Author Archives: Brevet Cable

AFB Ysterplaat Timeline


1941 – 1945















































Brooklyn Air Station established on 24 October.


Hangers, buildings, railway siding, fuel installations and

three runways constructed.


The first aircraft that landed on the newly constructed

airfield was an Avro Anson.


First batch of aircraft assembled took off for flight tests

on 19 January.


9 Air Depot, with WAAF members and RAF personnel, moved from Wingfield to Brooklyn on 20 January.


Wireless station with transmitting and receiving buildings constructed.


Camp facilities for Womens Auxiliary Air Force constructed.


The first Baltimore and Kittyhawks arrived from the docks.


6 Squadron relocated to Brooklyn in November.


Cape Fortress wireless transmitter station also relocated.


In March the 15 ferry and test pilots flew 1097 hours, ferrying and testing their quota of the 85 aircraft constructed.


Aircraft assembled: Anson, Oxford, Miles Master, Bristol Beaufort, Fairey Battle, Martin Baltimore, Dominie,

Kittyhawk, Maryland, Harvard, Hurricanes.


Brooklyn Air Station handled up to 94 visiting aircraft, excluding training aircraft, in one month.


3 AD took over from 9 AD on 31 March. 11 AD continued as

an independent sub unit.


The newly acquired Avro York for the use of Prime Minister Field Marshall Jan Smuts arrived at AFS Brooklyn.


The end of WWII with VE Day parade on 8 May.



1946 – 1959














































300 Harvards crated at Brooklyn and shipped to the UK.


The first test flight of a Meteor III with pilot, Capt Meaker.


Venturas escorted the HMS Vanguard with the Royal family

on board.


17 Squadron was officially opened with Major Stanford as OC.


RAF Commodore Atcherly and jet specialists arrive to

prepare pilots for the Vampires.


Members selected to relief SAAF Squadron operating on the Berlin airlift.


Eleven pilots from Ysterplaat selected to join UN in Korea.


7 and 27 Active Citizen Force Squadrons was established.


Navigators School established with Major H.J.P. Burger, OC.


22 Squadron reformed at Ysterplaat under Major H.E. Kirby.


The last of 77 Vampires assembled.


First auto-rotation on the Sikorsky helicopter was done by Major Tatham and witnessed by the Media.


Three Sikorsky helicopters assembled.


AFS Ysterplaat was equipped with 15 Ventura, 3 Harvard and 1 Dakota aircraft. The Dakota was used in the air bridge between Cape Town and Cairo.


22 Squadrons’ disbandment coincided with the arrival of 35 Squadron, newly equipped with Avro Shackletons.


Shackletons and Venturas took part in combined exercises with the SA Navy and British Navy.


Ysterplaat hosted an Air Show in November featuring a Comet, Sabre, Shackleton, Devons, Dakotas and helicopters.



1960 – 1967











































Air Show highlights – rocket installations of the Alouette II on display; a Sabre broke the sound barrier over Cape Town.


27 Squadron reformed as Coastal Reconnaissance Squadron equipped with Dakota aircraft.


2 Aircraft Maintenance Unit was founded.


Shackleton 1718 crashed into Stettynskloof mountains near Rawsonville and thirteen crew members died.


Air Show – the first Mirage III seen by the Cape Town public.


22 Squadron reformed as 22 Flight with 6 Wasp helicopters.


402 Air Field Maintenance Unit received unit status.


Sikorsky helicopters replaced with Alouette III.


108 Air Force Reserve Squadron established in PE under command of Ysterplaat.


110 Air Force Reserve Squadron established to supply air support to ground troops, commando’s and civilian forces.


35 Squadron assisted crew of a Buccaneer that had to abandon their aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean.


The first landing of a Wasp helicopter on Bouvet Island. Two Wasp helicopters accompanied a survey ship with a team of scientists to the island.


17 Squadron crews rescued 76 people from the SA Seafarer.


Wasp 82 crashed in the sea off Milnerton during an exercise and the crew was rescued. The Wasp was re-floated after a few hours and rebuilt.


The Acting State President, Mr. J.F.T. Naudé, presented the Officer’s Commanding of 7, 17, 27 and 35 squadrons with their Squadron’s Colours on 30 October.




1968 – 1972











































The status of Ysterplaat is upgraded from a Station to

Air Force Base.


25 Squadron was reformed as a Dakota medium Transport Squadron under command of Cmdt A.J. Cooney.


16 Squadron was established and equipped with Alouette III helicopters under command of Cmdt G. Thom.


Helicopter Conversion Unit with Alouette II and III helicopters established under command of Major J.M. Oosthuizen.


The Maritime Operational Training Unit, tasked to train flight crew, was established in under command of Cmdt P.S. Marais.


16 Super Frelon helicopters were assembled.


27 Squadron Dakotas was replaced with Piaggio 166S Albatross. Albatross 881 to 889 was assembled.


7 Squadron, a training unit operating Harvard aircraft, moved from Youngsfield to Ysterplaat.


22 Flight flew humanitarian missions to Tulbach residents in September when the town was struck by an earthquake.


22 Flight on stand by with Maritime Task Force in April as the world waits for Apollo 13 to return to earth at alternative sites.


25 Squadron started operational flying tours at Rundu.


A new Decca Navigation System was officially opened by the Minister of Defence, Mr P.W. Botha.


A new Control Tower was constructed.


A memorial service was held in February commemorating the deaths of the crews of three Mercurius aircraft that crashed on Devil’s Peak in May 1971, and the four 22 Flight helicopter crew members who died in a Wasp helicopter accident near

Luanda in November 1971.



1973 – 1980














































Alouette II helicopters were withdrawn from service.


Six Wasp helicopters were assembled. The delivery of the seventh Wasp was cancelled in accordance with a United Nations decision to ban the sale of weapons to South Africa.


22 Flight won the light Aircraft Command’s First Helicopter competition held at AFB Bloemspruit.

Ysterplaat received their first three television sets.


Start of Operation Savannah in SWA (Namibia). In December three Dakotas flew to Windhoek, heralding the moving of 25 Squadron’s bush tours to Grootfontein.

LCpls Martell and Maree of 25 Squadron were the first females to qualify as telecommunications operators and Lt A. Horn is our first female Air Traffic Controller.


22 Flight was restored to full squadron status.


First Dakota sprayed a camouflage colour scheme.


A Super Frelon helicopter set an unofficial record with a non-stop flight from Ysterplaat to Swartkop in November.


The last Harvard took off from Ysterplaat.

SAAF recruited coloured personnel for the first time since World War II.


The Officer’s Club burnt down and the Cambridge Hotel in Milnerton was taken over in 1979 as the Officer’s Mess.

At a parade Cmdt J. Cloete accepted the Colours on behalf of 27 Squadron from the State President, Mr. B.J. Vorster.


35 Squadron awarded the Freedom of the City of Cape Town.

30 Squadron reformed under the command of Cmdt R. Dean and equipped with Pumas and Super Frelon helicopters.




1981 – 1991














































22 and 30 Squadron was involved in flood relief rescue when Laingsburg was worst hit following heavy unseasonable rains.

SAAF 62nd birthday flying displays of a Spitfire, Canberras, Buccaneers, Mirage F1 aircraft, Frelon and Puma helicopters.


27, 30 and 35 Squadrons was dispatched in an extensive search-and rescue operation along with naval vessels following the collision of the SAS President Kruger

and SAS Tafelberg.

AFB Ysterplaat received the SAAF Operational Efficiency Award for Support Sections two years in a row.

Dakota 77 flies for the last time in yellow and black livery.

2 ASU become a depot to extend production capacity.


Shackletons perform a farewell formation over Cape Town.

A Russian Naval Task Force rounds the Cape in September and a Dakota and Albatross shadows the vessels.


505 Security Squadron was established in June.

Return of 30 Squadron personnel and Pumas from SANAE Base in Antarctica after a trip of two and a half months.


Visit by Commander-in-Chief of Republic of China Air Force.


First Dakota maritime paint scheme on display for the media.


Commando members of 110 Squadron died when their Cessna crashed in the mountains near Montagu.

Air Crash simulation in Goodwood involving 400 personnel

of SAA, Eskom, SADF, Civil Aviation and City Tramways.


25 and 27 Squadron amalgamated with 35 Squadron.


Ysterplaat Squadrons took part in the rescue operation of

219 passengers from the stricken Oceanos.



1992 – 2002















































11 Air Depot amalgamated with 2 Air Depot.


Ysterplaat won the Sword of Peace Award for the third consecutive year for exceptional humanitarian service.


A concrete wall was erected around the Base.


Puma helicopters airlifted 40 crew members from Riverplate.

South Africa becomes a fully fledged democracy and AFB Ysterplaat welcomes new members from the former

Non – Statuary Forces.

Museum Shackleton Pelican 1716 crashed in the Western Sahara. All 19 members survive and were rescued.

35 Squadron was re-equipped with C47-TP and the last

operations were flown by the piston engine Dakotas.


The last of 60 Pilatus Astra PC-7 aircraft was assembled.

Helicopters transported containers and supplies for the building of the SANAE IV base in Antarctic.

Oryx helicopters arrive and J-type Pumas phased out.

A Delville Bush Memorial Service was held at

Cape Town Gardens.

22 Squadron helicopters were deployed for fire-fighting in the Boland, Somerset West, Tulbach and Uniondale.


Air Show held in October in conjunction with Thunder City.


The new millennium kicks off with the biggest fires yet and

are followed by floods in Mozambique.


Plans to close down AFB Ysterplaat and move lodger units to Cape Town International Airport abandoned.


Exhibition at Museum commemorating the 60th Anniversary of North African campaign opened by General E. Schmidt.



2003 – 2011














































22 Squadron flight crews awarded for the rescue of 89 people off the ice-bound Magdalena Oldendorff in the Antarctic.


Five members of 35 Squadron were selected for the SANDF Rugby team tour to Holland and Germany.


80 Air Navigation School received the Best Training Unit Prestige Award, Gold.


35 Squadron received the Golden award for the best Permanent Flying Unit and the Aviation Safety Award.


The first new generation Gripen fighter made its public debut in September and on the eve of the African Aerospace and Defence Expo hosted at Ysterplaat.


The Museum Shackleton, 1722, performs its last flight on

29th of March.


The first two Lynx helicopters arrive at Ysterplaat in July.


35 Squadron foils a drug drop by a foreign vessel.


Ysterplaat members involved in UN operations outside our borders in conjunction with SANDF and international forces.


AAD Air Show with 200 exhibitors from 30 countries. Some of the aircraft participating was Gripen, Hawk, Lightning and Hawker Hunter, Rooivalk-, Oryx- and Lynx helicopters.


AFB Ysterplaat was awarded the Freedom of Entry to the

City of Cape Town. The official scroll was handed over to Colonel Cowan on a parade in August 2010.


AFB Ysterplaat was a hive of activity with the FIFA 2010

World Soccer Cup, when the SAAF secured the air space above Cape Town.


The USAF participated in another international AAD Air Show.


Ysterplaat Air Force Base celebrates its 70th birthday.


The Search for Puma 164 – A Book Launch


Invite you to a book launchwith authors Neill Jackson and Rick van Malsen in attendance to sign books
Venue: Dickie Fritz Shellhole, Dickie Fritz Avenue, Dowerglen, Edenvale
Date: Saturday, 27th August 2011
Time: 13:30
The Search for Puma 164
Operation Uric and the assault on Mapai
The battle for Mapai – and the final closure
September 6, 1979 a lone Puma helicopter flies northward, leaving behind the desolation of the battle for Mapai, in Mozambique’s Gaza Province. …and so it was, almost 30 years later, that Rick van Malsen returns to the scene of that horrendous battle, to search for the crash site of the downed Puma, in an effort to achieve closure for the relatives of the dead.
Neill Jackson was born in Malta in 1953, where his father was stationed with the Royal Marines and his mother the WRENs. The family moved to Rhodesia in 1956. In 1975 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant with 5 (Independent) Company based in Umtali, before serving three years as a Troop Commander with Support Commando, the Rhodesian Light Infantry. In 1978 he was posted as 2IC to 1 (Independent) Company at Victoria Falls and Beitbridge, and then to 1 Brigade HQ in Bulawayo as Intelligence Officer from December 1979 until his retirement a year later, with the rank of captain.
Rick van Malsen was born in Kenya in 1954, immigrated to Rhodesia in 1960 and joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry in 1974, being commissioned the following year. In 1978, as a Troop Commander in 1 Commando, 1RLI, Rick was awarded the Bronze Cross of Rhodesia for valour during combat. At the cessation of hostilities in 1980 he was appointed Battalion Adjutant and attended a staff course at the Staff College at Camberley in the UK. He set up the Army Diving School at Kariba, at the time the most modern facility of its type in southern Africa, before retiring from service in 1984.

Memorial to World War 2 SAAF airmen unveiled in Sofia

David Haggie – Image by Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Article reprinted with kind permission – The Author Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Seven South African Air Force fliers who died in June 1944 after being shot down during a bombing mission, and who are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves section of Sofia Cemetery, now have a plaque commemorating them at the South African embassy.

The plaque was unveiled at a June 22 2011 ceremony presided over by ambassador Sheila Camerer, with a dedication ceremony conducted by Anglican chaplain Reverend Patrick Irwin and, in attendance, David Haggie, a nephew of one of the SAAF men and who paid for the placing of the memorial.

The airmen, in two Liberators, were shot down by the Luftwaffe and the aircraft crashed on Bulgarian soil.

Those who died were Major JA Mouton, Lieutenant HH Bunce, Lt DJS Haggie, Lt D Lindley, Lt RG Southey and Warrant Officers class 2 WS Barrett and DT Flynn.

Speaking at the ceremony – where guests included ambassadors and senior diplomats from Allied embassies and representatives of Bulgaria’s Defence Ministry – David Haggie said that for years it had not been easy to get information about the circumstances that led to the fallen air crew being buried in Sofia Cemetery.

For more on this story, and further information, click this link

KH158 – Update

On Sunday 15th May a memorial plaque for the 12th October 1944 missing in action crew of Liberator KH158 of 31 Squadron SAAF was unveiled, in a ceremony high in the Ligurian part of the Apennine mountains, ENE of Genoa, Italy. The plaque is in place on an old “round house” wall in the grounds of a 1944 partisan meeting house, Faggio Rotondo. This is in the vicinity the 1944 partisan supply drop zone area code “Morris ” and near a regular mountain hiking trail.

The ceremony was attended by my family for my father ,F/O T R Millar RAAF-the bomb-aimer, also family of the pilot, Maj SS Urry SAAF , British , Australian and South African Embassy officials in Rome and Genoa plus the Italian Ligurian officials ,Member of Parliament, Mayors from the nearby towns and local people. The event was covered by the Genoan press.

All of this was made possible by an Italian friend who suggested the plaque in remembrance of my father, F/O TR Millar RAAF and approached the local Mayor with his suggestion. He and another friend, who was involved in a earlier air force commemoration, put most of this event together, with input from myself.

Liberator KH158 is still missing but I feel that this plaque is a culmination of 10 years of research into my father’s wartime life and disappearance .Now more local Italian people and officials know about the loss of the plane and one day someone just might find out information about it’s whereabouts .

The crew were —
Maj SS Urry -SAAF
F/O G E Hudspith -RAF
F/O T R Millar RAAF [my father]
Lt GA Collard -SAAF
Lt NW Armstrong -SAAF
2/Lt PJ Lordan -SAAF
W/O LB Bloch -SAAF
Sgt RC Fitzgerald -RAF

Anne Storm (Daughter)

32 Squadron Badge found in POW camp in Singapore?

Tigers in the Park

The Adam Park Project (TAPP) is a ground breaking battlefield archaeology project looking into the wartime heritage of the Adam Park housing estate in Singapore. It is headed up by the Singapore Heritage Society and the National University of Singapore and partly sponsored by the National Heritage Board of Singapore. The project founder Jon Cooper, alumni of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, is now currently managing the project.

A very intriguing query was received from Jon Cooper, in that a badge or brooch resembling the SAAF 32 Squadron Badge had been found.

“I am the Project Manager for The Adam Park Project in Singapore and we have unearthed a brooch, enscribed with the number ’32’ and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the emblem of 32 Sqn SAAF at the site of what was an old WW2 POW camp (see attached image). I have found very little on 32 Sqn’s war time record and was wondering how this badge got to Singapore – can you help? were any 32 sqn men sent to Singapore and ended up as a POW?


Steve Mclean, one of our researchers commented ” I’m certain the badge is from 32 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and not 32 SAAF.32 Sqn SAAF only existed from December 1939 to August 1940 and, even allowing for sorties up the west coast into SWA, was very much Cape based. They had very limited personnel, all of whom can be traced to other SAAF units later in the war. Thus, as far as I’m aware, none ended up in a RAF unit that might have seen Far East service.

32 Sqn RAAF was very active in that theatre, flying Hudsons and Bristol Beauforts against the Japanese. Their badge was a frontal image of a parrot (parakeet?) with it’s wings spread. Removing the crown and scroll (rusted away? broken off) and allowing for a bit of rust that may have broken off the badge Jon has, the profile is an excellent match.”

More from Jon Cooper:
“32 Sqn RAAF were fighting in New Guinea, Milne Bay & Coral Sea in 1942 but they weren’t in the Malayan Campaign having been activated on 21st Feb 1942, 6 days after the fall of the Singapore. They were sent to the south of Australia in September 42 to retrain on Beauforts and spent the rest of the war patrolling the East Coast. It is easier to imagine one of their men somehow ending up in Adam Park rather than 32 Sqn SAAF however the badge has no sign of broken bits being missing and is much more like the a diving eagle with a bomb than a parrot on a perch.

My theory is that one of the aircrew from the disbanded 32nd SAAF ended up flying for the RAF / RAAF in Malaya – perhaps swapping his Junkers for a Buffalo !!. The timescale fits for this to happen – my biggest problem is proving this – out of the SAAF airmen in theatre – how many were captured and is it possible to track down their service record?
I’m sure which ever squadron it was the story behind how it got to Adam Park will be as equally as fascinating.
I will pursue this line of enquiry with the RAAF historians but in the meantime please ask around the SAAF vets and historians and maybe something will pitch up on the SAAF guys who were in Malaya and their fate.”

Steve McLean responded:

“Herewith a copy of the 32 Sqn badge (SAAF), the outline of the African continent is missing from the Adam Park badge.
There are a couple of reasons I doubt the SAAF connection:
32 Sqn SAAF existed for a short period of time (Dec 1939 – Aug 1940), and remained a small unit throughout it’s short existance. Only 19 aircraft were ever on strength during this period, some for as short a period as 1 week. At it’s peak, it had three Ju86’s and four Ansons on strength.
Following on from above, it featured a small aircrew compliment during it’s existance, most of which remained from inception to re-designation.
As a result of the limited number of aircrew, all can be traced to SAAF units later in the war. Unfortunately no 32 members survive to this day.
However, as with all matters relying on what was, on occassion, elementary record-keeping by the locals 70 years ago in the desire to hastily swell numbers, there does remain the possibility that an ground crew member’s records slipped through the net.
Allow me some time to revisit 32’s personnel records in an attempt to provide a definitive answer that may, or may not, exclude 32 SAAF.”

Jon Cooper again:
“Thank you Steven
Sounds like you have access to an excellent archive –
One thing we noticed about the badge – it seems to be homemade – roughly cast and lacking great detail. The stencilling of the number is pretty shoddy. We have uncovered other examples of roughly cast pendants and pieces of molten metal – looks like the POWs were possibly making badges to order to pass the time.
Alternatively the badge may have been swapped in Capetown on the way to Singapore as many of the Brits stopped off there on their way to the Far East
Again thank you for your time – much appreciated”

We would be very interested in any other theories or comments?

Rooivalk stars at Air Capability Demo

The recently upgraded and redelivered Rooivalk attack helicopter participated in the simulated operational exercise during the Air Capability Demonstration held by the SAAF at the Roodewal weapons range today.

The Air Capability Demonstration (ACD) is normally held twice a year in which the SAAF is able to demonstrate its operational capabilities, including co-operation with the others arms of the SANDF. It is also the only time invited dignitaries and guests are able to witness live weapon firing at close range.

Differing from previous years, the ACD did not concentrate on humanitarian missions, but rather on what Chief of the Airforce, Lt. Gen. Carlo Gagiano, described as “speed and dust!”

Proceedings commenced with introductory speeches and background information, followed by 70 minutes of incredible noise caused by the live firing of rockets, mortars, cannon, machine gun fire and the dropping of bombs, all with the continuous clatter of rotor blades overhead.

Read the full article at here.

Gallery with 40 photos can eb viewed here.

Dean Wingrin
Webmaster: The Unofficial South African Air Force Website

Skeleton Coast Hero

Hail the modest hero of the merciless Skeleton Coast!

In a retirement community in Potchefstroom a real South African hero died, almost unsung in his own country.

AT the age of 83 Immins Overbeek Naude succumbed to a double onslaught of asthma and angina. He probably wasn’t unhappy, because he had cheated death 52 years earlier in a hair-raising rescue bid that will rank as one of the most daring in history.

And while his heroism took place out of sight of the print and electronic media, he was, until his death, every bit as modest and taciturn about the whole thing as were the SAAF pilots who followed in his footsteps with the rescue of passengers from the sinking Oceanos. One of his fellow pilots in 23 Squadron of the South African Air Force, Durban pensioner Clyde Harley said: “What he did was courageous. He was a hero. We should remember”.

As commander of a B-34 Ventura bomber, Captain Naude risked his life and those of his three fellow-airmen in carrying out an unheard-of landing on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia to try to rescue survivors of the Dunedin Star, a ship which ran aground on November 29, 1942.

Captain Naude tried to drop water and food to the castaways, but, without parachutes, the containers split open and the precious contents were wasted.

He knew there were women, children and possibly badly injured sailors trapped on a beach between the cruel South Atlantic Ocean and the merciless Namib Desert.  No one would have faulted him if he had decided to return to the comfort of the officers’ mess at Rooikop in Walvis Bay. But, after a quick consultation with his crew he decided to attempt a landing, despite the very real dangers of cart-wheeling the 12-ton bomber in the soft dunes. The landing was without incident, but when Captain Naude tried to turn the Ventura around to prepare to take off, one of his wheels became bogged in the sand and he and his crew were suddenly castaways themselves.  The airmen joined up with the Dunedin Star survivors, who were suffering terrible privations in the baking heat and wind and sand.

It was to be another two weeks before Captain Naude and the airmen were rescued by a ground expedition which battled overland more than 1,000km from Windhoek, through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.

Other SAAF Venturas had managed to land at a better place further south on the coast and had flown some of the castaways out, while others were rescued by ships anchored off the wreck.  Captain Naude’s ordeal wasn’t over when he got back to Walvis Bay:  The SAAF wanted to know where its Ventura was.  He went back twice — nearly losing his life in a seaborne attempt wrecked by a fierce storm — to try to recover the plane. ‘

On the second trip, overland in early 1943.  Captain Naude took off successfully after SAAF mechanics made the aircraft fit to fly.  Only 20 minutes into his flight the Ventura lost power in one engine and plunged into the sea.

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

Captain Naude and two mechanics survived and were washed ashore in the fuselage. But after drying their emergency rations and taking what little water they had, they marched 60km into the desert to meet the overland convoy which was returning after repairing the plane.

John Marsh, former Argus shipping reporter who described the Dunedin Star rescue in the 1944 book The Skeleton Coast, attended Immins Naude’s funeral and recalled that the pilot “never regarded himself as a hero, more as someone doing his job”.

Aviation historian Ivan Spring, who has compiled a history of Captain Naude’s squadron, said the old hero seemed to regard the rest of his life as “more of an adventure than the Dunedin Star episode”.

After leaving the SAAF following the incident —  he was discharged because of the effect the ordeal had on his health — Naude went on to hunt lion and leopard in Botswana and travel the length and breadth of southern and central Africa, including a three-month 15 000km trip from Cape Town to Zaire and the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda in the ’50s.  He described his adventures in detail in letters to Spring in the late ’80s, referring to his wartime role as “meagre”.

Fish Hoek pensioner “Planky” Wood, a pilot in 23 Squadron, hastily formed in 1942 to combat the nazi submarine threat around the Cape, said little fuss was made at the time of the Dunedin Star incident.  So little, in fact, that he had difficulty recalling details of the operation or of Immins Naude.

“We would have just looked upon it as part of the job, the job everybody has to do in wartime” added Wood.  In Durban Clyde Harley recalled that, at the time of the Dunedin Star incident he flew up the Skeleton Coast looking for survivors and also that the squadron’s other pilots said little about Immins Naude’s experience.

“It was as though we knew that there but for the grace of God go I, and it was a sobering thought.  Make no mistake, we would probably all have done the same thing. It was a war and there was a job to be done.”

Looking back with the benefit of 50-years’ hindsight, Harley said: “The man was a hero.”


Thanks to assistance from Nick Elzinga

Skeleton Coast by John H Marsh can be ordered from the Namibian Scientific Society.

Thomas Roberts Millar


Flying Officer Thomas Robert Millar, RAAF
AWARDS : 1939-45 Star; Italy Star; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-45; Australia Service Medal 1939-45.
Polish Home Army Medal 1939-1945; Warsaw Insurgents Cross 1944.
COMMEMORATION : Panel 16, Col 1 of the Malta War Memorial, Malta.

Bob was born in Narromine NSW, Australia, and educated in Sydney becoming Dux of his schools in 1932 and 1934. He graduated from Sydney University in 1939 with a Bachelor of Economics degree and then obtained an administrative position with the Sydney Gaslight Company.

In January 1942 he married Elizabeth Grace Thompson before enlisting in the RAAF on 22nd May of that year as a volunteer for flying duties. Their daughter, Anne Elizabeth , was born on 3rd February 1943.

His initial training was at Bradfield Park, Cootamundra, Sale, Nhill, and in due course he was commissioned on 4 February 1943. One month later on the 6th March he embarked at Melbourne and travelling via Canada he arrived at 3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth, England on 18th April.

In England he undertook further training commencing at 4 Air Observer School, West Freugh, Wigtownshire, Scotland (the unit changed its name on 11.6.03 to 4 (Observers) Advanced Flying Unit). Afterwards he proceeded to Upper Heyford, Swinderby and Moreton-in Marsh in England.
In May he spent some time with the PEDDER family of Kenilworth whilst on ‘local’ leave. The family kept in touch with the Millars including sending Christmas cards with a picture of their house. Nearly 60 years later Bob’s daughter Anne was able to identify and visit the house using this picture. Subsequently Anne spoke with the two daughters Susan & Pru.& son all in their 70s.

In January 1944 Bob was transferred to Italy joining 205 Group 104 Squadron RAF until July 1944. He was stationed at Foggia Main air base ,west of Bari and took part in sorties to Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and Roumania.

In August he was seconded to 31 Squadron, South African Air Force and stationed at Celone air base , Foggia. Very soon he was flying to Warsaw dropping supplies to beleaguered partisans who had risen against the German occupation forces. Supposedly Russian armies were approaching Warsaw to relieve the city but they held back at this point leaving the Polish citizens to fend for themselves.

The Warsaw operation was dangerous. Flying time to Warsaw was 5 hours and on arrival aircraft were obliged to fly at a height of not more than 500 feet and sometimes as low as 100 feet taking care to avoid high buildings. According to Neil Orpen’s ‘Airlift to Warsaw’, published by W.Foulsham & Co., and where there are references to Bob on pages 74 and 77, there were 186 sorties from Italy to Warsaw in a six week period and 31 aircraft were lost. Hence Bob was fortunate to survive, and the skill of the experienced South African pilot, Major Urry, and his crew no doubt helped the survival.

On 12 October 1944 16 Liberators of 31 Squadron and 4 of 34 Squadron SAAF took off on a supply dropping mission to Italian partisans in the mountains of northern Italy. There were 4 different dropsites with five planes allotted to each site. Each plane had 8 crew. They took off in late afternoon knowing that they would be flying in the night as they approached the north. Bob was aboard the Liberator KH158 piloted by Major Urry, SAAF [with drop zone “Morris” ENE of Genoa]. The crew was truly representing the Commonwealth being composed of 5 SAAF, 2 RAF & 1 RAAF as follows:.

Major S.S. Urry SAAF, age 29 born South Africa, 1st Pilot
Lt G.A. Collard SAAF, age 19 born South Africa, Navigator
2 Lt P.J.Lordan SAAF, born South Africa, Air Gunner
WO 1 L.B. Bloch SAAF, born South Africa, Air Gunner
Lt N.W. Armstrong SAAF, born South Africa, Air Gunner
F/O G.E. Hudspith RAF, age 29 born England, 2nd Pilot
Sgt R.C. Fitzgerald RAF, age 19 born England, Sgt Air Gunner
F/O T R Millar RAAF, age 28 born Australia, Bomber/Navigator

Warsaw Flight KG 838 H [or 858 smudged typing

Crew : L-R front row Lt Meterkamp ,Maj Urry ,Lt Collard ,F/OMillar
L-R back row W/O Bloch ,Possible 2Lt Lordan ,Lt Armstrong .
Only 7 men as Sgt Lockey RAF is thought to have joined at the last minute

The weather was bad with poor visibility and few crews were able to see the drop site fires so many drops were aborted. Of the 20 planes that set out 6 failed to return. Four crashed high in the mountains, one crashed near Cantalupa but the sixth disappeared without trace. The wreckages of the crashed planes were eventually found but there was no news of the sixth Liberator. The crew members of the sixth Liberator, KH158, with Bob among the crew members, were officially posted missing – a sad ending for brave men. The disappearance of KH158 has yet to be solved.

The citizens of the Italian towns have been most appreciative of the heroic actions of those lost in this operation and a commemorative service was held in Bra ,northern Italy on 25th April 2001. This was attended by the citizens and ex-partisans of Bra and relatives of the crews. The Mayor welcomed and offered hospitality to the relatives and, at a dinner held in the evening, Anne Storm was asked to read the letter her father had written her on her first birthday.

1/2/44 F/O T.R.MILLAR RAAF Aus 422612 – 104 Squadron RAF CMF Italy

My Dear Daughter,
This is the first time I have written to you and although you are as yet too young to read it perhaps mother will save it up until the time comes when you can read it yourself. In 2 days time it will be your first birthday anniversary-a great event for your parents. My regret is that I cannot personally be there to help you blow out your single candle but believe me lassie I will be there in spirit.

I am writing this from a place called Italy which is far away from our fair land-a place where I would not be by choice so far away separated from a wife & daughter so dear to me. But I am here ,precious one , because there is a war on caused by certain people who wished to rule the world harshly & despotically, imperilling an intangible thing called democracy which your mother & I thought all decent people should fight for. You will understand as you grow up what democracy means for us & how it is an ideal way of life which we aspire to put into practice.

All I ask of you, Anne dear is that you stay as sweet as your mother & cling tight to the subtle thing we call Christianity, which has been the core of her way of life & her mother’s & mine. I hope that you will love & respect me as I love & respect my father.

That’s all young lady. Have a happy birthday -may they all be happy birthdays. I hope to be home again one fine day. In the meantime lots of love to you & to mother

From Dad
Bob Millar

The wreckage of KH158 has never been found. If you know of any further information regarding this mission, we would very much like to hear from you. Please contact us.


UPDATE – 21st May 2011

On Sunday 15th May a memorial plaque for the 12th October 1944 missing in action crew of Liberator KH158 of 31 Squadron SAAF was unveiled, in a ceremony high in the Ligurian part of the Apennine mountains, ENE of Genoa, Italy.

The plaque is in place on an old “round house” wall in the grounds of a 1944 partisan meeting house, Faggio Rotondo. This is in the vicinity the 1944 partisan supply drop zone area code “Morris ” and near a regular mountain hiking trail.

The ceremony was attended by my family for my father ,F/O T R Millar RAAF-the bombaimer, also family of the pilot, Maj SS Urry SAAF , British , Australian and South African Embassy officials in Rome and Genoa plus the Italian Ligurian officials, Member of Parliament, Mayors from the nearby towns and local people. The event was covered by the Genoan press.

All of this was made possible by an Italian friend who suggested the plaque in remembrance of my father, F/O TR Millar RAAF and approached the local Mayor with his suggestion. He and another friend, who was involved in a earlier airforce commemoration, put most of this event together, with input from myself.

Liberator KH158 is still missing but I feel that this plaque is a culmination of 10 years of research into my father’s wartime life and disappearance .Now more local Italian people and officials know about the loss of the plane and one day someone just might find out information about it’s whereabouts .

The crew were —
Maj SS Urry -SAAF
F/O G E Hudspith -RAF
F/O T R Millar RAAF [my father]
Lt GA Collard -SAAF
Lt NW Armstrong -SAAF
2/Lt PJ Lordan -SAAF
W/O LB Bloch -SAAF
Sgt RC Fitzgerald -RAF


Father of the SAAF


Van Ryneveld was born on 2 May 1891 at Senekal in the Orange Free State. After matriculating at Grey College School in Bloemfontein he trained as engineer in London.

In July 1915 he joined the Royal Flying Corps (forerunner of the RAF), and served in WWI as a pilot.

General Smuts, Prime Minister of the then Union of South Africa, decided that South Africa must establish its own air force, and for this purpose the 27 year old van Ryneveld was selected. In 1919 General Jan Smuts recalled him from Cologne where he was serving as a squadron commander.

With effect from 1 February 1920, van Ryneveld was appointed as Director of Air Services, and was instructed to form an air arm that would be part of the army.

He rejected the idea of the Air Force being a division of the Army, and consequently the South African Air Force SAAF was formed as an independent unit.

In 1919 Great Britain agreed to allocate to the Union of South Africa 100 surplus military aircraft, (48 De Havilland DH9s, 30 Avro 504Ks and 22 SE 5a scouts), complete with spares and maintenance equipment. This became known as the Imperial gift, and was instrumental in getting the fledgeling SAAF off the ground.

In 1921 the SAAF bought a site east of Roberts Height (later Voortrekkerhoogte and now Thaba Tswane), near Pretoria, and it was here that the first aerodrome for the SAAF was established and was named Zwartkops.

The Silver Queen
In 1920 the London Times offered a prize of £10 000 for the first person to fly from London to Cape Town. Within a short space of time a Vickers Vimy, piloted by Captains S Cockerell and F C Broome, accompanied by Dr Chalmers Mitchell of the Zoological Society, set off.

However, General Smuts wanted South African aviators to blaze this trail, and authorised the purchase of a Vickers Vimy at a cost of £4500.

It was named the Silver Queen, and commanded by Lt Col van Ryneveld with First Lt Quinton Brand as the co-pilot. They took off from Brooklands (England) on 4 February 1920. After an exciting night crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, they arrived at Derna the next morning.

The Silver Queen was however wrecked during a force landing in bad weather at Korosko in Sudan.

A second Vimy F8615 was purchased from the RAF in Cairo, and the Silver Queen II left Cairo on 22 February. This aircraft crashed at Bulawayo (in Zimbabwe) on 6 March.

Fortunately, with some of the “Imperial Gift” aircraft already in Pretoria, a DH9 called Voortrekker was put together, and dispatched post haste to Bulawayo. Van Ryneveld and Brand were therefore able to complete their flight to Cape Town where the arrived at Young’s Field on 20 March 1920 after a total flying time of 109 hours and 30 minutes.
Both van Ryneveld and Quinton Brand were knighted for this achievement.

In 1929 Van Ryneveld became the officer commanding at Robert’s Heights (Thaba Tswane) and Commandant of the S.A. Military College, but remained Director of Air Services. The post of DAS was abolished on 30 April 1933 and on the following day Col Pierre van Ryneveld was promoted to Brigadier-General and appointed Chief of the General Staff. There was thus no chief of the SAAF and it remained under Van Ryneveld’s direct control until 30 June 1939.

South Africa’s military aimed at greater things, and in September 1939 the Chief of Staff, van Ryneveld, proposed the formation of a Mobile Field Force.

It was intended to be made up of two infantry divisions (each of three infantry brigades), a mounted brigade and an armoured regiment. Together with supporting artillery and coastal defence forces, 140,000 men would be required

Even though it was not formally accepted, the proposal set the prototype for a later mobilisation and force structure. In October 1939, van Ryneveld, as Chief of the General Staff, approved a plan known as the Peace Expansion Scheme, under which a total of 720 aircraft were acquired – 336 of which were fighters.

When Italy entered the war in 1940, South African squadrons were sent to East Africa, later to be supplemented by more modern aircraft. The SAAF played a remarkable role in the victory over Mussolini’s African Empire.

Van Ryneveld retired on 2 May 1949. The distinguished and highly decorated SAAF pilot died in 1972.

(All images from Vincent van Ryneveld)


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