On 06 May 2015 a memorial service was held at the Major Edwin Swales VC DFC memorial at the Durban High School to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Edwin Swales (1915 – 2015), the 70th anniversary of the death of Edwin Swales (1945 – 2015) and the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (1945 – 2015).
The event was organised and coordinated by David R. Bennett, a Durban High School Old Boy and Edwin Swales biographer. During the event the following were presented to the Durban High School:
• A one in thirty-two scale model, in a glass display cabinet, of a Lancaster Bomber Aircraft (a copy of the type of aircraft flown by Edwin Swales on the operation during which he was tragically killed) sponsored and presented by Mile Jacklin. The Model was built by Peter Jacklin.
• The original Edwin Swales Flying Log Book was found in the Archives in the United Kingdom by Paul Kilmartin who has had a copy bound made.
• The personal file of Edwin Swales, a pre-war employee of Barclays Bank DC & O (now First National Bank – FNB) was traced and a copy will be presented by Mr Preggy Pillay.
Numerous persons assisted David with organisation which include Messer’s Pat Goss (a DHS Old Boy) and Preggy Pillay both Directors of FNB. FNB sponsored the event.
Following the welcome by David Bennett the South African National Anthem was sung. This was followed by a short address by Mr Leon Erasmus, the 14th Headmaster of the Durban High School which was founded in 1866. Mr Paul Kilmartin then provided a historical background on Major Edwin Swales VC DFC SAAF and Victory in Europe Day (08 May 1945) where after the presentations took place.
Dr Edwina Ward, niece of Edwin Swales, thanked everyone on behalf of the family followed by the dedication of the memorial events by the Reverend Canon R. N. van Zuylen. Then followed the Last Post, 2 minutes silence, Reveille and the laying of wreaths.
Following the tragic loss of Edwin Swales, Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris KCB OBE AFC Chief of Bomber Command Royal Air Force, wrote a letter to Edwin’s mother, Mrs Olive Essery Swales, saying inter-alia the following: “On every occasion your son proved be a fighter and resolute captain of his crew. His devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety will remain an example and inspiration for all of us.”
The documents from the South African Air Force promoting Edwin Swales to Major only reached the British authorities in the United Kingdom after his death and the awarding of the Victoria Cross was gazetted, hence the rank “Captain” on the citation of his Victoria Cross. His headstone and all other official documents reflects his rank as “Major”.
In 2013 Swales was awarded the “Bomber Command” clasp to be worn as clasp on the 1939 – 1945 Star.
On 11 November 2009 the then Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, and Dr Edwina Ward unveiled the memorial to Major Edwin Swales VC DFC SAAF at the Durban High School.
You can watch the short interview by the South African Broadcasting Corporation with Dr Edwina Ward, Paul Kilmartin and David Bennett at
A TRULY SOUTH AFRICAN HERO.
Story for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross with information and photos provided by David Bennett.