Remembering a true South African military hero – the highest decorated South African Defence Force member and the legend that was Major Arthur Walker HCG and bar SM. Sadly Arthur passed away in March 2016 after a long fight against cancer.
Major Arthur Walker HC and Bar SM was a South African military hero of which there will never be an equal, he was South African Air Force helicopter pilot who was awarded the, not once – but twice, during the South African Border War.
The Honoris Crux Gold was the highest military award for bravery awarded to members of the South African Defence Force at that time – so his feat of obtaining two of them can never be repeated again.
Born 10 February 1953 in Johannesburg he matriculated from King Edward VII School in Johannesburg and went to the Army in 1971.
He obtained his pilot’s wings in 1977 and flew for 7 Squadron, Rhodesian Air Force, before re-joining the South African Air Force in 1980.
While flying Alouette III helicopters based at AFB Ondangwa in 1981 he was awarded the Honoris Crux Gold for risking his life during a night operation in Angola, by turning on the lights of his helicopter to draw enemy fire away from another helicopter.
The citation for the Honoris Crux Gold reads:
“During January 1981, two Alouettes, with Lieutenant Walker as flight leader, carried out close air support operations resulting in the Alouettes coming under intense enemy artillery and anti-aircraft fire. He only withdrew when ordered to do so. Later Lieutenant Walker returned to the contact area to provide top cover for a Puma helicopter assigned to casualty evacuation. Again he was subject to heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. During the withdrawal the second helicopter developed difficulties and called for assistance. Yet again Captain Walker returned to provide top cover, drawing virtually all the anti-aircraft fire to his Alouette. His courageous act prevented the loss of an Alouette and crew.
Lieutenant Walker’s actions were not only an outstanding display of professionalism, devotion to duty and courage, but also constitutes exceptional deeds of bravery under enemy fire and makes him a worthy recipient of the Honoris Crux Gold”
In December 1981 he was cited for landing in enemy territory to search for and rescue the crew of a helicopter that had been shot down.
An Alouette III of the SAAF
The citation for the Bar to his Honoris Crux Gold reads:
“During December 1981 Captain Walker was again requested to provide top cover for the evacuation of a seriously wounded soldier. On take-off with the evacuee his number two helicopter was hit and crash-landed. Without hesitation and with total disregard for his personal safety, Captain Walker landed near the wrecked helicopter and immediately searched for the crew. Eventually the situation became suicidal, compelling Captain Walker and his crew to withdraw. When he was airborne he spotted the missing crew and yet again, without hesitation and despite the fact that virtually all enemy fire was now [aimed] in his direction, he landed and lifted the crew to safety.
Through this courageous deed he prevented the loss of two men. His distinguished actions, devotion to duty and courage make him a credit to the South African Defence Force in general, the South African Air Force in particular and makes him a worthy recipient of the Bar to the Honoris Crux Gold”
With sincere thanks to Arthur for sending us a full colour image of himself in uniform – Rest in Peace Arthur. At the going down of the sun …we will remember you.
The context of the Honoris Crux Gold, as described in the article is not true – the HCG was in fact the 3rd highest award for bravery, not the highest. The highest RSA military decoration for bravery at the time was the Castle of Good Hope Decoration (equal to Britain’s Victoria Cross), followed by the Honoris Crux Diamond – both of which went unawarded during the apartheid era. But Major Walker certainly was the most highly decorated South African combatant post-WW2, so this in no way diminishes his achievements or standing in the annals of South African military history \m/
Hi Adam. I wrote this after attending Major Walker’s funeral, I felt that splitting hairs over the grades of HC’s would redirect, wash down and diminish the purpose of the article – which was honouring Maj Walker as the highest decorated SADF member post 1961 and pre 1994. I am very aware of the grades of HC which is why I specified the ‘Gold’ in the knowlege the ‘Diamond’ was never won – which makes it a bit of a non-stater as it was never seen on any recipeient, by default now that it does not exist, the ‘Gold’ is the highest accolade.