After decades of neglect and threat of destruction MT2800 has a proper home and a future.
MT 2800 built by British Power Boat Company at their Hythe yard as a 24ft marine Tender Mk II and was assigned the Yard number 1961. She was completed and taken on charge by the RAF at 62 MU Dumbarton on 24 September 1941, allocated the RAF hull number 2800 and was immediately allocated for service in Durban in South Africa, arriving there in late 1941.
She served until the 1990s and then languished in various locations, her continued survival fought for by a few dedicated individuals who have passed on the baton of care from one to the other. Durban Harbour on the East coast of South Africa is renowned as a major port, but from the 1930’s to the late 1950’s it was an important hub for civilian and military flying boats. Imperial Airways Short C class, which opened the first commercial air route to Europe, and warlike Sunderland and Catalina flying boats that watched over the convoys of World War II and ships in peace time, used the harbour as a base.
The MT was assigned to Durban to support the flying boat service between South Africa and Great Britain and then to 262 Squadron RAF from November 1942. Initially operating Consolidated Catalina aircraft the squadron patrolled the increasingly busy Indian Ocean, watching for U boats and giving assistance to vessels in distress. The many ship convoys that stopped in Durban for resupply interfered with flying and the RAF operations were moved to Langebaan on the west coast and St Lucia in the then Zululand in 1943.
The Catalina’s were being gradually replaced by the large Short Sunderland Mk 5 which drew over five foot of water and St Lucia proved to be too shallow. Looking for deeper water the Squadron moved to Umsingazi toward the end of 1944. RAF records show that 1961/MT2800 was based at St Lucia in 1943 and it is probable that she moved to the new base in 1944. Contemporary photographs show a number of similar vessel tied up to the Squadron jetty. By 1945 there were so many South Africans on strength that it was decided to transfer the squadron to the SAAF and it became 35 Squadron SAAF. Once again operations returned to Congella in Durban.
However the planes were not allowed to land in Durban at night for fear of colliding with the fishing boats active in the harbour and the Umsingazi base was retained as an alternative alighting facility. With the war over the famous SAAF shuttle service was put in place to bring the troops home. One route was flown by the flying boats from Cairo to Durban. During November and December 1945 it was recorded that 1022 troops had been brought home and 72526lbs or 32966kgs of Christmas packages delivered to the waiting men in Egypt. The last Sunderland left North Africa on 26 February 1946 with the commander of the South African 6th Armoured Division, Major General Evered Poole on board. Records show that MT2800 was based in Congella in February 1945, and it is possible that she was used to transport many of these returning soldiers from flying boat to shore.
Although the days of flying boats drew to close in the 1950s the SAAF retained some elements of it is maritime unit that had saved over 600 lives during the war. MT2800 served at Langebaan lagoon attached to the No I Motor Boat Squadron and was then transferred to No 3 Motor Boat Flight along with 3 SAAF 63ft Miami class high speed launches and two dinghies on 5 December 1956. Service continued with the Air Force until the Navy took over the marine unit in 1969. MT 2800 was eventually ‘Struck Off Charge’ by the South African Navy (SAN) in 1990. In SAN service she was painted grey with a green deck, yellow engine cover and displayed her number in yellow on the bow. For a short time she was used as a pleasure craft and was painted blue and christened CAMERON L, the name she still carried into the new century.
Willie Burger, of the West Coast SAAFA, saved the boat from destruction when the tender was up for disposal in 1997. He highlighted its’ historical importance and made plans for its preservation. Funding was difficult and there were ideas that using her as a pleasure cruiser would pay for the upkeep, but these plans failed. She was stored undercover in a set of open sheds within a secure lock up outside the Langebaan air force base, where she suffered very little damage, but was under continual threat of a scrapping order. The Old Boat Trust was established by Guy Ellis in 2003 to preserve the boat. For two years various schemes and ideas were explored to find a location or organisation which could provide a secure future for MT2800. Westlake Technical College came to the rescue. The College had established a shipwrights’ school and agreed to take the boat on as an educational project. One hot February day in 2006 the SAAF provided a large truck and staff to load the boat and drove it south to Westlake. Unloading a two and a half ton boat and its cradle took a great deal of ingenuity and muscle power, as there were no heavy lifting capabilities at the College. Through brute force, clever thinking and care MT2800 was put under cover.
At this stage she represented the last vestige of an RAF link to Westlake, which during the war had served as barracks to the RAF personnel who served on the SAAF air sea rescue launches. It is a good possibility that some men who had been accommodated at Westlake had at some stage driven or been transported by MT2800.
Modern day boat building does not demand the skills needed to work on a clinker built wooden marine tender. There was no space in the curriculum for work on the boat and it remained untouched, luckily mostly undercover and reasonably secure. By the end of 2009 it was clear that a new location had to be found. Richard Hellyer began to investigate the feasibility of returning the boat to the UK for the Portsmouth Naval Trust. There were no funds for the building of a new cradle or to cover the costs of shipment on a container vessel. When it was clear that MT2800 would remain in South Africa, Charles Hellyer took on the task of finding a solution.
These ranged from a private organization to mounting the boat at the entrance to the collage as a gate guard. The former would not have ensured her existence as an artefact of military history and the later was fraught with issues around protecting the boat from the elements and vandalisation.
Contact was made with of the South African Navy in November 2011 and through the efforts of Leon Steyn of the Navy museum she was moved to Simons Town naval base on 6 September 2012. Here she will be restored over three years as part of the Armscor apprentice scheme and put on display when complete.
Hellyer, R., British Military Powerboat Team, http://www.bmpt.org.uk/ Jackson, Allan., Facts about Durban, http://www.fad.co.za/ Ellis G., Serve to Save, The South African Air Force at Sea, Freeworld Publications, 2001 http://www.asrmcs-club.com/boatswebsite/index.html
Richard Hellyer Charles Hellyer John Leech South African Navy – Cdr Leon Steyn Westlake Technical College – Mark Cornelise, Tracy-Lee Anderson, Johan, Mike and the Class of 2006 SAAF – Pretoria – General Derek Page Langebaanweg – Herman Els, Mattrass van Staden and Col Jacques Niemann
Steve Stevens, DFC, is frail, bedridden and in pain. However, there is no doubt that this man is a force, a man who has packed more into his 96 years on Earth than most of us, and who is firmly committed to his goals and his religion.
When I call him to arrange the meeting, he answers the phone himself. We juggle dates; he has an appointment for a radio interview, and I am keen to come and see him at 10h45 on the 11th November so we could pay our respects to the Fallen together. Eventually we settle on a plan.
Steve Stevens was born on 27th August 1919 in Amesbury, Dorset. His father George was gassed in Salonica during WW1 and was sent to a special medical facility in Aberdeen for mustard gas victims, and he met and married Dora, one of the VAD’s.
Steve’s father was not expected to live past 40. However, in typical Stevens fashion George Alexander Stevens took no notice of this pronouncement and his health improved enough for him to take up a new assignment in the Army of Occupation in Germany. The family was billeted in a huge house complete with stables, and young Steve was delighted to be placed in the care of a beautiful young fraulien. Steve adored her, and from her learned to speak German better than he could speak English. Steve’s father had improved in health to the extent that he bought a string of polo ponies and a racehorse called Capitas, which he bought for £9 and rode to victory on local army races.
However, George’s health deteriorated and he was given a year’s sick leave, and the family went to live in Switzerland. There, a 7 year old Steve became proficient in skiing, jumping and skating.
With an improvement in health, the family moved to San Remo in Italy, but Steve’s father was soon recalled to his regiment, and made his way to Ireland and The Troubles. Within a year or so the West Yorkshire Regiment was required in India, but medical advice was that Stevens Senior would not survive the climate, and it was recommended that he was invalided out of the army and moved to somewhere warm and dry.
So it was that the family left for a life on a farm in South Africa in November 1929. George’s health improved, but Steve’s mother Dora suddenly fell ill and died of a brain tumour when Steve was only 14.
When WW2 broke out Steve was at the Bible Institute of South Africa. With the decision to close the college for the duration, some of the students joined the Ministry, and Steve joined the SA Air Force. Steve is convinced that the prayers offered three times a day by his father and stepmother kept him safe during the war. Steve joined the SAAF as a trainee air photographer, but soon re-mustered as aircrew.
I arrive at the house, and using the information I have been provided, I left myself in. Steve is on his own in the house, and I make my way to his bedroom.
The blue eyes quickly examine me, and I feel thoroughly vetted and I note a long look at my SA Legion tie and blazer badge. We exchange greetings, and we discuss his interest in photography. Then we pause at 11h00 to commemorate the Fallen.
After some reflection Steve informs me that the radio team that came to interview him was despatched through the house to inventory some books he wanted to donate. They had, under his steely gaze, created a list for my perusal so I could choose which books I wanted to pass on to the SAAF Museum and the SA Legion. However, he then decided that we should take all of the books, and I politely declined as I already had a good number. I was informed that on my next visit more books would be provided.
World War Two
During the War Steve flew air strikes over Yugoslavia with 19 Squadron, based at Biferno. These strikes included the daring raid on the occupied walled town of Zuzenberk. The image of Steve firing his rockets is one of the two iconic Beaufighter images of the war. It is astonishing to realise that Steve could accurately hit a target as small as a 44 gallon fuel barrel with his rockets.
Steve photographed Major Tilley attacking the armed German warship SS Kuckuck as Tilley’s number two. It was a desperate sortie which Steve and his fellow pilots fully expected to be a suicide mission. The rockets holed the target under the waterline. The pilots had been briefed by the Partisans that they would face the fire from 140 anti-aircraft guns. Remarkably all four planes returned safely.
60th Anniversary Plaque
Steve and I discuss many topics, and he instructs me to look at a small colourful plaque on a bookshelf. Steve was invited to attend a number of events in Italy, through the efforts of Guiseppe Morini. These events culminated on the 8th May 2005 in Campomarino.
“The ceremonies were in the open air, with a military band, rousing speeches and a fly-past.
Dignitaries from all over Italy were present, while huge flags of all participating countries blew in the wind. The chief of the Italian Air Force, General Leonardo Tricario, was there and a fifty-strong guard of honour marched into the square in our honour. The Italian Air Force also brought in another fifty men – bandsmen who played rousing music.
The warm-hearted Italians responded most generously, and as I put it later to our local newspaper, I’d never been kissed by so many women – and men!”
Until next time.
All too soon it is time to go when Steve’s team get there to take care of him.
I reluctantly leave, but not before I present him with my own beret, which he wears with pride, and when I leave he instructs me to hang the beret on the hat peg next to his SAAF cap.
I leave with a solemn promise we will visit again, and he is looking forward to receiving a membership to the SA Legion UK on our return.
I look forward to meeting him again.
Information with kind permission – Steve Stevens. Article by Cameron Kinnear for the South African Legion – UK & Europe.
(First published on the SA Legion UK website)
Some more feedback on the Buccaneer profile sketch project.
Johan Conradie now has the following sketches completed
- A sketch of each of the eight Buccaneers (412 to 419) with the flight crew names at Lossiemouth on 27 October 1965
- Buccaneer G-2-1 (411) fitted with long range fuel tanks
- Buccaneer G-2-2 (412) equipped with French Nord AS.30 missiles.
- Buccaneer 415 equipped with 1000 lb. bombs at Langebaanweg during a weapons camp in September 1969
- Buccaneer 411 equipped with a Nord AS.30 missile at the first AS.30 weapons camp in Cape Town June 1969
They can be printed in A3 size and on good quality paper it looks awesome and even more awesome if properly framed.
The plan is to sell the individual prints at R150.00 each to raise funds for the Buccaneer restoration projects.
Shawn Fouché will set up a suitable order and payment arrangement which will be posted at a later stage.
Johan will update you on the progress with the other tail numbers as they become available.
F Sgt Elna Hadfield is a museographer and a jack of all trades, from managing the SAAF Museum “Ops” Room to running 110 Squadron.
She says that nothing is impossible and is responsible for all staff matters to ordering a pot of paint of paint.
She is married to Lt Col Pierre Hadfield and has a daughter, Nikita who is also involved in Military Heritage.
On the 25th June 2015 at the 62nd Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Day Memorial Service, the South Korean Ambassador to SA paid tribute to the SA airman that took part in the war which started on 25 June 1950.
34 South African Air Force airmen lost their lives and eight were taken prisoner.
At the outbreak of the Korean War the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the North Korean Forces. A request was also made to all UN members for assistance.
After a special Cabinet meeting on 20 July 1950 the Union Government announced that due to the long distance between South Africa and Korea, direct ground based military participation in the conflict was impractical and unrealistic but that a SAAF fighter squadron would be made available to the UN effort. The 50 officers and 157 other ranks of 2 Sqn SAAF sailed from Durban on 26 September 1950 – they had been selected from 1,426 members of the Permanent Force who had initially volunteered for service. This initial contingent was commanded by Cmdt S. van Breda Theron DSO, DFC, AFC and included many World War II SAAF veterans. The squadron was moved to Johnson Air Base near Tokyo on 25 September 1950 for conversion training on the F-51D Mustangs supplied by the US Air Force.
On completion of conversion training, the squadron was deployed as one of the four USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing squadrons and on 16 November 1950 an advance detachment consisting of 13 officers and 21 other ranks (including the Squadron Commander and his four Flight Commanders who made the crossing in their own F-51D Mustangs) left Japan for Pusan East (K-9) Air Base within the Pusan Perimeter in Korea to fly with the USAF pilots in order to familiarize themselves with the local operational conditions. On the morning of 19 November 1950, Cmdt Theron and Capt G.B. Lipawsky took off with two USAF pilots to fly the first SAAF combat sorties of the Korean War from K-9 and K-24 airfields at Pyongyang.
On 30 November the squadron was moved further south to K-13 airfield due to North Korean and Chinese advances. It was again moved even further south after the UN forces lost additional ground to the North Koreans to K-10 airfield situated on the coast close to the town of Chinhae. This was to be the squadron’s permanent base for the duration of their first Korean deployment. During this period (while equipped with F-51D Mustangs) the squadron flew 10,373 sorties and lost 74 aircraft out of the total 95 allocated. Twelve pilots were killed in action, 30 missing and four wounded.
In January 1953 the squadron returned to Japan for conversion to the USAF F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers. The first Sabre mission was flown on 16 March 1953 from the K-55 airfield in South Korea, being the first SAAF jet mission flown. 2 squadron was led by ace pilot, Major Jean de Wet from AFB Langebaanweg. The squadron was tasked with fighter sweeps along the Yalu and Chong-Chong rivers as well as close air support attack misisons. The squadron flew 2,032 sorties in the Sabres losing four out of the 22 aircraft supplied.
The war ended on 27 July 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. During the first phase of the war, the main task of the squadron Mustangs was the interdiction of enemy supply routes which not only accounted for approximately 61.45% of SAAF combat sorties, but which reached an early peak from January to May 1951 (78% and 82%).
A typical interdiction mission was an armed reconnaissance patrol usually undertaken by flights of two or four aircraft armed with two napalm bombs, 127 mm rockets and 12.7 mm machine guns. Later, after the introduction of the Sabres, the squadron was also called on to provide counter-air missions flying as fighter sweeps and interceptions against MiG-15’s, but interdiction and close air support remained the primary mission.
Losses were 34 SAAF pilots killed, eight taken prisoner (including the future Chief of the Air Force, General D Earp) with 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres lost. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars – the highest award to non-American nationals – 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars.
In recognition of their association with 2 Squadron, the OC of 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing issued a policy directive “that all retreat ceremonies shall be preceded by the introductory bars of the South African national anthem. All personnel will render the honour to this anthem as our own.”
On conclusion of hostilities, the Sabres were returned to the USAF and the squadron returned to South Africa in October 1953. During this period, the Union Defence Forces were reorganised into individual services and the SAAF became an arm of service in its own right, under an Air Chief of Staff (who was renamed “Chief of the Air Force” in 1966). It adopted a blue uniform, to replace the army khaki it had previously worn.
(Source – Wikipedia)
On 06 May 2015 a memorial service was held at the Major Edwin Swales VC DFC memorial at the Durban High School to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Edwin Swales (1915 – 2015), the 70th anniversary of the death of Edwin Swales (1945 – 2015) and the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (1945 – 2015).
The event was organised and coordinated by David R. Bennett, a Durban High School Old Boy and Edwin Swales biographer. During the event the following were presented to the Durban High School:
• A one in thirty-two scale model, in a glass display cabinet, of a Lancaster Bomber Aircraft (a copy of the type of aircraft flown by Edwin Swales on the operation during which he was tragically killed) sponsored and presented by Mile Jacklin. The Model was built by Peter Jacklin.
• The original Edwin Swales Flying Log Book was found in the Archives in the United Kingdom by Paul Kilmartin who has had a copy bound made.
• The personal file of Edwin Swales, a pre-war employee of Barclays Bank DC & O (now First National Bank – FNB) was traced and a copy will be presented by Mr Preggy Pillay.
Numerous persons assisted David with organisation which include Messer’s Pat Goss (a DHS Old Boy) and Preggy Pillay both Directors of FNB. FNB sponsored the event.
Following the welcome by David Bennett the South African National Anthem was sung. This was followed by a short address by Mr Leon Erasmus, the 14th Headmaster of the Durban High School which was founded in 1866. Mr Paul Kilmartin then provided a historical background on Major Edwin Swales VC DFC SAAF and Victory in Europe Day (08 May 1945) where after the presentations took place.
Dr Edwina Ward, niece of Edwin Swales, thanked everyone on behalf of the family followed by the dedication of the memorial events by the Reverend Canon R. N. van Zuylen. Then followed the Last Post, 2 minutes silence, Reveille and the laying of wreaths.
Following the tragic loss of Edwin Swales, Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris KCB OBE AFC Chief of Bomber Command Royal Air Force, wrote a letter to Edwin’s mother, Mrs Olive Essery Swales, saying inter-alia the following: “On every occasion your son proved be a fighter and resolute captain of his crew. His devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety will remain an example and inspiration for all of us.”
The documents from the South African Air Force promoting Edwin Swales to Major only reached the British authorities in the United Kingdom after his death and the awarding of the Victoria Cross was gazetted, hence the rank “Captain” on the citation of his Victoria Cross. His headstone and all other official documents reflects his rank as “Major”.
In 2013 Swales was awarded the “Bomber Command” clasp to be worn as clasp on the 1939 – 1945 Star.
On 11 November 2009 the then Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, and Dr Edwina Ward unveiled the memorial to Major Edwin Swales VC DFC SAAF at the Durban High School.
You can watch the short interview by the South African Broadcasting Corporation with Dr Edwina Ward, Paul Kilmartin and David Bennett at
A TRULY SOUTH AFRICAN HERO.
Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with information and photos provided by David Bennett.
It is with great pleasure that we welcome the following members that were elected to the committee at the 27th AGM of the Friends of the SAAF Museum on Saturday, 7th March 2015.
Robin Meyerowitz: Chairman/Secretary
Norman Larsen: Vice-Chairman/Fund Raising/Librarian
Mike Phillips: Treasurer
Janine Nudblicher: Projects Co-Ordinator/Membership
Dave Smith: Projects Co-Ordinator
Mike von Bentheim: Marketing/Sales/Kiosk
Please contact us should you wish to volunteer for any activities (secretary required), for any info, or just to chat.
Our first committee meeting will take place at 09:00 on the 4th April, 2015 at the Tunnel, AFB Ysterplaat.
(Chairman Friends of the SAAF Cape Town Branch)
Comments or questions are welcome.
THE MTR Smit Children’s Haven and the South African Air Force (SAAF) Museum will benefit from a World War One Centenary Commemoration evening with Rocco de Villiers.
The event takes place on Saturday, February 28, at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth and will boast Rocco’s unparalleled talent, raising much needed funds for the beneficiaries.
The evening will also showcase the extraordinary vocal talent of PE’s Niqui Cloete Barrass and the programme will be run by aviation fanatic and Breakfast Show co-host, Charlton Tobias of Algoa FM.
Tickets cost R250 per person and include a light meal. A cash bar facility will be available. People must be seated by 7pm.
To book call Amoré at MTR Smit on 041 367 1103 or 079 177 5471.
According to Dr Crystal Watson, who heads the MTR Smit Children’s Haven, this institution was founded in Ugie in 1918 as a direct result of the social effects of WW1 (the Haven was later moved to PE).
Watson said support for this project will be much appreciated. “The PE Air Show, which takes place every second year, is our main fund raising event, but with the rapidly escalating cost of living, every cent helps.”
Captain Mark Kelbrick, curator of the SAAF Museum in Port Elizabeth, said a commemoration event of this nature is important, because people tend to forget. “People tend to forget about the sacrifices that were made during World War One in order for us to have a better quality of life.”
Explaining the importance of the SAAF Museum, Kelbrick said the Air Force in the Bay has always played a huge role in aviation and that many firsts for the South African Air Force actually took place right here. “It is important to guard our rich aviation history for generations to come.”
The 2015 Aircraft Raffle has started – Win a Piper Cherokee 180 plus a
PPL course or advance training worth R100,000.00
redeemable from any flight school of your choice within RSA
and a free PPL medical from 24/7 GP.
DJA have, since 1998, been raffling an aircraft and pilot license course each and every year for the Reach For A Dream Foundation, fulfilling not only the children’s dreams who have life threatening illnesses but also many ordinary South Africans whose dream it has been to get their PPL and own an aircraft. In addition to this annual event, DJA also raffle an extra PPL prize around Christmas time each year to raise additional funds for the Reach For A Dream Foundation.
Over the years the proceeds of the Aircraft Raffle has helped many children realise their dreams. Browse through the Reach For A Dream Foundation (RFAD) website for more information.
The winner of the Mirage digital art raffle displayed in the PE SAAF Museum reception during the air show is Sally Soule of Port Elizabeth.
Well done and thank you to all those kind donors who supported the raffle – your contributions have been invaluable.