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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
GENERAL SIR HESPERUS ANDRIAS (PIERRE) VAN RYNEVELD, KBE CB, DSO AND MC
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)
Comments: I have a request for information relating to 21 Squadron SAAF that operated in East Africa during WW2 (1941-43?)
On a visit to Kenya earlier in the year I visited the CWG Cemetery at Gilgil and noticed one of the graves bore the Jewish Star of David and was placed on the resting place of Lieutenant S D Davis of 21 Squadron SAAF.
I noted Lt Davis’ was killed on 5th September 1942.
I mentioned this to friends in Israel who discovered that Lt Davis (Observer) was not listed in the Jewish Servicemen War Dead records so we have now been able to rectify this omission.
I then started to wonder about his fellow crewmen (assuming that it was an aircraft casualty) but I had not looked for any graves that covered the day in question and from SAAF members..but I have now checked the CWG list for Gilgil and have found the graves of two of Lt Davis’ comrades. These are Captain D J Jacobs DFC (pilot) and Air Mechanic W Weekes. Both gravestones refer to 05/09/1942 and 21 Squadron.
From the SAAF references on the websites available I have tried to track 21 Squadron’s sphere of operations. I have only found limited information (21 Squadron operations against Italian forces in Somalia and Ethiopia and also in North Africa) but I have little detail to go on. I wondered if there is a 21 Squadron History in print. I would be very interested in reading it is one exists.
As there seemed to be only a 3-man crew I made a speculative guess that the aircraft involved may have been a Blenheim – is this correct or not?
The nearest sphere of operations mentioned would have been Ethiopia but I am curious as to how Captain Jacobs and his crew were buried in Gilgil which, of course, is some distance from the old Kenya/Ethiopia border. Was any official account of this casualty recorded in SAAF reports?
My interest is entirely historical. I have no connection with any of the three SAAF members.
I hope you can shed some light on this story – for which I thank you in anticipation.
Raymond Batkin, Plymouth, UK
21 Squadron were heavily involved in the North African campaign in late 1941 flying Martin Marylands. They were active participants in Operation Crusader and suffered extensive personnel and aircraft losses. On 21 January 1942 they were withdrawn to LG98, near Amiriya south of Alexandria, to re-equip with Martin Baltimores.
The first four of the type to arrive were so clapped-out, engineers managed to build 1 flying aircraft from the four delivered ! However further Baltimores eventually made there way to LG98, following which the unit moved to El Firdan and later Kasfareet in July for continued familiarisation and training on the type.
On 24 August they moved to Shandur. It was from here that Baltimore III AH138 was lost on 5 September 1942 when it spun into the ground near Lake Naivasha in Kenya, killing Lt S.D. Davis, Captain DJ Jacobs, F/Sgt RB Jennings and Air Mech W Weekes. I don’t have the squadron files readily at hand, but one must assume they were on a training flight when the accident occurred.
Hope the above answers your query.