Written by Kim Helfrich , Monday, 01 July 2013
“Tumult in the clouds: Stories from the SAAF” is the result of personal interviews and contacts with each and every one of the serving and retired SAAF personnel whose stories go from the formative days of the air force through to its involvement in the World War Two, the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, the airborne arm of the then SA Defence Force’s involvement in what was Rhodesia, the Bush War, the SAAF in democratic South Africa and display flying.
All told there are 158 contributions ranging from Vincent van Ryneveld, great-grandson of SAAF founder Sir Pierre, to names that have become legendary as a result of exploits in various theatres and will resonate with those either still serving or retired.
The compiler’s decision to publish his interviews in the first person “as unvarnished, unabbreviated and intensely immediate and personal recollections” does, for this reviewer, not always work. But this does not detract in any way from what individuals did while serving in the SAAF.
There are tales or bravery and heroism, many rewarded by the Honoris Crux, and there are also interesting recollections of different bases, different places and the humorous side of life, be it in theatre during conflict or on base in peacetime.
It will become part of South Africa’s military aviation history because in the words of retired SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Dennis Earp “people should write down their personal memories of their time in the SAAF. Sadly, one day they will not be around to tell them”.
This in a way was one of the drivers that saw Wingrin get a move on with the project.
“The death of Porky Rich, just days after I interviewed him forcibly brought home to me that many of those who had stories to tell wouldn’t be around forever.”
For those who have a passion for military aviation and its exponents “Tumult” is a must. Not only to read and bring back memories but also as a reference work on the exploits of the many who have, over the years, proudly worn the blue uniform.
Tumult in the clouds
30 Degrees South Publishers