Author Archives: Cameron Kinnear

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The Death of Staff Van Rooyen

The Death of Staff Van Rooyen

Graham Du Toit of Facebook Honour Roll fame wrote :
“FOR THEM THE LAST POST HAS SOUNDED – 16 Aug 1988: 78458197PE Staff Sergeant Gideon van Rooyen from 2 Special Service Battalion was killed when his Armoured Car overturned at the Rooisloot Training Area. He was 26”

To most this is just another entry in Graham’s daily record. For many of us Medic Veterans or fellow ranks who read these entries we realize that we were there, often first on the scene. We were the kid that stepped into the drama and took responsibility. To me it was my first serious blooding in the field as an Ops Medic after the experiences of A&E in the East Rand Townships. When I read this excerpt it didn’t bring back any fresh memory because this is the one incident that is never far from the surface. Most are thankfully hidden deep in the psyche or forgotten. They may yet bleed out from the pen.

Tuesday 16th August was a regular hot and red-dust day on the firing range at Rooisloot training ground nearby 2 Special Service Battalion in Zeerust. 2nd phase training was ongoing for D Squadron, the Squadron I would accompany to the Border later in the year. Young men training on the big guns; 90mm, assorted incendiaries and the .50 Browning. I was alone on duty and expecting an incident. There was a lot of scope for injury and worse amongst these kids. My stomach was tight at the prospect and from dawn to dusk my temper was short. Perhaps another hand mangled by a piece of old ordnance picked up by a foolish troopie or a secondary detonation from a shell inside a turret. God forbid there should be a fatality.

My Glasgow sense of humour had failed after two weeks on duty in this dust bowl amid an atmosphere of severe discipline and presbyterian fatalism.

“58 Juliet-58 Juliet / 30 Alpha oor…..medic….” The alarm call came across the radio as I sat daydreaming and deafened on the range. But for the noise and burning wrecks of targets in the distance this could have been a pleasant spot to sit and view Springbok and Kudu or just scratch your balls. It may be just that almost 30 years on. I was rushed away in a Samil 20 to the area where driver training was ongoing further into the Marico bush. It had taken some time to locate the incident. Why had nobody stepped in yet ?

The Eland 90 lay on its turret on a 45 degree slope with a group of troops huddled up the slope directing us in. The facts remain unclear to this day but it would appear that the driver stalled on an incline, allegedly kicked in the back for his poor performance, and the Noddy slid back and tipped down the slope. A fatal kick. One complete roll with Van Rooyen unable to duck into the turret and then a partial roll coming to rest at an angle with just enough space to crawl under the turret. I was under the Eland after a sprint down the hill, pausing only to check I still had the adrenaline, solu-cortef, sosegon and drip stuffed into my pockets. The bare minimum required which already appeared optimistic. I was soon covered in leaking fuel that had mingled with the smell of Staff Van Rooyen’s vomit and the red dust. I can still recall that odour. He was half out of the Commanders hatch and crushed beyond recognition. After a swift assessment and an attempt to find an airway to clear, more from habit than any hope of saving him, it was now time to concentrate on saving myself. Not for the last time. And not under fire.

Here lay what remained of a Zeerust legend, a very popular man. A legend on the rugby ground and in the Mess Bar. Death had probably been instant and he was now beyond the call of his pregnant wife waiting at home. It was their wedding anniversary. I had viewed him as an old and experienced hand, physically imposing, balding and wise beyond my ken. In reality he was a young man of 26. I was aged 20 but there may as well have been another 20 years between us in terms of the experience of war, life, death and the machinery of war.

There was nothing to be done except haul myself to safety. The driver had struggled free and departed the scene. My medical bag sat useless at the top of the slope.

Waiting at a safe distance was his friend, Lt ???. My words to him sound daft now but my Afrikaans was limited and all I could say to him was “hy is dood…..baie dood”. He couldn’t stop himself and, despite the danger, ran down the slope to confirm that his close friend was beyond my help, tears flowing. The incident didn’t affect me that afternoon and I ate a hearty meal after finishing my stint at the range. There was hardly a pause and I was back on the evening’s night firing exercise. The Marico sunset was stunning and reliable as ever. We might yet have a war to catch up with if the recent peace failed. It came for us in April 1989.

Years later I reflected that one more roll or twitch of that Noddy car and I would have been dead, or a stray spark could have seriously ruined my good looks. I puzzled over fact that I had ran in while others stood like statues. It wasn’t bravery, it was the result of conditioning and a sense of responsibility thrust upon my young shoulders. It would have been bravery if I had paused to consider the consequences and still ran in. But I was just plain stupid.

This incident was a minute echo of earlier conflicts, Boer and the World Wars, and the attrition of training and battle on a young generation. 1988 had been a grim year for 2SSB with nine members lost, ranging from the Caleque attack to accidents at Rooisloot and deaths on the road trip home for a weekend pass.

Nobody ran in – but the cry went out, not for the last time – “Medic !! Where is that fucking soutie medic ?”

Author: B.J. Taylor – April 2018

 


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The Legion and Albie Gotze’s Legion d’Honneur

Category : Articles

At a ceremony held in Cape Town on the 13th February 2018, the Ambassador of France to South Africa, his excellency Christophe Farnaud, bestowed the signet of Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight in the Legion of Honour), on one of the last surviving South African D-Day veterans, General Albert (Albie) Götze. It had been a long journey getting Albie his Légion d’Honneur and the South African Legion played a key role as part of the team which made this honour possible.

So how is it that Albie Götze has been awarded France’s highest honour and how did it come about? In a nutshell, the French government decided that all World War 2 ‘Allied’ veterans (who took part in the D-Day landings and liberation of France should be given their highest honour for military and civil merit, the Légion d’honneur and they announced this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014 as a special thank you those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War. Albie, as a young South African Air Force pilot was seconded to the Royal Air Force and he took part in D-Day operations flying a Spitfire doing beach sweeps and patrols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture: Karen Dickens

Albie Götze’s story is something else; he was born in January 1923 in Prieska, a tiny town on the south bank of the Orange River, South Africa’s Northern Cape. In mid-1942 he volunteered to take part in World War 2 and joined the South African Air Force and subsequently was selected for fighter pilot training.

After he finished flying training he was sent to the Middle East where he was seconded to the Royal Air Force and joined up with RAF No.127 Spitfire squadron in April 1944.

In April 1944, the squadron moved to England in preparation for Operation Overlord where it was assigned to 132 Wing (Norwegian) of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and operated as a UK defence unit. They flew patrols and bomber escorts to mainland Europe as well as some fighter-bomber work. During this time Götze was involved with shooting down four German V-1 flying bombs.

127 Squadron arrived at North Weald on 23 April 1944, where it was equipped with the Spitfire IX. Operations began flying fighter bomber missions over France on 19th May 1944. The squadron played its part in the D-Day landings and subsequent days, and Albie and his colleagues found themselves flying sweeps of the landing beaches, escorting bombers, armed recces and dive bombing specific targets.

On 21st August 1944 127 Squadron moved to the European continent where it flew fighter-bomber missions from various airfields in France, Belgium and Holland, eventually basing itself at B.60 Grimbergen, in Belgium. Albie flew his last Spitfire mission for 127 Squadron from B.60 on the 03 August 1944.

Later in August 1944, owing to the high attrition and demand for pilots flying Hawker Typhoons, Albie was transferred to RAF No.137 squadron flying this notorious Typhoon ground attack aircraft. In Typhoons he participated in Operation Market Garden and other Rhine crossing operations.

137 Squadron always operated at low altitude (‘on the deck’) and was mainly employed to attack targets such as armour, anti-aircraft installations, specific buildings, transports and enemy personnel. For this reason, flying in the Typhoon squadron was dangerous and high risk. The losses were extreme and hence replacement pilots were usually filled with volunteers. Albie’s aircraft was hit on occasions and he made a few crash landings with damaged aircraft.

After the war Albie participated as a navigator in the Berlin Airlift of 1949 where they flew around the clock supply flights from West Germany – for which he recently received a campaign medal from a grateful Royal Air Force and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

In 1951 Albie completed a combat tour with SAAF No. 2 squadron to Korea as part of a US Air Force formation where he flew P-51 Mustangs, and he has again received recent honours and thanks from the South Korean government for his involvement in the Korean War.

Albie had a long and successful career in the SAAF, serving in South West Africa during the Border War and ended with the rank of Brigadier General. He was responsible for the introduction and implementation of the South African air defence system with the underground head station at Devon. He was also responsible for the system to be fully computerised.

Albie was also the personal secretary of the State President of South Africa for 4 years and he retired from the Air Force in 1978.

Getting Albie his due recognition and his Légion d’honneur from the French government for his participation in Operation Overlord was also a journey in its own right and as South African Legion we played a central and pivot role in securing this honour for General Gotze.

It started when Tinus Le Roux, a renowned SAAF historian and filmmaker, contacted Lgr Peter Dickens and asked if the South African Legion in the United Kingdom and Europe could follow up on Albie’s Légion d’honneur application which he had assisted Albie with, there had been no response on the application for some months and they were concerned. Quick to the mark Lgr. Cameron Kinnear who in turn engaged Lorie Coffey at Project 71, a veteran’s charity in the UK, to look I into the matter.

Indeed there had been an administrative oversight and Albie’s Légion d’honneur application was kick-started again by the South African Legion, and finally Project 71 was able to get a Légion d’honneur issued by the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom, her Excellency Sylvie Bermann.

With a Légion d’honneur finally in hand, and in South Africa, Lgr Peter Dickens then contacted Philip Weyers from the South African Air Force Association (SAAFA) to arrange a suitable medal parade for a handover, Philip and SAAFA were able to engage the French embassy in South Africa, who very keenly agreed to undertake the official presentation to General Gotze.

After all the ceremonies and official presentations were done, the French invited all to attend a small lunch, it later turned out that the French Ambassador to South Africa, his excellency Christophe Farnaud, was a keen modeller of aircraft and had built Typhoon models as a child. The Ambassador stayed to the end of the lunch to see a print of a painting of a Typhoon by the late Derrick Dickens presented to Albie in appreciation by Lgr Peter Dickens. Looking at the painting Albie opened up with all sorts of harrowing tales of fighting and flying in a Typhoon much to delight of the Ambassador and the remaining guests and journalists.

It was a journey, and highly rewarding, the right man received the right recognition and it was awarded in the right way. It is a journey that we as Legionnaires stand by our motto ‘not for ourselves, but for others’ and we are proud to have played a role.

Image copyright, Karen Dickens, references attributed to Dean Wingrin and Tinus Le Roux.


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SS Mendi – The Untold Stories

The story of the Mendi is rightfully being told after years of silence, but the full story is not yet in the public domain.

On 9 March 1917, the South African House of Assembly rose as a symbol of respect for the fallen troops in the SS Mendi, which sank on the 21st February 1917 with the loss of 616 South African lives.

Prime Minister Louis Botha addressed the house and relayed the details of the ship’s sinking. The Minister went on to announce the names of the White men who had lost their lives or survived. For the Black men that had passed away, the Minister outlined the arrangements that were to be made to contact their families and inform them of the tragedy. His statement to the House read as follows:

“It has never happened in the history of South Africa, Mr Speaker, that in one moment, by one fell swoop, such a lot of people have perished, and, Mr Speaker, I think that where people have died in the way that they have done, it is our duty to remember that where people have come forward of their own accord, of their own free will… and what they have done will rebound to their everlasting credit.”

The House carried forth an unopposed motion to make a sincere expression of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased officers, non-commissioned officers and natives in their mourning.

References:

Clothier, N. Black Valour. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1987. 

World War 1”, South African History Online

While 616 South African Servicemen died in the incident, a further 30 lives were lost when the crew, who by all accounts were heroic in their attempts to save the ship and the passengers, also succumbed to drowning or being entombed in the ship.

The Memorial at Holly Brook in Southampton and the graves at Milton in Portsmouth are well known, and thanks to the SA Legion’s European Branch and Andrew Bergman, those interred at Noordwijk Cemetery are also accorded recognition and honours.

Less well known is the grave of Thomas Monamatunyu at Wimereux Cemetery in France, or the communal grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Equally forgotten by most is the grave of Jabez Nguza in Hastings Cemetery, or the grave of Willie Tshabana in East Dean.

On the 18th of February, the anniversary of the SAS President Kruger sinking, I commemorated the day and honoured those lost. However, I also decided it would be fitting to visit the lonely graves of those in the far flung cemeteries, so my family gathered the wreaths and set off.

The grave of Jabez Nquza, Hasting Cemetery.

What first struck us was that the grave of Jabez Nguza is not forgotten. A fresh posey of flowers was placed at the foot of the grave, and the site itself is stunning. The Commonwealth Graves Commission’s work in remembering the Fallen is outstanding.

We then placed a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of the SAS President Kruger and her crew, and acknowledged HMSAS Southern Floe.

We set off for the village of East Dean, and found in a typical English Country churchyard a grave, slightly at an odd angle, alone on one side of the graveyard, but certainly not forgotten. Flowers, two wooden crosses and a South African Flag were evidence that his grave was not forgotten. If you read many current accounts of the Mendi dead, you will probably not see this grave mentioned.

We paid our respects, chatted to a local who promised he was in their thoughts, and she thanked us for being there.

We then arrived at the village of Littlehampton, the site of the common grave of Simon Linganiso, Jim Mbombiya and Smith Segule. Once again we found signs that they were not forgotten, and we left Littlehampton infused with the knowledge that these men are appreciated and acknowledged by the communities they now find themselves. I also found flowers and tokens at other South African graves in those cemeteries.

We also visited the church at Newtimber, where a memorial to “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” is to be found. The origin of this plaque is a story for another day, as I have been invited to the church to hear the story.

On the 24th February the SA Legion UK & Europe will gather at the Richmond Cenotaph with Legionnaires, friends, family and other veterans to commemorate the Three Ships at a formal service and parade. The SS Mendi is representative of the Naval dead of World War 1, and we commemorate HMSAS Southern Floe as representative of the naval dead of World War Two, as well as the SAS President Kruger, as the post-war representative.

Report for the SA Legion United Kingdom & Europe, by Lgr Cameron Kinnear. Images by Brody 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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