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 Commanding Officer
Lt Col Brian Bell
Requests the honour of your presence at
22 Squadron, AFB Ysterplaat
at 5 o’clock in the afternoon on Jun 5th, 2015
for a Chopper and Friend Reunion in sight of the one and only Table Mountain.
It’s time to reflect, remember, to re-unite and enjoy the passion, not only for the Chopper Manne, but also for the many friends.
The favour of your reply is requested by May 15th, 2015.
Cost of function R120-00
Tel 021 508 6336/6430 for initial booking
Confirmation of booking will take place once proof of payment is confirmed to
ABSA ACC no 0370980063 –
Ref: CR Initials and Surname, eg: CR PH Surname.
Please FWD proof of payment to above email or Fax to 021 5086371.
Dress: As you are
PLEASE TAKE NOTE
Identification will be required at security gate and entrance will be confirmed against the guest list.
The Chopper Manne will never say No!
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.