Famous characters of the Border War – Major Helmuth Adolf (Tikli) Kessler, who flew a PA28 Cherokee which he converted to have fire power and bombing capability in support of operations.
Major Kessler from the SWATF (South West Africa Territorial Force) – 1 SWA Squadron used the PA28 primarily as a spotter and also engaged combatants with his improvised weapons system. He was tragically killed whist supporting ground operations in 1982.
Major Kessler had a ” tube” which he used to drop grenades from between the seats and the two RPK’s (each with two 40 round RPK magazines welded together) under the wings.
He experienced an engine failure (attributed to a bent valve) whilst in support of ground operations and called in a forced landing. On landing the plane up-ended and the grenades in the tube fell out and exploded.
Major Kessler was regarded as a bush war a legend with a larger than life personality and he is sorely missed by all who knew him.
I met Major Kessler, he was a Captain at the time, in early 1980 on one of his one month rotations. In April ’80 I flew with him as his observe as his regular observer had been injured on the previous rotation. It was my job to pull out the locking pin and replace it from the grenade laughing tube with the 3 or 4 grenades in it after takeoff and at the end of the patrol before landing. It was rather disconcerting know one had live grenades in a tube between your legs and the safety pins hanging on a control knob on the dashboard in front of you!!
A great man and legend of the Bush War and it was a privilege to fly with him.
I was based at 54Bn during ‘81-‘82 Tiffies and me and my bud who was the armourer serviced his weapons on that plane on a few occasions when he landed at our base during ops!
I was a young pilot on my first operational tour to AFB Ondangwa in April 1982 where I met the major a few days before he died. He was quite a character and i have never forgotten my brief encounter with him.
I am researching the story of 1 SWA Squadron with the idea of putting something together for what would have been their 60th anniversary in two years time.
Maj Kessler and his Cherokee have a whole section to themselves!
Any images or anecdotes will be very welcome.