Author Archives: Cameron Kinnear

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Capt Dean Sprouting

On Thursday 8 February, the Repatriation of Captain Dean Sprouting of Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland took place.

The aircraft carrying his remains landed at RAF Brize Norton from where the cortege set off for Oxford, pausing at the Repatriation Memorial Garden in Carterton, where an act of remembrance took place.

Among the standards on parade were those of the Royal British Legion – South African Branch carried by Lgr Graeme McArdle and the SA Legion UK & Europe carried by Lgr Tony Povey.

Article by Tony Povey for the SA Legion UK & Europe


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Raising Funds for Veterans in Need – Marching for Others: Three-Point Challenge

The Event link is here.

The recent storm and floods that hit Durban on October 10 caused extensive damage, not least to the SA Legion flats at BESL Court in Umbilo, which suffered the loss of their roof and water damage to the flats and contents below. BESL Court is home to some of our less fortunate brother veterans who now need help to put their lives back together. The South African Legion UK & Europe is on standby to play its part in contributing to the relief efforts. Building on a successful individual effort, Marching For Others march earlier this year, the Legion will this time embark on a group route march with this ‘vasbyt’ raising funds for fellow veterans in need.

Military veterans are invited to join us on Sunday November 25 to take part in the Marching For Others: Three-Point Challenge as we march from South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, via Parliament Square to the SA Cenotaph at East Sheen cemetery. We are aiming to raise £1,000, with all participants encouraged to obtain sponsorship from family and friends to reach a minimum donation of £50,00 each.  The good news is you don’t have to participate to donate, anyone may make a donation to the Marching For Others: Three Point Challenge crowdfunding site via the link below.

The distance to be covered will be 8 miles and the target is to achieve this in less than three hours’ walking time, excluding a few stops along the way to imbibe some liquid fuel. Along the route, three historically significant South African landmarks will be covered. Point 1: South African High Commission, Trafalgar Square; Point 2: Statues of Mandela, Smuts, and Gandhi at Parliament Square; Point 3: South African War Memorial (Richmond Cenotaph).

Refreshment stops will be included along the way. There will be a braai at the end to recharge the inner man and swap ‘war stories’, evoking the ‘GV’ feelings within us.

Dress is to be Legion beret, black polo/T-shirt, brown military trousers and brown boots or suitable military walking shoes (see photo). For those who would like them, black SA Legion polo shirts embroidered with the SA Legion logo, are available at £30.00 each. A portion of this cost will go towards our target (further details to be provided once participation is confirmed).  Should we exceed our fundraising target, surplus funds will go towards SA Legion UK & Europe projects.

This is an opportunity to enjoy a healthy day out and have some fun while assisting our brother veterans in need by giving life to our motto: Not for Ourselves, but for Others.

SA Legion England Chair Claudio Chistè (left), wearing the appropriate marching kit, standing beside Army paratroopers.

Join Us!

To sign up and confirm your participation, please email Tony Povey: poveymail@gmail.com


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Interview with National President Lgr. Godfrey Giles

2015 Interview with Legionnaire Godfrey Giles.

Quite a nice outline and easy introduction on what the South African Legion is all about, who we are and what it is we do.

See the video on Facebook by clicking this link.

October 15, 2016 at 04:47PM


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Carpane Massacre

 

 

In the North Italian village of Carpane on 27 September 1944 the Germans executed 16 Allied soldiers captured fighting with Italian partisans in that area.

Among them were Private W.J. Kinnear (Transvaal Scottish) and Gunner R. S. Kinnear (South African Artillery) who escaped with other South Africans from a nearby POW camp and joined up with local partisans to carry on fighting the Germans.

They became such a thorn in the flesh of the Germans that a special operation was mounted in the Monte Grappa region to capture them.

They were eventually captured and murdered by the Germans.

carpanememorial2

Every year on this day since the end of the war the villagers of Carpane have held a memorial service at this spot by the side of the road where they were killed.

It is very moving that these Italian villagers have been so faithful for so long in keeping alive the memory of these who were really strangers in their midst. For many years the identity of the 16 was not known and the monument was simply inscribed to “16 unknown”.

It was only about 4 or 5 years ago that their identity was uncovered by Sonia Residori, an Italian academic researcher.

 

BOTES, A

Rank: Private
Service No:28077
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service: Rand Light Infantry, S.A.
Grave Reference I. B. 1.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY

BUYS, S

Rank:Signaller
Service No:117010
Date of Death:Between 26/09/1944 and 27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:South African Corps of Signals
Grave Reference I. B. 2.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY

CHAMBERS, F E

Rank:Private
Service No:93978
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:24
Regiment/Service:Natal Mounted Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Arthur W. and Cornelia M. Chambers, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.

KINNEAR, W J  http://www.southafricawargraves.org/search/details.php?id=12292

Rank: Private
Service No:27529
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:29
Regiment/Service:Transvaal Scottish, S.A. Forces 2nd Bn.
Grave Reference I. A. 10.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Francina S. Kinnear; husband of Maria E. Kinnear, of Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa.

KINNEAR, R S

Rank:Gunner
Service No:53513
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:27
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference I. A. 8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of William J. and Susan Kinnear; husband of Adelaide R. H. Kinnear, of Durban, Natal, South Africa.

CRONJE, L N

Rank:Lance Bombardier
Service No:105306
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:21
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Cronje, of Ficksburg, Orange Free State. South Africa.

FLACK, B R

Rank:Gunner
Service No:144020V
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:32
Regiment/Service:South African Artillery 2 Field Regt.
Grave Reference Coll. grave I. B. 3-8.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Brian V. H. and Maude E. Flack, of Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

WHEELWRIGHT, D D

Rank: Corporal
Service No:11607
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Age:41
Regiment/Service:Kaffrarian Rifles, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 9.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Guy and Lilian Wheelwright; husband of Viola Wheelwright, of Lusikisiki, Cape Province, South Africa.

KING, C N

Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:12225
Date of Death:27/09/1944
Regiment/Service:Die Middelandse Regiment, S.A. Forces
Grave Reference I. A. 14.
Cemetery PADUA WAR CEMETERY


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Wandsworth ACF

 

Some excellent work been done by the SA Legion in the United Kingdom as we continue our aims of youth education and participation with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces Cadet program. ACF Wandsworth – Cadet Saffa Da Conceaio and Detachment Commander Lt Cassandra Sealy, both Legionnaires, proudly carried the colours at this year’s Delville Wood Parade in France.

This article on the SA Legion has just appeared in the hard copy the latest UK Army Cadet Volunteer magazine.


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1915 – Fascinating World War 1 recruiting poster urging South Africans to arms. The poster urges South Africans to avenge the execution of a nurse – Edith Cavell (1865-1915) who was a Red Cross nurse in Belgium, executed by the Germans during the First World War. 

The British-born Cavell arrived in Belgium in 1907 to take up the post as matron of a training school for nurses. When the Germans invaded in 1914 she remained in Belgium joining the Red Cross and treating the wounded of both sides. However, in August 1915 she was charged, along with an accomplice, with aiding the escape of over two-hundred Allied soldiers to neutral Holland. She confessed her guilt and faced the firing squad in October. 

Her execution provoked an outcry in Britain and was often cited in Allied propaganda as an example of German brutality.

Copyright – Imperial War Museum


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Bob Kershaw – a South African war hero

Category : Articles


Lieutenant Robert Harold Carlisle Kershaw DSO, DFC became the first South African pilot to be made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in WW2, Lt Bob Kershaw earned the DSO for rescuing his commanding officer Captain Jack Frost after he had been shot down during a raid on the Italian airfield at Diredawa.  Bob Kershaw landed his single seater Hawker Hurricane fighter alongside Jack Frost's stricken Hurricane and at great risk to himself, picked up Frost.  Space in the Hurricane was tight, so Jack had to discard his parachute and sat on Bob's lap. With Bob working the rudder's foot pedals and Jack using the throttle and control stick, they were able to take off and return to safely to their base at Dogabur.

 

Painting and reference Neville Lewis SANMMH 1941.


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Sir Quintin Brand KBE, DSO, MC, DFC – World War 1

Category : Articles

 

 

Brand was born in Beaconsfield (now part of Kimberley, Northern Cape) in South Africa to a CID Inspector in the Johannesburg police. He joined the South African Defence Force in 1913.

 

During the years 1914–1915, Brand continued to serve in the Union Defence Force.

 

In 1915, Brand travelled to England where he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He learned to fly and was awarded Royal Aero Club Certificate No 3949 on 30 March 1916.

 

During the First World War, he flew Nieuport 17 scouts, serving in No. 1 Squadron RFC in France as a Flight Commander before being posted back to England.

 

In February 1918, Brand became commander 112 Squadron, a home defence night fighter squadron equipped with specially modified Sopwith Camels flying from Throwley in Kent, shooting down a Gotha bomber over Faversham on 19 May.

 

He was then appointed commander of No. 151 Squadron RAF at Fontaine-sur-Maye in France, a night fighter squadron formed to combat German night raids over the Western Front.

 

The squadron downed 26 German aircraft with Brand himself shooting down four, becoming the highest scoring RAF night fighter pilot of the First World War.[5] Brand claimed 12 victories in 1917 and 1918 (seven victories with No 1 Squadron, four with 151 Squadron and one with 112 Squadron) and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during this period.

 


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South Africans in D-Day

Category : WW2

Lt. D.C. Tommy Thomas MC. A South African RM Commando D Day Landings

Lt. D.C. Tommy Thomas MC. A South African RM Commando D Day Landings

[Contributed by Ian Meadows, with Sources: Ross Dix-Peek, SA Newspaper, 10th June 1944; 24th June 1944; SA Military History Journal, Vol.2, No 3, June 1972; Commonwealth War Graves Commission]


South Africans were represented in all branches of the services during the D-Day Landings on the blood-strewn beaches of Normandy on the 6th June 1944, a good number seconded to the Royal Navy from the South African Naval Forces (SANF), and serving principally in little craft like minesweepers, and helping to clear the way for the troops’ landings. In addition scores of southern Africans were flying escorting fighters and bombers with the Royal Air Force (RAF), including Group-Captain “Sailor “ Malan, and No’s 266 and 44 (Rhodesia) squadrons, the former flying Hawker “Typhoons”, and the latter “Lancaster” bombers, while a couple of South Africans also served with the paratroops (“Red Devils”), and some seconded South Africans were also to serve during the landings with the British Royal Marine (RM) Commandos.


However, the South African link with the British Commandos goes back many a year, to the Anglo-Boer Wars, and the skilled and mobile Boer or Afrikaans mounted soldiers who fought the British with such cunning and ingenuity, the latter termed “Kommando”, and the man who was instrumental in the creation of the British Commandos was himself a South African, namely Brigadier Dudley Wrangel Clarke, of the Royal Artillery, who was born in Ladysmith, Natal, and who was to base his concept of an elite infantry fighting force on his fellow countrymen, the legendary Boer “Kommandos” (after which the British “Commandos” are named) while in addition, in 1953, the Royal Marine Commandos were also to adopt as their official march, the uniquely South African and Afrikaans folk song, “Sarie Marie”, which is played following the Regimental March on ceremonial occasions.


Like most of the British colonies and Dominions, South Africa (and Rhodesia) were to serve unstintingly with their British and Commonwealth comrades during World War II, and during the latter part of the war when Britain needed more and more men (and women) for the various branches of the British armed forces, a sizeable number of South Africans were to be seconded from the South African Defence Force to the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy respectively , and among these were approximately 100 South Africans who found themselves serving with the celebrated “Royal Marine” Commandos, having been seconded to the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines in early 1944, and seem also at one stage to have been stationed at Deal in Kent.


Those South Africans who subsequently served with the Royal Marines (part of the 4th Special Service Brigade) in Normandy during the D-day landings were to distinguish themselves, helping their British colleagues capture Port en Bessin, a small but important harbour in the gap between the original British and American beach-heads.
The Germans had strongly fortified the port with a triangle of three strongpoints, and as these were designed to beat off attack from the sea, the Commandos had decided it best to take the position from the rear.


This involved a ten mile march against tremendous odds through enemy territory.The landing had originally been planned to take place at Le Hamel, but as the ships closed in they came under heavy fire from a German battery.Before they even touched down, a tad to the eastward of their original objective, they almost met disaster, for five of their fourteen landing craft were mined and sunk.Undaunted they swam ashore with what equipment they could salvage, and during their hazardous march inland they fully rearmed themselves with weapons captured from the enemy. Such circumstances had been anticipated, the marines having been trained in the use of enemy weaponry such as the MG 34 (“Spandau“).

As the Royal Marines and South Africans with them struck inland, , they came under a continuous hail of enemy fire.Advancing against machine-gun posts, manned largely by Polish and Russian conscripts, they subdued them one by one.The marines fought their way through, carrying heavy equipment and mortar ammunition (each man carrying a load of “nearly three-quarters of a hundredweight”).To avoid more of these machine-gun posts, which were delaying their progress, the Marines struck across country to a main road south of the enemy battery at Langues.This battery did not attempt to interfere with the commandos, and they reached their objective for the night – Hill 72, highest point on a ridge near Escures, and immediately south of Port en Bessin – and there distributed more captured arms.


Then the Royal Navy took a hand, opening a heavy fire on the port (including the guns of HMS Emerald), and this was followed by a fierce strafe from RAF rocket-carrying fighters, and bombers. Finally, guns of the Royal Artillery, away in the British beachead, laid laid down a heavy smokescreen, under cover of which the marines took three strong-points and subdued them after stiff fighting. As they burst into the defences German Kriegsmarine flak ships in the harbour, which had moved in on the 5th June, opened fire with rapid fire cannons, causing casualties.The marines silenced this attack from the rear with a machine gun and mortar fire. A desperate battle was fought for the third and most powerful point. Twice the marines won the positions and twice they were driven off, but the third time their assault succeeded.

Even then they had not finished. While the fight for the last strong-point was in progress the Germans launched a strong counter attack from south of Hill 72, the Commandos base. After a heavy mortar bombardment the enemy overran the positions, scattering the commando headquarters and the support troops located there.Most of these troops made their way into the town, where they joined up with the main body of commandos. A machine gun section arrived just in time to support the final attack on the strongpoint, and late that day the marines subsequently “dug in” to defend the hard fought position they had won.The commandos later made contact with the Americans to the west and handed over to them the German prisoners they had captured.


The enemy did not attack during the night, and when the marines moved forward in the morning to retake Hill 72 they found that the Germans had withdrawn.The port and Hill 72 were then held by the Marines until Army forces destroyed the battery at Langues and advanced to relieve them.


Amidst all of this were the South Africans seconded to the various units of the Royal Marine Commandos. One of these men was Lieutenant Louis Fouche, from East London, in the Eastern Cape, who had initially served with the SA Armoured Corps, before transferring to the Royal Marines. He landed with the marines in Normandy during the D-Day Landings, but was hit after a few hours on the beach, and was evacuated back to England.


He was, however, back in France in time for the “big push that started in August”, serving with “Y” troop of No 48 RM Commando, and was also later to land with the RM Commandos during the attack and capture of the Dutch island of Walcheren (2nd October – 4th November 1944), where Fouche was to say that “the Germans fought like devils to hold their ground – at least until the Marines got to within 15 yards of them. Then they stood up behind their guns and stuck up their hands.” Sadly, Lieutenant Fouche was to lose a brother during the war, having been killed while serving with the famous 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy.


Another of those South Africans who served with the commandos on D-Day was Lieutenant D.C. “Tommy” Thomas, from Maclear in the Transkei.His most painful recollection of D-Day was the stormy passage he and his contingent had to undergo in crossing the Channel in their landing craft.The seas were running high, and hardly a man escaped sea sickness. They landed in the second wave at first light, their boat receiving a direct hit as they approached the shore, half-a-dozen men being killed, and Thomas found himself up to his neck in water after having jumped form the landing craft as it struck the beach.


The Commandos, having “dumped” their steel helmets, promptly donned their green berets as they went ashore, it being “more comfortable”.They had a specific job to do which was to connect up as soon as possible with the paratroops who had dropped further inland, and encountered fire, but “did not wait to deal with the resistance at the coast, pushing inland instead with all speed”.

It was “tough going through the minefields but they got there”.

“And were the paratroops glad to see us!” remarked Thomas, who further remarked that for the next few days none of them knew much of what was happening, and could not be sure whether the invasion was a success or not.

All they knew was “that in their own sector on the left flank of the beach-head they were kept hard at it”, and the toughening they had had in advance was to prove more than useful.

According to plan, they kept on the move all the time -”frigging about” as it was called in Commando terminology, snatching some much needed sleep in slit-trenches during the day, while at night they were patrols or raids to be carried out. It was while returning from one of these ”nocturnal excursions” that Lieutenant Thomas shared with his sergeant and another man “the benefit of a German hand-grenade”, and was to later return to England with several “little shrapnel souvenirs still in his leg”, but otherwise was “none the worse for wear”.

Commenting on how the Normandy landings compared to his time in North Africa Thomas was to say that “it was worse”, elaborating that “for one thing, in the Desert, you could see whom you were fighting, but in Normandy most of the time you couldn’t.”

Thomas was also to add that he was wondering how he would “be able to settle down on the family farm in the Maclear district of the Transkei after all this excitement”.

And so seventy years ago, in the summer of 1944, we find South Africans who were not only to partake in one of the most profound days of the history of warfare, but were also to further solidify the South African connection with the famous Royal Marine Commandos, that has in the interim survived the test of time; South Africans serving with the Royal Marine Commandos to this day, in Afghanistan and elsewhere – “By Sea or Land” (“Per Mare Per Terram“).


There’s also several South Africans buried not far from the beaches at Dieppe from the raid there in 1942.

A List of some of the South Africans seconded to the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines in mid-1944:

A. Atlas,

Richard Shepperton Bate (41 RM Commando, killed Netherlands, 16th February 1945).

C. A. D. Bircher, MC.

Lieut. A. Bredenkamp,

C. K. Brown, MC.

E. D. Clarke,

H. T. Collett,

Capt. Crockett,

Arthur Laurence Croneen (from Bechuanaland),

Walter Hugh England (48 RM Commando, from Durban, KIA, Walcheren island, 8th November 1944)

Q.S. Ford,

Lieut. S. L. Fouche (Wounded)

R. S. M. Gilliam,

Lieut. D. Gilmour

Lieut. I. Goldstein (“A” Troop, No 47 RM Commando)

P. E. B. Lefrere,

B. Linscott,

D. J. Malan,

Capt. L. L. A. McKay, MC.

O. M. C. McKenzie,

J. J. A. McLaren.

D. R. Newton,,

E. B. Norton (possibly Headmaster of St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, 1972-1980)

W. D. T. Phillips,

Capt. R. L. (Du?) Plessis (Intelligence Officer, No 47 RM Commando, Headquarters)

D. H. Ranger (Served with the RM in the Far East, post-war CO of the Kaffrarian Rifles)

D. C. Thomas,

M. J. van den Berg,

“Pik” Van Norrden (47 RM Commando, D-Day Landings)
[Sources: Ross Dix-Peek, SA Newspaper, 10th June 1944; 24th June 1944; SA Military History Journal, Vol.2, No 3, June 1972; Commonwealth War Graves Commission]


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Captain Edwin Swales, V.C.

Captain Edwin Swales, VC DFC.

Edwin Essery Swales was one of four children born in Inanda, Natal, South Africa to Harry Evelyn Swales, who was a farmer in the Heatonville district, and Olive Miriam Essery.

Following the death of her husband in the influenza epidemic of 1918-19, Mrs Swales and her children moved to the Berea, Durban.

 

Here, Edwin Swales attended Durban High School (DHS). As a young lad, Edwin had also been a member of the Boy Scout movement (4th Durban Scout Troop). After leaving school, and prior to the Second World War, Edwin Swales worked for Barclays Bank (Dominion Colonial and Overseas – DCO) in Durban. Swales had joined the Natal Mounted Rifles before the War, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major, (officially, a Warrant Officer, 2nd Class). With the N.M.R., in the early part of the War, he saw action in Kenya, Abyssinia and in North Africa.[3] He then transferred to the South African Air Force on 17 January 1942.

 

Swales was also very keen on sport generally, and enjoyed rugby. He played for both civilian (pre-war) and various military teams. After playing for the DHS 2nd XV, he later played rugby for a number of South African and Dominion teams, whilst he was in the United Kingdom, during the War years. He played for Griquas when he had been posted to Kimberley for training. He was also a reserve for the Natal rugby team, without ever actually playing for the province. He received his wings at Kimberley on 26 June 1943. On 22 August 1943, he was seconded to the Royal Air Force (RAF) whilst retaining his South African Air Force uniform and rank.

 

Following successful period of training on heavy bombers, Swales was posted, in June 1944, to the elite RAF Pathfinder Force (with 582 Squadron), part of No. 8 Pathfinder Group, at Little Staughton, inHuntingdonshire. It was normal for the Pathfinders to accept only experienced pilots who had completed a full tour on bombers. Although Swales had never spent any time as a bomber pilot in a standard heavy bomber squadron, Swales went straight into the Squadron.

 

Swales’ first operational flight for 582 Squadron was on 12 July 1944. Newly promoted to Captain on 4 November 1944, he took part in a daring daylight bombing raid on 23 December, on the Gremberg railway yards, Cologne, Germany. The Squadron Leader for the raid on Cologne was his close friend, Robert Palmer, D.F.C., who normally flew Mosquitos with 109 Squadron, also based at Little Staughton. Swales was the number two Pathfinder, leading the main flight and following Palmer as he marked the target. Palmer, who had completed 110 bombing raids, was killed as his Lancaster was damaged by German fighter and crashed. Six of the 30 aircraft on this operation were lost.

 

Palmer was later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross – becoming the 2nd Pathfinder pilot to be so honoured. For his actions on the Cologne raid, Edwin Swales was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

The citation reads:

“This Officer was pilot and Captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target, intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Despite this, a good bombing attack was executed. Soon afterwards the aircraft was attacked by five enemy aircraft. In the ensuing fights, Capt. Swales manoeuvred with great skill. As a result his gunners were able to bring effective fire to bear upon the attackers, one of which is believed to have been shot down. Throughout this spirited action Captain Swales displayed exceptional coolness and captaincy, setting a very fine example. This Officer has completed very many sorties during which he has attacked a variety of enemy targets.”

 

In 1945, while with the RAF Pathfinders (No. 582 Squadron), Swales was the Master Bomber and captain of Avro Lancaster III PB538.[4] On 23 February 1945, the very same day as his D.F.C. award was gazetted, Swales led the bombing raid on Pforzheim, Germany (not far from Karlsruhe and the Rhine River), where 17.600 civilians were killed in 22 minutes.

The ‘sortie’, his 43rd operational flight, consisted of 367 Lancasters supported by 13 Mosquitos. The marking and bombing, from only 8,000 feet, were particularly accurate and damage of a most severe nature was inflicted on Pforzheim: 1,825 tons of bombs were dropped in only 22 minutes. The post-war British Bombing Survey Unit estimated that 83% of the town’s built-up area was destroyed, probably the greatest proportion in any one raid during the war. Ten Lancasters were lost that night and two more crashed in France.

 

Swales’ aircraft was attacked by an Me110[5] whose fire shattered one engine and holed the fuel tanks. They were attacked again by the same fighter which knocked out a second engine. Swales decided to make if not England then friendly territory. The weather closed in and he ordered the crew[6] to bail out. He attempted to put down but his Lancaster stalled and crashed near Valenciennes, west of Prouvy, 3 km SSE of Denain in northern France[7] killing him. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – the 3rd and last Pathfinder pilot to be so honoured. All had been posthumous.

 

Swales’ VC citation reads:

“Captain Swales was ‘Master Bomber’ of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23, 1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers in his wake.

Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.

It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bail out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live.”

 

Originally been buried at Fosse’s USA Cemetery, his remains now lie at the War Cemetery at Leopoldsburg, near Limburg, Belgium, Plot No.8, Row C, Grave No.5.51°6′44.17″N 5°16′6.47″E

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, KCB, OBE, AFC, of RAF Bomber Command, wrote a letter to Swales’ mother, saying, inter-alia:

“…. On every occasion your son proved himself to be a determined fighter and resolute captain of his crew. His devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety will remain an example and inspiration to us all …”

 

Although often referred to as being a “Captain” at the time of his last flight, Swales was in fact an ‘Acting’ Major. The S.A.A.F. was using the army ranking system, hence the ranks of ‘Captain’ and of ‘Major’. At the time of his death on 23 February 1945, Swales was aged 29 years. In 1958, the British Air Ministry wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission informing them that the South African Air Force authorities had confirmed that at the time of his death, Swales had in fact held the rank of Major. The front page of the program for the opening of the S.A.A.F. Memorial in Pretoria on 31 May 1950, described Mrs. Olive Swales (who opened the Memorial) as being the “mother of the Late Major Edwin Swales, DFC, VC”.

 

Swales was the only S.A.A.F. pilot during 1939-45 to be appointed a Pathfinder Master Bomber and also to have been posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The full list of the medals awarded to Swales follows:

•           The Victoria Cross

•           The Distinguished Flying Cross

•           The 1939–45 Star

•           The Africa Star

•           The France and Germany Star

•           The Defence Medal, 1939–1945

•           The 1939–1945 War Medal (Victory Medal)

•           The Africa Service Medal

Swales’ full size war medals and some other possessions are held and displayed at the South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.[8] At his old school, Durban High School (founded in 1866), a school ‘House’ is named Swales House. In the city of Durban, there was a major arterial road named ‘Edwin Swales VC Drive’.

In terms of controversial proposals made by the eThekwini Municipality, Swales’ name was expunged, and the road’s name changed to honour instead anti-apartheid freedom fighter Solomon Mahlangu.

 

The original set of miniature medals belonging to Swales, and a silver model Lancaster Bomber, are now housed in an exhibition honouring Swales at his old school, Durban High School. Many years ago, the miniature medals and the model had been sold by a member of the Swales family. After changing hands a few times, the group came up for auction in London in July 2004, at which time the medals and model were sold to a UK collector. A medal collector and D.H.S. Old Boy tracked down the buyer and convinced him to sell his recent acquisitions to the School. After four months of negotiations, the medals and model were delivered to their new home at DHS, where they were first displayed on Armistice Day, 11 November 2004.

 

The silver model Lancaster was one of only ten such models which were commissioned by the aircraft’s manufacturers, Messrs A.V. Roe & Co. and by Rolls Royce (suppliers of the Lancaster engines) and presented to the ten Victoria Cross winners (or their families) who flew Lancasters in the Second World War.

On the base stand of the model is a silver plaque inscribed: “A Tribute from the Directors of A.V. Roe & Company and Rolls Royce Limited. To the Memory of Captain Edwin Swales,” V.C., D.F.C., S.A.A.F., who was Awarded the Victoria Cross for his great Gallantry and Self-Sacrifice during Operations Against the Enemy on 23rd February 1945″.


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Wed
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09:00 South African Armed Forces Day –... @ Algemene Begraafplaats
South African Armed Forces Day –... @ Algemene Begraafplaats
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South African Armed Forces Day will again mark the anniversary of the loss of the SS Mendi with a wreath-laying ceremony at 10h30 on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 at the Algemene Begraafplaats in Noordwijk, the
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10:30 Three Ships Commemoration @ South African Cenotaph
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10:00 Commonwealth Day Parade @ Common...
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