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Historic Aviation => Air War => Topic started by: JamesF on May 10, 2011, 03:13:43 PM

Title: Commonwealth contribution
Post by: JamesF on May 10, 2011, 03:13:43 PM
As this forum topic covers Commonwealth members service during the war, I felt I would take the oppertunity, to write about the effort of the South African air Force during the war.  The reason for this is in 2001 (a while ago I know, maybe it's changed?) my wife and I were visiting the UK.  We had a wonderful time, and I got the chance to visit both Hendon (superb) and Duxford.  At the time I was serving as a contract QFI with the Royal Air force of Oman, but had ben a serving member of the SAAF from 1981 to 2000. 

At Duxford, there was a room devoted to acknowledging all foreign personnel who had served with the RAF during the war.  Great displays were to be seen recognising the magnificent contributions of Canadians, Poles, Danes, Australians, Dutch, Norwegian and many others to name a few. Perhaps it was the legacy of the unfortunate "apartheid" years, or the awkward Rhodesian declaration of UDI by Ian Smith, because I was so saddened and dissapointed to see virtually no mention at all of South Africans and Rhodesians.  (I think Sailor Malan was mentioned).  I don't want to politicise this, but has it been?  (The irony is I know so many ex SAAF members were supporters of the Smuts Union government, and were appalled at the policies introduced by the Nationalist Government in 1948).  In a forward written by Laddie Lucas for Peter Bagshaw's book "Warriors of the Sky"  Laddie Lucas tells aheartwarming story (to me anyway). 

1985 at an RAF Aircrews Association gathering of 700 members, Guildhall, London.  The MC, ACM Christopher Foxley Norris, then still an upright and commanding figure, was introducing defence representatives of foreign Embassies, who were attending, to stand in turn and introduce themselves..  Each was warmly applauded as wartime memories flooded back...Then it was the South African representative's turn to introduce himself,  being an Officer of the South African Air Force.  At a time of the height of political vehmence against South Africa, the political paradoxes and inconsistancies of the time, politics was put aside, for as the SAAF officer stood,  the room of 700 errupted into a long roar of welcome...ACM Norris pauses tellingly, to let the meaning of this welcome sink in. The SAAF was unique in that as it started out as an independant Air force in East Africa, so it continued.  It was the only Commonwealth Air Force to fly under it's own colours in the War, (Same markings as RAF, but Orange in roundel centre instead of Red).  By wars end, SAAF members had earned 1CB, 9 CBE's, 35 DSO's, 26 OBE's, 5 MC's 429 DFC's, 23 DFM's 88 AFC's and 63 MBE's.  Two members serving with  RAF Bomber Command  had earned VC's.  2319 had been KIA, 1000 wounded and 280 were POW. 

So what could be the reason  Duxford Imperial War Museum, seems to have largely ignored that? 

Title: Re: Commonwealth contribution
Post by: Edgar Brooks on May 10, 2011, 07:31:35 PM
I think it's a little unfair to ask the members, here, to speculate on a possible business (or even political) decision taken by a company's directors. The only  course of action, as I see it, is to write to the Imperial War Museum (not Duxford,) and pose the question to them. Any guess, which smacks of an (unfounded) accusation could draw an angry response, even a threat of a libel action, from the museum management.

Title: Re: Commonwealth contribution
Post by: JamesF on May 11, 2011, 01:30:16 PM

Thanks for your reply.  I don't mean to be unfair, I had thought it a subject that might generate some discussion on a forum.  I am hoping a forum member might have recently visited Duxford and proceed to correct my impression freom when I was there in 2001.  You are however right, I should take it up with the IWM.  This I have done.  I have asked them to please be so kind as to give a brief description on what displays/mention is made of South African aircrew contribution or personnel, in the Foreign Aircrew display.  I should say a lot of other Commonwealth countries could claim the same impression.  But yes, I do feel South Africas contribution as noteworthy.  For another example, the number of Allied aircrew trained by the WATS scheme in South Africa and Rhodesia, was surpassed only by Canada.

If I've understood the end of your reply.  I have expressed a viewpoint.  In this era of freedom of speech, to think that "directors of a company" charged by the British Public to hold accurate historic record, and taking British Public money to do so, could possibly react "angrily" and "threat" with possible "libel action", I find utterly astonishing!!??  In light of this, I've gone onto the IWM website, and typed in "Commonwealth' into the search engine.  I was interested to see what mention may be made of South Africa.  Reference this discussion, it was indeed interesting.

As I said, my intent was to generate discussion and I am hoping a recent visit to Duxford, by a forum member, would be able to set me straight.  I would be thrilled.  However, if the forum moderator feels this topic is "sailing too close to the wind", feel free to remove it.