft intent on sinking the merchantmen or other ships. The CAMs were equipped with a single fighter aircraft, and had no flight deck, instead being fitted with a catapult. The catapult consisted of a “girder framework and a trolley, connected by wire ropes and pulleys to the ram of a cylinder. The cylinder is connected by a pipe to the chamber in which the charge is exploded, causing the ram to push the aircraft forward with sufficient velocity to make it air-borne at the end of its run”.


It follows then that landing back on board the ship was not an option, and pilots had to ditch their aircraft in the sea after each mission. The merchantmen CAMs, as opposed to the Fighter Catapult Ships (FCS), were allocated 50 Hawker Hurricane fighters with specially trained RAF crews. In spite of heavy losses and the concomitant waste of aircraft, the catapult ships remained in service until 1943 when large numbers of decked escort carriers became available.

And one of the airmen who was to serve aboard one of these CAM ships, and who was to be launched into the air in such an unceremonious fashion in order to get to grips with the “Hun in the sky” was Pilot Officer Alistair James Hay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF), who was awarded the DFC in 1942 for his endeavour. Hay was born in Johannesburg on the 13 September 1921 and was the son of Frederick John Gordon Hay and Catherine, nee Metherell. He was educated at the Christian Brothers’ College, Pretoria, and was member of Boys Naval Brigade.

Hay attended the SATS General Botha from 1937-8 (Number 928). After leaving the SATS General Botha, Alistair James Hay joined the Union Castle Company, in which he remained until 1940, whereupon he enlisted with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and in 1942 became Pilot Officer and subsequently Flight-Lieutenant (source: SATS General Botha Old Boy Association Muster Roll).

Hay was serving as a Catapult Pilot aboard the CAM, “Empire Lawrence” (pictured below), on the 27 May 1942, the ship forming part of
the PQ16 convoy to Murmansk (just one convoy short of the infamous PQ17, which was subsequently annihilated),  and was east of Bear Island (the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard Archipelago).


Hay was subsequently awarded the DFC and his citation (Supplement to the London Gazette, Issue 35605, dated 23 June 1942, page 2756) reads:

"Pilot Officer Alastair James HAY (67093), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Pilot Officer Hay was pilot of the Hurricane on board a ship fitted with a catapult. On the approach of enemy aircraft he was catapulted off and immediately proceeded to attack and drive off a formation of six Heinkel .Ill's and HII5's [seaplane; see below] which were preparing to deliver a torpedo attack on the port bow of the convoy; not only did this prevent synchronisation with an attack which developed from the starboard bow, but he destroyed one Heinkel in and slightly damaged another. Pilot Officer Hay was himself wounded and he then baled out and was picked up by one of His Majesty's ships of the convoy escort. He showed great gallantry and his spirited attack was a great encouragement to all the convoy and escorts, and cannot but have been a great discomfort and surprise to the enemy."


As if to reinforce the fact that individual South Africans (indeed southern Africans) were to be found in almost every theatre of combat during World War Two, the captain of the Royal Navy ship, HMS Volunteer (picture below), who came to Hay's rescue was not only a fellow South African but also himself an ex-SATS General Botha cadet, namely Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Shubrook  Pomeroy, Royal Navy (who had attended the “General Botha” from 1927-1929) . Writing later of his experiences Commander A.S. Pomeroy was to write of this episode (published in General Botha's Old Boy Association newsletter, May 2005, Part Two):

On the Roll of Honour Board in the 'General Botha' is the name of A.J. Hay, D.F.C. Let me tell you how I met him in the Arctic. Our station was on the port bow of the leading ship of the port column, the 'Empire Lawrence', which was fully loaded with explosives and ammunition. Mounted on her forecastle was a catapult with a Hurricane fighter aircraft piloted by Alastair hay. On the first day of intense bombing, he was shot off into the air to engage single-handed the squadrons of Heinkel III and Junkers 88s. Eventually, wounded, he had to bale out, as there was no carrier to land on. I lowered a boat to pick him up, and just as the boat's falls were hooked on again for hoisting, two torpedo-bombers came at us low down from the North. With the boat still only a few inches out of the water and my hair standing on end, I ordered Full Ahead and Hard-a-Starboard to steady course to comb the tracks of the torpedoes, which we could see, one on each quarter. This took us on an exact collision course with the 'Empire Lawrence' . There was just time to alter to port ahead of the port torpedo, and then both of them struck her and she disintegrated in an immense explosion, just a grating and a few bits of wood left floating. The gallant Alastair was killed later, but I had him safe on board this time.


In addition, in the book “Hurricane” (by Leo McKinstry), a naval officer named Neil Hulse, who had been smoking on the bridge with Hay when the message came through that the enemy had been sighted, is quoted as saying: “Here was one brave Hurricane, like a sparrowhawk, going into these formations of German bombers.” And continues, “He [Hay] butted out his cigarette and put it in his flying jacket. He had no hope of landing on friendly territory. We watched as he took off and remained in communication with him. On the speaker we could hear him going in, and hear his cannon fire in the cockpit of the plane. He got one and there was smoke trailing from the other. Then we heard his cry that he had been hit.

And as related earlier Hay was picked up by HMS Volunteer after having been in the icy water, thankfully, for only ten minutes, and a message was sent to Empire Lawrence, stating that “Your pilot is safe. He is having a bullet removed from his thigh.”

An interesting article pertaining to Hay, and published in the "South Africa" newspaper of the 14 March 1942 relates:

"The hazards of the sea are apparently not enough for the young gentleman trained in the S.A.T.S. General Botha. pilot-officer A.J. Hay, Royal Air Force, from Pretoria, just back from a successful cruise, tells me that his special duty is to be 'loaded' into a catapult that will shoot him and his fighter plane from the deck of the ship as soon as his services are needed to attack enemy aircraft. he describes the sensation as thrilling 'until you are accustomed to it.'"

Following his time with the CAM ships and recovery from his wound, and having been awarded the DFC, Hay was later to serve with No. 182 Squadron in North West Europe (NWE) flying Typhoon 1b's and was killed in operations around the Falaise area on the 18 August 1944. The Battle of the Falaise Gap officially commenced on that day, the Germans having been forced into this area and were surrounded on three sides. A savage fight was to ensue, lasting over the next four to five days, during which time the fighters and fighter-bombers of 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) were to pound the German tanks, armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) and motor transport (MT), inflicting great carnage on the retreating German troops.

Hay was flying Typhoon JP427 and “encountered flak near Orbec” and was shot down. He was reported missing believed killed-in-action, and lies buried in St Desir War Cemetery, in France (St Desir is a village on the N13 to Caen, 4 kilometres west of Lisieux. The war cemetery is about one kilometre west of the village and lies on a secondary road, the D159).

Hay was one of at least three South Africans killed while flying with No. 182 Squadron, RAF, during the months of July and August 1944. The two other SA pilots killed were Captain Graham Harfold Kaufman, SAAF (Seconded to the RAF), and who was killed while flying Typhoon (1b) MN762, after encountering flak near Troarn on the 18 July 1944, and lies buried in Bonnebosq Churchyard, France, and Lieutenant Ronald Garnet Jennings (328631V), SAAF, seconded to the RAF (and the Son of Jeremiah and Sophie Aletta Jennings, of Foothills, Transvaal, South Africa), who was flying Typhoon (1b) MN288 on the 19 August 1944 (the day after Hay was shot down) and was lost to flak north east of Vimoutiers (sources: CWGC website and Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War, Vol. 3, N.L.R. Franks, pages 85 & 87).


The Hawker Typhoon was initially plagued with engine problems and structural weaknesses in its early days and failed to perform adequately for its intended role as a wartime interceptor. But it was, nevertheless, to go on to become an extremely effective fighter-bomber (carrying rocket projectiles), accompanying the Allied advance through France and Holland in the later stages of World War II in 1944. And apart from the individual southern Africans who were to fly the Typhoons with the RAF, No 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, RAF, was also to operate the Typhoon from mid-1942 until the end of the war.

                                                                                                             (Pict. Paul Power)

You Tube Video - Hurricat:

RAF Museum
I visited the RAF Museum in Colindale, London, a couple of weeks ago, and I had a great old time. Below are some of the pictures my friend, Paul Power, and I took while there. If you're in London, and close to the RAF Museum, then why not take a look, it's really well worth it (and completely free to get in).




(no subject)
South Africans and the Berlin Airlift 1948-1949:

The 24th June 2013 will see the 65th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Operation “Plainfare”, and I just wish to pay tribute to all the aircrew involved, and especially the South African Air Force (SAAF) aircrews who were also to participate in the airlift, and helped to alleviate the plight and hardships endured by the people of Berlin during the Russian blockade.


The Berlin Airlift began on the 24 June 1948, when the Soviet Union sealed off West Berlin in an attempt to starve the city into surrender. It is ironic when one considers that only three years prior to the airlift, Allied aircrew, including South Africans and Rhodesians, had been intent on bombing the capital in their bid to bring about the end of the Nazi regime, but were now just as intent on Berlin's rescue, and that of its citizens.

Ten SAAF crews were involved in the airlift and first arrived at Lubeck on the 15 October 1948. They were to fly Dakotas, and operated from Lubeck together with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) aircrews. The airlift would last until the 12 May 1949, and would involve approximately 277, 804 flights, and transportation of approximately 2, 352, 809 tons of supplies into the beleaguered city, the vast amount of tonnage being coal, followed by food . The SAAF aircrews were to remain until September 1949, whereupon they then returned home.

And it is also interesting to note that another South African, namely Air-Vice Marshal Thomas Melling Williams, Royal Air Force (who had served with the South African forces during World War I before joining the RFC), was also directly involved in operations. Williams was Air-Officer Commanding, British Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO), and an article, entitled "Farewell to Plainfare", that appeared in Flight Global Magazine (dated 1 September 1949, page 267) states:

The last Air Lift sortie to be made by an Avro York of the R.A.F., and also the last Air Lift flight from Wunstorf, was made from that station on the afternoon of Friday, August 26th, by an aircraft of No. 511 Squadron. It was flown by F/L. L. A. Miller, who has over 300 sorties to his credit; his co-pilot was Air Marshal T. M. Williams, A.O.C.- in-C, B.A.F.O. Hastings and Dakota squadrons' operating from Schleswigland and Lubeck respectively, will continue to take part in the Air Lift. Seven York squadrons of Transport Command have been employed in Operation Plainfare. Their aircraft have made 29,000 flights and carried some 23,000 tons of supplies into the city. During Plainfare it was found possible to increase the York's average load from 7¼ to 9 tons. In a message to R.A.F. Station Wunstorf, Air Marshal Williams has said: 'Throughout the 14 months of the Air Lift the York force has been one of the mainstays of the operation. Its record is particularly praiseworthy in view of the fact that Yorks are normally longrange aircraft and the crews employed on trunk route operations. They had to adapt themselves quickly and efficiently to the frequent short-range trips involving numerous landings with heavy all up loads. This change of role has been admirably accomplished. The ground crews in particular are deserving of praise for their sustained and efficient servicing of aircraft on a quick turn round requirement." Air Marshal Williams concluded, 'On behalf of B.A.F.O. I wish the York squadrons all good luck, and I know you will return to your normal role of trunk route flying having benefited from the experience gained in the Air Lift."

There was at least one other South African who was present during the Berlin Airlift and that was Lieutenant-Colonel (later Brigadier) Geoffrey Marnham, Royal Artillery, who served in the British sector during the airlift. Marnham was educated at the Diocesan College (“Bishops”) in Cape Town, and was the brother of the surgeon, Brigadier Sir Ralph Marnham, who at one stage served as sergeant-surgeon to the queen (1967-1971).

And it is be hoped that the commendable contribution made by SAAF crews (and other individual South Africans), as well as the American, British, Australian, New Zealand and additional civilian aircrews, during the Berlin Airlift in their attempt to bring much-needed relief to the starving Berliners will be remembered and deservingly commemorated on this, the 65th Anniversary of the Berlin Blockade.

Southern Africans in the Foot Guard Regiments of the British Army:

I read with interest the notification of the award of the Military Cross (MC) to Lance-Sergeant Markus Strydom, a South African serving with the 1st battalion Grenadier Guards, British Army (London Gazette 22 March 2013, 5738, Supplement No. 2), for his endeavours on the 13 June 2012, during operations in Afghanistan.

This appears to have been the same action in which fellow Grenadier Guardsman, Lance-Corporal James Ashworth was to lose his life after breaking cover and running towards the Taliban position, whereupon he threw his last grenade, killing the snipers, and was later awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) posthumously for his courageous and ultimately self-sacrificial daring.

Lance-Sergeant Strydom (33 years-of-age) was shot not only twice in the stomach but once in the side, and was then again wounded by an exploding hand-grenade. He was subsequently extricated from the “killing zone” and later airlifted to Camp Bastion, and then on to the UK, via Cyprus.

Looking back through the years, it's difficult to say exactly how many South Africans would have served with the Grenadier Guards, but they have certainly been represented, with Frederick John Van der Byl Hopley, a notable sportsman and boxer, being one of three South African brothers who was to serve with the Grenadier Guards during the First World War (1914-1918).

His younger brother Geoffrey William Van der Byl Hopley, 2nd battalion, Grenadier Guards (born Kimberley, Cape Province, South Africa, in 1891) had been killed in action on the 12 May 1915, at Wimereux, Boulogne, France.

F.J.V. Hopley was to receive a commission in the same regiment during that year, and was promoted to temporary lieutenant on the 14 December 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order ( DSO) during the battle of Beaumont Hamel in 1916, his citation reading:

Lt. (temp. Capt.) Frederick John Vander Byl Hopley, G. Gds., Spec. Res.

“For conspicuous gallantry in action. He showed' fine leadership throughout the attack, in spite of being wounded himself, and of severe casualties among his men. He stuck to his position on the extreme flank throughout the day, though exposed to machine-gun fire, until the battalion was relieved.”

And another South African who was to serve with distinction in the Grenadier Guards during the First World War was Major John Nevile Buchanan, born in Grahamstown, Cape Colony in 1887, and who was educated at the Diocesan College, Cape Town, and in England. He was also a noted cricketer, and played for the MCC and Buckinghamshire.

Buchanan was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards in 1914, and during the war was awarded the MC and the DSO, the former citation (9 January 1918) reading:

Lt. (actg. Capt.) John Nevile Buchanan, G.
Gds., Spec. Res.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack. He led his company with great skill and determination, capturing two enemy strong points, together with two machine guns, seven officers, and about sixty men. The success of the action on this part of the field was entirely due to his fine leadership, and his men were greatly encouraged by his personal example and admirable coolness under fire.

Additional South Africans who served with the Grenadier Guards during the war include Charles P. Atkinson, Captain A.F. Newey, and Lieutenant R. Sedgwick.

While during the Second World War (1939-1945) Grenadier Guardsman N.N. Wides, a South African, was to be one of the 338,226 British and Allied soldiers (including 112,000 French) evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, and was to cross the Channel to England and safety on, rather ironically, a ship called the “Umvoti“ (named for a river in Natal).

The Grenadier Guards constitute one of five regiments of Foot Guards within the Guards Division, which comprise the Grenadier Guards of course, the Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards (and are also augmented by the London Regiment of the Territorial Army), and South Africans (and indeed southern Africans) have too been represented in these additional regiments' of guards, notably:

Colonel Poulett George Henry Somerset, the son of Lord Charles Somerset (governor of the Cape of Good Hope), who was very likely born in South Africa in 1822, and who served with the Coldstream Guards before serving as ADC to his uncle Lord Raglan (Fitzroy Somerset) during the Crimean War;

Lieutenant Frederick Henry Norris Lee, Irish Guards, and who died of wounds in France on the 4 July 1916, while serving with the 1st battalion;

Lieutenant William Brett St Leger, 2nd battalion, Coldstream Guards, the son of Major R. A. St. Leger (SAMC), of George, Cape Province, and who was awarded the MC and was killed in France on the 27 April 1918, being buried in the Ayette British Cemetery in the Pas de Calais;

Captain Colin Bain Marais, Coldstream Guards, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre during World War I;

Brigadier Walter Douglas Campbell Greenacre, Royal Welsh Guards, born in Durban, and who commanded the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade during the last years of World War II;

Major Cecil Leander John Bowen, Irish Guards, born in what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and killed during the bombing of the ship, MS Chrobry, in the Vestfjorden, Norway, on the 15 May 1940;

Corporal Johannes Mostert, Coldstream Guards, six-foot-three and hailing from the Transvaal, who served with the Guards during the entire duration of the Second World War, having served with the Imperial Light Horse Regiment (a South African Regiment) before the war, and was to serve in NW Europe as a marksman;

Officer Cadet Bevill J.B. Rudd, Coldstream Guards, awarded the sword of honour at the Royal Military College OCTU at Aldershot in October 1945, and the son of the South African athlete and Olympian Gold Medallist, Bevill J. Rudd;

And more recently, Piper Christopher Muzvuru, Irish Guards (Zimbabwean),who was killed in Iraq on the 6 April 2003; Major Sean Birchall, 1st Battalion,Welsh Guards (born in South Africa), who was killed in Afghanistan on the 19 June 2009 and Lance-Corporal Dane Elson, Welsh Guards (born in Zimbabwe),and killed in Afghanistan on the 5 July 2009.

So it would seem South Africa, and later Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's, connection and service with the different Guards' regiments of the British Army goes back many years, and may very well continue for many more, especially if the selfless sacrifices of Piper Muzvuru, Major Birchall, Lance-Corporal Elson and the courageous endeavours of Lance-Sergeant Strydom are anything to go by.

(no subject)
if you're interested in the South African Bush War (1966-1989) and in particular the South African Air Force's (SAAF) role therein, then you might want to read this informative article written in 1986 by journalist, Mike Gaines, entitled "Bush War" and freely accessible on the Flight Global Archives website, a truly fantastic  website for aeroplane enthusiasts and historians alike. 


The part I really enjoyed is when Dave, the pilot of a
"Bosbok" observation aircraft, remarks in regard to the Mirage III's flying 50-feet above the ground that they (namely Dave and his fellow Bosbok pilots) don't "go in for that Flammie stuff,"..."it's a bit on the high side" (preferring to fly tree-top level, roughly 30 feet above the ground). LOL! Now that's seat of your pants flying.  


(no subject)
It was with great sadness that I was informed by Robert Middleton of the death of his father, Rear Admiral Linley Middletion, Royal Navy, CB, DSO (who died on the 3 December 2012), who originally hailed from the eastern cape in South Africa, and wish to convey my sincere condolences to the Middleton family. Old Sailors Never Die, They Just Sail Away