South African Battle of Britain “Few” – Frederick Posener

P/O Frederick Hyam POSENER, born on the 11th August 1916 in East London South Africa, a Jewish lad, son of Jack and Cissie Posener.  His father was an insurance agent and the family traveled regularly between South Africa and the Great Britain. He was educated at St. Andrew’s College, Grahamstown.

15284901_10210159757088884_3824330762325074957_nIn 1938 Frederick moved to Great Britain and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) on a short service commission as part of the Empire Flying Training Wing.

He trained at 3 Flying Training School, South Cerney flying Hawker Harts, on completing his training he joined No. 152 squadron on the 1st October 1939, which was equipped at the time with Gloster Gladiators.

No 152 Squadron became the gift squadron of Hyderabad and took as its badge the head-dress of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Motto “”Faithful ally”

Frederick Posener was one of the first seven Pilot Officers to join the Squadron, and on the 25th November 1939 the “Blue Section” of B Flight, 152 Squadron went to Sumberg to reinforce the Orkney Islands 100 Wing.

On the 15th December 1939 Blue section at Sumberg was handed over to Coastal Command, however in the same month, on the 23rd December, whilst flying Gloster Gladiator N5701, Posener overshot on landing and spun in from 100ft, he was seriously injured in the accident and on recovery he rejoined 152 Squadron at Acklington.

Posener transferred with the Squadron on the 12th July 1940 to the forward Fighter Station at RAF Warmwell in Dorset, the squadron by this time had been equipped with Mk 1 Spitfires.

Spitfire_I_UM-_H_152_Sq_warmwell

Taking a break: July 1940, Pilots of 152 squadron based at RAF Warmwell in Dorset

Death

On the 20th July 1940 in Spitfire K9880 P/O Frederick Posener took off at 12:45 as “Green 3” of B Flight to cover petrol convoy Bosom just off Swanage, 7 miles south east of the coast line in the English Channel, he was acting as a “weaver”.

poseneur

He was seen still in his position at 10,000ft as the convoy was reached, he was about 200 to 300 yards behind RAF Spitfire “Green 2”.  At this position he was shot down by Oberleutnant Homuth flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 3/JG 27, the lasts word heard from him was “tail”, he then baled out of his Spitfire which then crashed into the sea. He was seen to land on his parachute in the sea near to the convoy but to the rear and starboard of it, this went unseen by the convoy and he was never seen again, he was 23.

Gerhard_HomuthOberleutnant Gerhard Homuth was one of the top scoring German Luftwaffe aces in the Second World War. He scored all but two of his 63 victories against the Western Allies whilst flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109, especially in North Africa, he was later promoted to the rank of Major.  He was last seen on 2 August 1943 in a dogfight with Soviet fighters in the Northern sector – Eastern Front whilst flying a Focke Wulf 190A. His exact fate remains unknown.

P/O Frederick Posener is named on the Runnymede memorial, Panel 9, one of the “South African FEW”, lest we forget.

28C54C53_1143_EC82_2E66A5A8950F1E0B


Researched by Peter Dickens

Reference: The Kent Battle of Britain Museum and Battle of Britain London Monument and Wikipedia.  The featured image shows P/O Frederick Posener on the left, E.S. Hogg and W. Beaumont are to the right of him.

‘Stapme’ the handlebar moustached South African & Battle of Britain icon

Squadron Leader “Stapme” Stapleton DFC Dutch FC was born on May 12th 1920 in Durban, South Africa, he died on April 13th 2010, aged 89.  He was truly one of the most remarkable characters ever to fly for The Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, D Day and Operation Market Garden, as this Daily Telegraph “Aircrew Remembered” obituary column outlines:

1307_10153714899566480_6236182998249877025_n“Tall, blond and sporting a splendid handlebar moustache, Stapleton was the epitome of the dashing fighter pilot. As the Battle of Britain opened in July 1940, he was flying Spitfires with No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron and saw action off the east coast of Scotland. He shared in the destruction of two German bombers before his squadron moved to Hornchurch in late August as the Battle intensified.

Within a few days Stapleton had engaged the enemy fighter force escorting the Luftwaffe’s bombers, and was credited with probably destroying two Messerschmitt Bf 109s. By the beginning of September No 603 was one of the most heavily involved squadrons, and Stapleton accounted for a Dornier bomber on September 3 and a Bf 109 two days later – the latter flown by Franz von Werra, who later became famous as “The One who Got Away”, being generally regarded as the only Axis PoW to escape from Canada and make it back to Germany.

On September 7 Stapleton’s Spitfire was hit by enemy fire, but he managed to force-land his badly damaged aircraft. A young couple having a picnic in an adjacent field gave him a restorative cup of tea before driving him back to his airfield.

On September 15 (Battle of Britain Day) Stapleton shot down a Dornier bomber and damaged a fighter. By the end of the Battle on October 31, he had destroyed two more Bf 109s and probably a further three. On November 11 he gained his final success when he shot down a Bf 109 over Ramsgate. A few days later he was awarded a DFC.

During that summer of 1940, 13 of his colleagues were killed and others seriously wounded – including his friend Richard Hillary (later the author of The Last Enemy), who was badly burned.

large_000000

A day with No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Fighter Squadron who have 128 German aircraft to their credit. The picture shows: Pilots of City of Edinburgh Squadron with their latest addition, a Spitfire presented by natives in Persia.

When reflecting on the Battle in later life, Stapleton observed: “Despite the casualties, when I look back, I recall we also had great fun. It was an exciting time and we made the most of our opportunities to live it up. We tended to treat each occasion as if it were our last.”

Basil Gerald Stapleton was born in Durban, South Africa, on May 12 1920 and educated at King Edward VI School in Totnes, Devon. He entered the RAF on a short service commission in January 1939 and, after a brief spell flying Blenheim night fighters, joined No 603 Squadron.

It was while he was with 603 Squadron that Stapleton got his nickname, “Stapme”. It derived from the exclamation habitually uttered by the newspaper cartoon hero “Just Jake” whenever he spotted an attractive girl. Much to the irritation of his flight commander, Stapleton would pin the daily cartoon strip to the squadron’s notice board.

Stap Me

Captain A.R.P Reilly-Ffoull was from the wartime cartoon strip ‘Just Jake’. Just Jake ran for 14 years in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

In March 1941 Stapleton was rested, but he soon volunteered to fly Hurricanes catapulted off the deck of a merchant ship sailing with the North Atlantic convoys. He completed four trips without seeing any action before embarking on a second tour of operations as the flight commander of a Hurricane squadron (later Typhoon), flying bomber escort operations over France.

In August 1944, after a period as a gunnery instructor, he was put in command of No 247 Squadron, operating from advanced landing grounds in Normandy – where he discovered ample supplies of Calvados; he not only enjoyed drinking it, but also found it effective fuel for paraffin lamps and his Zippo lighter.

He soon arranged for the squadron intelligence officer, an excellent artist, to paint a logo on the nose of his Typhoon. It showed a Nazi swastika topped by a burning eagle – the result of a strike by a 60lb rocket in the centre of the swastika. He named it “Excreta Thermo”, but the more prudent intelligence officer did not include this wording in case Stapleton crash-landed in enemy territory. In the event, this proved a wise decision.

Stapleton flew his first operation on August 27, when his rocket-firing Typhoons attacked barges on the river Seine. Within days, No 247 started heading eastwards to occupy abandoned German airfields as the Allied armies advanced towards Paris and Brussels. Stapleton and his pilots attacked enemy transports and armour against fierce anti-aircraft fire.

247

Ground crews loading 3-inch rocket projectiles onto Hawker Typhoon Mark IB, MN317 ‘ZY-B’, of No. 247 Squadron RAF at B2/Bazenville, Normandy.

On September 17 the squadron was briefed for “a very important task”: the support of the airborne operations at Nijmegen and Arnhem. Stapleton led the initial attack by eight Typhoons against German gun positions threatening the British Second Army’s advance along the road to Eindhoven.

Over the next two days Stapleton led more formations against the enemy, but bad weather forced some sorties to be aborted. The squadron then moved to Eindhoven, where the Typhoons landed between the bomb craters.

After a rowdy night, when much champagne was consumed, his Jeep ran out of fuel returning from the officers’ bar and he had to jump clear as the following vehicle failed to stop in time. Stapleton hit his head on the kerb and needed eight stitches above his eye.

sldr.-22stapme22-stapleton-w640h480

For the next two months Stapleton led many formations against gun emplacements, road and rail traffic and ferries before the German Army launched its counter-attack in the Ardennes on December 17. For days the weather prevented any flying; but finally it cleared sufficiently for eight Typhoons to carry out an armed reconnaissance sortie on December 23.

Despite still dreadful weather, Stapleton pressed on and attacked a train at low level with rockets; but the flying debris from the exploding steam engine punctured the radiator of his Typhoon and his engine failed. He was fortunate to find an area of open farmland in which to make a forced landing.

He had come down two miles on the wrong side of the battle lines and was taken prisoner. He was taken to Stalag Luft I, and remained a PoW until May 2, when the camp was liberated by the advancing Russian Army.

On January 1 1946, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands awarded Stapleton a Dutch Flying Cross for his part in the operations at Arnhem. A month later he left the RAF, believing that he would not fit in with a peacetime air force.

Stapleton joined BOAC, flying West African routes for three years before returning to South Africa. There he spent six years as a technical representative with Dunlop, then seven years as works engineer with Sprite Caravans. Whilst living in Botswana he escorted tourists on photographic safaris in southern Africa before returning to Britain in 1994.
DSC_0208_galleryTo many people Stapleton was one of the real “characters” to survive the war. His favourite aircraft was the Spitfire, and when a colleague described it as “beautiful and frail, yet agile, potent and powerful” Stapleton responded: “I always wanted a lady like that.”

He was a great supporter of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and in 2007 one of the Flight’s Spitfires carried his personal markings. He was also a regular at many Battle of Britain commemorative events; but his greatest devotion was to the No 603 Squadron Association. With his flamboyant ties, large floppy hat and luxuriant moustache, he was immensely popular at the many events he attended.


Researched by Peter Dickens.

Main extracts from a biography, “Stapme” by David Ross, was published in 2002″. Reference Daily Telegraph Obituary Column, wikipedia, Image copyright Imperial War Museum

A true statesman, Jan Smuts addressing the British Parliament – 1942

Field Marshal Jan Smuts, at the invitation of Winston Churchill addressing both houses of the British Parliament on the 21st October1942. This speech is historic, never before was any Commonwealth Statesman given the privilege of addressing both houses of Parliament (the Commons and the Lords), and the results are astounding – not only was Smuts publicly praised by Winston Churchill at the end of his speech, the entire Parliament breaks into hoorays and sings “he’s a jolly good fellow” in praise of the man and his life’s work.  This speech is well worth viewing and here it is, in full.

Two great South Africans have the privilege of statues outside the British Houses of Parliament in London, both having addressed this house at Westminster, and they stand in Westminster square for good reason. This was a period when Jan Smuts took his broken country from the Boer War, unified it and built it into an international powerhouse – at this occasion Smuts receives the praise due a visionary world leader.

The vast majority of both English and Afrikaans speaking South Africans backed Smuts at the time, however his legacy – like any great man’s legacy – is tainted by his opposition – The National Party, who, when they came into power served to demonise him over decades – so much so that he remains an enigma to many South Africans today. Except when you find gems like this film clip – which can bring him back into living memory.

Look out for Smut’s comments on the necessity to rid the world of Nazism, his insightful summary of Hitler’s policy in Europe and for his views on he formation of the United Nations – to which he is founding signatory.

smuts 5

To think that Smuts was a South African War Boer General, and both he and General Louis Botha understood that the salvation and re-building of their shattered people lay with their former enemy. Their vision of unity built South Africa from a fractious grouping of colonies and tiny states into a significant and unified nation – a regional economic power-house. The fact that his former enemy stood up in praise of this man and his achievement speaks volumes.

Jan Smuts is literally the “father of the nation” that is South Africa today and it’s a great pity he is so misunderstood. As anyone who watches this video will see, thanks to this remarkable man, South Africans by the end of World War 2 stood with heads held high, chests swollen with pride, praised by the free world and revered by great men.

winston:smuts

Visit of Field Marshal Jan Smuts, to the House of Commons 21 Oct 1942. The Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, calls on the assembly in the House of Commons to acclaim Field Marshal Smuts, after his address. IWM Copyright.

History unfortunately would dramatically change course for South Africa a couple of years later, when in 1948 the National Party narrowly edged its way into power in the general elections with a proposal called Apartheid.  South Africa has swung from ‘Pariah State’ far right racial politics to ‘Junk Status’ economic leftist politics in response to the secular race politics – with very little regard for Smuts’ centralist or “centre ground” reconciliatory politics since.


To read more about Smuts and some of his lifetime achievements and body of work, click on this link “The force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race”- the death of Jan Smuts.

Written  by Peter Dickens.  Footage copyright – British Pathé. Image/s copyright – The Imperial War Museum

The South African Battle of Britain “Few” – David Haysom DSO DFC

Celebrating South Africa’s ‘Few’ who tool part in the Battle of Britain.  Here we see South African Durban High School Old Boy, Wing Commander Geoffrey David Leybourne Haysom DSO DFC, during the Battle of Britain in the leading Hurricane. Read on for his remarkable story.

17342899_1927732494122406_1106496970131963423_n

David Haysom was born in Durban, South Africa in 1917. He was educated at Durban High School (DHS) and then went on Natal University College and Edinburgh University in 1936, where he gained a BSc. He intended to continue his studies in medicine, but after enjoying a chance opportunity to fly an airplane, flying became his passion. He gave up medicine in early 1937 and enrolled as a cadet officer in the Royal Air Force. He was commissioned in late 1937 and began his initial training on 18th March 1937.

Haysome went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge on 18th May for a short induction course before being posted to 2 FTS Brize Norton on 5th June. After completing his training he joined the staff of the School of Naval Co-operation at Ford on 8th January 1938. He joined 79 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 1st November 1938.

Haysom was detached from 79 Squadron to the School of Air Navigation St. Athan on 6th May 1940 for No. 6 Short Navigation Instructors Course. He rejoined 79 Squadron on 31st May.

Near Abbeville on 8th June 1940 Haysom shot down a Me109 over Le Treport. He was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on 17th June with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant. He took temporary command of the squadron from 7th to 11th July after the CO, S/Ldr. JDC Joslin, was killed.

On 15th August Haysom claimed a Me110 shot down, on the 28th he made a forced-landing at Appledore Station, near Tenterden, when his glycol system was damaged in combat over Hythe.

On 30th August he probably destroyed a Me109, on the 31st shot down another and on 1st September damaged a Do17. Haysom shot down a Ju88 on 20th November 1940 which had been photographing damage caused in the German raid on Coventry.

DFCLGOn 1st April 1941 he destroyed a He111 and on the 4th he shared in damaging another. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross DFC (gazetted 29th April 1941) and commanded 79 Squadron from June to 25th September 1941, when he was posted away to 51 OTU at Debden for Controller duties.

His DFC Citation:
“This officer has been engaged on operational flying since the war began. He has displayed great keenness in his efforts to seek and engage the enemy and has destroyed at least five of their aircraft.”

In mid-1942 Haysom was posted to the Middle East and he joined 260 Squadron on 19th July, possibly as a supernumerary to gain experience on Kittyhawks. Three days later he was promoted to Acting Wing Commander, to become Wing Leader 239 Wing in the Western Desert. At the end of his tour Haysom was awarded the Distinguished Service Order DSO (gazetted 16th February 1943), being then credited with at least six enemy aircraft destroyed.

His DSO citation:

“Wing Commander Haysom has been on operational flying since the commencement of the war. He has destroyed at least six enemy aircraft and has twice been shot down himself. He has led his wing on many fighter-bomber and long distance flights. He has always displayed the utmost determination. The success achieved by the wing has been largely due to this officer’s skill and courage.”

Distinguished_Service_Order_correctHe went on to the Italian Campaign where he was working in operations command, and privy to the Ultra Secret. Here he devised the air-born strategic planning system that became known as “Rover David”  – an instant success that was used against enemy aircraft in the invasion of 1944. (Called “Rover Joe” it is still used by the United States Air Force, which acknowledges David Haysom as the originator of the air support system.

He ended the war at the rank of Group Captain (the Royal Air Force equivalent of Colonel in the Army) and was released from the RAF in 1946.

A typically unassuming hero, he never spoke to his children of his war experience, he never considered himself a hero or boasted about being an fighter ace. He died in 1979.

17349695_1927735394122116_8126666736147316385_o

The featured image shows three Hawker Hurricane Mark IIBs of No 79 Squadron RAF based at Fairwood Common, Glamorgan, flying in ‘vic’ formation above South Wales. The pilots were, the South African Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader G D Haysom (leading aircraft, Z3745 ‘NV-B’), and his flight commanders, Flight Lieutenant R P Beamont (nearest aircraft, Z2633 ‘NV-M’), and Flight Lieutenant L T Bryant-Fenn (furthest aircraft, Z3156 ‘NV-F).


Researched by Peter Dickens.

Image copyright – Imperial War Museum. Geoffrey David Leybourne Haysom – Spitfire Society Trust ZA by John Mackenzie

The RAF ‘South Africa’ title worn during The Battle of Britain

This is a famous ‘Battle of Britian” photograph of Squadron Leader Adolph “Sailor” Malan from South Africa sitting in a Royal Air Force Spitfire,  have a close look at his shoulder tab.

It’s a shoulder title issued to Royal Air Force (RAF) officers from South Africa, being ‘SOUTH AFRICA’ embroidered in light blue onto a RAF blue/grey arc of fabric.

During the Second World War many from Empire and Dominion countries joined the Royal Air Force, as did men from occupied countries such as Poland

Shoulder titles were worn to signify the wearer’s country of origin. The titles were usually embroidered in pale blue capitals on a black background, or red on khaki drill for tropical kit.

raf_nat_18mTitles for officers were usually curved, and rectangular for other ranks. Excluding those worn by personnel from occupied countries, there were 42 titles issued officially, plus a number of unofficial ones.

The wearing of such titles was abolished in the RAF April 1948. A title for South Africa was authorised in March 1941.

 

 


Researched by Peter Dickens. Images – Imperial War Museum copyright, collection of titles as shown in the collection shown courtesy Alex Bateman

‘Ten of my rules for air fighting’ – Sailor Malan

malan1Arguably one of the best South African pilots of the Second World War and certainly one of the best Royal Air Force pilots during the Battle of Britain – now one of the much idolised ‘few’ who turned the tide of the war – South African flying ace Group Captain A G ‘Sailor’ Malan DSO & Bar DFC & Bar, and he did it based on a set of rules he drew up, now famously known as “Ten of my rules for air fighting”.

In the featured image is Sailor Malan as the Station Commander at Biggin Hill, Kent seen second from the left, talking to Squadron Leader E J Charles, Officer Commanding No. 611 Squadron RAF (middle), and Wing Commander A C Deere, leader of the Biggin Hill Wing (right) during the Battle of Britain.  No doubt his ten rules would have been a point of discussion between these men at some point.

Sailor Malan’s rules of air combat were readily adopted by pilots in the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, these rules saved many a pilot and brought down many enemy aircraft, they are directly attributed to the success of the Battle of Britain and in so keeping Britain in the war.  They are still considered valuable to this day as part of the RAF’s teaching curriculum – they are:

“TEN OF MY RULES FOR AIR FIGHTING” – Sailor Malan

1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of 1 to 2 seconds and only when your sights are definitely ‘ON’.
2. Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of the body, have both hands on the stick, concentrate on your ring sight.
3. Always keep a sharp lookout. “Keep your finger out!”
4. Height gives You the initiative.
5. Always turn and face the attack.
6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.
7. Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.
8. When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as top guard.
9. INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE, and TEAM WORK are the words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.
10. Go in quickly – Punch hard – Get out!

TenRules-05

Image copyright: Imperial War Museum

‘Ace in a Day’ TWICE! … Albert ‘Zulu’ Lewis

1175140_393292020800596_1329593818_nSecond to Sailor Malan, Albert Gerald Lewis was the next best performing South African pilot flying for the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain.  To earn the title “Ace in a Day” a pilot had to shoot down 5 or more aircraft in a single day.  Only a handful of Allied pilots achieved this during World War 2, and “Zulu” Lewis is one of them.  Here’s the astounding bit, he achieved this ‘Ace in a Day’ status, not just once – but twice! He is also on the top ten Royal Air Force Ace list, having shot down 6 aircraft in 6 hours.

Albert Gerald Lewis ended the war with the rank of Squadron Leader and for his bravery earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He was born in Kimberley South Africa on 10 April 1918 and the  attended Kimberley Boys’ High School, he had an interest in flying and took private lessons in South Africa before taking his pilot licence to Britain to join the RAF.

He was gazetted as a Acting Pilot Officer with effect from 29th of October 1938 and posted to No. 616 South Yorkshire Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed on 1st of November 1938 as a Bombing Squadron.

When he arrived, the Squadron flew Gauntlets, Tutors and Battles. After some time he was transferred to an even duller job as a ferry pilot in No 12 Group Ferry Pool.  On 16th of December 1939 Lewis was transferred again. This time to No 504 Squadron, Debden. The Squadron flew Hurricanes, which was a great leap upwards for Lewis.

30th of January he flew the first of many single “Trawler Patrols”. This day marked his first meeting with the enemy, when he spotted and chased a German Blohm & Voss Seaplane.

13230298_282501102086746_1575707886245061308_n

France – 85 Squadron RAF

“The Phoney war” in France had changed to real war and Lewis was transferred to No 87 Squadron the 26th of April 1939 – only to be transferred the day after to No 85 Squadron under Squadron Leader “Doggie” Oliver.

Under intense stain of combat flying during “The Battle for France” on the 12th of May flying VY-E, Lewis shot down – not only his first enemy aircraft – but also his second:
A Messerschmidt 109 and a Heinkel He111.

First: Ace in a Day

18th or 19th of May – due to all the Squadrons reports got lost in the evacuation of the Squadron a few days later, there is some differences here – flying AK-A (an aircraft borrowed from 213 Squadron) he got 5 confirmed kills in a day:

Two Messerschmidt 109s on the first patrol in the morning and three more on the evening patrol. This fight had been witnessed by his CO and the squadron.  This action resulted in his first DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for bravery:

Awarded on: June 25th, 1940, the  Citation reads:

“Pilot Officer Lewis has, by a combination of great personal courage, determination and skill in flying, shot down five enemy aircraft, single-handed, in one day. He has destroyed in all a total of seven enemy aircraft, and by his example has been an inspiration to his squadron.”

On the 21st of May Lewis flew back to England in one of the only 3 Hurricanes still usable from 85th Squadron.

Lewis in the Battle of Britain

28th of June the Squadron moved to Castle Camp – a satellite airfield to Debden, which were to be their base for the early part of the Battle of Britain. Lewis is now flying VY-Z.
Peter Townsend became CO of the squadron and soon gave Lewis his nickname: Zulu, as he had also christened his great chum, South African Caesar Hull in No. 43 Squadron, the squadron from which Townsend originally came.

13139042_276175139386009_198617590100676867_n

Lewis and his fellow 85 Squadron friend Richard “Dikie” Lee DSO (Lee was sadly lost on the 18th August 1940).

From the 1st of July operations started in earnest, and three or four sorties a day were flown, usually convoy patrols from Martelsham Heath. On 18th of August – flying VY-D on a solo patrol, Lewis destroyed a Me110 and on 31st of August –-flying VY-N – he got a Me 109 after being scrambled in a hurry.

By 5th of September, 1940 the 85 Squadron was exhausted and rotated out of the battle line, but not Zulu Lewis who still had still some fighting ahead of him. Squadrons in the south of England were in desperate need of veteran pilots and Lewis went south again, joining 249 Squadron.

England – 249 Squadron RAF

14th of September Lewis was posted to the top scoring 249 Squadron at North Weald.
It was all out action at North Weald – sorties three, four or five times a day when Lewis arrived – and the very first day in the new Squadron, he shot down a Heinkel He111 and shared a probable destruction of another.

The day was one of the hardest days in the long hot summer, and were by many regarded as the turning point of The Battle of Britain.  By the 18th of September Lewis got his twelfth confirmed enemy aircraft.

Ace in a Day – Second time: 6 confirmed kills and two probables

27th of September – flying GN-R –  Zulu Lewis DFC shot down eight enemy aircrafts in one day!

Lewis combat report from the morning:
“Sighted circle of Me110’s over area near Redhill. Attacked out of the sun and fired two short bursts into e/a following a Hurricane down. He billowed smoke and went down steeply.

Again attacked circle and put a burst into another Me110 – starboard engine out of action and on fire. Climbed into the sun again delivered attack on remains of circle. Hit one who dropped out of fight, heading towards coast and, with starboard engine out of action, tried to get home. Forced him down in vicinity of some hills near Crowhurst. He burst into flames on landing at farmyard”

Once rearmed and refueled, seven Hurricanes lead by Lewis, (The Squadron Leader was reported Missing in Action) were ordered to patrol Maidstone before carrying a sweep of Hawking to Canterbury along with 46th Squadron.

Lewis combat report:
“As 249 Leader, sighted formation of Me109’s to north-east of Estuary. Climbed to 15.000 feet to 20.000 feet but were attacked by second 109 formation from above.
In ensuing dogfight was attacked by two 109’s, one of which I hit in belly as he passed overhead. He crashed into wood near Canterbury. Put burst into second 109, which attacked soon after the one I shot down, also in belly.

I did not observe this one hit the ground but went down smoking, where after smoking fires near the wood in vicinity of Canterbury could have been other aircraft destroyed, as there were no bombers.”

Later the same day.

Lewis combat report:
As green Leader, attacked formation of Ju88’s with Blue Section, and one just dropped out with starboard engine damaged. Closed in and carried out two beam attacks from slightly above and put engine on fire. kept after it as it went down steeply toward coast near Selsey Bill. Crashed into sea just near coast.

Shot down one Me109 which crossed my sights after engagement with Ju88. Went down in flames, then followed a second Me109 down which I attacked from above and it crashed in woods near Petworth. This is confirmed by Sgt. Hampshire of Green Section.
Fired short bursts of approx two to three second bursts at Me109’s and a faily long burst at another Ju88.”

Lewis was awarded his second DFC for this day. Awarded on October 22nd, 1940, the Citation reads:

“One day in September, 1940, this officer destroyed six enemy aircraft; this makes a total of eighteen destroyed by him. His courage and keenness are outstanding.”

Awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.

He thus got 11 confirmed victories in two days – 19th of May and 27th of September.
Which is believed to be a record for single-engine British fighters.

Shot down – England

28th of September – only the very next day – the Squadron was flying patrol over Maidstone, and Lewis was shot down in flames while flying the same aircraft GN-R.

The Squadron was in a gentle dive, with Lewis weaving above them, when he was hit from behind by cannon shells and set on fire.  Lewis baled out of his burning Hurricane. Jimmy Crossey following him down, circling the parachute to prevent him being shot at.

Lewis landed safely, but was severely burned and was taken to Faversham Cottage Hospital. Blind for two weeks, with a piece of shrapnel in his leg and severe burns on the face, throat, hands and legs.

He received his little golden caterpillar with his name engraved on the back while in hospital, this little ‘silk worm ‘caterpillar’ confirmed his membership of the selected band of pilots who had their lives saved by a parachute (hence the ‘silk).

He returned to the Squadron in December, 1940, having been promoted Flight Lieutenant on 29 November. He was flying by 17 January 1941, and became “A” Flight Commander, and was awarded a bar to the DFC.

284331_156609507842123_1065415263_n

King George VI conferring a Bar to Flying Officer A G Lewis’s DFC in an awards ceremony at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

Overseas Service

Lewis volunteered for overseas service and was posted to 261 Squadron in January 1942.
Via Sierra Leone he went to Tricomalee in China bay, Ceylon to take command of 261 Squadron – a Squadron famous for it’s defence of Malta earlier in the war.

Lewis recalls that the force consisted of himself as CO, 6 Flt Lts, 3 FOs, 8 Pos, 1 WO pilot and 34 Sgt. Pilots. Most of the force were Australians and New Zealand pilots with a few Canadians and an American.

China Bay was a grass airfield – or rather – a clearing in the jungle. Everything was “under construction” and very primitive. Malaria was bad. Typhoid was caused by foul water supplies and after a Japanese bombing, all waterborne sanitation was smashed and cholera added to their troubles.

Shot down – China Bay

On the 9th of April – the day before his 24th birthday, Lewis led his Squadron to intercept a Japanese raid and as he was taking off, his aircraft was hit by fire from one of the Japanese Zeros. He was wounded in the left shoulder and can not use his arm.

On fire – once again – he bales out at only 200 feet, with his parachute opening just in time. He could see his base was under heavy attack and for six hours he lay suffering from shock until he was found by some natives, who revived him with coconut milk, and helped him back to the base.

In June 1942 he returns to Britain via South Africa.

After the war

Lewis left Royal Air Force on 16th of February 1946, having been an Acting Squadron leader since 22nd of April 1943. After the war Lewis started farming. First in Britain – but in 1947 he went back home to South Africa and continued to farm in his homeland. He also became deeply religious, joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons).

13237763_10208907467662345_5687574936737215832_n

Albert G Lewis, with his wife, children (+ wives/husbands) and grandchildren. The picture is from the seventies.

To quote his religious convictions at the end of his life:

“As my mind reflects on The Battle of Britain and on the many wonderful characters who formed a part of that scene and died a quarter of a century ago in order that the world might be a better place to live in – as did those in The First World War – and indeed all righteous people from the beginning of time – I wonder, have we achieved lasting peace?

If we are not to disappoint ourselves and all of those who have come before, we need a plan – one that is practical and embraces all mankind. I sincerely believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plan which can embrace the world so that all who desire to – may live in peace.”

Albert Gerald Lewis died on the 14th of December 1982 – 64 years old.

These dramatic images outline Zulu Lewis in action at the peak of the Battle of Britain, taken by LIFE magazine who did an interview and profile story on him at the time.

528211_212798438889896_1196268201_n

Peak of battle in the ‘Battle of Britain’, South African Pilot Officer Albert G Lewis of No. 85 Squadron grabs his flying helmet from the tailplane of his Hurricane, P2923 VQ-R, as a member of the ground crew warms up the engine prior to a sortie, Castle Camps, July 1940. Photo Copyright IWM Collection.

large_000000

Hawker Hurricane Mk I, P2923, VY-R, flown by Pilot Officer A G Lewis landing at Castle Camps, RAF Debden’s satellite airfield, July 1940.

Researched by Peter Dickens


Sources:  Wikipedia, www.thefedoralounge.com, Hurricane 501 (website), Brian Cull: “249 at War.”Short history.  Colourised images by ‘Doug’, Imperial War Museum Copyright

 

 

Edwin Swales VC DFC, a South African Hero whose legacy has been eroded!

Edwin (Ted) Swales VC DFC is one of South Africa’s greatest sons,  yet the South African politicians  of today,  have removed his name from the well known “Edwin Swales Drive” named in honour of him in Durban and re-named it after a contemporary “struggle” cadre.  The legacy of Maj. Swales VC DFC is under threat, and there is very good and noble reason not to forget him, this is his story, kindly contributed to by David Bennett.

A very short biography :    Major Edwin Swales, VC, DFC, SAAF (1915 – 1945)  by David Bennett

Edwin Essery Swales : Born in Inanda, Natal, 3 July 1915. Attended Durban High School, Jan. 1930 to Dec.1934. Worked for Barclay’s Bank, DC&O, in Durban 1935 to 1939. He joined the Natal Mounted Rifles, 1935 and left 31 May 1939 as a W.O.II. Rejoined N.M.R. on 4 September 1939.

He served in Kenya; Abyssinia; Italian Somalia; British Somalia and Eritrea. Then (1941) in North Africa. In 1942, he left the army to join the S.A. Air Force. Swales received his wings at Kimberley in 1943. Then seconded to the Royal Air Force in 1943, he attended Flying Training School at  R.A.F. Little Rissington, 1944. Later sent to the elite R.A.F. Pathfinder Force, 582 Squadron, Royal Air Force, at Little Staughton in July 1944.

Swales was awarded an immediate D.F.C. on 23 December 1944 following a bombing raid on Cologne. After a raid on Pforzheim on 23 February 1945, Swales was killed in action, crashing near Valenciennes, France and he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Swales is now buried in the War Cemetery at Leopoldsburg, near Limburg, Belgium, Plot No.8, Row C, Grave No.5. (Although he had originally been buried at Fosse’s USA Cemetery). The headstone of Swales’ grave shows the Springbok head, common to the graves of all South Africans, as well as the Victoria Cross engraved on it. The legend on the headstone states:

Edwin Swales was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, on 23 December, 1944.  The citation reads:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following award in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations:-

Captain Edwin Swales, (6101V) S.A.A.F. 582 Sqn. :-

The Distinguished Flying Cross:

“This Officer was pilot and Captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target, intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Despite this, a good bombing attack was executed. Soon afterwards the aircraft was attacked by five enemy aircraft. In the ensuing fights, Capt. Swales manoeuvred with great skill. As a result his gunners were able to bring effective fire to bear upon the attackers, one of which is believed to have been shot down. Throughout this spirited action Captain Swales displayed exceptional coolness and captaincy, setting a very fine example. This Officer has completed very many sorties during which he has attacked a variety of enemy targets.”           (Official D.F.C. Citation)    

Edwin Swales was killed on 23 February, 1945, and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – the 3rd and last Pathfinder pilot to be so honoured (all alas, posthumous). It had been Swales’ 43rd operational flight for 582 Squadron, R.A.F. Here is the citation:

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on

the under-mentioned officer in recognition of the most conspicuous bravery:-

Captain Edwin Swales, DFC (6101V) S.A.A.F. 582 Sqn. (deceased):

 “Captain Swales was ‘Master Bomber’ of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23, 1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers in his wake.

Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose. It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war.

Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bale out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls.

Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live”

(Official V.C. Citation)

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, KCB, OBE, AFC, Chief of Bomber Command, Royal Air Force, following the loss of Edwin Swales, wrote a letter to Swales’ mother, Mrs. Olive Essery Swales, saying, inter-alia:

…… On every occasion your son proved himself to be a determined fighter and resolute captain of his crew. His devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety will remain an example and inspiration to us all …..

Memorial to Edwin Swales at the secondary school he attended as a student, Durban High School (DHS)

In conclusion 

It is our humble opinion, that whilst it is important to segments of South Africa’s population to remember their heroes it should not come at the expense of other national heroes.

Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu, after whom Edwin Swales VC Drive is now named,  was a operative of the African National Congress militant wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and whilst it is important to the current ANC ruling party to highlight the sacrifice of its heroes, it should not come at the sacrifice of Maj. Swales’ legacy – one of a handful of South African World War 2 Victoria Cross winners, and one whose extremely brave deeds were awarded in a war which was to liberate the entire western world of tyrannical and rather deadly racial political philosophy as well as dictatorial megalomaniacs supporting such ideology.

In fact to rectify the situation, the Durban City Council should actually consider a monument or statue in the centre of Durban to Edwin Swales and allow him to take his rightful place as a true son of South Africa and one of our all time greatest military heroes, as is the case for many Victoria Cross winners the world over.  That his actions and deeds are taught to South African youth, pride in our WW2 history established and his sacrifice not forgotten.  Lets hope they see their way clear to do this.

Note:    The papers from the South African Air Force, promoting Edwin Swales from Captain to Major, only reached the British authorities after his death, and after the award of the Victoria Cross was gazetted, hence the rank of “Captain” being used in the VC citation. However, he is referred to as a Major.

Thank you to David Bennett for both photograph and content contribution.

South African Nazi in the Waffen SS ‘British Free Corps’

There is an often asked question. How many South Africans served in Nazi Germany’s Armed Forces?

The answer is not many. Two South Africans who served in the German armed forces in WW2 are well-known, Robey Leibbrandt – the firebrand Afrikaner insurgent tried for treason is possibly the most known and to a lesser extent Leutnant Heinz Werner Schmidt, who was one of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s personal aids in the North African conflict. However there where was also a smattering of South Africans – five in total, who served in the Waffen SS, and most joined the infamous “British Free Corps”.

The Waffen-SS was the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s SS organisation. Its formations included men from Nazi Germany, along with volunteers and conscripts from both occupied and un-occupied lands, as well as men drawn from Allied Forces – a small number of British, Canadians, Americans, Australians and South Africans were recruited as Prisoners of War and indoctrinated into Nazi philosophy.

Initially, in keeping with the racial policy of Nazi Germany, membership was only open to people of Germanic origin (so-called Aryan ancestry). The rules were partially relaxed in 1940, and later the formation of units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts was authorised.

The British Free Corps was a unit of the Waffen SS during World War II consisting of British and Dominion Prisoners of War (POW) who had been recruited by the Nazis. The unit was originally known as the Legion of St George. Only 54 men belonged to The British Free Corps at one time or another, some for only a few days. At no time did it reach more than 27 men in strength.  In this respect it was not a very successful corps of the Waffen SS.

nlfbfuwv4sxmugindxij

Two early recruits to the Waffen SS British Free Corps. Kenneth Berry and Alfred Minchin, with German officers, April 1944

The idea for the British Free Corps came from John Amery, a British fascist, son of the serving British Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery. John Amery travelled to Berlin in October 1942 and proposed to the Germans the formation of a British volunteer force to help fight the Bolsheviks.

Apart from touting the idea of a British volunteer force, Amery also actively tried to recruit Britons. He made a series of pro-German propaganda radio broadcasts, appealing to his fellow countrymen to join the war on communism.

Recruiting for the Free Corps in German Prisoner of War (POW) camps In 1944, consisted of leaflets distributed to the POWs, and the unit was mentioned in Camp, the official POW newspaper published in Berlin.

The unit was promoted “as a thoroughly volunteer unit, conceived and created by British subjects from all parts of the Empire who have taken up arms and pledged their lives in the common European struggle against Soviet Russia”.

The attempted recruitment of POWs was done amid German fear of the Soviets; the Germans were “victims of their own propaganda” and thought that their enemies were as worried about the Soviets as they were.

So, who the South Africans recruited into the Waffen SS?, Where and what we know about them is limited, however this is what has been researched:

SS-Unterscharführer Douglas Cecil Mardon (South African)

Douglas Cecil Mardon was believed to be a member of 2nd Transvaal Scottish, 2nd Field Company of the SAEC and the 1st Battalion of the Royal Durban Light Infantry.  He joined the Waffen SS around Christmas 1944 – the third of the trio of South Africans who joined the Corps at Dresden.

He possessed very rigid views on the threat to the free world of Soviet success on the Eastern Front. As a POW he had seen Russian prisoners and had come to distinctly racist conclusions about them, when he read Waffen SS British Free Corps recruiting literature it convinced him to volunteer with alacrity.

On 8 March 1945 ‘received promotion to Unterscharführer and was given command of a section.
He was undoubtedly sincere in his wish to fight against the advance of Communism’. On 15/3/1945 he removed the tell-tale BFC insignia from his uniform and substituted an SS runes collar patch.

His Allied rank was Corporal. He used the alias Douglas Hodge as a “Jackal of the Reich”. After the war he was fined £375 for high treason.

SS-Mann Pieter Labuschagne (South African)

Pieter Andries Hendrik Labuschagne joined the Waffen SS in the winter of 1944/45, he succumbed to one of Stranders’ German recruiters, Unterscharführer Hans Kauss, whilst working on a road gang. It is believed Labuschagne was originally a member of the South African Union’s Louw Wepener Regiment and Regiment President Steyn.

Deemed to be so useless by Mardon that he refused to take him. Slipped away in the direction of Dresden, to be ‘liberated’ by advancing US forces after the war. He used the alias Private Adriaan Smith as a “Jackal of the Reich”. He was found guilty of treason after the war and fined £50.

Van Heerden (South African)

Van Heerden’s whereabouts are unknown – it was said he left Pankow December 1943 – “Killed in action on 12 February 1945, during bombing of Dresden” also said to have gone from Dronnewitz to Schwerin in May 1945. He is thought to be listed as Jan Pieterson with the alias “Jackal of the Reich”. He was originally a Rifleman in a British or Allied Commonwealth Long Range Desert Patrol.

SS-Mann Lourens Matthys Viljoen (South African)

Lourens Matthys Viljoen was originally believed to be part of the 1st South African Police Battalion, he  joined the Waffen SS in Dec 1944/Jan 45 through the offices of a friendly SS NCO in charge of his working party. He was hospitalized with burns during the Dresden raids. His South African rank was Corporal. He was acquitted after the war.

Hiwi (SS foreign volunteer) William Celliers (South African)

He was a South African policeman from Windhoek in South West Africa, he did not join the British Legion of the Waffen SS, instead he went to the 1st SS Panzer Division, Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. He served in the flak detachment of Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in the fall and winter 1943-44 until the LSSAH was sent to the Western Front, he was awarded with the Iron Cross 2nd Class.

The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (often abbreviated as LSSAH) began as Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard, responsible for guarding the Führer’s person, offices, and residences. Initially the size of a regiment, the LSSAH eventually grew into a division sized unit.

The LSSAH independently was amalgamated into the Waffen SS. By the end of the war it had been increased in size from a regiment to a Panzer (armored tank) division.
Members of the LSSAH perpetrated numerous atrocities and war crimes, including the Malmendy massacre. They killed at least an estimated 5,000 prisoners of war in the period 1940–1945, mostly on the Eastern Front.

Operations 

The British Free Corps of the Waffen SS were allocated to the 3rd Company, under the command of the Swedish Obersturmführer Hans-Gösta Pehrson. The British Free Corps contingent was commanded by the South African – SS-Scharführer (squad leader) Douglas Mardon, and were sent join a Waffen SS Company on the eastern front, a detachment of which that was situated in the small village of Schoenburg near the west bank of the Oder River.

On March 22, as the SS Company was entrenching, it was partially overrun by an advance element of the Red Army which had blundered into its position by accident. Although taken by surprise, the SS troopers, including the British Free Corps volunteers, quickly regained their wits and launched a vigorous counterattack, driving off the Soviets.

On 16 April 1945 the Corps was moved to Templin, where they were to join the transport company of Waffen SS Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner’s HQ staff. On 29 April Steiner decided to break contact with the Russians and order his forces to head west into Anglo-American captivity.

Propaganda 

In another South African Twist, the Waffen SS even went as far as using Anglo Boer War anti-British sentiment to recruit the Dutch.  For a full story on this visit this link ‘Waffen SS’ uses the Boer War to recruit the Dutch.

Insignia and Recognition 

The featured image shows members of the British Free Corps, and is one of the few available – here is Kenneth Berry, an ex British sea-man (second left) with SS- Sturmmann Alfred Minchin (second right), an ex British Merchant sea-man talking to German officers, during a recruitment drive in Milag, April 1944.  Note the British Union Flag identifier on their sleeves.

Note the British Free Corps emblem on their sleeves, it consists of a British Union Flag (Union Jack) in a shield, underneath is a sleeve band on which “British Free Corps” is written in English. On the right hand colour tab can be seen the British “Three Lions” from the English Coat of Arms.

Retribution 

A few details of the court-martial of several Commonwealth soldiers in the British Free Corps exist, with some claiming they joined the British Free Corps to sabotage it and gather intelligence. John Amery, the founder was however sentenced to death in November 1945 for high treason and hanged. No other member of The British Free Corps was executed – sentences ranged from limited imprisonment, to fines and warnings, some were acquitted.

At the post-war Nuremberg trials the Waffen-SS was judged to be a criminal organisation due to its connection to the Nazi Party and involvement in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Waffen-SS members were denied many of the rights afforded to the military veterans. An exception was made for Waffen-SS conscripts, who were exempted because they were not volunteers. About a third of the total membership were conscripts.

In the end they all fall onto the “wrong” side of history, and can be best summed up by John Amery’s epitaph written by his father:

“At end of wayward days he found a cause – ’Twas not his Country’s – Only time can tell if that defiance of our ancient laws was as treason or foreknowledge. He sleeps well.”

“Time” – unfortunately for John Amery, the Waffen SS and the British Free Corps – has now judged it all to be somewhat wayward.


Researched by Peter Dickens, source Wikipedia.

Sailor Malan; Fighter Ace & Freedom Fighter!

Malan 3

Sailor Malan

The featured image shows Group Captain Adolph Gysbert “Sailor” Malan DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar (24 March 1910 – 17 September 1963), the South African World War 2 flying ace in conversation here with Flight Sergeant Vincent Bunting at Biggin Hill in 1943 on the left, and it says a lot about Sailor Malan.

Vincent Bunting was one of a small group of ‘black’ British and Commonwealth pilots in full combat roles during the Second World War – he was born in Panama in June 1918 and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He joined the RAF at No 1 Recruitment Centre, Uxbridge, on 26 July 1940. Selected for flying training he went on to become a fighter pilot mainly with RAF 611 Squadron.

An integrated Air Force

During the Battle of Britain, the British relied on pilots from the Commonwealth to make up a critical pilot shortage, Sailor Malan was one of these pilots and with him came pilots from all over the world, of all colours and of all cultures (there was no such thing as a ‘colour bar’ in the Royal Air Force) – from commonwealth countries like India, Burma, Rhodesia, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, as well as pilots from Poland, France, Czechoslovakia and the USA.  They made up almost one-third of the RAF pilots involved in the Battle of Britain (to believe the image so often created of these men as a bunch of tea drinking ‘tally-ho’ young white English gentlemen is to completely misunderstand the Battle of Britain).

vo-1599-p9-group-shot

Jamaican Pilots during  the Battle of Britain

The featured image of early racial recognition is testament to Sailor Malan as not only one of the most highly regarded fighter pilots of the war, but the future signs of Sailor Malan as a political fighter and champion for racial equality.

Fighter Ace

Much has been written on Sailor Malan as a Fighter Ace, his rules for combat and his command of 74 Squadron during the Battle of Britain which played such a pivot role in winning the Battle (see ‘Ten of my rules for air fighting’ – Sailor Malan) .  His combat record, promotions and decorations alone are simply astonishing.

He first took part in evacuation of Dunkirk.  During this battle he first exhibited his fearless and implacable fighting spirit. To demonstrate his nature, in one incident he was able to coolly change the light bulb in his gunsight while in combat and then quickly return to the fray.

1506738_267729770063429_320223023_n

Sailor Malan’s gun camera showing the destruction of German Heinkel He 111 over Dunkirk

When the Battle of Britain begun, 74 Squadron (known as ‘The Tigers’) was to take the full heat of the battle in what was known as ‘hell’s corner’ over Kent, the squadron was eventually based at the now famous ‘Biggin Hill’ aerodrome in the thick of the battle.

Sailor Malan was given command of 74 Squadron, with the rank of Acting Squadron Leader at the height of the Battle of Britain on 8th August, 1940. Three days later the Squadron was in battle. The day became, for ever, “Sailor’s August the Eleventh”. The order was received at twenty minutes past seven to intercept a hostile raid approaching Dover. Little did the squadron know that they would participate in four seperate air battles that day. When the Squadron, weary, sweaty and oily, finally returned to base after the fourth sortie, they had downed an astounding 38 enemy aircraft.

Sailor Malan said later, in one of his masterly understatements: “Thus ended a very successful morning of combat”. For the first day of action under his command it was successful even by 74 Squadron standards.

Sailor Malan also worked on public relations to keep the British morale high.  Here is a rare radio interview (follow Observation post link Sailor Malan – “in his own words”)

By D Day (i.e. Operation Overlord, the liberation of France and subsequently Western Europe), Sailor Malan was in command of 145 (Free French) Fighter Wing and was himself leading a section of the wing over the beaches during the landings in Normandy.

In all Sailor Malan scored 27 enemy aircraft kills, seven shared destroyed, three probably destroyed and 16 damaged. He was to receive the Distinguished Service Order decoration – not once, but twice and well as the Distinguished Flying Cross decoration, again not once – but twice.  The Citations for the DSO’s and DFC’s say everything about his combat prowess:

The London Gazette of the 11th June, 1940, read:

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS

DFCLGFlight Lieutenant Adolph Gysbert Malan. (37604), Royal Air Force.

“During May 1940, this officer has led his flight, and on certain occasions his squadron, on ten offensive patrols in Northern France. He has personally shot down two enemy aircraft and, probably, three others. Flight Lieutenant Malan has displayed great skill, courage and relentless determination in his attacks upon the enemy.”

On Christmas Eve, 1940, the London Gazette had recorded:

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER

Distinguished_Service_Order_correctActing Squadron Leader Adolph Gysbert Malan, DFC (37604), Royal Air Force, No.74 Squadron.

“This officer has commanded his squadron with outstanding success over an intensive period of air operations and, by his brilliant leadership, skill and determination has contributed to the success obtained. Since early in August 1940, the squadron has destroyed at least 84 enemy aircraft and damaged many more. Squadron Leader Malan has himself destroyed at least eighteen hostile aircraft and possibly another six.”

And on 22nd July, 1941:

BAR TO DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER

Acting Wing Commander Adolph Gysbert Malan, DSO, DFC (37604) Royal Air Force.

“This officer has displayed the greatest courage and disdain of the enemy whilst leading his Wing on numerous recent operations over Northern France. His cool judgement, exceptional determination and ability have enabled him to increase his confirmed victories over enemy aircraft from 19 to 28, in addition to a further 20 damaged and probably destroyed. His record and behaviour have earned for him the greatest admiration and devotion of his comrades in the Wing. During the past fortnight the Wing has scored heavily against the enemy with 42 hostile aircraft destroyed, a further 15 probably destroyed and 11 damaged.”

Also awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In addition, “Sailor” was awarded the following decorations by Allied Governments:

The Belgian Croix de Guerre with bronze Palm, The Czecho-Slovakian Military Cross, The French Legion of Honour, in the degree of Officer and The French Croix de Guerre.

Bill Skinner DFC, with whom Sailor often flew, summed up Sailor Malan very well as to his leadership:

“He was a born leader and natural pilot of the first order. Complete absence of balderdash. As far as he was concerned, you either did your job properly, or you were on your way. He inspired his air crews by his dynamic and forceful personality, and by the fact that he set such a high standard in his flying.”

malan

Sailor Malan (centre) with pilots of 72 Squadron

He was the outstanding British Fighter Command fighter pilot of the 1939-45 war, and by the end of 1941 was the top scorer – a record which he held for three years. But he was much more than an individual performer. He had assimilated the fierce and fanatical “tiger spirit”, and this spirit he inspired in others so that he carried the Squadron to great deeds with him.

Freedom Fighter 

The Battle of Britain and D Day moulded Sailor Malan as a champion for freedom, he simply held the view that shooting down Nazi aircraft was good for humanity, and this translated into his personal politics.  Not much is known of Sailor’s political career post war, and it’s an equally fascinating to see him in the context of a ‘Freedom Fighter’ in addition to his fighter ace accolade.

Sailor Malan left the Royal Air Force and returned to South Africa in 1946. In the 1950’s he formed a mass protest group of ex-servicemen called the ” Torch Commando” to fight the National Party’s plans to implement Apartheid and call for an early election to remove what they regarded as ‘fascist’ government from power.

In Sailor Malan’s own words, The Torch Commando was: “established to oppose the police state, abuse of state power, censorship, racism, the removal of the coloured vote and other oppressive manifestations of the creeping fascism of the National Party regime”.

To understand why the returning war veterans felt this way about the National Party, consider that during the war the National Party had aligned itself with pro Nazi movements inside South Africa as well as taking a neutral stance on the Smuts’ declaration of war.  To understand the men now in power and the prevailing political mood of war veterans in 1950 follow these links to related Observation Posts:

“Mein Kampf shows the way to greatness for South Africa” – The Ossewabrandwag

South Africa’s Nazi Spy or “Struggle Hero”? – Robey Leibbrand

South African Pro Nazi movements – Oswald Pirow’s New Order

Pro Nazi movements in wartime South Africa – the SANP “Greyshirts”

The Torch Commando can best be described as a ‘pro-democracy’ movement and in its manifesto it called for Liberty, Freedom of Speech, Liberty from Tyranny and Freedom of Religion. Sailor Malan’s personal politics (which he brought into the Torch) revolved around universal franchise and addressing poverty in the black community and economic empowerment as a priority to political reform. Ironically, Sailor Malan was years ahead of his time in this regard, as it is only now that politics in South Africa is focusing on economic emancipation ahead of political emancipation.

The key objective underpinning the Torch was to remove the National Party from power by calling for an early election, the 1948 ‘win’ by The National Party was not a ‘majority’ win, but a constitutional one, and the Torch wanted a groundswell to swing the ‘service’ vote (200,000 in a voting population of a 1,000,000).  The Torch at its core was absolutely against The National Party’s Apartheid ideology and viewed their government as  ‘unconstitutional’ when they started implementing policy.

21741156_2021324474763207_7394545027130482122_o

Torch Commando protest – note the slogans ‘this government must go’ and ‘they plan a fascist republic’.

Other issues also sat at the core of the Torch, one issue was the Nationalist’s headstrong policy to make South Africa a Republic, whereas the ‘servicemen’ had fought alongside the British commonwealth and the ‘Allies’ (mainly Britain, United States and Russia) in the Second World War – and they wanted South Africa to retain its Dominion status, remain a ‘Union’ and remain part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

As a pro-democracy’ movement it regarded the National Party’s policies as ‘anti-democratic’.  The Cape Coloured franchise removal was the first action of the National Party to implement the edicts of Apartheid, so it stood to reason that this was the first issue to protest against.

The Cape Coloured franchise was protected in the Union Act of 1910 by an entrenched clause stating there could be no change without a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament sitting together. The Nationalist government, with unparalleled cynicism, passed the High Court of Parliament Act, effectively removing the autonomy of the judiciary, packing the Senate with NP sympathisers and thus disenfranchising the Cape Coloureds.

Inserted is a picture of a rare manifesto artefact of Torch Commando manifesto (freedom been the central theme) and Sailor Malan at a Torch Commando Rally in Cape Town with 10,000 South African WW2 veterans on protest.

Sailor Malan famously accused the national party government at this rally of:

depriving us of our freedom, with a fascist arrogance that we have not experienced since Hitler and Mussolini met their fate”.

Wartime singing icon Perla Gibson also attended the Torch Commando anti apartheid rally in Cape Town and sang to the protesters in support. Perla was known as the ‘Lady in white” and sang to incoming and outgoing troops in Durban harbour during WW2 to beef up morale.

Insert – Kmdt Dolf de la Rey (left) and Perla Gibson (right) at the Cape Town Torch Rally

Of extreme interest was co-leader of the Torch Commando rally in Cape Town – Kmdt. Dolf de la Rey – he famously captured Winston Churchill during the Boer War fighting for the Boers and became an anti-apartheid activist after WW2, another one of the rich tapestry of Afrikaner war heroes in conflict with National Party politics and philosophy.

Follow the below two links to view film footage of The Torch Commando in action:

The Torch Commando led South Africa’s first mass anti-apartheid protests, NOT the ANC!

‘New’ rare footage of The Torch Commando in action, the first mass protests against Apartheid by WW2 veterans.

During the Cape Town “Torch” 50,000 civilians joined the 10,000 veterans when the protest moved to hand over a petition at the Parliament buildings in Cape Town. The police barred the way and a scuffle broke out. 160 Protesters where injured along with 15 Policemen.

In a speech at a massive Johannesburg Torch rally involving over 75,000 war veterans and civilians (try and envisage that – 75,000 people on an anti-apartheid protest in downtown Johannesburg – a protest that size had never been seen before), standing outside City Hall in Johannesburg,  Sailor Malan made reference to the ideals for which the Second World War was fought:

“The strength of this gathering is evidence that the men and women who fought in the war for freedom still cherish what they fought for. We are determined not to be denied the fruits of that victory.”

The Torch Commando fought the anti-apartheid legislation battle for more than five years. At its height the commando had 250 000 members, making it one of the largest protest movements in South African history.

DF Malan’s nationalist government was so alarmed by the number of judges, public servants and military officers joining the organisation that those within the public service or military were prohibited from enlisting, lest they lose their jobs – in the long-term this pressure led to the gradual erosion of the organisation.

Also the National Party government, being extremely concerned about the influence this movement might have, especially under the leadership of the war hero tried to discredit the Torch Commando and its leaders through means of negative propaganda. For the rest of his life, Sailor would be completely ignored by the government. The National Party press caricatured him as “a flying poodle”, dressed in his leathers and flying goggles, in the service of Jan Smuts and the Jewish mine-bosses, who were referred to as the “Hochenheimers”.

13450028_10154250644792329_4746410985414422490_n

Torch Pin

Despite this, Sailor continued to fight against the violation of human rights in South Africa with the same passion and moral fibre that allowed him to fight so vigorously against fascism and racism during the Battle of Britain. His dream of a better, democratic life for all in South Africa not only urged and carried him forward, but also caused him to be shunned by and isolated from his white National Afrikaner countrymen who were blinded by the short-sighted racial discrimination of their government.

He would become known to them as a traitor and an outsider of “another kind”. DF Malan, during his term as Prime Minister, would refer to him as “an imported British officer” and it was due to his own integrity that he would, towards the end of his life, turn his back on the oppression and immorality of the country he loved so much. His individual brilliance as the Spitfire fighter pilot during the heroic battle in the skies above London and the British Channel were not enough to bring victory in this struggle.

In 1963, Sailor Malan, one of the most famous fighter pilots in the history of the Royal Air Force, lost his fight against Parkinson’s Disease and died at the young age of 52. The funeral service was held at St. Cyprians Cathedral and he was laid to rest in his beloved Kimberley.

An inconvenient truth

It is to the embarrassment now as to his treatment as a South African military hero that all enlisted South African military personnel who attended his funeral were instructed not to wear their uniforms by the newly formatted SADF (the government did not want a Afrikaaner, as Malan was, idealised in death in the fear that he would become a role model to future Afrikaaner youth).

All requests to give him a full military funeral were turned down and even the South African Air Force were instructed not to give him any tribute. Ironically this action now stands as testimony to just how fearful the government had become of him as a political fighter.

In the national obituary issued to all newspapers by the government, no mention was made of his role as President of the Torch Commando and his very strong anti apartheid views.

This systematic removal of Sailor Malan’s legacy by the National Party and the education curriculum is also tragic in that Sailor’s role in the anti-apartheid movement is now lost to the current South African government.

It would be an inconvenient truth to know that the first really large mass action against Apartheid did not come from the ANC and the Black population of South Africa – it came from a ‘white’ Afrikaner and a mainly ‘white’ war veterans movement, which drew it members from the primary veterans organisations in South Africa – The Springbok Legion, the South African Legion and Memorable Order of Tin Hats (for its impact on these veteran organisations to this day see The Torch’s impact on the South African military veteran diaspora!).

The simple truth – the Torch Commando preceded the first ANC “Defiance Campaign” by a couple of years, an inconvenient truth for many now and very conveniently forgotten.

The Spitfire Club sums up Sailor Malan nicely. To those who served with the Royal Air Force’s 74 Squadron anytime between 1936 and 1945 Sailor Malan was the greatest leader of them all. As a small token of their esteem, 28 of those remaining presented a ceremonial sword to the Squadron in July, 1966, at Headquarters Fighter Command, in proud memory of Sailor and in honour of his exceptional service to the Squadron.

It was intended that this Sword should serve as an inspiration to those coming after, so that his high standards of courage, determination and leadership shall live on.

To remember Sailor’s calm and heroic line going into battle “Let’s cut some cake. Let ’em have it!” is to remember a man of remarkable courage.  A man who in all honestly lived by  his beloved squadrons motto, and can say in all truth;

19437652_1982409038654751_1420497074088337846_n“I Fear No man”

A motto that holds true to him as one of the greatest ‘fighter pilots’ of the war, but equally so as a ‘freedom fighter’ standing up against a morally corrupt government for human rights.

Concluding video

To conclude Sailor Malan, visuals often better reflect words, and this is a landmark video on Sailor Malan which balances his fighting and political deeds.  This time Sailor’s legacy has been carried forward by “Inherit South Africa” in this excellent short biography narrated and produced by Michael Charton as one of his Friday Stories – this one titled FRIDAY STORY #7: Sailor Malan: Fighter Pilot. Defender of human rights. Legend.


Story for The Observation Post, written and researched by Peter Dickens

References Wikipedia. South African History On-Line (SAHO), South African History Association, Wikipedia ,Neil Roos: Ordinary Springboks: White Servicemen and Social Justice in South Africa, 1939-1961.  Kimberley Calls and Recalls. Life Magazine, 25 June 1951.  Video footage, Associated Press – source Youtube.  Images – Imperial War Museum copyright and Associated Press copyright.  Friday Story video copyright Inherit South Africa – Michael Charton.