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One of the Few

ONE OF THE FEW


Squadron Leader Albert Gerald Lewis, DFC and bar

INTRODUCTION
It all started with a picture. A photo in the book called THE FEW.


A photo of a young – rather long haired – RAF pilot, standing besides his Hurricane with a big grin. I could not shake off that image of this carefree young pilot. Displaying all the casual enthusiasm of operational life which characterised Fighter Command during The Battle of Britain.

Who was he? What did he do? Did he survive – not only the Battle of Britain – but the war?
For several years I tried to trace him. To find books about him – or at least books where somebody had written just small pieces about him.

It proved that he was nothing less than a double Ace in a Day.

He was shot down several times. He got horrible burns in face and arms, while jumping out of a burning Hurricane. And even after that, he came back to fight.
This is what I have gathered so far on a very special man: Albert Gerald Lewis.

THE BEGINNING
Albert Gerald Lewis was born 10th of April 1918 in Kimberly, South Africa.
He got interested in flying as a teenager and went through a private Flying School on his own account at the age of 18.
With his pilot license, he went to Britain to join the Royal Air Force at the age of 20 – on a four year Short service Commission, being gazetted Acting Pilot Officer with effect from 29th of October 1938. After flying in different training units – and with different planes, he was posted to No. 616 South Yorkshire Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed on 1st of November 1938 as a Bombing Squadron.
When he arrived, the Squadron flew Gauntlets, Tutors and Battles.
After some time he was transferred to an even duller job as a ferry pilot in No 12 Group Ferry Pool. Although the main business was ferrying aircraft, they also found time to practice fighter tactics.

16th of December 1939 Lewis was transferred again. This time to No 504 Squadron,
Debden. The Squadron flew Hurricanes, which was a great leap upwards for Lewis.
30th of January he flew the first of many single “Trawler Patrols”. This day marked his first meeting with the enemy, when he spotted and chased a German Blohm & Voss Seaplane.

LEWIS JOINS 85 SQUADRON IN FRANCE
“The Phoney war” in France had changed to real war and Lewis was transferred to No 87 Squadron the 26th of April 1940 – only to be transferred the day after to No 85 Squadron inder Squadron Leader “Doggie” Oliver.
85 was a crack Squadron which, during WWI had been commanded by the famous Major “Mick Mannock, VC, DSO with 2 Bars and MC with Bar.

The air war in France was more like the air war of WWI.
There was no radar – like later during Battle of Britain – so the pilots flew patrols from dawn to dusk in hope of sighting the enemy.
Sometimes they got a warning from ground troops that enemy planes had been spotted, where after the squadron was scrambled.
But most of time it was just hide and seek with endless patrols.

That changed suddenly, when the Germans attacked Holland, Belgium and France 10th of May 1940.
Losses were heavy with aircraft being shot up on the ground by strafing Me109 fighters and bombed by Heinkel He111 bombers.
The opening scene in “Battle of Britain” gives a very good image of what 85 Squadron went through in those days.

To underline the strain involved in flying all day, every day, in combat against superior odds, let me cite A. J. Brooks: Fighter Squadron at War:
Sergeant “Sammy” Allard for instance destroyed ten enemy aircraft in a week but only by flying four or five times a day with very little or no rest in between.
This had to take its toll of mind and body and on the 16th of May, after only an hour and a half’s sleep the previous night, Allard took-off on the first of four sorties that day.
Bombs were bursting on the aerodrome as he and his section took-off on their second patrol and on their third patrol Allard fell asleep three times over German occupied territory. As he taxied in from his last patrol of the day, the ground crew were surprised not to see him jump out after the aircraft had been shut down.
A mechanic opened the canopy only to find that Allard had finally succumbed to sheer weariness and had fallen asleep where he sat.
He was still unconscious when the ground crew lifted him out and it was decided to let him sleep on until the dawn patrol the next day.
But at dawn they could still not wake him, so Allard was sent off to hospital in England.
In all he slept for 30 hours non stop.”

FIRST “KILL” – AND SECOND
Lewis flew just as many sorties with just as much lack of sleep, and on the 12th of May flying VY-E, he shot down – not only his first enemy aircraft – but also his second: A Messerschmidt 109 – and a Heinkel He111.

ACE IN A DAY


18th or 19th of May – due to all the Squadrons reports got lost in the evacuation of the Squadron a few days later, there is some differences here – flying AK-A (an aircraft borrowed from 213 Squadron) he got 5 confirmed kills in a day:
Two Messerschmidt 109s on the first patrol in the morning and three more on the evening patrol. This fight had been witnessed by his CO and the squadron.
In some books it is mentioned that Lewis jumped out of his stricken Hurricane by
parachute after the first scrap. (This has not been confirmed – again due to the loss of
Squadron reports.)

Lewis:
“I was jumped by a patrol of 3 Me109’s as I was about to return to base, troubled by a
loose gun panel. I became aware of attack as tracers streamed by.
Turned into attack and found the leader coming straight at me. Somehow his cannon shots missed me and he rolled into a steep turn almost on his back and pulled away. Suddenly there was his belly at point blank range. I rammed the nose of the Hurricane down, my head hitting the top of the cockpit glasshouse – and pressed the gun button.

Fuel spewed out from the L-shaped tank which the pilot sat on, and with fuel streaming behind him, the pilot flew straight down into the deck and exploded.
By the way he handled his plane, I imagine the pilot to be experienced, possibly an
instructor with two greenies or fledglings, as the two made half-hearted attacks, formed up together and headed home, towards Brussels.
The fight had occurred in the Rubaix area on the Franco-Belgian border. My first
inclination was to leave them alone, but realising we had the extra boost in the Hurricane if we needed it for a short duration, I pulled out the boost control and followed the two.

I don’t think they were aware of me following them as I was able to position myself slightly below and behind. They were sitting ducks.
Short bursts into each one and they plummeted straight down into the deck at a steep angle.
I was able to pinpoint the wreckages and submitted my report.
The ack-ack guns confirmed and “Bob” Martin, MC – our Intelligence Officer had a look at the wreckages. They were fairly close together, in wooded country.
The event happened in less time than it takes to tell it.

On landing at Seclin my ground crew met me with grins and thump up signs. Doggie Oliver came over to me and said: “We have witnessed a wonderful scrap between one of our lads and three Messerschmidts!” I told him that I had just had three Me 109s jump me, and had managed to bag all three.
He was delighted as he realised he had just witnessed – with the ground crews – the
action I had been involved in.
“I’m recommending you for the DFC” he said with a grin.”

WITHDRAWAL FROM FRANCE
The squadron lost more and more aeroplanes. And with no new ones coming in the order for withdrawal to England was given.
Monday 20 May Lewis flew back to England in one of the only 3 Hurricanes still usable from 85th Squadron:
“It was obvious that we were being kicked out of France and those of us who were not wounded were told we had to make our way home to England.
Bofors guns were being turned on practically new Hurricanes to destroy them and make them unfit for use by the enemy.
We came under attack by 109s which strafed rows of aircraft standing out in the open.
I eventually found one Hurricane which, apart from a few bullet holes, seemed OK. We started her up and I was soon heading out over the Channel towards England.
Landed at Gatwick and on to Northolt.”
He was met by Wing Commander Broadhurst and granted 48 hours leave.
He sets off, only to fall asleep at a table in the Paddington Hotel and woke up to find
people starring at him. He was by then utterly and completely exhausted.

THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
28th of June the Squadron moved to Castle Camp – a satellite airfield to Debden, which were to be their base for the early part of the Battle of Britain.
Lewis is now primarily flying VY-Z.
Peter Townsend became CO of the squadron and soon gave Lewis his nickname: Zulu, as he had also christened his great chum, South African Caesar Hull in No. 43 Squadron, from which Townsend came.
From 1st of July operations started in earnest, and three or four sorties a day were flown, usually convoy patrols from Martelsham Heath.

18th of August – flying VY-D on a solo patrol, Lewis destroyed a Me110.
The same day the squadron moved south to Crydon.
31st of August –-flying VY-N – he got a Me 109 after being scrambled in a hurry.
The combat report reveals that 9 Hurricanes took off at 19:17 hours to patrol Hawinge.
They were then ordered to intercept Raid 18C. The first indication of position of enemy aircrafts were given by the anti-aircraft fire from Dover and then 9 Me 109s were seen flying at about 15.000 feet.
The squadron circled out to sea as the enemy aircrafts were off to the left, and then
wheeled in and caught them by surprise. Individual combat followed.
“Pilot officer Lewis fired a four-second burst at enemy aircraft from 150 yards on the beam and from slightly below. Black smoke bellowed out and enemy aircraft dived steeply.
Lewis followed it down to about 5.000 feet making sure it was done for and then rejoined squadron. Nine Hurricanes landed Croydon 20:05 to 20:22 hours.

Enemy casualties: 4 destroyed. Our losses: 0”
5th of September, 1940 the 85 Squadron was exhausted and rotated out of the battle line – north to Church Fenton in Yorkshire.
From there Lewis and the rest of the Squadron flew routine patrols and got the new
replacement pilots in shape for things to come.
The Squadron never came back to the fighting line in the south of England – but was
instead transformed to night fighting duties, due to the fact that the Germans had started to bomb London and other big cities day and night.
But Lewis had still some fighting ahead of him.
Squadrons in the south of England, was in desperate need of veteran pilots and Lewis went south again.

LEWIS JOINS No. 249 SQUADRON.
14th of September Lewis was posted to the top scoring 249 Squadron at North Weald.
He was back in the fighting again.
“A highly successful French Campaign pilot, Plt. Officer Albert G. Lewis, DFC with eight victories arrived from 85 Squadron arrived 14th of September; he was the fourth South African member of the Squadron.”
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

It was all out action at North Weald – sorties three, four or five times a day when Lewis arrived – and the very first day in the new Squadron, he shot down a Heinkel He111 and shared a probable destruction of another.
The day was one of the hardest days in the long hot summer, and were by many regarded as the turning point of The Battle of Britain.

Lewis combat report:
Encountered a formation of 18 He111 in diamond formation at 15.000 feet, with fighters at 20.000 feet, spread over a large area. I found myself with Spitfires, which split up the bulk of the formation. One became separated from the rest. I attacked from slightly below from beam, gave a three second burst, and from here got line astern; set both motors on fire causing undercarriage to drop and the e/a appeared to spiral down in vicinity of Brentwood. As soon as this was down I engaged formation again, which had by now dropped its bombs and was heading towards the South Coast. I went after a Spitfire, which broke away, the I closed and set starboard engine on fire. Wheels dropped out and e/a began to spiral down, circled by Spits.
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

18th of September he got his twelfth confirmed enemy aircraft.
Lewis combat report:
“Spotted Me109’s above us to stern. Attacked a yellow nose heading back, opening fire from slightly below, approaching head on. Gave short burst of about three seconds, pulling nose well up beneath e/a. It went in a flat spiral and following it down saw it crash near a wood. This was confirmed by Plt. Officer Worrall, Blue 3. Pilot presumed to have baled out as parachute was seen in vicinity.
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

SIX CONFIRMED AND TWO PROBABLES ON THE SAME DAY!
27th of September – flying GN-R – he shot down eight enemy aircraft in one day!
Lewis combat report from the morning:
Sighted circle of Me110’s over area near Redhill. Attacked out of the sun and fired two short bursts into e/a following a Hurricane down. He billowed smoke and went down steeply.
Again attacked circle and put a burst into another Me110 – starboard engine out of action and on fire. Climbed into the sun again delivered attack on remains of circle. Hit one who dropped out of fight, heading towards coast and, with starboard engine out of action, tried to get home. Forced him down in vicinity of some hills near Crowhurst. He burst into flames on landing at farmyard.
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Once rearmed and refuelled, seven Hurricanes lead by Lewis, (The Squadron Leader was reported Missing in Action) were ordered to patrol Maidstone before carrying a sweep of Hawking to Canterbury along with 46th Squadron.
Lewis combat report:
“As 249 Leader, sighted formation of Me109’s to north-east of Estuary. Climbed to 15.000 feet to 20.000 feet but were attacked by second 109 formation from above.
In ensuing dogfight was attacked by two 109’s, one of which I hit in belly as he passed overhead. He crashed into wood near Canterbury. Put burst into second 109, which attacked soon after the one I shot down, also in belly.
I did not observe this one hit the ground but went down smoking, whereafter smoking fires near the wood in vicinity of Canterbury could have been other aircraft destroyed, as there were no bombers.”
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Later the same day.
Lewis combat report:
“As green Leader, attacked formation of Ju88’s with Blue Section, and one just dropped out with starboard engine damaged. Closed in and carried out two beam attacks from slightly above and put engine on fire.
Keept after it as it went down steeply toward coast near Selsey Bill. Crashed into sea just near coast.
Shot down one Me109 which crossed my sights after engagement with Ju88. Went down in flames, then followed a second Me109 down which I attacked from above and it crashed in woods near Petworth. This is confirmed by Sgt. Hampshire of Green Section.
Fired short bursts of approx two to three second bursts at Me109’s and a fairly long burst at another Ju88.”
(Brian Cull: “249 at War.”)

Lewis was awarded his second DFC for this day
He thus got 11 confirmed victories in only two days – five at 19th of May and six at 27th of September.
Which is believed to be a record for single-engine British fighters.

SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES
28th of September – only the very next day – the Squadron was flying patrol over
Maidstone, and Lewis was shot down in flames while flying the same aircraft GN-R.
The Squadron was in a gentle dive, with Lewis weaving above them, when he was hit from behind by cannon shells and set on fire.
Lewis:
“We had been patrolling at 26.000 feet, making contrails and were aware that what we thought was He113’s were slightly above us, also making contrails. On being ordered back to base, we dived, with myself weaving back and forth to cover the Squadron.”
Sgt. Hampshire flying as Lewis no. 2 added:
“He and I were tail-end Charlies. I’d just had a look in the sun when he shouted: Look out!
Whereupon I took evasive action and the tracers went over my port wing.
Meanwhile they got him – and he bailed out.”
Lewis continues:
“At about 30.000 feet I was hit by by cannonfire, receiving shrapnel splinters in my legs and the Hurricane caught fire, burning fiercely at the speed at which we were traveling.
When I pulled back the cockpit cover the flames roared up around my face and, having just pulled the release of the Sutton harness, I attempted to get out.
The suddenness with which I parted company with the plane caused me to be shaken
around like an old rag, then the blissful peace and calm of falling free.
I remembered what we had been told: Don’t pull the ripcord immediately on falling free, allow time to get separated from the plane, and also to lose initial speed. Brace yourself for the jerk that follow the opening of the chute.”
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Jimmy Crossey following him down, circling the parachute to prevent him being shot at.
Lewis landed safely, but was severely burned and was taken to Faversham Cottage
Hospital. Blind for two weeks, with a piece of shrapnel in his leg and severe burns on the face, throat, hands and legs.
He received his little golden caterpillar with his name engraved on the back while in
hospital, which confirmed his membership of the selected band of pilots who had saved their lives by parachute.
After two months in hospital and convalescing, Lewis returned to the 249 Squadron in December 1940 having been promoted Flying Officer on 29th of November.

17th of January 1941 he became A flight Commander and received a Bar to his DFC.
He then flew local, night and day. Enemy- and routine patrols and Fightersweeps.
The war was far from over.

One of Lewis fellow pilots, Tom Neil remembers:
“When I taxied into my hardstand to stop, I saw Gerald Lewis’ Hurricane just ahead of me. He was still in the cockpit as I dropped to the ground and I saw him waving his arms in my direction. When I walked towards him, I could see why.
There were massive damage to the left hand side of the cockpit. No wonder he was upset; it was a miracle he had not been killed or badly wounded.”
– Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

No. 249 Squadron was one of the highest scoring squadrons in The Battle of Britain, with 54 enemy aircrafts destroyed, 16 Probable and 17 damaged.
April1941 Lewis was taken off combat duty and posted to No. 52 OUT as an instructor and commander of C flight.
(At Debden with 52 OUT he flew a Spitfire for the first – and only time – in his life)

OVERSEAS SERVICE
Lewis volunteered for overseas service and was posted to 261 Squadron in January 1942.
Via Sierra Leone he went to Tricomalee in China bay, Ceylon to take command of 261
Squadron – a Squadron famous for it’s defence of Malta earlier in the war.
Lewis recalls that the force consisted of himself as CO, 6 Flt Lts, 3 FOs, 8 Pos, 1 WO pilot and 34 Sgt. Pilots. Most of the force were Australians and New Zealand pilots with a few Canadians and an American.
China Bay was a grass airfield – or rather – a clearing in the jungle. Everything was “under construction” and very primitive.
Malaria was bad. Typhoid was caused by foul water supplies and after a Jap bombing, all waterborne sanitation was smashed and cholera added to their troubles.
Most of the dead were buried wrapped in blankets in long trenches, as there was no time to make coffins. Despite all that – the force developed a love for the island of Ceylon.

SHOT DOWN SECOND TIME
9th of April – the day before his 24th birthday, Lewis led his Squadron to intercept a
Japanese raid and as he was taking off, his aircraft was hit by fire from one of the Japanese Zeros.
He was wounded in the left shoulder and could not use his arm.
On fire – once again – he bales out at only 200 feet, with his parachute opening just in time. He could see his base was under heavy attack and for six hours he lay suffering from shock until he was found by some natives, who revived him with coconut milk, and helped him back to the base.

In June 1942 he returns to Britain via South Africa, where he was amazed and
embarrassed to find himself …”a local lad who had hit the limelight”
He had his portrait painted by Springs artist Johannsen – commissioned by the City
Council of Springs and was give a few days leave to see his folks.
Lewis remembers:
“It was rather trying, one reception after another, speeches, grinning whether you liked it or not. And although my ego was no doubt was exercised I was relieved when it was all over!”
For the rest of the war Lewis stayed in Britain. First as Chief Flying Instructor at Tealing, in Scotland. Then at 10th Group HQ and at 11th Group HQ.
A letter of gratitude from a yank Lt.Col. 8th USAAF, while Lewis was a Squadron Leader.

AFTER THE WAR
Lewis left Royal Air Force on 16th of February 1946, having been an Acting Squadron
leader since 22nd of April 1943.
After the war Lewis started farming. First in Britain – but in 1947 he went back home to South Africa.
In 1953-55 he studied agriculture in the USA where he also became a member of The
Church of the Latterday Saints (Mormons), but in 1957 he returned to farm in England.
Albert Gerald Lewis, as well as being a brave and resourceful pilot, was also a deeply
religious man. He provides a summary of his philosophy of life like this:
“As my mind reflects on The Battle of Britain and on the many wonderful characters who formed a part of that scene and died a quarter of a century ago in order that the world might be a better place to live in – as did those in The First World War – and indeed all righteous people from the beginning of time – I wonder, have we achieved lasting peace?
If we are not to disappoint ourselves and all of those who have come before, we need a plan – one that is practical and embraces all mankind.
I sincerely believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plan which can embrace the world so that all who desire to – may live in peace.”

His grandson Nathan Lewis (the small boy on his fathers arm, next to Albert Lewis)
remembers:
“I knew and loved him until he passed away when I was 8 years of age.
My memory of him is of a deeply humble man, who was very spiritual on his out look on life, he truly loved his fellow man. As a young boy who would watch the battle of Britain movie and held grampy in some kind of awe, I vividly remember telling him that he was my hero after hearing from my father and uncles about his exploits. When grampy asked why and I told him because of his being an ace fighter pilot he looked at me and told me quietly that he was no hero, he was just one of many people who had a job to do and a duty to serve those that couldn’t help themselves.
His later life was always marked by how he served others; he seemed driven by a need to give all he had to helping others.”

TOM NEIL REMEMBERS
In an epilogue in his book “Gun Button to Fire” Tom Neil writes about several of his fellow pilots and what happened to them after the war.
It is obvious that Tom Neil and Lewis were truly great friends. But it is also evident that Tom Neil lost contact with Lewis.
This is also the first time somebody mentions that Lewis might have suffered from “combat fatigue” – very understandable with all he had been through. Fighting from the early days in France and during Battle of Britain. Being shot down several times, badly burned once and several other close calls. A man who gave everything.

Here follows Tom Neil’s own words:
“Gerald Lewis was another South African, a short-service officer who came to 249 in
September 1940. A splendid looking young man, he was 6ft 3in, had a mop of flaxen hair and a very engaging grin.
He had also been very successful during the early months of the war, serving in France with no. 85 Squadron and earning a DFC after being credited with the destruction of at least five enemy aircraft and himself being shot down, though uninjured.

Continuing his good work with 249, he claimed another nine enemy aircraft before he was again shot down on 28 September, this time bailing out after badly burned.
Recovering in Faversham Hospital he rejoined 249 in January 1941 and, having being awarded a bar to his DFC, he joined my own flight and flew with me on several offensive sorties over France.

On 10 February, 249 Squadron was acting high cover to a bomber attack on Dunkirk, with my own section of four, consisting of Lewis, Crossey and Davis, flying rear-guard at 20,000 feet.
Over the target, we were attacked by a large force of Me 109s, Davis being shot down
almost immediately and Lewis badly mauled.
Landing back at North Weald, the cockpit of his aircraft a wreck, I found Lewis profoundly disturbed by the incident and unusually critical of the manner in which such sorties were being carried out. It was this engagement, I believe, that was a tipping point for him, as he never felt entirely comfortable on any such operation again.
When in April 1941, the squadron was told it was to move to the Middle East, as a married officer, Lewis was informed that he would not be making the journey and that he would be posted to the new OTU then being formed at Debden.
So, his departure from the squadron, sadly, was to be the last time I was ever to see him. Although we only served together for five months, I grew to be very fond of Gerald. A shy and retiring young man, he was never at ease in mixed company especially and, despite his splendid physique, seldom took part in any overt horseplay.

Inordinately fond of his home country he would talk at length – usually after dinner in the mess – about the glories of South Africa and how important it was for me to emigrate to the Drakensburg Mountains after the war.
Later, I was told by friends serving with him, how he had gradually lost confidence in
himself and that he was keen “to get away from it all”. So that when he was posted to
command No. 261 Squadron in “out of way” Ceylon, it must have come as a great relief.
But the fates were against him as he was to move into trouble!
Only weeks after arriving in Trincomalee, a Japanese carrier force attacked the Island and he was shot down and wounded again, when in the act of taking off to intercept.
I believe he returned to the United Kingdom several months after the Ceylon incident, but I lost track of him until many years after the war.

It was only in the 1990s, in fact, that Pat Wells informed me that earlier he had met Gerald in South Africa and that our late colleague had “taken to religion in a big way”, and was “trying to convert everyone”.
I had long been aware that before his arrival at North Weald, Gerald had married, but I never heard mention of any children. Nor indeed, now, if he, his wife or any near relation is still alive – he was two years older than me and, as I write, must now be well into his nineties.
If, however, children did result, they would be proud of their fathers achievements, as he gave a great deal for Britain – and South Africa.”

Albert Gerald Lewis died 14th of December 1982 – only 64 years old.

Article by Søren Parup and re-published with permission.


SAAF Sabre in War Eagles Museum New Mexico

Wilfred Teper visited the War Eagles Air Museum in New Mexico and found a SAAF Sabre #365 on Display.

 

It seems that this aircraft was one of around 10 sold to Flight Systems of California to be used as target drones, but is in a flying condition at the War Eagles Museum.

 

(Civil registration revised, NX106JB (F-86E MK.6, 23684), indicating ownership by War Eagles Air Museum, Santa Teresa, NM.)

 

 

 

 


SAAF Boats

Article by

Willie (Buskruit) Burger

Velddrif   Dec 2014

SAAF Boats – Short History

THE NOW ALMOST INVISIBLE BOND BETWEEN THE NAVY AND THE AIR FORCE

shack1

By 1940, when the first South African forces were deployed in East Africa, the Mediterranean Sea was under German and Italian control. The Suez Canal was thus an ambush, just waiting to happen. The Cape sea-route was the longest but safest route to East Africa and Egypt. By the middle of 1941, Japanese forces had overrun so much of the Eastern Indian Ocean territory that it was obvious that Australia would fall next. Japan made contact with the Vichy-France government in Madagascar and Japanese aircraft deployed to this “permanent aircraft carrier”. It is a fact that Japanese reconnaissance aircraft flew over Durban on two occasions.

 

Under these circumstances, it became necessary for the Royal Navy, British ground forces and the South African Air Force to invade Madagascar. The campaign did not last long, but few people realise how close the War came to South African shores. But, German U-boats and surface raiders still sank 153 Allied ships within 1 600 km of the South African coast.

 

In 1939/40, the patrolling of the sea-route was carried out with commandeered SAA Junkers Ju-86 airliners. When these aircraft were needed in East Africa as bombers, the reconnaissance and patrolling of the long coastline was taken over by Avro Ansons of 32 Flight at Brooklyn Air Station, (now Air Force Base Ysterplaat – Cape Town). The Anson was made mainly of wood and canvas, it had a range of 1 050 km and could carry 4 X 40 kg anti-submarine bombs.

 

A commandeered Junkers Ju-86

A commandeered Junkers Ju-86

 

Avro Anson

Avro Anson

In December 1939 a unit was formed at Youngsfield, to operate a 40 foot (12 metre) armoured target boat in False Bay. The MALGAS was used as a target on the bombing and gunnery range at Strandfontein. Seven tonnes of armoured steel were fitted to the deck and sides to protect the crew and engines. A second armoured boat (MALGAS II) and a high speed rescue launch (MALMOK) arrived at Cape Town in March 1940. The unit was visited by General Pierre van Ryneveld, Chief of the Air Force, who gave the order that the unit should be known as the SAAF Motorboat Wing. The first military craft of this type, to operate on our coast, was thus under the control of the Air Force, and would remain so for almost 30 years.

 

The Motorboat Wing received 19 “Crash Boats” between May 1941 and May 1944. They were built in Florida, USA, and were 63 feet (19 m) long. They could maintain a speed of 40 knots (74 km/h) for 15 minutes, but their cruising speed was 22 to 25 knots (41-46 km/h). They had a range of 500 nautical miles (926 km), and they were all equipped to handle six casualties/patients. They were numbered R1 to R20. (Superstition regarding the number 13 caused the number to be omitted). The nineteen boats were distributed between Durban, Port Elizabeth, Gordons Bay, Cape Town and Donkergat (opposite Langebaan).

 

(In 1961 and 1962, two German built, Krogerwerft (29,3 metre) Crash Boats – R30 and R31 were delivered . These were the forerunners of the T-craft, now used by the Navy in the air-sea rescue role.

 

Air Force Crash Boat R 20

Air Force Crash Boat R 20

In 1942, the war in North Africa was at its peak, and the front moved backwards and forwards, as Allied and Axis forces attacked and counter-attacked. All supplies to the Allied forces in Egypt had to pass round the Cape by sea. The antiquated Ansons could not cope with the defence of the sea route any more, and a Royal Air Force Squadron, number 262, started operating from Durban’s Congella Base, using Catalina flying boats for the long flights, to assist shipping against the U-boat threat. Langebaan lagoon was used regularly by the Catalinas, and in 1943 a detachment of Dutch Navy Catalinas was also active in Saldanha Bay. Congella Air Station (Langebaan Detachment) was built in this period, where Langebaanweg is situated today.

Consolidated Catalina

Consolidated Catalina

The Catalina flying boats needed support boats during daily operations. At Lake St Lucia, Richards Bay and Langebaan, the motorboat squadrons had to operate five other boat-types, to support the flying boats, viz, Seaplane Tenders, (for towing the Catalinas and later the Sunderlands), Safety boats, Refuelling boats, Fire Tenders and Marine Tenders, which were also used as bomb-scows, for the transport and loading of bombs and depth charges.

 

For the sake of continuity, the term “flying boat” is used throughout this narrative. The British preferred the term “sea-plane”, but the SAAF used “flying boat – vliegboot” in daily conversation. By the American definition, an aircraft with a boat shaped lower fuselage was termed a flying-boat, and an aircraft with added-on floats was regarded as a “float-plane.”

Seaplane Tender ST 433 at Langebaanweg in 2002

Seaplane Tender ST 433 at Langebaanweg in 2002

 

The loss of life in South African waters, as a result of enemy action, was very high. The NOVA SCOTIA was 34 km off St Lucia, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. 750 people, mostly Italian prisoners of war, went down with the ship. But on the positive side, it is a fact that the crash boats were able to rescue almost 500 lives during the war.

 

To supplement the search and rescue ability, the Air Force acquired Lockheed Ventura Mark 1& 2 bombers. The first arrived at Brooklyn Air Station in 1942. The Ventura had a range of 3 100 km at a speed of 450 km/h.

 

Lockheed B-34 Ventura Mark 2

Lockheed B-34 Ventura Mark 2

Lockheed manufactured a maritime version of the Ventura; the PV-1 patrol bomber. Except for the American forces, the SAAF operated more Venturas than any other country. Between 1942 and 1960, the SA Air Force operated 130 B-34 bombers and 134 PV-1 maritime patrol bombers.

 

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

PV1-3 ventura

 

After the war, the number of crash boats was decreased, but the Motorboat Squadron at Donkergat and Langebaan survived. The boats remained under Air Force command and control until November 1969. With the bombing range at Tooth Rock (Jacobsbaai) in daily use, it was necessary to have a crash boat on constant stand-by just outside the danger area. There were accidents and incidents and the crews were seldom bored. The Navy took over the crash boats in 1969, and got rid of all but two of them. This was not because the sea-rescue ability was no longer necessary, but the arrival of the helicopter drastically changed the whole perspective.

 

The maritime role of the SA Air Force did not change or end after the Second World War. Remember that 262 Squadron (RAF) and the Dutch Navy, patrolled the territorial waters and coastline with Catalina flying boats. As the RAF crews returned home after their tours of duty, more and more South Africans were absorbed into 262 Squadron. Number 35 Squadron (SAAF) was born out of 262 Squadron, (in February 1945) before the end of the War. The new squadron’s 8 Catalinas were supplemented, and eventually replaced by 15 Sunderland flying boats, and anti-submarine warfare remained a priority until the end of the War. The emblem of 35 Squadron was a Pelican standing on the map of Africa. The Motto then was SHIYA AMANZI; which was Zulu for “Rise from the Water”.

 

After the War, 35 Squadron remained at Congella. The boats which served the Sunderlands, Catalinas and Anson, were Air Force boats, and remained in service until the Sunderlands were withdrawn in the mid–fifties. Yes, the Squadron also had an Anson float-plane. This Anson with floats, was the only one in the world.

Sunderland Flying Boat taking off from Congella in Durban Harbour

Sunderland Flying Boat taking off from Congella in Durban Harbour

The Squadron moved to Ysterplaat (Cape Town), and from there continued its tasks – coastal patrols and search and rescue, using PV-1 Venturas. In 1957/58, the Avro Shackleton MR-3 long range, maritime reconnaissance bomber replaced the Ventura. The Squadron Motto then changed to SHAYA AMANZI; which was Zulu for “Strike the Water”.

 

ENTER THE SHACKLETON

Shack 1717

Eight Shackletons were acquired by the SAAF in 1957/58. Not long after they arrived, they made headline news when one of the aircraft flew non-stop, right around South Africa in 14 hours. In 1958, one of the Shackletons remained in the air for 21 hours and 10 minutes. The Shackleton had a take-off mass of almost fifty tonnes, of which just over 14 tonnes was fuel. The total fuel capacity of a Shackleton was 17 802 litres.

 

The sight and sound of an approaching Shackleton, must have been the most beautiful thing on earth, to many a shipwrecked sailor. With the bomb-bay doors closed, the Shackleton could carry a SARO 3 airborne lifeboat. The metal boat could be dropped by parachute and it had an inboard engine, mast and sail, supplies and emergency equipment. However, the airborne lifeboat was never used in an actual rescue mission. The drag limited the aircraft’s range drastically, and Lindolm-gear was carried instead. The Lindolm-gear consisted of three rope-linked canisters, each with its own parachute. One canister contained a ten-man dinghy, and the other two contained water, provisions, food and blankets.

 

In later years, when the Cold War (between East and West), had the World in its grip, no ships, of any country, sailed round the Cape without being observed, photographed and documented by Shackleton or Albatross crews. The twin-engined Albatross was acquired to supplement the Shackleton. The “Trossies” were used for close, inshore work, leaving the Shacks to take care of the long distance calls for surveillance and help.

 

Avro Shackleton Mark 3

Avro Shackleton Mark 3

SARO 3 Airborne Lifeboat

SARO 3 Airborne Lifeboat

lifeboat 1

lifeboat2

Article by

Willie (Buskruit) Burger

Velddrif   Dec 2014


Thank You, CS Auto Body

Category : Contributors , News , Sponsors

csauito

The SAAF Museum extends its thanks to Lionel Barnard and CS AUTO BODY, Vehicle Specialists of note for their kind donation of CIC anti-corrosion products.

These products will be used to preserve & protect the Museum aircraft at the Ysterplaat & PE Museums.

 

 


Shortfinal TV

Category : Contributors , Sponsors

shortfinal

A huge thank you to Hilton Mundy of Shortfinal for giving us access to his videos.


The story of Colonel “Oom Vuil” Fred Potgieter.

The story of Colonel “Oom Vuil” Fred Potgieter.

 

When the SAAF bought the farm at Ondangwa to establish an air force base there was pretty much nothing but an open expanse of savanna grasslands. When the Mobile Radar Unit moved in to establish themselves, this convoy of trucks drove into the new base and stopped. There was pretty much naught but a huge big single Camel thorn tree. A grand daddy of all Camel thorn trees. It provided the only shade for miles around and there was no way it was getting cut down so, with the shady shadow it cast, it became the center point of the base. A place where the guys could hang out when they took a break in the middle of the day. It became the social center of the base to be and would remain the social center from that point on.

In fact it stands there to this day 17.8887136S, 15.947131E, despite attempts, accidental and deliberate, to inflict injury on it … it still stands.

The tree became a favorite place and so, it became a home to a bar counter that was erected in its shadow. And behind the counter, one needs a bar man. It was my lifetime mate Victor Frewen, that was the barman at Ondangwa. We grew up together. Were in school together, were in the SAAF together, Rode for the same bike club, shared the same adventures … and not out of choice or design, but because fate always seemed to let us gravitate towards each other.

The barman needed fridges and shelves behind him so those were brought in and tents were erected, to the north.

To the opposite side was the lounge with easy bush chairs in clusters around tables made of tree stumps. The bar and the counter and the lounge were open to the sky.

To the south was the kitchen, to the east was the officers mess, and to the west was the noncom mess. A plan that is retained to this day if you look at it from above, though the cross is now made of brick and metal and offset a bit so as not to interfere with the tree, for the tree is sacred to all. And if you look real close, you can just see the wall of the social circle peeping out to the side.

But back then, the cross was made of tents, and the tree was smack bang dead center of the cross.

X marked the spot. It was not called pub tree for nothing.

In the evening we would come and hang out in the bar and drink and sing and tell stories. The ranking order began at the left with the lowest ranks and ended on the right at the highest ranks, an unwritten rule that was strictly enforced. You always stood to the left of a senior officer and to the right of a junior when facing the bar. The barman’s priority of service always began on the right and he would work his way down, privates were served last, that was if he got to them before any of the seniors finished their drinks. Then he would start up at the right, again, and a private was lucky if he got served at all.

The result was that the bar always gravitated towards a natural balance of more senior base personnel and troepe went straight to B stores to collect their dop and go back to their tents when the bar reached a certain number. If there were less senior officers, the place would fill with more junior personnel but never more people in a bar than a single barman could serve in the time it took to down a round.

There were fixtures in the bar. The ATC (Air traffic controller) was one of them. He would sit there every night with his portable 2 way radio on the counter in front of him and in amongst the singing and the shouting and the laughing, the moment that radio came to life, there was immediate silence.

And I do not ever recall a single aggressive incident in the bar at Ondangwa ever. Yes there were the verbal disagreements over this or that but never anything physical ever. A senior could never strike a junior nor could a junior ever strike a senior and no one used first names. Everyone addressed each other by rank during socials. First names were reserved for when there was work to be done.

Sometimes if there were 4 majors in the lapa, a surname would creep in, but never a first name. Familiarity bred contempt.

It was Sir or rank upwards and rank downwards. ‘Could you pass us the Ice please Captain’ … ‘Here you are corporal’ … ‘Thank you sir.’ You minded your manners and you knew your place, and you did not socialize upwards or downwards unless it was with your immediate crew. Physical contact or gestures of familiarity were not tolerated ever, nor was any form of disrespectful talk. But we sang along, and told our stories, and drank together like the best of mates as long as you knew your place. And no-one was ever banned or shouted at or anything like that ever. No one had to prove anything to anyone … we did that all day long and we knew exactly what the pecking order was.

Sometimes, very late at night, the last few diehards might shuffle closer together or sit in a circle, but the rules remained … and no matter where, whether it was a seat at the table or a seat at the bar or a seat in the circle or at one of the lounge tables, you always asked before taking up a perch. It was a social sin to just come and sit uninvited, even if it was a senior officer joining a group of lower ranks … he still asked. Not that anyone ever refused, but you always asked.

And so, this fateful evening, it is about 7 or 8, just after sunset, the bar is in full swing. Singalongs and drinking. Recorded music was forbidden in the bar. No hi-fi’s no speakers, no tapes, no players. Because, no matter what was played, someone always wanted to listen to something else, so canned music was banned from the start. You drank along, and chatted along and you sang along or else you got lost. You could listen to your own canned music in your own tent.

Then suddenly the ATC’s portable comes to life. A squadron of choppers is inbound from the operational area. No problems, no cassevacs, no body bags, just a routine patrol coming home from somewhere up north.

‘Look up to the south guys, and we’ll give you a show.’ says the squadron leader.

So, everyone in the bar is up on the tables and bar counter looking out to the south for this squadron of Puma’s to give us a fly over.

‘There they are …’ says someone, and a line of brilliant stars approaches from the south. The choppers have their searchlights on, and are shining them straight at us from 2 or 3 kilometers out as they circle the base on their circuit.

Then they turn towards us and each gunner turns his spotlight onto the chopper next to him and this squadron of brilliantly illuminated choppers, line abreast like a string of pearls approaches us growing larger and larger in the night sky.

Then, so low, we can see the grinning faces of the pilots and the gunners they are upon us and over us, and gone and the whole bar and the tents shudder with the noise and the downdraught and the chachachacha bass of the chopper blades … I even felt the ground shudder under my feet. … and a sudden violent mini dust storm is blown up in the bar and loose light things like sheets of paper and hats go flying around.

We rush out of the bar to watch them pull up to the north, and peel off to come in for a single file landing while they now keep the spotlights aimed at us around the bar.

I tell you, there is nothing more intimidating than having a squadron of Puma gunships focus their spotlights on you, when you know that there is a gunner with a 50 cal behind each spotlight.

So they land, and we drift back into the bar babbling excitedly about what a brilliant shoot up that was and how that was the lowest flyby we had ever seen and so on and on and on.

Now, I mentioned that there were certain fixtures in the bar. Permanent residents, night after night after night, like clockwork they were there, and one was an old colonel, who was regarded by the SAAF as being to old to fly combat, and maybe it was because he was mates with his other senor staffers that dated back to the second world war, and maybe they didn’t want to loose him in a combat mission, even though he wanted to keep on flying … so they gave him a Dakota and the daily milk run from Ondangwa to Katima Mulilo and pretty much let him do whatever he wanted to as he got the job done without stuffing anything up.

He was actually a great old man, and many nights we would sit around at the end of the evening, listening to his stories of how he took on Rommel and his fighters and bombers and how he got shot down and how he escaped across the desert through enemy lines, by burying himself till the tanks and trucks had gone past, till the battle line had moved over him. Of how his squadron, low on everything including ammo and planes, built the biggest home made cannon ever made and blew half the bloody Luftwaffe out of the sky with it…

Us youngsters, then 18,19,20, were his captive audience, we loved his stories and he loved his audience, and we would hang on every word of his virtually till the light of dawn. And then, after breakfast, after about a gallon of coffee, he would send a runner for his co-pilot, and then he would instruct us …

‘Carry me to my plane!’

And arm in arm, the old colonel and us would take a stroll up to his plane, no we did not carry him, but we steadied him if he wobbled a bit. And off he would go on the milk run, to return that afternoon late, to once again take up his spot in the bar, and god help anyone if they were on his perch on the right hand end of the counter when he waked in.

And you could see how he would sit an listen in envy as the new young chopper pilots told their tales of action and he would almost challenge them as to the hairiness factor of having a gunner shoot a gook for you from hundreds of meters away if he was carrying an AK 47, as opposed to taking on 4 Messerschmitt’s with a Spitfire.

‘You young wippersnappers dont know shit … You wait till I chase your arse all over the sky with 8 Browning’s and then, if you get away from me matey, then you can come and brag in the bar … but don’t talk to be about a hairy day when a gook takes on your kite with an AK47 and your gunner takes him out while all you need to do is fly straight and level so as not to upset the aim of your gunner. Balderdash.’

So, the banter flew back and forth … and it was good for a laugh … it was good natured … and he put one or two uppity chopper pilots in their places … but you could tell that it cut a bit when he got chirped right back again with remarks like ‘save your war stories for the young’uns Colonel, they’ll believe anything you say!’ … ‘ you just stick to your milk run and leave the real work to us real pilots that go out to get the job done’ and such like. And so the banter would fly back and forth, sometimes very funny, and sometimes very very bitchy.

It was therefore quite obvious that when the chopper pilots walked into the bar they were the center of attraction and the old Colonel, sitting right at the end of the bar, on his unassailable perch, looking down at his whiskey, did not say anything as all. He conceded them their 15 minutes of fame, their moment in the sun so to speak.

And it might just have remained so, had some YDFC chopper pilot, carried away in the exuberance of the moment, not slapped the Colonel on the back and said, ‘How was that for some low flying Old Man’ The bar came to an absolute standstill and the chopper pilot, realizing he had committed several cardinal sins in one stupid move stood back. He had physically struck a senior officer, he had encroached into an area of the bar that his rank did not belong, he had socialized upwards without invitation, and he had addressed a senior officer with a level of familiarity that did not become his status or relationship with that officer.

It was so quiet you could hear the tree growing, and that in itself is a fairly quiet process.

And it was early evening, it was still many hours away before the Colonel hit his stride … He was to all intents and purposes, as sober as a judge. he looked at the chopper pilot and stood up in front of him, straight and tall, and it was actually a surprise to note how tall he actually was when he stood up straight like that … and he said …

‘Young man, I will pardon you your social faux pax and put it down to the exuberance of the moment, but that, you little prick was not low flying … if you want to see some night time, low flying … I will show you some low flying you and your squadron will never forget. …’ he turned to his one pip loot co-pilot, the only officer that sat out of sequence at the bar in his permanent position next to his chief pilot … ‘KOBUS … escort me to my aeroplane!’

He stalked out of the bar with his co-pilot in tow, as the bar remained in deathly silence … The chopper pilot turned to his other squadron members,

‘Sorry mates, I stuffed up there’
‘Damn right, but don’t worry, buy him a whiskey when he gets back and you will all be best of mates by the end of the evening …’

And so, life in the bar returned to normal.

It was about 15 minutes later when we heard the Dakota motors fire up. and the bar became quiet …

‘Ondangwa Tower this is Mike One’ came his voice on the 2 way radio in the bar.
‘Go ahead Mike One.’
‘Fuck the takeoff clearance … you guys want a show … I will give you a show …’ And we all poured out of the bar onto the open ground outside as the Dakotas motors went to full power at the start of the runway .

He held it there for about a minute or so … and then released the brakes.

The empty Dak surged forward down the long runway

About a quarter of the way, the tail came up, and then up a bit more

About half way, the Dak had long passed takeoff speed and was running balls to the wall full tilt tail high down the runway

Three quarters down, and the tail came down a bit

And as it reached the end of the runway, people were expecting the biggest prang they ever saw, the tail went down, the nose came up and the Dak went vertical, straight up, through an almost vertical barrel roll, and leveled out as it approached the stall, then it joined the same holding pattern that the choppers had an hour or so earlier … and it descended through the turn and then with all lights on, came straight for the pub, lower and lower and lower …

‘He’s too fucking low …’ shouted one of the pilots
‘The tree … he is going to hit the tree ..’
‘YOU ARE GOING TO HIT THE TREE!’ shouted the ATC into the mic.

 

‘Now wont that be low flying …’ came the reply.
‘Brush!’ said another
‘Brush!’ shouted the ATC into the mic
‘What about it?’ said the colonel
‘Watch the masts at BRUSH!!!!’
‘Fuck yes’ came the reply … ‘Just you watch them!’
‘Oh my god, he is going to hit the masts!’ I was standing on the earthen embankment next to the road, which was maybe the height of a single story house when he went over the embankment with very damned little margin for error. I watched the guys in the bar scatter in all directions … Some of the brave chopper pilots had reckoned bullshit … This was just going to be another low showoff flyby … They did not know how low till it was too late … and then it was too late.

The Dak scraped over the top of the tree, both blades trimming the top … it was into the tree, through the tree, and out the other side … and then, dead ahead there was BRUSH, ‘Bush Recon Unit Signals Headquarters’ with its array of some 10 to 15 masts … all lit up with hazard lights … and the Dak went right wing down in a snap roll, faster than I had ever see a plane do a snap roll in my life before … it went right wing down and full left rudder and arse end down and it crabbed nose high, tail down, straight through the middle of the mast farm at BRUSH, with wingtip feet off the ground, he flew straight through BRUSH and out the other side and leveled out and once more did a climbing victory roll before joining the circuit and coming in for a perfect three pointer landing.

As the Dak taxied back to the apron, we ran out to meet it. It was an absolute mess. The antennas had been ripped away under the belly. There was camel thorn in the motors, in the cowlings, in the gear, in the tail wheel … there were thorns in the cockpit and even in the closed toilet in the back of the plane.

Most interesting of all were the several lines of antenna wire wrapped around the wing, which had till a few short minutes before, been strung between the masts at BRUSH.

We went back to the bar, and the Colonel walked in to a standing ovation from all the chopper pilots who were still picking leaves and thorns out of their flight suits and hair … and choruses of ‘And he’s a jolly good fellow’

The Colonel waked up to the chopper pilot that started it all, put his arm around his shoulder and said …

‘So, what do you think sonny, how’s that for some low flying … reckon the old dog as still got a bit of a bite left in him or what ?’

The chopper pilot handed the Colonel the whiskey and ice he had been holding pending the Colonels return.

‘To your very good health SIR!’ he said snapping to attention.
‘And yours as well lieutenant’ said the Colonel raising the glass and holding it till all the glasses in the bar were raised.

After that, when the Colonel gave a chirp to any chopper pilot that got too big for his boots, and the chirp was returned … his mates would stop him right there … with comments like …
‘No no no lieutenant … don’t go there … its been tried before and it did not end well … ‘

I guess that was what the old Colonel needed, was just a chance to prove that he still had it … and he seemed changed after that.

But we still hung out with him in the pub into the late hours of many a night and listened to his stories. He was a bit of a hero figure to us, and he was our connection … when we needed transport, anywhere, any time, we could hop on board with him and he would even make small detours for us. Weekends saw us hopping over to Rundu to park on the beach for 2 days, or over to Katima to the Zambezi lodge and so on.

One day, his ground crew, and don’t ask me how they fucked up, but they did, had loaded his Dak with a double load of cargo. They loaded it once … and then somehow, a duplicate load was loaded on board.

He always used to pull this stunt of holding the Dak down to the last minute, and the hauling it hard up into the sky … only this time it did not haul up, it barely lifted … but it did lift , and barely made it over the perimeter fence and he flew it all the way to Katima … trying to figure out why the old bird was not performing like her usual self.

When he landed in Katima, they offloaded the cargo intended for them, and found the plane still half full. The investigation found that he was something like 1.7 times overloaded and the plane should never have gotten off the ground, let alone flown … but his stunt of revving the plane down the full length of the runway till the last moment, something he loved to do is what pulled it off.

‘I always knew that trick would come in handy one day, I never figured that it would save me and my plane the way it did.’ He was a cool guy and a great pilot. I remember him and the stunts he pulled and the stories he told.

But that is a story of Colonel ‘Oom Vuil (Uncle Dirty)’ Fred Potgieter, as best remembered. ends:

 

 


Tinus Le Roux Interviews Lt Bryan Jones

Tinus Le Roux Interviews Lt Bryan Jones


Warswaw Airlift 69th Anniversary

By Kind Permission – Tinus Le Roux

Commemoration of Warsaw Airlift 1944 SAAF flights 69th anniversary.

I attended this function at the Katyn Memorial in Jhb last Saturday 7 Sept.

[scrollGallery id=25]

Thanks to the Polish embassy for a memorable and pleasant event.

The only surviving SAAF airman who participated in the 1944 Warsaw supply drops is navigator Lt Bryan Jones.

See Tinus Le Roux’s interview with Lt Bryan Jones, survivor of the Warsaw Missions


  • -

Building the 1:48 scale 35 Sqn C47TP Falcon

Category : Contributors , Features

Building the 1:48 scale 35 Sqn C47TP Falcon
My name is Stewart Moon and I am an ex-SAAF member now living in the United Kingdom. I served from 1986 to 2001 and was based at Air Force Base Durban and Forward Air Command Post Durban (FACP DBN).

On 24th February 2013 I purchased myself a Revell 1:48 scale C47 Skytrain model. I wanted to build myself a C47TP but to do that, I would have to do a conversion from the original DC3 piston engine, 3 blade propeller, to an extended Turbo Prop engine cowling and a 5 blade propeller. I thought it would be quite easy. Oh how wrong I would be. If I had known how difficult it was, I would have stuck to the standard DC3/C47.

I first started on the Internet and eBay looking for a C47TP conversion kit. Hours of surfing the internet turned into weeks and I was coming up empty handed. There was nothing in a 1:48 scale. So I contacted Red Bear Resin who was selling the conversion kit for the 1:48 scale Basler BT67, similar to the C47TP. I also contacted The SAAF Museum.

There was a conversion kit for a C47TP but only in a 1:72 scale and not in a 1:48 scale. So I continued to surf the Internet and came across a company in Thailand who built wooden desktop models. They agreed to make the engines and the 5 blade props from wood if I could supply them with pictures and dimensions. Everything was going well. The work on making the 2 engines plus the 5 blade propellers would take approximately 2 weeks and 4 weeks to arrive in the UK.

Then disaster struck, the company decided there was too much of a risk, worried that their representation would be on the line if the engines did not work out. So it was back to the drawing board, sending out loads of emails to companies asking if there was anyone out there that could make my two engines. No luck. The only way around this, was to build the two engines myself from scratch. This is my story on How I Overcame The Odds And Built The First Ever 1:48 Scale 35 Squadron C47TP Falcon.

STATISTICS

1.  All hand painted
2.  Both engines were handmade
3.  218 hours to build and paint
4.  345 hours on the Internet
5.  £145.00 to make (approximately R2100.00)
6.  Started on 27 February 2013
Finished on 28 May 2013

THE BUILD

The model came moulded in a light grey colour.

Photo 1

After deciding what colour scheme, I spray painted the fuselage, wings, rudders, tail and flaps in a dark blue paint.

Then I marked out the wings and flaps with masking tape to represent the white markings.

Photo 2

Hand painted with 3 layers of white model paint.

I then built and painted inside the cockpit.

Photo 3

Then started on the South African Flag on the tail. This took quite some time to complete as each colour was individually painted with 3 coats of model paint.

Photo 4

During this time, I was working on a few drawings for the two turbo prop engines.

Photo 5

I then started to make stencil cut outs of the falcon that would later be hand painted with 3 coats of paint onto each side of the fuselage. This took a great deal of time, patients and a very steady hand.

Photo 6

Spent approximately 3 weeks on the falcon but well worth the effort as it looks great on the aircraft. I was still trying to find a company to make my two engines. I did consider the Basler BT67 conversion kit but opted out.
It would be down to making the engines myself from scratch. I sketched up a few more drawing with dimensions. The best way to build the two engine cowling’s would be out of Balsa wood.

Photo 7

So I purchased a block of balsa 50mm x 50mm x 250mm.Measured out each engine then slowly carved and sanded down until the engines came into shape. I left a section at the back to allow the engine to fit snug into the wing section by the wheel bay.

Photo 8

The engines would later be resined with 3 coats and painted. The next stage was to drill holes on both sides of the engines to allow for the exhausts which I made out of spare piping from the kit, cut, heated up and bent into shape.

Photo 9

They were then pushed into place and secured with resin. I was unable to find them on the internet. The astrodome was removed, filled in, sanded down and spray painted dark blue. Once the engines were shaped and sized, I started coating them with three layers of resin. Each coat having to dry before applying the next coat. Final stage was to spray paint both engines.

Photo 10

Again 3 coats were applied.

THE 5 BLADE PROPELLERS

The 5 blade turbo propellers was the combination of a 1:48 scale 5 blade Spitfire XIV and the spinner the 1:72 scale Spitfire XIV. The holes on the spinner had to be drilled bigger to allow for the 1:48 scale blades to fit comfortably. The blades were then fixed and glued into place making up the 5 bladed C47TP.

Photo 11

They were later painted in the correct colour scheme.

THE UNDERCARRIAGE

I bought the metal 1:48 scale undercarriage/landing gear from America to fit Revell models. They were later glued and resin onto the wing mounts. The wheels were painted and fixed into place.

Photo 12

The rear tail drag wheel snapped into place.

INSTALLING THE TAXI LIGHTS

An additional feature to my C47TP was to put taxi lights into the wings, so they could work like real thing when turned on. Using the wing support strut, I glued an extra piece of wood. I then drilled 2 holes into the wood (making sure they lined up with the holes in the wing) Then placed 2 micro light bulbs into the holes. Wired up the lights to a switch and battery underneath the main wing.

Photo 13

Once switched on they looked like the real thing.

THE FINAL ASSEMBLY

After almost 3 months of building, carving and painting it was time to put everything together.

Photo 14

I first attached the 2 engines to the wings.

Photo 15

I then attached the wings to the fuselage.

Photo 16

Photo 17

Once everything was dried, I attached the two 5 blade turbo propellers, given me my almost finished 1:48 scale 35 Squadron C47TP Falcon.

Photo 18 Lights off

All that remained now was to glue on the three antennas and place decals onto the fuselage.

Photo 19 Lights on

              Photo 20

The completed 1:48 scale C47TP taken on 28 May 2013 (My 50th Birthday)
I am assuming this is a one of a kind in the world in this scale and colours?

So……..
You ask, why did I made this model?

I heard on the news about the C47TP that cashed in the Drakensberg on 6 December 2012 and all SANDF members were killed.

Well……..

I made this model to remember those poor souls that lost their lives that day. R.I.P. Guys. You will always be remembered, as I have something to remember you all by.

It was a pleasure and an honour to build this model.

GOD BLESS.

Stewart Moon


SAS President Kruger

F150Krugerss

pp-tribute

Today, 31 years ago on the 18th February 1982 the SAS President Kruger and 16 of my crewmates were lost at sea.

http://www.saspresidentkruger.com/