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South African Nation-Building Commemoration

South African Nation-Building Commemoration: a tribute to three great statesmen.

To celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa, the South African Legion – England Branch, in association with the Royal British Legion – South African Branch and 133 Army Cadet Force, organised the inaugural Nation-Building Commemoration to pay tribute to three statesmen whose vision and deeds shaped modern South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi – whose statues all stand on Parliament Square in London – as great visionaries of not only South Africa, but also Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 

The South African Legion led contingent gathered on Parliament Square, which is considered to be the Holy of Holies by the British people, by virtue of its location opposite the Palace of Westminster, an icon to democracy. Obtaining permission to parade at Westminster on Parliament Square was a major milestone for the South African veterans in England; a big first and a huge honour. Additionally, being at Westminster, there was the added duty and privilege to pay appropriate respects to PC Keith Palmer who was murdered at Westminster in the terror attack on 22 March 2017.

 

Nelson Mandela, Jan Smuts, and Mahatma Gandhi all played a crucial role in leading South Africa to the democratic country we know today. The contribution of Mandela to the world we live in is at the forefront of our consciousness and we honour that. Perhaps less widely celebrated are the monumental roles played by Smuts and Gandhi. We have a duty to honour our heroes and to ensure their contribution to mankind is remembered.

The pieces of the puzzle leading to our democratic South Africa

In the historical timeline leading to the democratic South Africa we know today, one piece of history which might perhaps not be common knowledge, is that Smuts was instrumental in placing the ‘first piece of the puzzle’ leading to modern day South Africa, by leading the reconciliation effort between to former bitter enemies, the British and the Boers (where he served as a General), to create the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Following this landmark reconciliation, he would go on to command the British Army in East Africa during WW1, also serving in the British War Cabinet (where he played an instrumental role in founding the Royal Air Force as a distinct service). Later, in WWII, he was promoted to Field Marshall (the only South African to achieve this wartime rank), serving in the War Cabinet under Winston Churchill. He made history by being the only man to have signed both peace treaties ending WWI and WWII.

Lgr Claudio Chiste, Chairman of the England Branch of the SA Legion, summed-up the leadership trait of leading by example, coupled with the gift of forgiveness, espoused by these three statesmen. Who does not admire warmth and forgiveness of Mandela (affectionately known in South Africa by his clan-name Madiba) after serving 27 of the best years of his life in prison? Who does not admire Gandhi’s subtle power in his stance of passive resistance in the face of the world’s most feared military? Who does not admire Smuts for having personally suffered at the hands of the British (he lost two of his own children during the war, while his mother was taken prisoner) yet he forgave the British and was elevated within their circle of trust? In the case of the latter, it may not be common knowledge, but so much was this trust built-up between these two former foes that UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was himself was captured by the Boers at one point during the Boer War, was quoted as saying ‘my faith in Smuts is unbreakable’.

One of his last acts by Smuts as Prime Minister of South Africa was the establishment of the United Nations. His lifelong dedication to fighting for what he believed in, at a huge personal sacrifice and uniting mankind perhaps served as divine inspiration when he wrote the preamble to the UN Charter with the opening verse:

‘To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which, twice in our lifetime, brought untold sorrow to mankind…

Many may not be aware… but Mohandas (Mahatma) Ghandi lived in South Africa for 21 years, which for all intents and purposes would very much make him a ‘naturalised’ South African, which we could proudly claim as ‘one of our own’. As Gandhi himself said, South Africa was essential to his personal development and achievement. It was during these 21 years that this timid man who had just passed the bar exam would become the man who was to lead India to independence. On a personal level, he taught us no matter how tough life gets, there is always a positive. Each time he was imprisoned, he would say it was an ‘enrichening experience’. On a group level, he showed us that as a collective force people can be very powerful… unstoppable.

Similarly, Nelson Mandela, our first democratically elected president, took the positive from every experience and is arguably the most well-known great reconciliator of the 20th Century; certainly the most fresh in our minds. In his autobiography, part of which was written secretly in prison, he stated:

‘I was born free… free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut. Free to swim in the clean stream that runs through my village. Free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of the slow moving bulls. It was only when I learned that my childhood freedom was an illusion… that I began to hunger for it’.

Legionnaires – all military veterans for that matter – know all too well that our freedom has been hard won. By paying homage to those before us, we remember their sacrifices and honour their achievements.

 

Wreaths laid for three statesmen who brought about change with forgiveness in their hearts

In his religious service message, Minister Lgr John McCabe drew a pertinent parallel between these three great statesmen on being agents for change, and practicing forgiveness of their former foes. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s famous: ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’

General Jan Smuts said ‘History writes the word Reconciliation over all her quarrels.’

There are many definitions for leadership, but one that is favoured is that leader is influence. These men had a formidable international impact, not only while they were alive but still to this day.

For the first time, wreaths were then laid ceremoniously at the base of each statue, with the standard bearers forming a guard of honour, led from statue to statue by England President of the SA Legion Peter Dickens who acted as Parade Sargent Major. Regional Chair for UK & Europe Lgr Cameron Kinnear lead the ceremony by placing a wreath at the Mandela statue, followed by Lgr Sean Daye for Smuts, Lgr Neil Douglas for Gandhi, and Lgr Paul Konrad for PC Keith Palmer.

Mandela captured the essence of their collective legacy, as well as the ethos of the South African Legion when he said: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.’ As we say in the Legion, ‘Not for ourselves, but for others’.

Wreaths laid:

Master of Ceremonies: Lgr Claudio Chiste

Parade Sergeant Major: Lgr Peter Dickens

Lgr Cameron Kirk Kinnear, Regional Chairman UK & Europe – Mandela

Lgr Neil Douglas – Ghandi

Lgr Sean Daye – Smuts

Lgr Paul Konrad – PC Keith Palmer

Standard bearers: Graham Scott (IC), Lgr Craig Esterhuisen, Lgr Tony Povey, Lgr Cassandra Shaw, of MOTHs General Browning Shell hole standard bearer Leslie Shield. Special thanks to the 133 Army Cadet Force, their Officer Commanding Joe Drohan and the trumpeter Bobby Crick.

Also in attendance were Lgr Richard Poate and Lgr Robert Ansell.

 

Article for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe by Claudio Chiste`

 


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HMS Sheffield – Sunk 4th May 1982, Falklands War

HMS Sheffield (D80) was a 4100 ton Type 42 destroyer, launched on 10th June 1971 and commissioned on 16th February 1975. She was the second Royal navy ship to bear this name.

An explosion during construction killed two workers, and the damaged section of hull was replaced with another section from an identical design, but in a twist of fate this ship (Hercules) was being built for the Argentine Navy.

HMS Sheffield was part of task Force 317 sent to the Falklands during the Falklands War. On the 4th May 1982 she was struck by an Exocet air-launched missile fired from an Argentinian Navy Super Etendard aircraft. She sank on the 10th May 1982.

On the morning of the 4th may HMS Sheffield was at defence readiness, and one of 3 Type 42 Destroyers operating as a Anti-Submarine Patrol for the Task Force. The other two Type 42 destroyers were Glasgow and Coventry. The Argentinian type 209 Submarine, which was the model originally slated to replace the South African Navy Daphne class submarines, was deemed to be a serious threat.

HMS Glasgow (D88), one of the other Type 42 destroyers, detected two Argentinian Super-Etendard aircraft over 70km away and issued the warning code word “Handbrake” to all ships in the Task Force. In another twist of fate, HMS SHeffield had previously assessed the Exocet threat as over-rated, and assessed this new threat as another false alarm.

As a result HMS Sheffield did not go to Action Stations, launch chaff or conduct any other readiness actions. Captain James Salt was not informed of the reported threat.

Communications with HMS Sheffield were suddenly interrupted. The Exocet missile fired from a ‘point-blank’ range of 6 miles by Captain Augusto Bedacarratz hit HMS Sheffield amidships, creating a 15ft by 4ft hole in the ship’s starboard side. The crew had less than 20 seconds warning. A second missile missed the target. In yet a third twist of fate, it was later concluded by a Board of Enquiry that the warhead did not detonate. This is disputed by members of the crew, and a subsequent re-evaluation in 2015 concluded that the warhead had indeed detonated by using advanced analysis tools which were not available in 1982.

HMS Sheffield was now ablaze, and certain ship systems had been knocked offline, and one of the systems affected was the ventilation. The water main was also damaged, resulting in the fire mechanisms from operating at their full capability, thus effectively sealing the fate of the ship.

Captain Salt ordered that the ship be abandoned due to concern over the fires reaching the Sea Dart magazine. As the crew prepared to leave the ship, they sang Life of Brian “Always look on the Bright Side.”

For the next six days not only were systems evaluated for salvage, but damage control attempted to shore the hull breach. HMS Yarmouth, a Rothsay Class Frigate similar in design to the SA Navy’s President Class took the ship in tow.

However the sea state during the tow caused further flooding and HMS Sheffield finally sank on the 10th May 1982.

As a result of the attack, 20 members of her complement of 281 were lost, most of them asphyxiated. A further 26 were injured.

Discussion points about the the superstructure and the aluminum content having a lower melting point than steel were incorrect, as her superstructure was entirely steel. There was also a shift in the Royal Navy away from nylon and synthetic fabrics that melted onto the skin, causing more severe burns.

SAS President Kruger survivor Cameron Kirk Kinnear with HMS Sheffield survivor Chris Purcell

Chris Purcell’s account of the incident.

Further reading:

The Narrative of the Attack

Official MOD Report

(First posted on the SAS President Kruger website)

 

 

 

 


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World War 2 Medals

Category : WW2

Understanding your Grandfather’s (or Fathers’) World War 2 medals.

This is the standard set received by many South Africans who fought in both the North/East African theatre of operations and the Italian campaign. These are in the correct order of precedence and from left to right they are:

1. The 1939 – 1945 Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in any theatre of operations during WW2. The ribbon shows arms of service – Navy (dark blue), Army (red) and Air Force (light blue).

2. The Africa Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth personnel who fought in African theatre of operations. The ribbon is distinguished by the “Sahara” sand colour).

3. The Italy Star – campaign medal awarded to all British and Commonwealth combatants who fought in the Italy theatre of operations (distinguished by ribbon in the colours of the Italian flag).

4. The Defence Medal – campaign medal awarded for both Operational and non-Operational service during WW2 to British and Commonwealth service personnel (and civilians involved in Service to armed forces). The ribbon is symbolic of the air attacks on green land of UK and the Black out is shown by the two thin black lines.

5. The War Medal 1939-1945 – campaign medal for British and Commonwealth personnel who had served full-time in the Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. The medal ribbon is distinguished by the colours of the British Union Flag/Jack.

6. The Africa Service Medal – a South African campaign medal for service during the Second World War, which was awarded to members of the South African Union Defence Forces, the South African Police and the South African Railways Police who served during WW2. The ribbon represents the Two Oaths taken (red tab for Africa Service Oath and the later General Service Oath) and the green and gold colours of South Africa.

Have a look at your Grandfather’s or Dad’s medals (or your Mum/ Grandmother’s) and see if they are in the right order and which of these six medals you now recognise.

Note: This is a very complex field and the intention is to show the basic outline, each of the medals has rather extensive qualifying criteria.

Posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens


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SS Mendi – England Centenary Commemoration 2017

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Category : Articles , WW1

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The centenary parade to mark the loss of the SS Mendi was held at Southampton’s Hollybrook Cemetery on the 20st of February. The site memorialises 2000 soldiers who died at sea and have no grave – that includes 600 of  the 616 casualties from the Mendi – fittingly honoured near the memorial to the great British WW1 soldier Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener.

Respect was also shown in the dignitaries from the host nation who attended -Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was joined by the HRH Princess Royal, Princess Anne and her husband Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Lawrence; the Chief of the South African Navy Vice-Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane; and the Minister for the Middle East and Africa, Tobias Ellwood.

Ceremonial duties were performed by a guard of honour and band of the South African Navy while all four arms of service stood guard around the memorial cross.

In paying tribute Mr Radebe drew on the words of the South Africa poet SEK Mqhayi: “Somebody has to die, so that something can be built, somebody has to serve so that others can live.” The profound meaning in these words did not go unnoticed, touching an emotional chord amongst the entourage of descendents of the Mendi crew who were in attendance, amongst which was Siboniso Makaye, whose grandfather was one of the crew members, Private Ndabana Makaye. Siboniso’s own father died when he was only four, he had grown up hearing about his grandfather’s fate from his grandmother who had raised him.

 

“Africa is saying it is well with our souls for these heroes. Today Africa is here” are the words  of Navy chaplain Captain (Rev) Lulamile Ngesi, who paraphrased the words of a prominent American lawyer who lost four of his children when their ship sank.

 

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when the piper from the South African Medical Services played the lament -a haunting version of the old hymn Abide With Me

Tribute to our heroes of the past, bond with the current

After paying tribute to heroes of ‘forgotten valour’, veterans enjoyed the chance to meet current serving members of the SANDF, who undertook the ceremonial duties during the centenary. To conclude this momentous day the opportunity granted to meet the Officer Commanding of the South African frigate, SAS AMATOLA, Captain Roux on board the ship in Portsmouth harbour.   Plaques were exchanged and stories swapped – a fitting end to an historic day of remembrance for those lost at sea.
Legion role in Centenary build-up

It was encouraging to see the culmination of everyone’s effort in this auspicious moment, with the SA Legion playing a significant role in the build-up to this year’s centenary (since SA Legion initiated this memorial service at Hollybrook five years ago). This year, although not run by the Legion, the following Legionnaires contributed: Wreaths were laid by Mr Cameron Kirk Kinnear, Regional Chairman of the SA Legion UK & Europe at Hollybrook (with England Branch Chairman, Mr Claudio Chiste laying a wreath at Milton cemetery on the Friday). It is perhaps fitting that both are naval veterans and Cameron is a survivor of the sinking of the SAS PRESIDENT KRUGER (affectionately known as the “PK”).

Also in attendance were Legionnaires Justin Bosanquet, Graeme Scott, Theo Fernandes, Tony Povey, Jose Lopes, Tino de Freitas, Craig Esterhuizen and Grant Harrison.

 

Article written by Lgr Claudio Chiste and Lgr Justin Bosanquet with images by Lgr Theo Fernandes, CWGC and final image by Lgr Claudio Chiste.


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Commonwealth Day Parade 2017

 

LONDON, 13 March 2017 –Mother Nature clearly smiles on the Commonwealth. On Monday, for (about) the fourth year in a row, the remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony at the Commonwealth Memorial Gates in Green Park, was blessed with (uncharacteristic for London) a mild sunny spring day.

Lr. Theo Fernandes and I met-up at the venue, well ahead of time. He was armed with his customary camera, which he would only surrender (temporarily) later, in order to perform some (even) more important duties.

The Senior Guest of Honour this year was the Ooni of Ife (Nigeria), His Imperial Majesty Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, who arrived with his entourage in imperial style with heralds and pages.

The organiser told me proudly that this year, the South African Government would be represented by H. E. Ms Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the SA National Assembly. Mrs Mbete arrived shortly after His Majesty, resplendent in traditional Zulu costume (she originally hails from Durban). Theo and I were introduced to her briefly beforehand, as we were the only South African veterans present, and we were treated to a proper meet-and-greet afterwards.

After a short opening address, a Gurkha bugler sounded Last Post, followed by two minutes’ silence. After the ‘Rouse’, a Ghurkha piper played the lament, and Guests of Honour were called by name to lay wreaths.

The first wreath was laid on behalf of HRH the Prince of Wales. Next, out of deference to his 98 years, the representative of the Burma Star Association, followed by the Ooni of Ife, and then Mrs Mbete on behalf of South Africa.

When the turn came for the South African Legion (UK & Europe Branch), the wreath of poppies was laid by Lr. Theo Fernandes (aka The Porra) – a committee decision in acknowledgement of Theo’s loyal attendance of the event (6+ years), and his unfailing support for the Branch and his fellow Legionnaires.

Afterwards, guests retired to a marquee where the London Indian community had provided a light curry lunch. We were interviewed by a Sikh documentary-maker and the Sikh TV Channel.

When Mrs Mbete left a short while later, we accompanied her to her car, and enjoyed speaking to her as she waited for the diplomatic Mercedes. She was clearly pleased and surprised to encounter fellow South Africans at such an auspicious event.

Theo and I also met with the Lord Lieutenant of London, leading representatives of the Sikh regiments and community, the Rear-Admiral representing HM Armed Forces and Defence Attaches from Canada and New Zealand.

An interesting meeting was one with the President of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel. His Association are putting-up a memorial to RAF Bomber Command air and ground crew, and want to include the South African names. So watch this space.

Article for the South African Legion by Andrew Bergman

Pictures by Theo Fernandes and (very occasionally) Andrew Bergman


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SS Mendi and Armed Forces Day, Noordwijk 2017

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The centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, as well as Armed Forces Day was commemorated at Noordwijk in the Netherlands on 21 February 2017.

The ceremony began with a moving chapel service led by Rev. Andrew Gready. Short speeches were delivered by the Mayor of Noordwijk Jan Rijpstra, South African Ambassador Vusi Koloane, Lesotho Ambassador Ms Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, historian Mark Sijlmans, and myself on behalf of the South African Legion.

The service was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the gravesides of five named, and one unnamed SS Mendi casualties, whose bodies were washed-up on the Dutch coast, and now rest in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the Noordwijk General Cemetery.

The now-annual event was hosted by the South African Embassy in partnership with the Municipality of Noordwijk – who have been of amazing support in the way they have embraced ‘their’ SS Mendi casualties – and the South African Legion (EU branch).

South African dignitaries included the Ambassador, as well as Defence attaché Brig. Gen. Mac Letsholo, Chargé d’Affaires Mrs. Namhla Gigaba, and a fine delegation of embassy and consular staff.

In addition to Lesotho, the Ambassadors of Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia were also in attendance.

The Defence Attachés of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, Romania and Uganda also attended.

The Royal Netherlands Armed Forces sent several high-ranking officers from various branches. They also supplied a Guard of Honour of Dutch soldiers to perform ceremonial duties such as raising and lowering the flags. They also supplied a very competent trumpeter who played Last Post, and a piper who added much decorum to the proceedings.

Afterwards, the SA Ambassador invited guests to an informal dinner of South African food and wine in Noordwijk’s superb new sports complex.

After dinner, I was given the opportunity to say a few words. As a token of our appreciation for their continued support, I presented SA Legion Shields to the Mayor of Noordwijk, Ambassador Koloane, and Brig. Gen. Letsholo.

I also presented the Ambassador, the General, and Chargé d’Affaires Namhla Gigaba with first editions of Fred Khumalo’s just-published novel ‘Dancing the Death Drill’, that includes the sinking of the SS Mendi in its plot. I presented a further two copies to the Mayor of Noordwijk for the city’s public library.

Dominoes

It is incredibly heartening to see how an event that was started by the South African Legion EU Branch just three years ago has grown from a modest ceremony with a few dozen attendees to an annual remembrance embraced by the SA Embassy as well as the international diplomatic community, and attended by well over 80 people. It was just a pity it fell on a work day, which prevented more of the UK Legionnaires from attending.

It was humbling for the SA Legion to receive special mention in Ambassador Koloane’s speech, in which he thanked us ‘for keeping the memory alive’.

 

Andrew Bergman, Branch Chair SA Legion Europe gave the following speech:

Locoburgemeester Van Duin, your Excellency Ambassador Koloane, Brig. General Letsholo, Madame Gigaba, ladies and gentlemen, dames en heren, maNena nomaNenakhazi

In his iconic 1914 poem entitled ‘The Soldier’ English First World War poet Rupert Brooke says:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’ some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

These words by an Englishman, so loving of England, could just as easily have been penned in isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, or any of the other languages that make up South Africa’s inimitable multicultural tapestry today, by a member of the South African Native Labour Corps:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’ some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever eKoloni, kwaZulu, Mpumalanga, Lesotho, mZanzi Afrika.

Many of the men who were lost off the Isle of Wight that dark February night 100 years ago had never seen the sea before they gathered at the Green Point Track near to Cape Town harbour to board the SS Mendi. So as the sea engulfed the ship, they had little chance in the frigid waters.

The remains of those pitiful few SS Mendi casualties that the cruel sea surrendered might lie in foreign fields, but still, today, after 100 hundred years, their sacrifice does South Africa credit. Their names join those of thousands of soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice – for better or for worse – for King, Commonwealth and Country.

Nederland koos voor neutraliteit in de Eerste Wereldoorlog, maar toch waren Nederlanders niet gespaard van de vele nare neveneffecten van een oorlog dat op hoor afstand werd gevochten. Vanuit Nederland hoeft men vandaag maar een dag-ritje Ieper of een weekeindje naar Parijs te maken om de relatief – en certainement na Zuid Afrikaanse begrippen – zeer kleine geografische afstanden waarin de industriële oorlogsellende waarna te SS Mendi stoomde zich afspeelde.

Zo werd zelfs de stoffelijke resten van de Zuid Afrikaanse soldaten, gedragen door zeestromingen en aangespoeld op de Nederlandse kust. En hier in Noordwijk werd onze kameraden, geboren in de droge uitgestrekte vlaktes van Zuidelijk Afrika, of in de heuvels en bergen van KwaZulu or Umtata of Lesotho, of Botswana, uiteindelijk met respect en liefde te rusten gelegd.

Maar uit het bloed-doorweekte as van de oorlog rijzen vaak ook positieve dingen. Vandaag krijgen de leden van de South African Native Labour Corps het aandacht dat ze terecht verdienen, maar tot onlangs door ‘selectieve geschiedenis’ grotendeels ontnomen waren.

Dan, over de loop van drie jaar, tijdens het regelen van deze nu jaarlijkse herinneringsbijeenkomst, heb ik een bijzondere relatie zien bloeien tussen Gemeente Noordwijk, de Zuid Afrikaanse veteranen, en de Zuid Afrikaanse diplomatieke vertegenwoordiging. Ik ben zeer benieuwd om te zien wat daaruit ontwikkeld.

So today, on the occasion of the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, and in celebration of South African Armed Forces Day, the Europe Branch of the South African Legion of Military Veterans embrace and salute our comrades-in-arms, past, present and future.

And we remember that there is one corner of this field in Noordwijk, where Privates Leboche, Zendile, Molide, Kazimula, and Mtolo now lie, that is forever mZanzi Afrika.

Report by Andrew Bergman, images by Johanna Bergman-Badings.


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Ex ZIPRA fighter regrets downing Rhodesian Viscounts

 

By Shine Moyo, Special Correspondent

Mapotos: A former member of the Zimbabwe People’s Liberation Army (ZIPRA) who was part of the gang that shot down tow Air Rhodesia Vickers Viscount planes in 1978 and 1979 says he regrets the two incidents which resulted in the death of 107 people.

Nkululeko Norman Mabhena (61) told Zimbo today.com this week, just before the commemorations to mark the 38th year of the downing of the second Viscount (Umniati) in February 8th, 1979 that he regrets the two incidents – which he was both involved in – and that the whole war effort was not worth it.

“With age and looking at what has become of this country, i can say the whole war effort was not worth it. I personally regret the incidents. In hindsight, I realise that I should not have been involved in these acts in the first place…. acts that resulted in more than 100 innocent people losing their lives, but that is what war is like, young people are used to do stupid things… I was young and I was used, when I look at what we were fighting, I realised that this is not it. It makes me very sad,” Mabhena said.

 

Mabhena and other members of ZIPRA shot down two Air Rhodesia civilian planes – the first one on September 3rd 1978 and the second one in February 1979 killing 48 and 59 people respectively. It was these acts – together with the torching of the fuel tanks in Salisbury (now Harare), aldo done by ZIPRA – that contributed to forcing the white minority government of Ian Smith to agree to give up power. However, people like Mahbena now regret having fought int he war in the first place after witnessing the wanton destruction that Robert Mugabe and his government have done to the independant ZXimbabwe. Zimbo Today was able to to talk to Mabhena at Matopos National park, the venue of President Mugabe’s lavish 93rd birthday bash, where he has gone with other war veterans to protest against the event that is planned to take place there later this month.

(Republished with permission from the Editor of Zimbo Today.)

 

 

 


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HMSAS Southern Floe

Category : Articles , WW2

Badge of H.M.S.A.S. Southern Floe which was picked up in an Italian dugout in the Desert by a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the North African Campaign. (SA Military History – http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol013hk.html)

11 February 1941

HMSAS Southern Floe was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with 1 sole survivor, Stoker C J Jones


A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare photograph in Alexandria Harbour (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

This sole survivor was Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. He was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a bare month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.

After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

Information from Naval-History.net

Southern Floe (SANF), ship loss
ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
FARRINGTON, Charles E, Stoker Petty Officer, P/KX 81373, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian McK, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
ROBERTSON, William M, Able Seaman, C/SSX 25307, MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
YOUNG, Reginald A J, Able Seaman, D/J 87257, MPK


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SA Legion Presents the RBL Putney Club with Shield at Q1 Social

 

Following the productive quarterly committee meeting – with much ground covered on ramping up our SA Legion membership benefits (soon to be announced!) – some committee members proceeded to the quarterly social thereafter. During the social the SAL Chair & Vice Chair presented the Royal British Legion Putney Club with the SA Legion shield, which were told will be hanging proudly on their wall the next time we visit!

From left to right: Russel Mattushek (England SAL Vice-Chair), Suzanne Harris (of the RBL Putney Club), Claudio Chiste (England SAL Chair)

Note: The venue for this social was the RBL Putney Club (first time we have had an event here). Going forward, after every quarterly committee meeting a social will be planned, with each social being unique… whether it be a new venue or some sort of exciting activity planned (raffle, sporting match- Springboks, Proteas etc or even a short course in first aid or unarmed combat, followed by drinks!). Remember to monitor the SAL events page to stay up to date with all the exciting events we have lined up for the next year.

(Article for the SA Legion UK & Europe by Claudio Chiste’)

 


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Sunderland Flying Boats of Lake Umsingazi

 

THE SUNDERLAND FLYING BOATS OF LAKE UMSINGAZI

By Jeff Gaisford
Jeff Gaisford has a deep interest in the flying boats which operated in Zululand and this led to the writing of this article. It first appeared in World Air News and is reprinted here with kind permission.

262 Squadron RAF used Catalina Bay at the southern end of Lake St Lucia as a forward operational base in 1943 and ‘44.  Initially they flew the sturdy Catalina flying boats, but these were gradually replaced by much larger four engined Short Sunderland Mark 5 flying boats. These drew over five foot of water and St Lucia was too shallow for them. This forced the Squadron to look for an alternative landing site with deeper water. They chose Lake Umsingazi at Richards Bay, and the squadron relocated there lock stock and barrel in the course of 1944.  In 1945, there being so many South Africans on strength in 262 Squadron, it was decided to transfer the whole operation to the South African Air Force. This was duly done and 35 Squadron SAAF came into being. The squadron base was at Congella in Durban and this required the big flying boats to land in the harbour. They were forbidden to land there at night, however, due to various after dark hazards that included the large number of small “fishing”craft, and the flying boats had to land at Lake Umsingazi.

A 35 Sqn SAAF Sunderland with the registration letters RB-N crashed and sank there on the night of 1 November 1956 in bad weather after a navigation exercise to Europa Island in the Mozambique Channel.

A young crewman, 18 year-old Henry van Reenen, survived the crash and, now a respectable businessman in Gauteng, recently told me his tale:
“Three Sunderlands flew on the navigation exercise from Durban to Europa Island – their serial numbers were RB-D and RB-N which was the aircraft I flew in. I cannot recall the registration of the third one. En route our radar set failed. Great waterspouts were rising all around us, forcing us to dodge backwards and forwards and it wasn’t long before our navigators had no idea where we were. Without radar we were almost blind.

The other two Sunderlands completed the exercise, turned for home and landed safely at Lake Umsingazi. We eventually packed it in in the late afternoon and headed back towards the South African coast. A thunderstorm had come up, waterspouts kept forcing us to change course, so we headed towards Durban and then turned up-coast in order to find our landing area on Lake Umsingazi.  Late that night we sighted the lights of the flarepath on Lake Umsingazi and came down on our final approach. The thunderstorm was still raging with high winds, very heavy rain, hail and great flashes of lightning that lit the sky around us.

The Sunderland was about 60 feet off the water when for no apparent reason we dropped onto the surface, hitting very hard. We bounced, then hit the water again. I fly privately now but in those days wind-shear was a little- understood factor.  Our pilot, Capt Naude, rammed the throttles open to abort the landing and go around once more, but at about 100 feet the Sunderland stalled under full power and crashed into the lake. The nose was partially broken off, the co-pilot Lt Col Thys Uys was flung bodily through the cockpit canopy and landed almost 200 yards away. Capt Naude’s harness snapped and he was flung back-first against the instrument panel, injuring his back. I was seated in the wardroom below the flight deck with three other crewmen and was catapulted against the bulkhead ahead of us and knocked unconscious. Two of these crewmen were the only fatalities. I came to a few minutes later underwater and in pitch darkness. I found some air trapped above me and, after taking a deep breath, swam back through the wardroom into the galley – there I opened a hatch that led to the flight deck, but this was also under water. There was a small perspex dome used by the navigator just aft the main canopy. I found some air trapped there and this gave me a few more gulps.
Acting more on instinct I swam along a passageway to the weapons deck intending to exit the Sunderland through one of two machine-gun hatches situated on either side of the fuselage just aft of the wing trailing edges. Some flame floats in this compartment had ignited and the interior of the compartment was aflame so I swam underneath the flames to get to the left hand hatch. The rest of the crew were sitting on the left hand wing and Jan Knoll, a Dutch radio officer, heard me yelling. He had been in the wardroom with us and had swum out through the galley and through the viciously sharp tangle of wreckage where the nose had been. He jumped into the water and helped me out, swimming with me to the wing where my friends pulled me up and out of the water. They battled to pull me up because a hook on my Mae West buoyancy jacket had caught on the wing trailing edge. All their pulling was pretty painful! I passed out from the pain of my injuries – I had broken both ankles – and only came to briefly on the boat taking us to shore.

We were given first aid and bundled into the back of 1947 Ford ambulance that bounced its way across a terribly rough track to the Empangeni Hospital. Both my feet were dangling off the end of the stretcher and were being mercilessly bounced up and down. One of the medics realised that I was in agony and they shifted me up a bit. At the hospital they cut off our flying suits and gave us another thorough wash! We were later flown to Durban and spent a few weeks recovering in Addington Hospital before being flown to Cape Town in another Sunderland,” he told me.

Richards Bay in those days was still very wild and the bodies of the two men who died in the crash were only recovered some days later because crocodiles were nosing around the wreck and keeping the divers away. Thys Uys was a bit of a legend in his own right having being involved in the attempted rescue of the survivors of a wrecked ship, the Dunedin Star, on the Namibian coast in 1939 flying a Ventura.
As a boy I saw the stripped  hull of the Sunderland being winched out of the Lake Msingazi in about 1958. Only recently have I found out that full salvage was not possible and the hull was let slip back into the lake.  A local man salvaged the right hand wing float at that time and converted it into a catamaran ski-boat powered by an old flathead Ford V8 engine and with one of those domed Perspex cake covers usually found in a Greek tearoom as a canopy. This contraption, looking like something from Startrek, actually went out to sea and must still be in the area somewhere!
The natural beauty of Lake St Lucia and Umsingazi has hidden this story for many years.
To the average visitor today the thought of those beautiful lakes being the scene of such amazing military aviation activity would be strange – but these events are a part of the fascinating history of Zululand and definitely part of the aviation history of South Africa.

This article first appeared in World Air News, and then the SAAF Museum website and is reprinted here with kind permission.


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