Avro Shackleton Ground Run

Avro Shackleton Ground Run


Video by kind permission of Marek Vincenc.

AFB Ysterplaat Timeline


1941 – 1945















































Brooklyn Air Station established on 24 October.


Hangers, buildings, railway siding, fuel installations and

three runways constructed.


The first aircraft that landed on the newly constructed

airfield was an Avro Anson.


First batch of aircraft assembled took off for flight tests

on 19 January.


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


Wireless station with transmitting and receiving buildings constructed.


Camp facilities for Womens Auxiliary Air Force constructed.


The first Baltimore and Kittyhawks arrived from the docks.


6 Squadron relocated to Brooklyn in November.


Cape Fortress wireless transmitter station also relocated.


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


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

Kittyhawk, Maryland, Harvard, Hurricanes.


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


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

an independent sub unit.


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


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



1946 – 1959














































300 Harvards crated at Brooklyn and shipped to the UK.


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


Venturas escorted the HMS Vanguard with the Royal family

on board.


17 Squadron was officially opened with Major Stanford as OC.


RAF Commodore Atcherly and jet specialists arrive to

prepare pilots for the Vampires.


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


Eleven pilots from Ysterplaat selected to join UN in Korea.


7 and 27 Active Citizen Force Squadrons was established.


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


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


The last of 77 Vampires assembled.


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


Three Sikorsky helicopters assembled.


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


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


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


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



1960 – 1967











































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


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


2 Aircraft Maintenance Unit was founded.


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


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


22 Squadron reformed as 22 Flight with 6 Wasp helicopters.


402 Air Field Maintenance Unit received unit status.


Sikorsky helicopters replaced with Alouette III.


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


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


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


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


17 Squadron crews rescued 76 people from the SA Seafarer.


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


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




1968 – 1972











































The status of Ysterplaat is upgraded from a Station to

Air Force Base.


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


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


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


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


16 Super Frelon helicopters were assembled.


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


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


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


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


25 Squadron started operational flying tours at Rundu.


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


A new Control Tower was constructed.


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

Luanda in November 1971.



1973 – 1980














































Alouette II helicopters were withdrawn from service.


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


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

Ysterplaat received their first three television sets.


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

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


22 Flight was restored to full squadron status.


First Dakota sprayed a camouflage colour scheme.


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


The last Harvard took off from Ysterplaat.

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


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

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


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

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




1981 – 1991














































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

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


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

and SAS Tafelberg.

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

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

2 ASU become a depot to extend production capacity.


Shackletons perform a farewell formation over Cape Town.

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


505 Security Squadron was established in June.

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


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


First Dakota maritime paint scheme on display for the media.


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

Air Crash simulation in Goodwood involving 400 personnel

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


25 and 27 Squadron amalgamated with 35 Squadron.


Ysterplaat Squadrons took part in the rescue operation of

219 passengers from the stricken Oceanos.



1992 – 2002















































11 Air Depot amalgamated with 2 Air Depot.


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


A concrete wall was erected around the Base.


Puma helicopters airlifted 40 crew members from Riverplate.

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

Non – Statuary Forces.

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

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

operations were flown by the piston engine Dakotas.


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

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

Oryx helicopters arrive and J-type Pumas phased out.

A Delville Bush Memorial Service was held at

Cape Town Gardens.

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


Air Show held in October in conjunction with Thunder City.


The new millennium kicks off with the biggest fires yet and

are followed by floods in Mozambique.


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


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



2003 – 2011














































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


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


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


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


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


The Museum Shackleton, 1722, performs its last flight on

29th of March.


The first two Lynx helicopters arrive at Ysterplaat in July.


35 Squadron foils a drug drop by a foreign vessel.


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


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


AFB Ysterplaat was awarded the Freedom of Entry to the

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


AFB Ysterplaat was a hive of activity with the FIFA 2010

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


The USAF participated in another international AAD Air Show.


Ysterplaat Air Force Base celebrates its 70th birthday.


The Shackleton in the SAAF

And what is it then that this old “grey lady” does to all who come into contact with her? It defies logic, even the men who fly and maintain her are also tightly bound within that intrinsic aura that surrounds Pelican 22.

The aircraft has a long and illustrious history. The Shackleton was born due to the need for a long range extra endurance maritime reconnaissance platform. The German Navy of World War 2 had taught the British some harsh lessons in the North Atlantic in the opening stages of “the Battle of the Atlantic” when shipping losses due to enemy action in the form of surface raiders and submarines became unacceptably high. By 1943 a project was implemented to design an aircraft specifically to provide maritime reconnaissance and effective defensive and offensive aerial cover for the many shipping convoys between Great Britain and the rest of what was left of the then free world. The importance of the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope was a strategic issue then as it still is today. Shipping losses in South African waters were exceptionally high (105 vessels sunk due to enemy action) between 1939 and 1945.

Aircraft of the South African Air Force and the Royal Air Force patrolled these waters with aircraft such as the Sunderland, Catalina and Ventura PV1. At the end of the war, maritime operations were downscaled to a large degree.

Developed from the design of the AVRO Lancaster and subsequently the Lincoln, the first proto type Shackleton flew in the March of 1949. The type went into production for the Royal Air Force and was taken into service in February 1951.

The threat of the emerging cold war in the 1950’s again emphasized the importance of the Cape sea route and the ageing Sunderlands needed to be replaced. After a lot of consideration the Shackleton was identified as the right machine for the job, but only after a number of major modifications had been brought on. It must be kept in mind that the Shackleton was originally designed as a tail dragger, but the South Africans wanted tricycle landing gear, additional tip tanks to improve range and better soundproofing inside the aircraft. Considering that the British had improved upon the Shackleton Mk I and already had a Mk II in service, this new version for the South African Air Force was designated the Mk III as we know it today. Subsequently the RAF also bought Mk III’s, and only the two Air Forces ever operated Shackletons.

The SAAF took delivery of the first Shackletons in May 1957 and they arrived in South Africa in the August of the same year. The aircraft were numbered successive to the serial numbers of the Sunderlands, the first Shackleton of a total order of eight was numbered J 1716, an aircraft that was fated to die in a spectacular albeit tragic manner in the Western Sahara Desert on her ill fated trip to RAF Fairford in the early hours of 13 July 1994.

The second batch of Shackletons arrived on 26 February 1957, amongst them P 1722, the only one of eight still flying in the 21st Century.

The sound of the Shackletons was to become well known to the citizens of the Cape and the maritime community. Although the role of the Shackleton was primarily aggressive, it became better known as an ethereal angel of mercy to those merchantmen, fishermen and other sailors who so often found themselves adrift in the treacherous seas off the South African coast. Of the eight Shackletons that were operated by 35 Squadron, only two crashed, and only one with a total loss of 13 crew members when 1718 crashed into the mountains near Stettynskloof Dam on the night of the 8th August 1963.The remaining seven aircraft carried out front line service up until November 1984, by which time the Sanctions imposed by the United Nations against the Government of the day made it nearly impossible to keep the aircraft in service. At the time, Pelican two- two and her sister aircraft had patrolled both the eastern and western coasts of South Africa for twenty -seven years.

After the last fly past of three aircraft (1716, 1722 and 1723) over Air Force Base Ysterplaat the seven Shackletons were dispatched to various locations throughout South Africa for static display purposes. In the Cape Argus of the 22 November 1984, a cartoon appeared on the editorial page of this Cape Town afternoon newspaper. It was of a man in the water desperately trying to get the attention of the last Shackleton flying away from him towards Table Mountain. The accompanying editorial summed up the meaning of the Shackleton not only to the people of Cape Town and the Western Cape, but also, to the international maritime community. “No one can be happy, except possibly the Russians, at the news that after twenty seven years of meritorious service patrolling the Cape sea route the Shackletons, this country’s only specialized maritime reconnaissance aircraft have made their last flight”. ” During theses years the Shackletons became a living legend, famed for their reliability and honoured for the many lives they saved in search and rescue operations under the most difficult conditions”. Starved of spares by a UN arms embargo, only the great dedication and ingenuity of their Ground Crews have kept these aircraft serviceable for so long”. ” But now, they have had their day, and the world’s nations – and especially crews who round the Cape of Storms – could well be the losers”. And so ended the Shackleton era, but the stories and legends that proliferated around them live on today. Many of the men who flew and worked on them became legends in their own right, some still surviving and many passed on.

“Pottie” with Denise Dos Santos

Shackleton 1716 and 1721 were sent to the SAAF Museum at Air Force Base Swartkop for preservation. For some obscure reason, 1722 remained at 35 Squadron at Cape Town International Airport and was quietly maintained by Warrant Officer Potgieter in his spare time. This single act of dedication to a machine he loved so much was going to provide the SA Air Force and it’s Museum with the world’s last flying Shackleton Mk III.

It is interesting to note that the SAAF Museum has been approached by the RAAF Museum and the Royal Dutch Air Force Museum for assistance relating to operating and preservation procedures and policies for their respective historic flights. Once again Air Force Base Ysterplaat to the rescue and leading the way. In Andrew Schofield’s Documentary “Shackleton 1722” the viewer of this film will also find it a love story between man and machine. The footage of Brig General Ben “Gun” Kriegler’s last flight is memorable. Attention is drawn to the end titles set to the classical “Highland Cathedral” performed by the SA Army Band and the closing landing of the Shackleton as the concluding footage.

The DVD is available at the SAAF Museum and costs R170.00. The SAAF Museum gratefully acknowledges the roles of CFS, 22 and 35 Squadrons and the many members of Air Force Base Ysterplaat for their roles in the making of this documentary.

C. Teale

Sikorsky S55 Whirlwind (HAS 22)


A5 (cn 55-959) (Image by Gunter Grondstein)


The S-55 was introduced into the SAAF in 1956, with further airframes arriving in 1956 and 1957. These were assembled at Ysterplaat, and joined an S-51 as the Helicopter flight at AFS Langebaanweg. This flight was later re-established as 17SQN.


1953 – Built by Kaiser Corporation and delivered to Sikorsky on 26/05/53 after making an acceptance flight on 11/02/53. WV224 arrived at Gosport, UK on the 26/09/53 and issued to 706 Squadron (coded 733/gj) Fleet Air Arm on the 14/10/53.

1954 – Transferred to 845 Sqdn. On 01/03/54 and coded “s”, whilst with 845 Sqdn WV224 would almost certainly have taken part in the Suez operations of 1956 flying from HSM Theseus, the first British amphibious assault using helicopters.

1957 – Sent to RNAS Lee-On-Solent on 01/04/57 and passed onto Westland Helicopters at Illchester for cat 4 reconditioning on 29/05/57.

1958 – Returned to Lee-On-Solent via RAF Shawbury on 27/04/58 from Westlands and issued to 848 Sqdn coded “354” on its formation on 15/10/58, departing to Malta on HMS Victorious.  NOTE:  Code 354 is reported but can not be confirmed.

1960 – Transferred to RNAS Hal Far SAR Flight Malta 01/01/60 and may have been coded “958”.

1962 – Returned to the UK (details unknown) and arrived at Westlands, Weston-Super-Mare for cat 4 reconditioning on 21/05/62.

1964 – Sent to NARIV?  Lee-On-Solent for UHF installation on 04/11/64.

1965 – Issued to 728 Sqdn at Hal Far Malta for SAR duties on 23/03/65 to replace WV203 and coded “961”.  WV224 was flown back to the UK from Malta on 30/08/65 arriving back at Fleetlands on 04/09/65.

1966 – Joined 781 Sqdn at Lee-On-Solent on 23/02/66 and was sent to NARIV for installation of MAD gear (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) still coded “961”.  Returned to NARIV on 14/09/66, presumably for MAD gear removal, moving to Fleetlands on 28/09/66, rejoined 781 Sqdn at Lee-On-Solent on 20/10/66 on a temporary basis and sent back to Fleetlands on 17/11/66 for storage.

1970 – Sold to Autair Helicopters on 19/11/70 and departed on 01/03/71 to be used as a spare source for other Autair helicopters.  WV224 arrived at Port Elizabeth with  3 other ex RNAS S55 airframes.

It’s believed these were flown by Autair to Grand Central Airport in Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth .


The only information we have is that they languished in a hanger and in due course given to the SAAF Museum at Swartskop with WV224 finding it’s way to Ysterplaat.


706 and 845 squadron Oxford Blue. It is believed it was refinished in extra dark sea grey with upper surfaces and sky lower surfaces while with 848 squadron.

Back to Oxford blue when it was transferred to SAR Flight, Malta.

829 squadron RAF blue grey.

This particular airframe is another volunteer project, and is being restored under the  guidance of Richard Woodard, who became particulary intimate with the type when  he was posted to RAF Kuching in Borneo, serving with 225 SQN.

Jeep towing the S 55 prior to restoration.
Restoration complete

Avro Shackleton

View through the bomb-aimer window.
Brig-Gen Ben Kriegler was one of the elite ‘shack’ crew.
“They don’t REALLY bend like that, do they?” (Image by Gordon Clarke)

A descendant of the Lancaster, the Shackleton is an experience to see and hear.

Often described in terms far from complimentary, the Shackleton is a marvelous aircraft,  and to be involved in assisting in the protection and upkeep of this important piece of  aviation history, this “Katherine Hepburn” of the skies, is a remarkable privilege.

WO H. J. “Pottie” Potgieter, project leader of the dedicated team who keep the ‘Shack’ flying.

A dedicated band of volunteers and reserve SAAF members are involved in maintaining  this incredible aircraft.

The following terms are some of the terms used to describe the Shackleton.

“This aircraft looks like a box of frogs”

“The Shack reminds me irresistibly of an elephant’s bottom – gray and wrinkled outside
and dark and smelly inside.”

“10,000 loose rivets flying in close formation”.

“The contra-rotating Nissen hut”

The Prototype Shackelton GR 1 first flew in 1949. The first MR3 flew in 1955. The MR 3 has a length of 28.2 meters, is 7.11 meters high, and has a wingspan of 36.52 meters.

Powered by four Rolls Royce Griffon 57A piston engines delivering 1831 kW (2455 hp) each,  and equipped with contra-rotating propellers, the aircraft can move it’s gross mass of 45 360 kilograms at 486 kilometers per hour at 3657 meters above sea level. With an service ceiling  of 5852 meters and a range of 6782 kilometers, this aircraft and it’s crew of 13 could cruise at 322 kilometers for hour over a large area.

Armed with 2 x 20mm Hispano cannon in the nose, the bomb bay could carry a large range of  items. These included three Mk 30 or Mk 44 torpedoes or depth charges, or nine Sonobouy or  nine 250lb bombs. On search and rescue operations, the Lindholme gear, consisting of a set of five containers with supplies, including a dinghy, could also be carried. The use of the SARO lifeboat, which was fitted to the outside of the bomb-bay doors, was discontinued by the SAAF.