The King awarding South African Battle of Britain two time ace in a day, Zulu Lewis, his 2nd DFC.

King George VI conferring a Bar to Flying Officer A G Lewis’s Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for bravery,  in an awards ceremony at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Lewis, a South African, had just returned to service with No. 249 Squadron RAF after being shot down and badly burnt on 28 September 1940, at which time, during the Battle of Britain, he had himself already shot down 18 enemy aircraft.

To read more about this remarkable South African hero, and how he became a ‘ace in a day’ on two occasions – follow this link to a full observation post article on him:

The South African pilot who earned ‘Ace in a Day’ – TWICE! Albert ‘Zulu’ Lewis DFC and Bar

DFCLGThe Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to personnel of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, instituted for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.

Albert Gerald Lewis was from Kimberley, South Africa, and had the nickname “Zulu”.

Photo copyright Imperial War Museum collection.

Britain’s “Simonstown Agreement” included the SAAF’s Buccaneers

Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S Mark 50 1970. South Africa was the only country other than the UK to operate the Buccaneer, where it was in service with the South African Air Force from 1965 to 1991. In January 1963, even before the H.S. Buccaneer S had entered squadron service, South Africa had purchased 16 Spey-powered Buccaneers. The aircraft order was part of the “Simonstown Agreement”, in which the UK obtained use of the Simonstown naval base in South Africa in exchange for maritime weapons.

The SAAF “Boston Shuttle Service”

South African Air Force (SAAF) Operations in North Africa during World War 2..  Here SAAF pilots perform the “Boston Shuttle Service” a squadron of Douglas Boston Mark IIIs of No. 3 Wing SAAF positioned for their famous simultaneous take-off manoeuvre on a landing ground in the Western Desert. This commenced with all aircraft turning into wind in line abreast. The leading aircraft, on the right-hand side, then commenced its take-off run with the remainder following in echelon port so that each aircraft avoided the dust of the one ahead.

The term “Boston Shuttle Service”,  was given to the SAAF’s single most memorable feat in North Africa in which eighteen aircraft of 12 and 24 Squadrons showered hundreds of tons of bombs, primarily using Boston Medium bombers, on the Afrika Korps as it relentlessly pushed the Eighth Army back towards Egypt during the “Gazala Gallop” in the first half of 1942.

No. 3 (S.A.) Wing was a South African Air Force commanded formation during World War II that served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. It was formed on 28 August 1941 and initially consisted of Royal Air Force and South African Air Force squadrons under South African command, known as No. 261 Medium Bomber Wing but became a fully fledged South African formation on 23 September 1942 when the RAF Squadrons were transferred from it leaving 12, 21 and 24 Squadrons SAAF as its assigned units.

Reference Imperial War Museum, SAAF History – SAAF website and Wikipedia. Image copyright Imperial War Museum.

Smuts’ sixth sense

Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Jan Smuts accompanied one another just after the D Day landings to General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s headquarters, 12 June 1944.

Left to right: Lieutenant-General Sir Richard O’Connor, commanding VIII Corps; Churchill; Field Marshal Jan Smuts; Montgomery; Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Here these Allied commanders are seen looking up at aircraft activity overhead.

An interesting snippet of history happened during this visit by Smuts and Churchill to Monty’s headquarters. While visiting the headquarters and as senior officers stood outside with the Prime Minister (Churchill), Field Marshal Smuts sniffed the air and said, ‘There are some Germans near us now…I can always tell!’” and low and behold, just two days later, “two fully armed German paratroopers emerged from a nearby Rhododendron bush, where they had been hiding all along (they had become isolated from their unit, seeing that they were unable to rejoin they chose to surrender). Had they used their guns and grenades on Churchill (and Smuts), everything would have changed.

There you have it, Smuts’ keen sense of smell and intuition is another attribute you can add to the very very long list of honours attributed to this great South African.

Reference: Nicholas Rankin “Churchill’s Wizards”. Image copyright – The Imperial War Museum.

Annals of wars we don’t know about: The South African border war of 1966 – 1989 By Robert Goldich

It’s rare and quite refreshing to see insight like this on the Border War from foreign Defence analysts, or even contemporary South African Defence analysts (due to political bias) – but this one by an American, Robert Goldich is particularly good – enjoy – Peter Dickens.

By Robert Goldich

Best Defense panel of consulting historians

There aren’t many truly unknown wars these days. Military history writing, scholarly and popular and in between, has mushroomed over the past several decades. But military events under the Southern Cross receive much less attention, because the vast majority of the developed countries are well north of the Equator.

Reading South African accounts of the 23-year long Border War between South Africa and the Angolan liberation movement UNITA on the one hand, and the Angolan government and army, supported by large Cuban forces on the other, is almost hypnotically compelling. This is not only because for most of us north of the Equator it is so distant. The names of both natural features and people involved, and the range of cultures they represent, sound exotic to our ears, and hold one’s attention.

The tactical and operational lessons from the Border War are mostly variations on usual military themes — solid and relevant training, doctrine, and attitudes — but that the most significant lessons of this conflict for the United States are far broader, and sobering, in nature.

What happened?
South Africa came under steadily increasing foreign criticism and isolation beginning in the 1960s due to its policy of apartheid, or racially discriminatory separatism. Armed resistance by black Africans took two forms. One was isolated acts of terrorism in South Africa itself mounted by black liberation movements based in bordering countries, mostly under the direction of the African National Congress (ANC) and its military component, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK). The MK’s attacks were mere pinpricks at best.

Far more formidable was a guerrilla movement against South African rule in Southwest Africa (SWA), later independent Namibia, beginning in the late 1960s, by the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO). The latter would also have remained insignificant had not Portuguese colonial rule collapsed in Angola, directly north of SWA, in 1974-1975. This left a military vacuum from which SWAPO forces could train, equip, and debouch into northern SWA without any hindrance. Interestingly, nothing similar developed on the other side of Africa. Mozambique, where Portuguese rule had also evaporated, had close economic ties with South Africa and was not willing to see those vanish for the sake of anti-apartheid military campaigns. Furthermore, South African special operations forces, both covert and clandestine to varying degrees, severely crippled the MK’s ability to build up and sustain forces capable of attacking South Africa from all of the black African states which bordered South Africa.

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The Bush War – UNITA captures Cuban pilots

October 31, 1987 South Africa’s Angolan ally in the Border War – The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known by its Portuguese acronym UNITA, captured two Cubans after shooting down their MIG-23 jet over Angola’s eastern province of Moxico. Cuba, in an unprecedented public admission, confirmed the incident identifying the Cubans as Lt. Col. Manuel Rocas Garcia and Capt. Ramos Cazados.

Photo courtesy of the Russian Angolan Veterans Union.