Our Motivation, Our Heritage

Heritage is a word which has many strings to its bow. Its meanings include: Birthright, inheritance, patrimony, bequest & estate, endowment, objectives & qualities, traditions & culture. Which means:

Our South Africa. Our SAAF. Our Museum. Our airbase. Our warbird.

The Imperial Gift was bestowed on South Africa at Swartkop when Bessoneau hangers were erected: these were of canvas and wood construction, some of which had been used in World War One by the Royal Flying Corps on the western front in France. These were superseded with 16 steel hangers with concertina wooden folding doors which have since been replaced by heavy duty steel doors. The hangers you see today are some of those.

In 1947 a Ventura (6501) of 60 Sqn. Left Swartkop: it was to escort the incoming Spitfires from Egypt. Sadly, it crashed near Khartoum killing all 4 crew and 11 Spitfire pilots. 53 Spitfires eventually arrived in SA by the air route; some of these were damaged during the flights. But we know of no further casualties. Later a further 83 Spitfires were delivered by sea.

The Belvedere airport mentioned in the caption to the photo was the airport in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, in 1947.

Swartkop in the late 1940s: Spitfires and Harvards in the foreground, with Dakotas and then Venturas behind them. Note how bare the landscape was.

Reunion of pilots who have flown a Spitfire: Swartkop, April 2017. (Photo copyright Russell Dixon-Paver)

Two guys who have strong connections with early South Africa and have contributed hundreds of hours to the project also come to mind.

Vincent van Ryneveld: What a wonderful contribution Vincent has made recently at Air Shows etc. in our new Gazebo. Vincent is the Great Grandson of Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, the first commander of the SAAF, the world’s second oldest airforce) Sir Pierre was also an aviation pioneer who opened the air route from London to Cape Town with Quintin Brand and his ceaseless efforts drove this development.

Vincent’s great grandfather, Lt Col Pierre van Ryneveld (left) with Lt Quintin Brand and the Silver Queen Vickers Vimy before leaving England for Cape Town.

Don Sutton: Our project manager who has spent untold time and effort setting up our business structure to enable us to succeed with our project. His family are part of the Reitz dynasty which included FW Reitz, a former president of the Orange Free State, and Denys Reitz, the famous Author and minister in the government of Jan Smuts. Two family members served in the SAAF in World War Two, and a tragedy occurred at Barberton in 1952 when Lt. CM Denys Reitz, serving with 4Sqn SAAF, was killed in a flying accident.

Pres. Reitz in top hat, to the left of Pres. Kruger.

I’m sure there are many others with their own links to our Heritage who are interested in our project. Let’s hear from you with your story.

Back to the Articles...